The left’s stance in the latest white-on-black killing makes their position uncomfortably close to demanding that whites not only accept black thuggery, but love it as well. The near-complete silence by leftists concerning Michael Brown’s robbing of a convenience store shortly before his killing speaks volumes. For most of us, the news of this robbery meant that we knew we were dealing with another black thug, and so we stopped caring. The left soldiered on, insisting that that should have nothing to do with the killing of an unarmed black.
Leave Ferguson aside and ask, Why is the left so enchanted with thugs? This has a long history, apparently, though it only became apparent to me in the late 1960s. The left gives us two images of criminals – the starving poor person who steals a loaf of bread to survive and the budding revolutionary who is out to destroy the capitalist system – and demands that we be sympathetic to both of them. But almost none of the cases one hears about are of either type. Michael Brown, to take the latest example, wasn’t starving and there is nothing to suggest he had a well-developed political philosophy. He was just a thug.
The left’s enchantment with crime, while it is designed to help the poor, in fact does nothing of the sort. The victims of poor people who turn to crime are generally other poor people. In addition, when a poor person is the victim of a crime – and in the inner-city, these are mostly robberies and burglaries and not, say, identity theft – their loss is likely to be a much larger percentage of their wealth than it would be for a richer person, since richer people generally have most of their wealth in bank accounts and other investments that are not easily taken by a robber or burglar. When a poor neighborhood becomes crime-infested, those who are richer have the resources to flee, while the poorer ones have to stay and put up with it. Those poor people who are stuck there can be victims indirectly even when they are not actual victims since stores will charge higher prices to compensate for losses from shoplifting or else for added security. Even worse, the stores may simply close down, which doesn’t help poor people one bit. Moreover, instead of devoting intellectual resources to getting out of poverty, poor people are forced to think about how to avoid being the victim of a crime.
In addition, when poor people turn to a life of robbery or burglary or selling illegal drugs to make their way in the world, inevitably other types of crime become prevalent. The horrible number of children in our inner cities who have been killed by stray bullets is scandalous, but the left prefers to focus its attention on the Michael Browns while ignoring those children.
Nor is there is anything to suggest that those who rob convenience stores are really going after the capitalist system itself and have no grudge against the workers in those stores. Actual footage from cameras show that they are willing to be thuggish toward anyone who gets in their way. They are not Robin Hoods trying to deal with the inequality that exists in capitalistic society and would probably be taking more than their share in a socialistic society, too. But even supposing they were dedicated socialists, how would this help the poor? Apparently, we are supposed to imagine that their crimes will hasten a breakdown in the capitalist system which will lead to socialism, and that will help the poor immensely. But the poor are generally not brought out of poverty by socialism, nor is there any guarantee that such a breakdown would be followed by socialism. It might be followed by a bunch of reactionary warlords, for example, or a theocracy such as emerged in Iran.
The left’s love affair with poor people who become criminals is really nothing other than a manifestation of what I call Rich People’s Leftism (here). Rich people, having no real idea of what it is like to grow up poor, imagine that by supporting these thugs they are somehow supporting all poor people. They imagine that they are supporting what most poor people want. The reality is different, as I know from having lived in a poor neighborhood myself when I was a grad student. A leftism that is not merely for the poor, but by and of the poor demands that society stop glorifying poor people who become criminals. They are not a bit helpful to other poor people.