Milwaukee is burning. Overnight 23-year-old Sylville Smith, a black man armed with a stolen pistol, was confronted by the police and shot. The circumstances of the shooting are unclear at this point, but in response locals quite literally burned down their neighborhood, and some footage has emerged showing rioting blacks seeking to beat-up any white people they could find in the neighborgood.

I absolutely do not support the rioting.  It is utterly inexcusable by any moral standard. I absolutely do not support Smith having a stolen firearm, and if he truly did threaten the lives of the police officers then they were in the right to shoot him.

How Did We Get Here?

Arguing over who was “right” (Smith or the cop) misses the deeper question no one asks: what brought us to this point? What caused Smith to end up in this situation to begin with? What caused local blacks to riot in response instead of holding a parade celebrating that the cops had removed a criminal from their streets? The answer provides a valuable lesson in victimless crime.

Prior to this event on February of 2015 Smith was charged with possession of THC (i.e. marijuana), although the case was dismissed. After the shooting, Smith’s father, Patrick Smith, made a statement. He apologized for being a poor role model for his son. He admitted that he himself had been in and out of jail for “doing things of the street life: entertaining, drug dealing, and pimping,” and that this might have influenced his son into a life of crime. Here is part of that statement. It’s worth reading.

I’ve gotta start with my kids and we gotta change our ways, to be better role models. And we gotta change ourselves. We’ve gotta talk to them, put some sense into them. They targeting us, but we know about it so there’s no reason to keep saying it’s their fault. You play a part in it. If you know there’s a reason, don’t give in to the hand, don’t be going around with big firearms, don’t be going around shooting each other and letting them shoot y’all cause that’s just what they’re doing and they’re out to destroy us and we’re falling for it.

There are two things he’s saying. The first is an inward reflection that black communities have very serious problems of their own making that only they can address. No one other than the man himself can make a father care for his children, support the mother of his children, and be a good role model for his children. No matter how many laws politicians write on pieces of paper, no matter how much someone finger-points at outside forces, at the end of the day only a father can change himself. Patrick’s acknowledgement of this is refreshing to hear. It is a message that the media and politicians, especially on the left, so often refuse to acknowledge. It is the message of self-improvement that many in the libertarian movement espouse. Yet this is an incomplete view.

The second thing he states is outward facing. He blames firearms and talks about how “they” want to destroy “us.” By “they” he seems to mean whites based on another part of his statement:

Everyone playing their part in this city, blaming the white guy or whatever, and we know what they’re doing. Like, already I feel like they should have never OK’d guns in Wisconsin.

As though upholding the 2nd Amendment is a racial conspiracy against blacks. I don’t blame Patrick Smith for being unaware that gun control originated as a means for southern whites to disarm blacks. This part of Jim Crow is not taught in our government-sanctioned history books, and lionized racists like Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan spend an immense amount of time lying to men like Patrick Smith that there’s a vast white conspiracy to keep him down.

The real truth was just under Patrick’s nose when he described being in and out of jail for “entertaining, drug dealing, and pimping.” The question that needs to be ask is why was Patrick Smith in jail for these victimless acts, and why was his son harassed by the cops for possession of THC?

If you exclude Seychelles, a tiny island nation no one’s heard of, then America incarcerates more people per capita than any nation on the planet. About half of prisoners are in for drug violations, and 86% of our prisoners are in for victimless crimes in general. You read that correctly: in the name of keeping us safe from marijuana and other drugs, the bastion of freedom and liberty incarcerates more people than tyrannies like North Korea, Iran, and China!

The War on Drugs Is a War on Black America

62% of imprisoned drug offenders are black, and in some states it’s as high as 90%. Between a fourth to a third of black men will spend time in jail during their lifetime. These men often end up with a felony conviction, which then makes it impossible to get a job. Lacking the ability to make income, where do they turn? “Entertaining, drug dealing, and pimping.” This creates a downward spiral where entire communities of black men cannot escape poverty, are pushed into drug dealing as the only job they can find, and then their kids grow not seeing any other example of what they themselves could aspire to be, repeating the cycle for the next generation. Those that live this downward spiral never see cops serving and protecting. They only see cops arresting their family members, friends, and themselves for trying to sell a bag of weed.

Is it any wonder that these communities riot against police, even in cases where the police might have been justified? With so many black men arrested for victimless crimes, is it any wonder why so many black children do not have a relationship with their father?

The Way Forward

Yes, black American must look inwardly and acknowledge the problems they bring on themselves. But in addition, how can we expect black men to begin the process of becoming good role models for their children when so many of them to go jail for things that ought not be a crime like possession of a plant? Both of these issues must be addressed, and yet with rare exception neither of them is even discussed by our media, politicians, and community leaders.

What is most telling of all is the fact Patrick Smith himself is a victim of the war on drugs, and yet doesn’t realize it! He blames whites and firearms rather than government and drug prohibition.

Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter has released a platform that appears to have been copy/pasted from Marx and Engels, which history has shown from Russia to Poland to Yugoslavia to China to Cuba to Venezuela to Chicago to Detroit to countless other examples only creates more poverty. On the other side conservatives complain about Black Lives Matters not respecting “law and order,” which is ironic given the fact “law” creating victimless crimes is the very heart of the problem. No, what we need is less “law and order.”

Until our society faces the reality of victimless crime, and drug prohibition in particular, these problems will only get worse, and we will continue seeing more violence, more racial division, more blacks shot by cops, more dead cops, and more cities burning.