write this as an addendum to Fred Reed’s sobering essay on the
Eugene “Bull” Connor, the Commissioner of Public Safety (which
had a Robespierre-like ring to it), and a former radio sports
announcer in Birmingham, Alabama, became famous in May of 1963
during riots in which — can you believe this? — the protesters
did not burn down any of their neighbors’ homes. Connor had firemen
turn fire hoses on the protesters, and he let police dogs on leashes
bite a few of them. He got a lot of national TV coverage for this.
He made it into Life. He remains one of the pre-eminent
symbols of Southern segregationism and police brutality.
A year earlier, on April 27, 1962, there was a race riot in Los
Angeles. It is now long forgotten. I found only three brief references
to it appear on the Web. Here is one: http://www.ci.nyc.ny.us/html/cchr/html/time.html.
I was a junior at UCLA at the time. In the next class period after
the riot, Professor George Mowry, an expert on the era of Theodore
Roosevelt, made a brief out-of-context announcement to his upper-division
history class. I was one of the students. This is the only thing
that I can recall from his class, 39 years later. He said this:
"When a minority of 10% adopts violence against a majority
of 90%, it cannot win." Short and to the point. Liberals
weren’t always naive.
Two years later, the Harlem riots shattered the racial optimism
of the Johnson Administration. These riots took place after the
passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not before.
A year after that, the Watts riots in August shattered liberals’
self-confidence in California. What brought the intensity of the
rioting home to everyone in the region was the KTLA helicopter,
which showed everything going on in the streets below. KTLA, a
local TV station owned by Gene Autry, used its freeway commuter
report helicopter to hover above Watts, day after day, showing
everything. Millions of local white voters watched, appalled.
I can remember liberals who complained after the riot was over
that the KTLA had done a disservice to the Watts community by
reporting everything — and getting very high Nielson ratings — from
the sky above. That may not be when white liberal masochism first
became obvious to me, but it is what I recall as the turning point.
They were saying that the public (white voters) had no need to
see and no right to see that the rioters were burning their neighbors’
homes and looting local stores in their "struggle against
racism." (Liberals in the media have been successful in persuading
the public of this principle of judicious journalism with respect
to photographs of aborted infants.)
What has not been widely recognized is that white liberals in
1965 soon adopted half of Bull Connor’s theory of jurisprudence.
Beginning no later than the Reconstruction era, whites in the
United States unofficially allowed blacks to rape, steal, and
kill each other inside their ghettos. Whites assumed that the
white man’s legal order need not fully extend into the ghetto.
"Negroes will be Negroes," was the general attitude.
There was an intense white localism regarding law enforcement
in ghettos that went far beyond state’s rights. It was local rights
to a fault: the right of innocent blacks to suffer violence from
blacks and a blind eye from local law enforcement.
Simultaneously, the urban North but especially the South enforced
preposterously punitive laws on blacks who committed crimes against
whites. It was a double standard of justice: judicial carelessness
inside the ghetto and judicial ruthlessness outside.
Scarce resources must be allocated. There is more demand at zero
price than supply. This is as true of law-enforcement resources
as any other kind. There is just so much to go around. Whites
have always paid most of the taxes. They have wanted most of these
resources to be expended on their behalf. This is normal. It must
always be resisted when the recommended allocation solution is
to enforce the law on a selective geographical basis within a
government’s wider jurisdiction. A double standard is treason
against the law. It creates legal sanctuaries for criminals.
To keep crime in its place — inside the ghetto — courts and vigilante
groups imposed sanctions far beyond the letter of the law on those
who brought deviant behavior across the line. "Preserving
the white way of life" was understood as requiring an uneven
distribution per capita of law-enforcement resources: injustice
for black victims of black crime. It also was understood as requiring
an uneven imposition of negative sanctions on blacks who committed
crimes against whites: injustice for criminals.
Civil government is hard-pressed to accomplish much of anything
efficiently, but justice ought to be its highest priority. Black-white
race relations in the United States have always been marked by
injustice. A double standard is unjust, and the West, more than
any other society, has long recognized this. The rule of law is
built into the West’s sacred legal code. "One law shall be
to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth
among you" (Exodus 12:49).
Liberals in the pre-Black Power era officially called for equality
before the law for blacks. This was the judicial theory of the
NAACP. Equality before the law meant especially law enforcement
in the South. Jim Crow was seen as a system of civil law in which
two legal orders prevailed.
After the riots began in New York City and Southern California,
where white liberals ran things politically, they began to apply
their more general judicial presupposition to the enforcement
of the law on blacks, namely, that deviant behavior is always
society’s responsibility. They dared not argue that racial oppression
was worse in the North and in Southern California than in Alabama
and Mississippi, yet "black rage" seemed far worse in
regions where white liberals controlled politics.
So, they stopped talking like George Mowry. They adopted the South’s
approach to ghetto crime: blacks are not to be judged by white
standards of legality. What was different between white liberals
and supporters of Bull Connor is that the Connorites drew a line
in the ground and said, "Thus far and no farther" with
respect to "Negroes will be Negroes." The Connorites
had limited by geography this theory of acceptable criminality.
