The murder of Zemir Begic and the violent mugging of a Bosnian woman in the same neighborhood of St. Louis a few days later were serious crimes, and they appear to be part of a pattern of ethnically motivated violence. The Bosnian protesters demanding an increased police presence in Bevo have a compelling grievance: thugs have jumping and murdering innocent residents of their neighborhood, apparently because they’re Bosnians, the violence has to be stopped, and the only thing likely to stop it is heavier police patrols. Hardline libertarians who smear the police as a thoroughly illegitimate and inevitably violent occupying force fail to understand the dreadful realities of street crime in rough neighborhoods. The cops may be bad in their own right, but at least they’re legally accountable to their commanders and any police oversight board governing their agencies, while the worst non-state-actor criminals they pursue are, in their absence, functionally accountable to no one, since cops are the only people who have any real likelihood of forcing them to desist from street crime.
One of the sick paradoxes of American policing is that many jurisdictions are simultaneously underpoliced and overpoliced. The same agencies that deploy armed revenuers on bogus vehicle code enforcement and asset forfeiture operations and allow their cops to severely injure or kill citizens over nonviolent trivialities also fail (or outright refuse) to deploy adequate patrol officers to violent neighborhoods whose decent citizens badly want their protection from hoodlums. This was a serious problem in New Orleans for decades leading through the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, although it seems to have abated somewhat since 2006. It has been a serious and growing problem in St. Louis County for decades, and a serious problem in New York City since at least early in the Giuliani administration, with an antecedent history of violence under color of authority in the NYPD that may best be described as protean.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department seems reasonably competent and upstanding by comparison, as does the St. Louis City government. The problem is that this in no way means that St. Louis is adequately policed or policed in an ethically sound fashion. Neighborhoods like Bevo clearly need more cops, and specifically more good, savvy cops who know how to focus on serious threats to public safety instead of hassling peaceable citizens for minor, innocuous offenses. This is not a time to deploy lazy or officious cops who pick the low-hanging fruit and leave the hard cases for someone else. The SLMPD needs to get good cops into the black and Bosnian parts of Bevo alike to liaise with anyone who’s willing to talk to them. That includes corner drug dealers, junkies, neighborhood crazies, streetwalkers, and other black and gray market street vendors. They need to reach out to anyone who may have information that will help them stop the violence. Cops need to go out and walk beats in these neighborhoods. It might be a good idea to assign beat cops to specific high-visibility field posts, just to keep an eye on things and signal to any hoodlums that that’s exactly what they’re doing. Overtime money should be budgeted to saturation patrols and community policing efforts around Bevo; not only would overtime likely save lives in these circumstances, it would just as likely allow the department to save on overtime for its detectives and reduce their workloads.
This is a perfectly viable response as long as there’s the political will to implement it. This is partly a matter of constituent pressure on elected officials, which is already at a fever pitch in Bevo. The other part is city officials giving a damn. The last I heard, they seemed more interested in helping the Highway Patrol clean up the mess made by municipal and county police in a rotten borough outside the SLMPD’s jurisdiction. It’s no wonder that the SLMPD has trouble deploying enough beat cops in troubled neighborhoods like Bevo: it has cops on saturation patrol around peaceful protest sites within the city limits and additional officers, often including Chief Dotson, across the county line trying to pacify Ferguson, whose own police force went completely to shit years ago. Meanwhile, the St. Louis County division of the Unified Command has had hundreds of officers guarding the Ferguson city hall and police station in military rank formation while simultaneously allowing commercial buildings down the street to be openly burglarized and set on fire by common criminals taking advantage of a chance to break shit and burn shit down. The Unified Command has had three levels of Missouri civilian law enforcement and the National Guard on site, and even there have been nights when the only people willing to protect local businesses have been private citizens, lightly armed if they’re armed at all and generally bereft of the sort of protective equipment used by the riot police standing guard at the city hall.
What’s going on there is that the soldier bees are protecting the hive. They’re looking out for number one. Private citizens in Ferguson have been willing to risk life and limb to protect other people’s businesses, but the police, whose duty it is to do that–who are paid above-market salaries, provided excellent benefits, and given all sorts of offensive and defensive gear to do their jobs–are too chickenshit to send anyone after active looters and arsonists. This means that fire and ambulance crews can’t get to the scene during major emergencies; cops are trained and equipped to deal with minor urban combat, but firefighters and EMT’s aren’t.
Long story short, sorry, buster, but it looks like your convenience store gets to burn tonight. This is how the public in places like Ferguson view the police, precisely because it is exactly how the police have been treating them. It’s illegitimate as all hell.
Fundamentally, this whole thing isn’t really about race. It may look it’s about race, and its proximal manifestations are often racial, but it’s really about class and caste. The racial attacks and the half-assed police presence in Bevo are not the opposite of the Michael Brown shooting. They’re both examples of negligent policing in politically weak communities. One community is made up of a heavily black and poor native population besieged by a structurally corrupt municipal government that is functionally little more than a tax farming racket; the other is a heavily immigrant community, many of whose members endured civil war in their native country. Both are patrolled by police departments that are allowing citizens to be assaulted, maimed, and killed on their watch. They’re getting piss-poor value for their tax money and they’re in fear for their lives.
