Stop using that one study to pretend racism doesn’t exist in police shootings
Samuel Sinyangwe
61978

No, YOU need to stop misleading people that there’s some epidemic of anti-black police violence going on. There is not just one study showing that this alleged epidemic is nonsense.

Here are some relevant facts:

  • According to the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings/), in 2015, 990 people were killed by police. Of those, 494 (49.9%) were white and 258 (26%) were black. This sounds like blacks being overrepresented among those killed by police when you factor in the fact that blacks are about 13% of the population, while whites are about 63%. But, of course, that’s misleading because, to get an accurate picture, you also have to factor in that blacks are far more likely than whites to be involved in criminal behavior (this is because blacks are disproportionately poor in America, not because they’re inherently violent or any other nonsense like that). Specifically, whites are responsible for 69% of crimes (+6% as compared to their percentage of the population), while blacks were responsible for about 28% of crimes (+15% as compared to their percentage of the population) https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/tables/43tabledatadecoverviewpdf, and so blacks are far more likely than whites to be involved in interactions with police in the first place. Moreover, when we turn to violent crimes — the kind that would be most likely to lead to deadly interactions with police (because, no, most people killed by police aren’t killed during routine traffic stops) — the data is even more stark: “blacks commit around half of homicides in the United States. DOJ statistics show that between 1980 and 2008, blacks committed 52% of homicides, compared to 45% of homicides committed by whites. More up to date FBI statistics tell a similar story. In 2013, black criminals carried out 38% of murders, compared to 31.1% for whites, again despite the fact that there are five times more white people in the U.S. From 2011 to 2013, 38.5 per cent of people arrested for murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault were black.” http://www.infowars.com/black-crime-facts-that-the-white-liberal-media-darent-talk-about/. When you factor in these relevant numbers, you see that blacks are actually less likely than whites to be killed by police. The data is there, it’s coming from many different sources, and it’s pretty clear.
  • A recent controlled experiment confirms what the statistics already suggest: white police officers, 96% of whom showed implicit bias against blacks, were, nevertheless, “slightly more than three times less likely to shoot unarmed black suspects than unarmed white suspects.” This is because white police “officers were ‘more hesitant and more careful in their decisions to shoot black suspects.’ In effect, the officers ‘displayed a counter bias, or “reverse racism” effect.’” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/true-crime/wp/2016/04/27/this-study-found-race-matters-in-police-8shootings-but-the-results-may-surprise-you/.
  • You write: “First, it’s clear in looking at the data that Houston police department uses deadly force against black people at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts. For example, since 2013, 57% of people killed by Houston police have been black despite black people comprising only 25% of Houston’s population.” This kind of statistic is precisely the kind of misleading number that’s being used to trick people into believing that there’s an epidemic of police violence against black people. Obviously, it doesn’t matter what percentage of Houston’s population is black. What matters is what percentage of Houston’s black population is involved in criminal behavior. When you factor that in, what you get is the results that were reported by the Fryer paper and described not just in conservative rags but in The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/12/upshot/surprising-new-evidence-shows-bias-in-police-use-of-force-but-not-in-shootings.html?_r=0) and many other publications: whites are 20% more likely than blacks to be killed by police.
  • If you really want to consider the data, why don’t you step back and think about it dispassionately instead of trying to reach a foregone conclusion? Ask yourself why you and so many others in the media are so committed to believing that cops and/or most Americans are racist? Is this just a way of ignoring the real problem with black people in America, which is that they’re disproportionately poor and, thus, suffer disproportionately from all the vices (including high crime rates) that are part and parcel of being poor throughout the world? Instead of talking about the non-issue of racist cops, let’s address the real issue of black poverty and figure out what black Americans and all Americans can do about it.

So, no, there is no epidemic of anti-black police violence. What there is is an epidemic of falsely claiming that there’s an epidemic of anti-black police violence. That second epidemic — the real epidemic — is directly responsible for the disruptive and racist #Blacklivesmatter movement, for polarizing people by race more than ever in America, for the divisive tone of our presidential campaign and for the cold-blooded murders of police officers in Dallas. Stop spreading lies. Your numbers may be misleading and fake, but the harm that you’re doing by disseminating them is very, very real.

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Alexander Zubatov is a practicing attorney specializing in general commercial litigation. He is also a practicing writer specializing in general non-commercial poetry, fiction, drama, essays and polemics. In the words of one of his intellectual heroes, José Ortega y Gasset, biography is “a system in which the contradictions of a human life are unified.”

Some of his articles have appeared in Acculturated, PopMatters, The Hedgehog Review, The Montreal Review, The Fortnightly Review, Mercatornet, New English Review, Culture Wars and nthposition.

He makes occasional, unscheduled appearances on Twitter (https://twitter.com/Zoobahtov).

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