Here are some updates about cases that have occurred or I’ve become aware of since the writing of my Black Lives Matter series.
Breonna Taylor (Killed: March 13, 2020) – Was killed in her apartment during an entry by police. Twenty shots were fired by police. Breonna herself was shot eight times. The police had a warrant to search, but the accusations which led to the warrant being issued proved fruitless. While her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, did shoot at police in self-defense (neighbors did indicate that the no-knock warrant was completed without knocking), there is no indication that Breonna was armed or combative.
Elijah McClain (Killed: August 24, 2019) – Was killed while walking down the street after a 911 call where the caller reported McClain was acting “suspicious” but did not believe McClain was a danger to himself or others (much like how the person who called 911 regarding Tamir Rice believed the gun was fake). He was put into a choke hold after stating “I can’t breathe correctly” and vomiting several times. He was then injected with ketamine.
Here is a video of an obviously peaceful protest being broken up by riot cops (in contrast to the Michigan and Oregon protestors who were white with guns… and unlike the lackadaisical approach police took with the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” protests, organized by white supremacists):
Mark and Patricia McCloskey – A white St. Louis couple who pointed guns at Black Lives Matter protestors. The president retweeted the video in support of the couple. From what I understand, police never arrived at the scene (though it took less than 10 minutes for police to arrive at John Crawford III’s location when he was holding merchandise the store sold).
Miracle Boyd – Miracle Boyd was punched in the face by an officer while filming the arrest of another protester and attempting to get the officer’s information. The assault left her with a missing tooth.
The Gilliam family – The black family was pulled from their van and told to lay on the ground at gunpoint. The police mistook the Colorado license plate of the van for that of a stolen vehicle – a motorcycle with out of state plates.
Derrick Ingram – NYPD officers, dogs, and helicopters were deployed to the BLM protestor’s home to apparently arrest him for assaulting an officer.
During my travels in cyberspace, I have encountered an incredible amount of bullshit or bad faith arguments. Here are some of the worst and how you, yes you, can potentially stop them.
This one gets real snippy, friends, but I hate bad faith arguments. And if you’ve made it this far, I’m sure you can handle it.
“But don’t ALL lives matter?” Yes. Of course they do. But when a person goes to the doctor and writes down that they’re allergic to a certain medication, the doctor doesn’t throw the form in their face and say “ALL allergies matter!”
But with something like police brutality and state-sponsored violence, it happens to marginalized people first. Once it becomes acceptable and usual enough, then it gets brought to everyone. I know poems aren’t facts, but that Martin Neimoller quote makes a good read right about now.
If they would like to say police brutality is a problem but want to ignore it happening to black people right now, then it will likely become a very real problem for them down the road. I’m not saying this is my favorite argument in the world, but if they need self-interest to invest in the community, then I guess sometimes you have to take what you can get.
Just like someone starving to death doesn’t mean that you’re not hungry, protesting police brutality against black people doesn’t take away that it also happens to white people.
“Black people resist more often” When you encounter this argument, think back to whether the person has recently said something to the effect of “I don’t see race.” If they have, then it may be as simple as asking them how they’ve suddenly overcome their color blindness. It’s a miracle!
Otherwise, you can simply ask for their proof. Oftentimes, there won’t be much more than anecdotal evidence and video footage of a black person resisting which you can counter with a video of a black person not resisting or a white person resisting. It’s also not terribly difficult to find a video of a black person being told to “stop resisting” while they’re just standing there. Hell, you can probably find a video of a cop doing that to a black person who is asleep. (If you’re All/Blue Lives Matter and made it to this point, that last sentence is a joke. Unlike Trump, I know that my jokes are jokes BEFORE I say/write them, not after I get called out for my statement being stupid.)
If this is an All/Blue Lives Matter supporter who is also suspicious of the police or government, which (inexplicably) is a tight Venn diagram, ask them why they would believe police data in this instance. For the NYPD stop and frisk data in 2018, officers tended to put a whole bunch of creative and interesting descriptions for how black people acted that simply wasn’t in the data for white people. Also, if you’ve pulled a gun and have to report that fact, you’re more likely to report it for a few reasons: – It is an objective fact that a gun was drawn and any witnesses or body cam footage will be unambiguous about it. – You are unaware of how the act of you pulling the gun will affect the data set and the data set as a whole isn’t likely to come back to you, specifically. – It’s easier to retroactively defend a gun being drawn with creative adjectives that are subjective than to pretend a gun wasn’t drawn at all.
