"The white police officers wouldn't be there if you weren't killing each other."
--Rudy Giuliani on Face the Nation
You may not like the messenger or what he had to say, but a self-check moment is really in order.
While initially Giuliani's comment may sound insensitive and eerily similar to blaming the victim, to a large degree, the man known as "America's mayor" was correct.
For those of you who may not be very familiar with former New York Mayor and presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, his assessment on anything is often blunt, direct and to the point.
I would know. There are few reporters who went toe-to-toe with Giuliani like I did during his tenure at City Hall. However, I do respect Giuliani. To a large degree, he cleaned up New York. Giuliani and I did live TV community forums together, and we also would have loud shouting matches at City Hall, with me constantly repeating my question to the mayor, and Giuliani constantly trying to move on to the next question. It made for great theater, mostly around the police shooting case of Amadou Diallo, but I would not give up. The Giuliani administration even tried to have me reassigned from City Hall.
Let me be clear: It is right to protest how the Michael Brown case has unfolded. But when are communities of color going to admit there is an alarming problem with black-on-black crime? Why does it appear that there is no real outrage about black-on-black crime?
This is the way the conversation went on the Sunday-morning talk show Meet the Press (you can see it here):
Giuliani said, "I find it very disappointing that you're not talking about the fact that 93 percent of blacks [killed] in America are killed by other blacks." He added later, "The white police officers wouldn't be there [in black communities] if you weren't killing each other."
Georgetown professor and commentator Michael Eric Dyson was so upset that he accused Giuliani of exhibiting "the defensive mechanism of white supremacy."
"Black people who kill black people go to jail; white people who are policemen who kill black people do not go to jail," Dyson said.
But this all opens, in a big way, the Pandora's box of police being more aggressive in certain communities to root out crime. In just the last few days we've seen two tragic incidents of police shooting and killing unarmed black males: the shooting death of a 12-year-old boy holding a toy gun in Cleveland, Ohio, and the killing of an unarmed man by a rookie NYPD cop in an unlit stairwell in a Brooklyn housing project in the most dangerous beat in the city, which the NYPD has called "accidental."
There are police shooting cases all across the country. For example, last week marked the three-year anniversary of the case of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a 68-year-old former Marine, in White Plains, New York. Chamberlain was in his own apartment when his medical-alert necklace accidentally went off. Responding police demanded that he open the apartment door, but Chamberlain refused, and after an hour-long encounter where police allege he had a knife, Chamberlain was killed. Though police denied that they had used a racial slur, the medical-alert necklace recorded one of the officers using the "N" word. That officer was later fired, but a grand jury brought no indictment against any police officer involved.
But I must return to my overall point that Giuliani is correct about the problem of black-on-black crime. I have to admit that my major eye-opening experience regarding this serious problem came only just recently. I sat down to do a TV interview with former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who was defending the NYPD's controversial crime-fighting tactic of "stop and frisk." That's when Kelly told me that over 90 percent of murder victims in New York City are African-American, and the person who pulled the trigger is almost always African-American.
You may not like what Giuliani said or how he said it, but he was correct.