Playing the Race Card on Larry Elder

City Journal

The possibility that Larry Elder may win California’s recall election against Governor Gavin Newsom is generating acute anxiety in the mainstream media and among the activist Left. Elder’s foes are responding with their favored means of destruction: by playing the race card. Never mind that the nationally syndicated talk show host is black. A series of opinion columns and editorials have accused him of being a white supremacist, or at the very least a shill for other white supremacists. Elect Elder and California will reinstate Jim Crow, state senator Sydney Kamlager, a Democrat from Los Angeles, has warned. The media have focused particularly on Elder’s views about crime and policing. The self-described “Sage from South-Central” maintains that criminals, not the police, are the biggest threat in the black community. According to Elder, the false narrative about lethal police racism has only led to more black homicide deaths. “When you reduce the possibility of a bad guy getting caught, getting convicted and getting incarcerated, guess what? Crime goes up,” he said recently at a campaign event in Orange County. Elder also rejects the charge that white civilians are gunning down blacks, as LeBron James maintained in a tweet during the George Floyd riots: “We are literally hunted everyday, every time we step outside the comfort of our homes.” Elder has a different take. If a “young black man is eight times more likely to be killed by another young black man than [by] a young white man,” Elder told the Orange County Republicans, then “systemic racism is not the problem.” Such statements are anathema to the establishment Left, deeply invested as it is in the idea that blacks have little agency in the face of ubiquitous white racism. Few subjects are more taboo in elite discourse than the elevated rate of crime among blacks, as it suggests cultural pathologies that—at the very least—complicate the victim narrative. To the Left, black crime is little more than a racist fiction. Los Angeles Times columnist Jean Guerrero claims that the crime statistics Elder has cited “over the decades to support his views and policy proposals are misleading, if not outright false, casting Black people as unusually crime-prone.” Black people are not “more inclined toward violent crimes,” nor do blacks “disproportionately victimize whites,” Guerrero wrote, citing Columbia law professor Jeffrey Fagan and other criminal experts. (Fagan was the plaintiff’s expert in a trilogy of lawsuits against the New York Police Department in the 2010s.) Fellow Times columnist Erika Smith sneered that Elder “keeps trotting out statistics that purport to show that Black people are particularly prone to murdering one another.” Unfortunately for Elder’s critics, the statistics showing vastly disproportionate rates of black crime and victimization come from some of the Left’s favorite sources. CDC data show that in 2015, for example, the homicide victimization rate for blacks aged 10–34 (37.5 per 100,000) was 13 times the rate for whites (2.9 per 100,000). That disparity is undoubtedly much greater now, given the record-breaking increase in homicides since the George Floyd riots—an increase disproportionately affecting blacks.

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