What Constitutes a Genocide?
Updated: Jun 23
In 1951, a black activist group called the Civil Rights Congress submitted a petition to the United Nations to hold the United States accountable for 152 deaths at the hands of police. The United Nations had, in the late 1940s, codified the term ‘genocide.’
As it applies today, Black Lives Matter has not officially endorsed such rhetoric, although there is a grassroots campaign called "We Charge Genocide" in Chicago. According to its website, the mission of WCG is to monitor police targeting of young black men. No one questions if too many young black men are dying in Chicago. Statistics consistently prove otherwise, but for argument’s sake, what if police are targeting them - when does killing turn into a genocide?
For starters, language is important. Already, we have seen powerful words like racism and Nazism turned into fungible ideas akin to a verbal slap on the wrist. Note to Leftists: Calling one person a Nazi might be legitimate; calling everyone a Nazi devalues the term. If the President of the United States, a man who to this date has yet to build a detention camp, systematically round up an entire group of people, or start a World War, can be identified as such, the true horrors of Nazism understandably dissipate. And that's not good. So we do not want to use the concept of genocide out of context.
The United Nations provides the broad definition of genocide meaning to “have occurred when racial, religious, and other groups have been destroyed, entirely, or in part” at the order of the State. It also infers intent, asking the question “were these killings ordered by the State because of their identity?” What is not as clear is the definition of “part,” so there is definitely some wiggle room. While the drafting of the resolution was in direct response to the Holocaust, to date only two official genocides have taken place since its passing. The first in 1994 in Rwanda, and the second in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995. In the case of Rwanda, 500,000-100,000 Tutsis died as a result of Hutu rape and terror. The ‘ethnic cleansing’ that occurred in the post-Yugoslavian Baltic nations resulted in 8,000 murders of Muslim Bosnians and the displacement of another 30,000. Retroactively, the UN did ascribe the term to atrocities committed in the name of Islam and Christianity, such as during expansion or the Crusades, as well as the slaughter or removal of 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey in the early 20th century.
The mass killing of fellow Russians (20 million), fellow Chinese (60-100 million), and fellow Cambodians (2 million) under Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, respectively, do not constitute genocide for the simple reason that these Communist leaders killed their own people, as opposed to killing others. The same goes for many other countries throughout the last half century torn apart by intra-religious or intra-ideological struggles.
What do these numbers mean for groups like the Civil Rights Congress and We Charge Genocide? Ironically, they are both left-leaning (in the case of the CRC it was openly affiliated with Communists) and yet want the United States to be culpable for the disputed deaths of a few hundred blacks, while ignoring or staying ignorant of the fact that their own political persuasions are, by a factor of millions, far deadlier.
The context of previous genocides helps. As seen with the 1.5 million Armenians, 6 million Jews (as well as millions of others within various groups during the Holocaust), 500,00-1,000,000 Tutsis, and 80,000 Bosnians - particularly the 8,000 men and boys in the town of Srebrenica alone - there is a wide spectrum for total killings. Again, the CRC wanted America on blast for the deaths of 152 blacks.
A few factors make difficult the claim of genocide against blacks, in 1951 or today. First, there is no explicit charge of state-sponsored killing. The WCG purports that police killings comprise the primary evidence, however as data will show, the vast majority of any interaction involving police with blacks is initiated through justifiable and legal means. The same goes for the charge of, as was seen in other genocides, tribal affiliation, culture, race, or religion playing a predetermined role. Jews were killed by Germans precisely for being Jewish. Tutsis were targeted for wanton rape and murder for no other reason than they were not Hutus. But are blacks being hunted down and killed for being black? That is the claim, but the statistics do not support that either, let alone a charge of genocide.
How and why blacks are engaged with the police matter, too. Obviously, the more a person interacts with police, and especially if they are already engaged in violent crime, it stands to reason that the more likely a fatal outcome will occur. It is also statistically unsound to claim a genocide of black by police when that the black community itself is responsible for 90% of all homicides of blacks. If there are grounds for genocide, it would appear to be the other way around. What does the data show? Here are the facts.
In 2015, the Bureau of Justice Statistics published a report of all the contacts between the public and police. It found that there were over 50 million public-police contacts. Whites account for 23% of those contacts and blacks 20%. Of all the 50 million contacts, about 10% were each because of police-initiated and resident-initiated purposes; the remaining few percentage points came from traffic accidents, which could also be considered non-police initiated. In that data, it found an identical 11% rate of police-initiated contact for white and black individuals. Put another way, there were approximately 10 million justified police interactions involving black individuals, which resulted in about 300 black deaths.
