What’s more important to leftists: Stopping hate crimes or pursuing “equity” rather than equality? The latest fallout from New York state’s infamous “bail reform” law has given us the answer. Even left-wing groups like the Anti-Defamation League that spend most of their time highlighting instances of hate and raising huge amounts of money from donors who believe they are threatened by extremists continually prioritize their relationships with activists over defending public safety.
Recent events in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, New York illustrated that nothing, not even an alarming spate of hate crimes directed at synagogues, could shake the leftist’s conviction that racial politics must be defended at all costs — even if that means letting someone who terrorized a community walk free.
Leftist politics was on the rise even before the death of George Floyd brought the Black Lives Matter movement and ideas like critical race theory to the political mainstream. The notion that our societal goal should be “equity” — a term used to overturn the notion that society should treat men and women as individuals rather than as members of a racial group — has given new impetus to measures designed to throw out practices that can be represented as somehow disadvantaging minorities even if it was not the result of racial discrimination.
One such example was the decision of New York’s legislature to pass a so-called “bail reform” law that ended cash bail as well as most instances of pre-trial detention. The measure was based on the idea that requiring bail for those awaiting trial led to far too many people being stuck in jail. Such people, who were innocent until proven guilty, were unable to buy their way out of jail by posting a bond assuring authorities they would show up for their day in court.
The fact that many of those facing that dilemma are poor, black Americans convinced many on the left the system had to be changed. But while this effort may have been well-intentioned, its proponents were guilty of being so focused on creating more equity that they ignored why civil societies have criminal justice systems: to protect innocent citizens from criminals.
The passage of New York’s bail reform law in 2019 led authorities to essentially empty the jails of those being held without bail in anticipation of the implementation of the new law. The result? Most of those stuck in jail were repeat offenders, and when released, they went back to committing crimes.
New York City’s police commissioner rightly attributed the resulting surge in violent crime to the new bail law. Yet left-wing groups like the Legal Aid Society reacted by saying no one should “draw any conclusions” from, for instance, the fact a man allowed to go free while awaiting trial on other criminal charges then attempted to rape a woman in the subway.
The overwhelming majority of those affected by that crime wave were, of course, minorities whose neighborhoods were made less safe. But leftist advocates of “equity” weren’t interested. Throughout 2020, especially after the death of Floyd, they focused their attention and efforts on demonizing the police as targeting black Americans even though the evidence debunks their claims.
The timing was also particularly troubling because it coincided with a spree of antisemitic crimes as Orthodox Jews were largely targeted by black American assailants in the greater New York area. Indeed, one such perpetrator, a woman named Tiffany Harris who had been jailed repeatedly for committing assaults against Orthodox Jewish women, was freed again and again.
Left-wing advocacy groups, however, claimed New Yorkers were obliged to ignore each such instance of the law enabling violent criminals. While some politicians spoke of the need to change the law, they were beaten back by smears their concern for crime victims was racist fearmongering.
The specter of Willie Horton — the criminal whose crimes committed while on weekend furlough were highlighted by Republicans during the failed 1988 presidential run of Michael Dukakis — still hangs over a Democratic Party obsessed with dubious allegations of racism, especially in New York, where leftist radicals hold veto-proof majorities.
Ultimately, the bail law had terrible consequences because it didn’t give judges the right to keep violent criminals in jail. As New Yorkers were just reminded, the same applies to those who commit hate crimes.
Last month, Jews in the Riverdale section of the Bronx were forced to endure a wave of violent attacks on their synagogues. Between April 23 and 25, seven different late-night incidents occurred in which an individual later identified as Jordan Burnette, a 29-year-old black American, threw rocks shattering windows and doors of several synagogues. In one instance, he was confronted by volunteers who turned out to defend their shul and he threw rocks at them before fleeing.
When he was finally caught and arrested, a judge was forced to let him go free. Yet Jews know that when those who commit hate crimes are allowed to attack Jewish targets with impunity, the result is what has already happened in France.
In the days after Burnette’s release, the Anti-Defamation League, which continues to pose as a defender of the Jewish community against antisemitism, said nothing about the case. Since Burnette’s release, both the group and its CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, found time to publicly advocate for Facebook to continue its ban on posts from former President Donald Trump and to falsely claim American police were engaging in “systemic racism” against black Americans.
Although they routinely depict Jews as under siege from hate crimes, the ADL and Greenblatt were mum about the way those who committed such crimes have benefited from bail reform. Why? Burnette is not the kind of antisemite who interests the ADL.
Had Burnette instead been a right-wing extremist, the ADL would have likely trumpeted their concerns about the attacks on synagogues. They would have disingenuously linked these crimes to Trump and given Greenblatt fodder for more lectures about white supremacists in which he analogized the shattered glass of Riverdale synagogues to the 1938 Nazis Kristallnacht violence.
President Joe Biden, who last week claimed “white supremacy is terrorism,” might have denounced it too. But since Burnette didn’t fit into that scenario, both Biden and the ADL were silent about a Jewish community being terrorized and then having to endure the sight of their assailant sent back out onto the street.
Leftists have sacrificed public safety on the altar of critical race theory and maintaining alliances with folks like race-baiter Al Sharpton. Doing so doesn’t merely tie them to radical causes that undermine law enforcement and falsely label America as an irredeemably racist nation. It also leads them to treat attacks on Jews as something to be minimized or ignored to avoid having to confront the consequences of their ideological choices.
“Bail reform” hasn’t just endangered New Yorkers — it exposed the left’s willingness to dismiss antisemitic hate crimes as less important than their devotion to extremist politics.