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Beckman: Never underestimate the power of anecdotes in public discourse



Emmitt Till's mother's determination to share her son's story changed history 

By Hank Beckman –

Fox News house liberal Geraldo Rivera gets a little testy when someone dares to bring up the subject of Americans losing their lives to illegal aliens.

As he explained recently when Sean Hannity raised the issue on his television program, it was “It is grotesquely unfair…grotesquely unfair to use these anecdotes to make a political point.”

It’s not the first time I’ve heard this argument. This theory maintains that, no matter how tragic the deaths of innocent Americans might be, the number of people affected is so small as to be statistically insignificant. (Especially considering all the cheap landscapers and nannies we get for the well-off, I suppose)

I guess you could at least consider this a credible argument, or at least an improvement over the usual tactic of ignoring the problem or citing questionable studies to show how law-abiding the illegal community really is.

Conservatives are quick to argue that the level of gun violence in the country doesn’t justify restricting everyone’s rights. Or that the number of African Americans being unjustifiably killed by police is so small that it doesn’t represent a real societal crisis. And the abuses by a relative few corporations pale compared to the benefit the entire country receives from having a healthy free market system.

So let’s see how that anecdotal evidence rationale sounds in another context.

In 1955, Emmitt Till was murdered and mutilated by white racists for the then unpardonable sin of flirting with a white woman. To modern observers such an act seems incredible, but in 1955 Mississippi—and the rest of the Deep South—the poor kid had violated a cultural taboo that, in some cases, resulted in a death sentence.

His mother took the unusual step of leaving the casket open at his wake so the world could see what had been done to her son by his fellow citizens.

Coming as it did when the Civil Rights movement was gaining traction on the national consciousness, Till’s murder drew national attention and deserving condemnation from most Americans.

But the reality is that the murder was one of “only” three lynchings of African Americans in 1955. Just an anecdote, Geraldo might say.

Although the fifties saw the decline of lynchings in America, it had been a practice, mainly in the South, for almost a century.

Tuskegee University compiled a database of lynchings spanning 1882 to 1968. It lists 4,743 lynching victims, 3,446 of whom were black.

The late 1800s were particularly brutal, with a typical year being 1884, with 192 lynchings (134 black and 58 white).

The carnage slowed down somewhat in the new century, but in 1935, there were still 20 deaths (18 black and 2 white).

Compare the lynching statistics with data, such as we can find, regarding American deaths at the hands of illegal aliens.

President Trump last week claimed that illegals were responsible for the deaths of 4,000 Americans during the last two years; former Texas governor Rick Perry points to the Texas Department of Public Safety records which list over 3,000 deaths attributable to illegals over a six-year period.

Even the fact checkers, snopes.com, in an attempt to downplay the problem, admit that between 1958 and 2010, there were 8,218 arrests of illegals for homicide, or 1.25 per day, or 456 per year.

Whatever the actual numbers are—and some believe that both figures for deaths by lynching and at the hands of illegals are undercounted—does anyone really doubt that the number of people lynched in America is dwarfed by the number losing their lives to illegals?

Would any decent human being dare to make the argument that the number of lynchings was so small over the course of more than eight decades that they were mere anecdotes? Or that the lynchings were canceled out by the many contributions of the South during the time period. After all, even bigots do menial jobs, start small businesses, and serve in the military, those being some of the justifications for illegals that we often hear.

This is the part where liberals will whine about demonizing illegals by comparing them to the racists that preyed on African Americans for so much of this country’s history. This is to be expected since most open borders advocates regard even questioning the wisdom of letting millions of illegals in the country as inherently racist anyway.

Both notions are nonsense on stilts.

No one is making the argument that illegals, the largest group being Hispanic, are committing most of these crimes out of racial bigotry.

The vast majority of incidents resulting in an American citizen losing their life involve run-of-mill crimes such as robbery, gang activity, sexual assault and drunken driving. None of these crimes are peculiar to one community and few of them involve race.

(Although considering some of the reports coming out of California in recent years about the attempted ethnic cleansing of African American neighborhoods, we can’t rule out racism completely. Having brown skin doesn’t magically render a person immune to bigotry)

And the idea that it’s racist to advocate for effective border security is easily discounted by the fact that studies show  Hispanics and African Americans to be among the strongest supporters of tougher border enforcement.

But the lynchings of African American and the deaths of American citizens at the hands of illegal aliens share are similar in one respect—they represent instances where government repeatedly failed to protect its citizens.

Lynchings went on for so long for one simple reason: various governments, especially law enforcement and the legal community, made it clear that they would provide no credible deterrence to the wanton murder of African Americans.

The racists in the Till case were so brazen about their intentions that during the trial of his killers, the jury deliberated for a mere 67 minutes before coming back with a finding of not guilty. “If we hadn’t stopped to drink pop, it wouldn’t have taken that long,” one juror remarked.

And this wasn’t simply a local practice. National anti-lynching legislation was repeatedly voted down—200 times in the U.S. Senate— and enjoyed little support from liberal icon Franklin Delano Roosevelt, despite the best efforts of his wife and her friends in the Civil Rights Community.

Finally, the Senate passed a law making lynching a federal crime…in December of 2018. Not exactly a history of which we can be proud.

Government’s record on protecting its citizens from illegals is no better; far worse, considering the raw data available.

Everyone knows that the Southern border is a mere suggestion. Everyone knows that the chances of reentering the country even after deportation are excellent. The government’s record at keeping track of aliens overstaying their visas is atrocious. And the growth of sanctuary cities and people like the Mayor of Oakland openly defying immigration authorities moves beyond mere incompetence into being willfully criminal.

But maybe the open borders crowd can really sell the anecdotal/insignificant argument to the American people. Stranger things have happened.

Who would have thought 20 years ago that government would officially sanction marriages between people of the same sex? Or support forcing little girls to share public restrooms with fully grown men?

Maybe Geraldo can first consult with Jamiel Shaw, Sr. His son, Jamiel Shaw II, an African American high school football star, was murdered by an illegal—shot while lying flat on his back a block or two from his house.

Tell Mr. Shaw that his son was only an anecdote, and that the thousands of African Americans lynched in the last century were insignificant. Good luck with that.

Build that wall.


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  1. The globalist shadow govt that wants a North American Union is stopping the wall, because they don’t want it. Congress doesn’t give a da*n what we citizens want, we are being ruled by dictators. The only chance we have to get a secure border would be to storm nation’s capital and demand the border be secured with a wall/fence. And even that is ify. To anyone who really believes congress represents the people and upholds the US constitution, I have a bridge I’ll sell you.

  2. The article covers only one reason for the WALL. The other reason is the Deadly Narcotics killing our youth. The Narcotic pusher do not want the wall. They have their supports in Congress from both parties.
    Love Saves Lives
    Carl Lambrecht

  3. The Republican Party platform adopted at its National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio that nominated Calvin Coolidge for the presidency containing an anti-lynching plank and supported the civil rights of African Americans. In contrast, the marathon Democratic Convention held in Houston, Texas that same year was dominated by the Ku Klux Klan.
    Remember that when the media tells you that the Democrats are good and the Republicans are bad.