Does the fact that whites and blacks have roughly the same number of contacts prove racism, since blacks are only 15% of the population and whites are 70%? Not necessarily. According to a report from the Department of Justice, in the 75 largest cities in the United States, blacks comprise about 15% of the population, but account for 62% of all robberies, 57% of all murders, and 45% of all assaults. Police might work more with blacks relative to their percent of the population, but that only comes as a result of a higher percentage of blacks engaging in illegal or dangerous activities.
Where the narrative gets confusing is when police officers are no longer a monolithic set of people. The narrative is convenient when white officers kill black offenders, but what happens when blacks wear police uniforms? Using data from 2015 police encounters, researchers found that “black and Latino victims were more likely to have been shot by black and Latino officers” according to an article on the topic. In the study, the researcher pinned police shooting not on racism, but rather the entirely plausible reality that black and brown officers are usually working in communities whose demographics have more black and brown constituents. Can racism still be attributed to the killings of black and brown victims when the officers involved in the shootings share a racial background?
A similar study published in 2015 drew the same conclusion. It stated that “black police were more likely to shoot black civilians than white civilians…” and that there was “no anti-black or anti Hispanic disparities across shootings.”
Likewise, Roland Fryer, a black economics professor at Harvard, set out in 2016 to uncover racial prejudice in the practice of police officers. To his astonishment, his exhaustive study of policing in 2015 and 2016 concluded that “on the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account.”
Another challenging reality in the face of the claim of outright genocide or even police racism is that, in 2018, according to the FBI database, there were 7,407 black homicide victims. Over 90% of those deaths were caused by other blacks. Just 209 of those deaths were at the hands of police, deadly force was legally justified in all but a few, and even then, each interaction began because of an unlawful activity. In 2019, for example, just nine blacks were considered unarmed during their fatal encounter with police. In the same time frame, nineteen whites were unarmed when they were killed. Unarmed does not mean they did not pose a threat to the safety of the community, to themselves, or to the officers. Nineteen is also more than nine, so again, where is the racism or genocide?
The inescapable reality is that black-on-black homicide far outpaces any rates of police-on-black homicide. Another inescapable trend is that fact that, when both the race of the victim and offender were known, blacks are much more likely to kill whites than the other way around. I cite just two recent years, but the pattern is consistent. In 2017, blacks killed 576 whites. In the same year, whites killed just 264 blacks. In 2018, it was 514 and 234, respectively. Despite making up just 13% of the population, and whites making up about 72%, blacks were responsible for more than double the amount of murders when race of the offender and victim is known. It is impossible to know what percent of any of these heinous acts were committed by a motivation of race. Nonetheless, motive or no motive of race, the outcome speaks for itself. There is no race war of whites against blacks. If anything, there is just the opposite.
Finally, Black Lives Matter gained national attention after the 2013 death of Trayvon Martin, but it was after the 2014 death of Michael Brown that it really mobilized. The narrative of white police murdering unarmed black men took hold, despite being factually inaccurate and evidence to the contrary. Most critically, the 2015 report from President Obama's Department of Justice, led by Eric Holder, found no evidence to push a criminal prosecution forward. It is important to note that both President Obama and Attorney General Holder are black; this is significant because they had an extra motivation to find Officer Wilson guilty of a race-motivated crime. As representatives of the black community, and as believers in the narrative, it would have been a powerful indictment and political score. However, in the Department of Justice’s own words, regarding the entire body of evidence of the case, it concluded after a report of almost 100 thorough pages that “this matter [bringing criminal charges against Officer Wilson] lacks prospective merit and should be closed.” The acquittal of Officer Darren Wilson does not acquit all police officers of their actions. At the same time, the actions of some officers do not equate guilt among their 700,000 brethren (among whom 100,000 are also black).
The article asked if there is a genocide against blacks by the police. The data simply does not support that claim. This does not make the deaths of each individual less tragic. However, Leftists and race hustlers use each death as a weapon against the very people they purport to champion. The research on defunding police and/or reallocating resources is clear: Crime, particularly violent crime, increases. And it increases in the communities most in need of a healthy police presence. Heather McDonald of the Manhattan Institute dubbed it the "Ferguson Effect" after seeing crime rates soar in the community of Michael Brown. This has played out consistently in other areas rattled by white police-on-black offender fatal shootings.
The answer to a senseless death is not more death. Unfortunately, that has been the pattern recently in communities responding to officer-involved shootings. And as we watch police officers respond less to crime or leave the profession altogether, what happens next? The United Nation's definition of genocide might not fit, but the concept is not far off.