These febrile complaints on the right wing about the systemic suppression of black-on-white crime stories and exaggeration of white-on-black crime stories are red herrings. Should the mainstream media be more honest about black-on-white violence, including the bigotry that often motivates it? Absolutely. But these crimes are the fault of a hardcore of underclass thugs and the impressionable teen delinquents in their orbit. They have nothing to do with any of the black people of goodwill in their neighborhoods, many of whom would like to whip these thugs’ asses because they’re ruining things for everyone else. At the same time, these racial attacks are crimes of opportunity. The attackers aren’t looking to fuck with people in their own weight class. If they were, they’d go into professional wrestling or the military or become soldiers of fortune. If they were serious freelance badasses, they’d be waging violent frontal attacks on cops or Hell’s Angels.
Instead, they go after the softest cracker targets they can find, or, in the Bevo case, ones who would have been called Hunkies in olden-times Pittsburgh. Unlike the aggressors in most black-on-white attacks, the attackers in Bevo don’t seem to have a problem with the All-American white meat. Their beef is specifically with Bosnians. But if they saw Radovan Karadzic’s armed bodyguards walking down Gravois Avenue and mistook them for Bosnians, would they attack? Like hell they would. They’d chicken out, and Jon Belmar would be on the line with some beat reporter at the American calling them a bunch of bedwetters.
These thugs waylay innocents they believe to be unarmed. This is the classic form of black underclass violence. The mentally ill black underclass is a completely different and separate beast. They form an underclass, but they’re lone wolves. The Amtrak slasher in Michigan? He was out of his fucking mind. Notwithstanding the attacker’s own racial views and paranoid ideation at outlets like Chateau Heartiste, the Amtrak knife rampage was not racial violence. It was a one-off attack by a guy who was too disturbed to exercise minimal self-control. It’s hard to imagine racist bruisers from the ghetto wanting anything to do with a guy who has psychotic tremors and sits around muttering all kinds of crazy shit on a passenger train. Nor would they want much to do with Kajieme Powell. Black underclass thugs are street-smart and possessed of great self-control when they feel outnumbered by decent people who aren’t afraid to call the police. They don’t need the company of nutcases who get angry about some delusion or other and go around brandishing knives willy-nilly or hurling pastries onto the sidewalk. Ghetto gangbangers, even the roughest, most intractably racist ones, are careful to adjust their behavior to the circumstances. Floridly psychotic people just can’t do that. It’s a rare underclass banger who would go Lone Ranger onto an Amtrak train and start cutting people: too many fuckin’ crackas, dawg. The violently psychotic are a different story. They don’t see opportunity, and more importantly, they don’t see the lack of opportunity; all they see is the dire need to go cut some bastard. They live in their own world, and unfortunately, sometimes the rest of us get to live in it, too.
The role of the police vis-a-vis the ghetto underclass is to deter them from violence. There are a number of things that have to be done to make it happen, but that’s the crux of it. The underclass doesn’t have to be forced to like Whitey; that will never happen for the hardest cases, and in any event it’s irrelevant. What the underclass does have to be forced to do is to fear Whitey and his protectors enough not to beat the shit out of him or murder him without provocation. This is one of the reasons that we have police.
There’s this neurotic, pathological tendency among white liberals, most of them people of goodwill if not of reason, to wring hands over the realization that there exists an entrenched black underclass that hates white people and means them harm. These foolish SWPL seem to think that this tragic state of affairs somehow reflects badly on themselves, or maybe on other white people, for being racists, and not on underclass thugs for being grossly antisocial and ensnaring impressionable neighbors in their webs of violent hatred. The sad truth is that there are violent shitbags in Black Kensington whose ideal world is one in which they get to murder me for being white. The corollary truth, however, is that there’s a next-to-zero chance that they’ll do anything of the sort outside the Badlands or a SEPTA bus in any neighborhood and a good chance that they’re too chicken to do me any real harm on their home turf.
And one has to wonder why anyone would construe their behavior to be emblematic of the “black community” as a collective. Yeah, they’re dangerous and they give black people a bad name, but many other black people despise them for these very reasons. Suggesting that they represent the “black community” makes as much sense as suggesting that Ray Albers, Whitey Bulger, some wifebeating dirtbag meth cook who’s asking for spare change because he was just discharged from the county lockup with only one bus token, and (if one can brook the Italians) Daniel Pantaleo are representatives of the “white community.” Under any scrutiny, these arguments are too ridiculous to be insulting.
There are a lot of racists in the United States, and some of them are black. It is what it is. When black escorts put “I heart White Boys” placards in their Backpage ads, are they being racist? Maybe, and quite a few cases definitely, but they certainly aren’t taking their cues from gangbangers whose goal in life is to kill Whitey. In practically any racially integrated neighborhood without a high baseline level of violence, it’s hard to scare up anyone who’s fixing to kill Whitey. As I’ve described before, I got my own white ass polar-beared on Frankford Avenue in 2007, so it’s not like I’m trying to get America’s racist gangbangers to sing kumbaya while Pastors Al Sharpton and Mark Fuhrman serve communion to all of God’s people. To unfortunately quote Taylor Swift, a young lady who didn’t grow up in the Badlands, haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate hate that fucking song, and probably other people as well for being of the wrong race. Maybe it’s because they’re black. Maybe it’s because they’re white. Nobody can stop them from feeling ugly bigotries in their hearts, but a vigorous and savvy police service can probably stop them from assaulting and murdering innocent strangers.
Or, if that police force is devoting all its spare manpower to cleaning up after inferior agencies in other jurisdictions and maybe suppressing protests against the police, maybe it can’t.