White liberals now extended the boundary in theory to the suburbs.
Blacks rarely come into the suburbs to loot and pillage. But,
during the rioting, they came very close to lower-middle-class
white suburbs on the edges of the South-Central Los Angeles ghetto.
For whites living in those bordering suburbs who were ready to
defend their property with guns, no such line in the ground was
considered ethical by white liberals who lived three suburbs away.
Whites in those bordering suburbs wanted the law to be enforced
on blacks. They saw that, in principle, it was not possible to
protect their property if non-violent blacks inside the ghetto
were not also protected. But just as whites on the edges of the
ghetto were figuring this out, liberal whites were retreating
to "blacks will be blacks." They justified the violence
by arguing that black rioters are not legally responsible for
When white liberals began to let black rioters off the sociological
hook, they found that they had a problem: piles of newly unallocated
responsibility. If the rioters were not really responsible, then
who was? White liberals had a major allocation problem. They had
to unload responsibility, which was piling up fast in the ghettos.
White racism was the agreed-upon answer. Black racism, to the
extent that whites allowed it in Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap
Brown and Malcolm X, was said to be the product of prior white
But in Los Angeles? In New York City? Why not in Birmingham? Why
wasn’t Birmingham burning? Could it be the threat of water hoses?
Never! They did not want to conclude that Bull Connor and his
successors had placed a lid on things. But where was black rage
in the deep South? That’s where white racism was concentrated.
Or was it?
There was only one possible answer: latent white racism. Latent
white racism had spread its corrosive effects far and wide. It
was everywhere. It was pervasive, yet it left few traces. Its
only supremely measurable effect was in producing ghetto riot
How can a white liberal deal with latent white racism in white
society? On the one hand, by condemning the Connorites’ judicial
line in the ground. It is seen as racist to use force to confine
black irresponsibility to the ghetto. On the other hand, by accepting
the Connorites’ "Negroes will be Negroes" presupposition,
but with a search-and-replace operation of "Negro" with
"black." The result is the white liberals’ acceptance
of criminal behavior on the part of blacks, which they will not
accept on the part of whites. This leads to the media’s deep-sixing
of black atrocities on whites, and front-paging of white atrocities
on blacks. White criminals are responsible; black criminals are
The correct judicial answer is simple enough in theory: deal with
atrocities by imposing equal sanctions on their perpetrators.
This supreme judicial principle must be upheld: the innocent must
be defended, regardless of their race or the race of the attackers.
To decide the extent of deviation on the part of a criminal in
terms of his background and motivation is the essence of injustice.
The essence of justice is the protection of the victim. The Connorites
never figured this out, and neither have white liberals. "Negroes
will be Negroes" is just a redneck version of "blacks
will be blacks." Both are apologies for irresponsibility:
black criminals and white law enforcers.
Note on Malcolm X
Unlike most whites, I actually heard Malcolm X live and in person.
It was at UCLA in that same 1962 spring semester. He spoke at
the Student Union. He was an eloquent man, no doubt about it.
He also was a guilt-manipulator of unexcelled abilities. I recall
this (and only this) from his speech. He said that whites were
responsible for the sins of their fathers. He said that the Bible
teaches this. It doesn’t. "The fathers shall not be put to
death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death
for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin"
(Deuteronomy 24:16). I thought at the time that Malcolm X needed
lot more Bible and lot less Elijah Muhammed — an insight that he
learned first-hand three years later.
I saw him one other time, on a local Los Angeles television station.
There was a curmudgeon of an interviewer named Tom Duggan. He
was a precursor of Joe Pyne and the confrontational TV of the
late 1960′s. Both of them died of lung cancer. Duggan was a gentle
sort of controversialist. He was a funny man. He used to invite
weirdos of all kinds on his show. Malcolm was one of them.
Malcolm went into a low-key, intense-as-all-get-out racial tirade
against white injustice. Tom listened for quite a while, challenging
him here and there. Then he offered this response. "Malcolm,
my great grandfather came from Ireland and fought to free the
slaves in the Civil War. He never owned a slave. A lot of Union
soldiers died in that war. Malcolm, you are an ungrateful man."
Then he added: "We’ll be right back after this announcement."
He cut to an ad. Malcolm never fully recovered, as I remember
it. Anyway, that’s how I prefer to remember it, and since I may
be the only person who still does, that’s how it must have been.
I never heard of any white man who said it better to Malcolm X.
Tom Duggan was not about to be guilt-manipulated into fawning
subservience. We needed a lot more Tom Duggans in the late 1960′s.
We could use a lot more today.
I’d even settle for a few George Mowrys.
Gary North [send him mail]
is the author of an eleven-volume series, An Economic Commentary
on the Bible. The latest volume is Cooperation and Dominion:
An Economic Commentary on Romans. The series can be downloaded
free of charge at www.freebooks.com.