Bill Fletcher Jr.ColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

A Question of 21 Times

Bill Fletcher

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
NNPA Columnist


I find it very unsettling to hear police officers discuss how they believe that BlackLivesMatter protesters and certain politicians, e.g., NYC Mayor de Blasio, are either unsympathetic to their plight or, worse, provoking violence. Ever since the murder of two NYC police officers there has been a concerted effort to shift the entire focus of the discussion regarding police abuse and lynching and turn it on its head, suggesting that the police are the victims of inexplicable anger.

When NYC police officers turned their back on Mayor de Blasio during the funerals of the officers, or when they suggest that Rev. Al Sharpton is a demagogue for supporting and encouraging mass protests against police abuse, interestingly I never hear them discuss the question of “21 times.” Just in case you missed this, an analysis of the data on police killings noted that African American youth are 21 times more likely than White youth of being shot dead by the police. [See:].

This is an astounding ratio. With a figure like this, why should it surprise anyone, let alone be a source of controversy, that Mayor de Blasio cautions his bi-racial son about how to interact with the NYPD? Why should the anger of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans regarding our dealings with the police be difficult for anyone else to fathom?

Those who are suggesting that the BlackLivesMatter protests have gone too far need to come to grips with the “21 times” question. How does one explain such a phenomenon? Clearly, there is crime in other communities. As I regularly note, Charlestown, Mass. has a reputation as being the bank robbery capital of the U.S.A. Given this, how would one explain that White youth of that segregated segment of Boston are not facing the same level of threat as Black youth a few miles away?

The response by many police to the killings of the two NYPD officers has been to turn the tables. There is a desire, such as articulated by Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association leader Pat Lynch, to shift the discussion away from an examination of police violence and instead to focus on those who are challenging the abuse and lynching. Through incendiary suggestions, such as that Mayor de Blasio and others allegedly have blood on their hands for failing to back the police against the protesters, these demagogues are avoiding the real issue. Yes, the murder of the two NYPD officers was as inexcusable as it was tragic. That said, what does the PBA have to say about “21 times?” When they call for greater support from political officials, what do they actually mean? What it certainly sounds like is that they wish for the protests to cease and for the public and the political establishment to close ranks behind total support for any action carried out by the police.

It’s not going to happen.


Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at

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Bill Fletcher Jr.

Bill Fletcher Jr has been an activist since his teen years. Upon graduating from college he went to work as a welder in a shipyard, thereby entering the labor movement. Over the years he has been active in workplace and community struggles as well as electoral campaigns. He has worked for several labor unions in addition to serving as a senior staffperson in the national AFL-CIO. Fletcher is the former president of TransAfrica Forum; a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; an editorial board member of; and in the leadership of several other projects. Fletcher is the co-author (with Peter Agard) of “The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1941”; the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of “Solidarity Divided: The crisis in organized labor and a new path toward social justice“; and the author of “‘They’re Bankrupting Us’ – And Twenty other myths about unions.” Fletcher is a syndicated columnist and a regular media commentator on television, radio and the Web.

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