There is an epidemic of police brutality in this country, and that brutality is motivated by racism. Black Americans are quite literally being hunted by racist whites, many of whom wear a badge and carry a gun. It is not safe for black people, especially men, to leave their homes because the problem of homicidal, racist cops is so pervasive.
This, anyway, is the narrative that is relentlessly hammered into our heads by the media, Hollywood, activists, and the Democrat Party (but of course I repeat myself). Considering that this narrative is currently fueling violent mobs who are torching our cities and unraveling the fabric of civilized society, I think it matters whether it is actually true or not. A close inspection of the relevant statistics, along with a generous application of common sense, would seem to cast serious doubt.
The first thing we should note is that police kill twice as many white people as black people in a given year. The white victims don’t receive anything like the same kind of attention, but they exist, and are indeed more numerous than the black victims. In fact, the most egregious police shooting in recent history, by far, is the one that claimed the life of a white man named Daniel Shaver. The unarmed Shaver was gunned down while on his knees in the hallway of a hotel, crying and begging for his life. It’s all on video. The officer who killed him was not convicted of any crime.
Speaking of horrifying video, there is also footage of the last moments of Tony Timpa’s life. Timpa, a white man, was suffocated to death during an arrest. He screamed and pleaded for his life 30 times before he died. Officers on the scene laughed and cracked jokes as he lay dead on the pavement. Timpa’s case, like Shaver’s, never attracted coverage or outrage on par with the killings of George Floyd or Michael Brown or Freddie Gray, or any of the other black victims who have become household names. But, again, these white victims exist, and outnumber their black counterparts by a wide raw margin.
It will be pointed out that there are many more white people than black people in the country, so the fact that they account for more of the police shooting victims isn’t a surprise and doesn’t in itself disprove the racist police narrative. That’s obviously true. But a person arguing in favor of the racist police narrative must have some sort of explanation for the Shavers and Timpas and the hundreds of other white victims.
If all or most of the black victims were shot because of racism, why were the white victims shot? However you explain the latter, how do you know that the same explanation, or combination of explanations, doesn’t also apply to the former? Why do we assume racism for the black victims while assuming any number of other explanations for the white victims? If there are a slew of potential reasons why a white guy might get shot by the cops (including that he was the aggressor and brought it on himself), how can we rule out all of those reasons for a black guy who gets shot? Maybe Timpa died because the officers involved weren’t bigots but were reckless bullies who didn’t place a high enough value on human life. If so, how can we disqualify this explanation from the outset where George Floyd is concerned? If cops kill white people too, how is the mere fact that a black man was killed by cops evidence in itself of racism, without any further evidence presented?
Furthermore, examining police interaction statistics without reference to crime statistics is statistically ridiculous. Such statistics show that a disproportionate number of violent crimes are committed by black people. This means that there will be a disproportionate amount of potentially hostile interactions between police and black suspects. The real question is whether a black person is significantly more likely to be unjustly killed in an interaction with police than a white person. The answer would appear to be no. As it was recently put, three black people are killed for every 10,000 arrested for violent crime. Among whites arrested for violent crime, the figure is 4 in 10,000. Framed this way, it is hard to support the claim of a racist police epidemic.
Likewise it seems relevant that white cops are not more likely to shoot black suspects. This stat comports with the fact that many high-profile police killings (Baltimore, for example) have happened in black-run cities, with black mayors and black police chiefs and many black officers. If racism lies at the root of police brutality, and if black men are indeed being hunted, then we should observe a lot more brutality and “hunting” in departments and cities with more white cops and more white leadership. But that is not what we observe.
Also keep in mind that men are much more likely to die by police shooting than women. This makes little sense on the bigotry theory. Are the police misandrists as well as racists? Or are men more likely to be killed by police because they commit more violent crimes, which in turn increases the likelihood of an explosive interaction with police? In other words, is it possible that interaction during criminal activity, which occurs disproportionately among a wide variety of populations, dictate police activity rather than mere animus?
If the problem of police brutality affects white people and black people, and if it persists even under black leadership, and even at the hands of black cops, then it would seem that we need to search for an answer other than “racist cops are hunting black folks.” I believe there is a problem with policing in this country. What happened to George Floyd and Tony Timpa was unacceptable and outrageous, and it happens far too often. But I also think the racial narrative offered as an explanation for this problem ignores the facts on the ground, is incoherent, and is all-too-often promoted by hustlers operating in bad faith and for their own ideological ends.
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