Are liberal politicians responsible for the violence against the police?


Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University.

So New York Mayor Bill de Blasio needs to warn his son to be wary of police officers, who might target the young man because of the color of his skin. And de Blasio’s remarks on race and the police make him responsible for the slaying of two officers in Brooklyn last Saturday.


Wrong. In fact, these much-heard claims embody two central fallacies in modern American life. They’re eminently bipartisan, and they’re poisonous to any truly democratic politics. Call them the Fallacy of Statistics and the Fallacy of Incitement.

The Fallacy of Statistics holds that behavior by a group or category of human beings predicts an individual’s decisions and actions. Police officers are at least twice as likely to kill African-Americans as they are to kill other citizens; nearly twice a week, a white officer kills a black person. So if you’re African-American, watch out for the police!

But that’s exactly the same logic used by racist police – indeed, by racists, period – to profile black people. Statistically, African-Americans commit certain crimes at a higher rate than other people do; between 1976 and 2005, for example, blacks – who make up 13 percent of our population – committed over half of the murders in the United States...

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