What happened to George Floyd should never take place in America. Period.
Use of force by law enforcement and overall feelings about race must be addressed in our country. And we have to base our actions on facts as we move forward with reforms.
According to Politifact, “as of June 3, Mapping Police Violence had counted 28 unarmed blacks and 51 unarmed whites who died at the hands of police in 2019.” There is, however, legitimate concern about why the percentage of African-Americans is higher than the overall population. A Washington Post database shows that black Americans represent about 13 percent of the U.S. population. Still, they accounted for about a quarter of police shooting victims over four-and-a-half years of data collection. We have to show that black lives matter, and that demands action.
In Wisconsin, I signed a law that requires an independent investigation each time there is an officer-related death. This law protects both potential victims and law-abiding police officers. Other reforms that Wisconsin and other states can look at are how law enforcement agencies screen, train and monitor peace officers. Clear standards on the use of force are critical and must be followed by training, testing and monitoring to be effective in the field.
Supervision is essential as many law enforcement professionals work in high-stress areas for years. Compare that to military members who are deployed to high-stress areas for months at a time. We know that many of them return home with post-traumatic stress disorder and need our help. We should be increasingly mindful of a similar need in law enforcement.
Reforming the police makes sense. Defunding the police does not.
Statistics from the FBI (2018 is the last complete year available) shows that 89 percent of black homicides in America were by black offenders (data is for a single victim and a single offender). African-Americans deserve protection from crime and mayhem just as much as any other citizen.
If anything should be defunded, it is Planned Parenthood. The organization’s founder Margaret Sanger, according to Politifact, wrote in her 1938 autobiography, “that she was willing to talk to virtually anyone as she advocated for birth control across the United States: ‘Always to me any aroused group was a good group, and therefore I accepted an invitation to talk to the women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan at Silver Lake, New Jersey, one of the weirdest experiences I had in lecturing.’ “
Politifact also affirmed that Sanger, “in a Dec. 10, 1939, letter, she wrote that ‘We don’t want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs.’” When people re-examine history, it should be worth looking at past statements of the founder of Planned Parenthood.
The facts show that black babies are aborted at a much higher percentage than white babies in America. A report published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that black women had the highest abortion rate at 27.1 per 1,000. In contrast, white women had the lowest rate at 10.0 per 1,000. Black lives matter should apply to unborn babies, too.
In 1977, the Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote in a column for a National Right to Life publication: “‘If one accepts the position that life is private, and therefore you have the right to do with it as you please, one must also accept the conclusion of that logic. That was the premise of slavery. You could not protest the existence or treatment of slaves on the plantation because that was private and therefore outside your right to be concerned.’” He later changed his position when running for president as a Democrat in 1988.
In America’s largest city, a black baby is more likely to be aborted than born alive each year. According to the New York City Health Department, between 2012 and 2016, black mothers “terminated” 136,426 pregnancies. At the same time, black mothers gave birth to 118,127 babies. The birth rates for white, Hispanic and Asian women — in contrast — were much higher than “terminations.”
Black lives do matter. We should be working to reform the criminal justice system to ensure equal protection under the law. But we should not do that by defunding the police. African-American citizens have a right to feel safe in their homes and communities. Reforming law enforcement agencies across the country will ensure that every citizen is treated fairly and that every citizen is safe.
And safety begins with the unborn. We cannot live in a society where there is such a clear bias toward aborting black babies. Black lives matter.
• Scott Walker was the 45th governor of Wisconsin. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @ScottWalker.