And finally, combine this argument with the data about unarmed people being shot by police and see how good it sounds: “An unarmed person resisted arrest and was killed by police” doesn’t sound as good as “An unarmed person resisted arrest and was restrained by police and brought in alive” or even “An unarmed person resisted arrest and was de-escalated verbally by police until they could be safely taken into custody.” Mind you, this is something that mental health workers, teachers, ER nurses, and several other professions are expected to do and, when they have to, generally do successfully.
Also, even if it were true that black people resist more often, does it make sense to punish other black people because other black people resist?
And finally, saying this allows for the cop to be erratic, emotional, illogical, and threatening and the civilian has to be the one who is calm, cool, and collected.
“[Unarmed black person who was killed by cops] had a criminal record.” Maybe that’s true. But ask these questions: – Was/were the crime(s) eligible for the death sentence? – Has the person already been punished for the crime(s)? – Did the cop know about the prior crime(s) during the event? – Is this train of logic used for white people? – Should cops shoot everyone with priors? – What about the black people who don’t?
Also, given an 83% recidivism rate among prisoners in the first nine years after release, it might be a safe to say that anyone who is having something currently put on their record during an interaction with police likely has had something on their record.
“Why don’t black people talk about problems in the black community?” It should go without saying that when evaluating an argument from an All/Blue Lives Matter supporter, step zero is “Does this argument have to do with color?” and, if so, “Did they say they don’t see color?”
First of all, just tell them black people do talk about “problems in the black community” (which, surprise, are problems a lot of communities have). They talk about it a lot. There are hundreds of nonprofits around the country started by black people with the goal of reducing crime, often violent crime. Often in more communities than just their own.
Second of all, any group that doesn’t feel they can trust the group of people that are charged with protecting them will take the law into their own hands in their own way. This is similar to someone who feels stuck in a lower socioeconomic class who finds that they have encountered barriers when trying to achieve some mobility and turn to criminal activities like cooking meth, breaking into homes, stealing/stripping cars, etc. This isn’t just a thing that happens in black communities either.
Also, ask whether comparing civilians to police officers is fair. Ask if that requirement gets extended to people of any other racial group (be prepared for a sudden resurgence of “I don’t see color”).
You can even follow it up by asking where people should protest the cops at (obviously, the police station or capitol or something) versus where they should protest the concept of “crime” at.
It might also be worth noting that if they’re bringing this up, they’ve very quickly switched the discussion from “Black Lives Matter” to “Black Communities Matter,” which is a strange stance to take given their feigned inclusion.
It’s almost as if it’s an easier pill to swallow to blame black people if it happens “over there” than it is to blame cops (or pretend that anyone is blaming white people in general) when it’s happening all over the place. Suddenly, it’s all about focusing on black people and their issues! How charitable! They “care” about the black community when it’s easy to digest and may not require an adjustment in their own attitudes about society! Should we be so lucky?
“If they just followed the law, they’d be fine.” As with many All Lives Matter arguments, this isn’t something that is said about white people at any point ever. After the Dylan Noble video was released, no All Lives Matter voices popped out to say “Dylan shouldn’t have been making sudden movements while approaching an officer had a gun to him.”
Additionally, in the vast majority of cases of unarmed black people being shot by police, they weren’t breaking any crime that came with the possibility of a death penalty.
And if “following the law” is the key to not getting killed by police, explain John Crawford III. He was holding a product a store sold in the store in which it was sold. That, to my knowledge, is not against the law.
Honestly, it’s fuzzy as to whether Philando Castile was doing anything illegal. It seems to depend on whether you asked the cop before (he wasn’t) or after (he had a broken taillight).
As for George Floyd, there’s not even a consensus as to whether his $20 was counterfeit at this point. And, even if it was, that’s a misdemeanor in Minnesota. I’m not lawyer, but misdemeanors tend to come with some time in prison and a fine, but usually don’t involve being strangled to death. Let me know in the comments if I’m wrong on that.
So let’s examine that a bit more: if a cop arrests you, legally it is still uncertain whether you have done something wrong or not (“innocent until proven guilty”). So, there is no certainty that any of these dead people were breaking a law because they never got tried.
Beyond that, the right wing All Lives Matter supporters have some overlapping with groups who tend to demonize Islamic states for public executions or torture for minor offenses, but when it comes to black people in America it’s all “Follow the law or get killed without trial. We’ll put it on TV.”
“More white people were killed by cops than black people.” This one’s easy – tell them about the concept of “rate.”
There are simply more white people than black people. And more white people have interactions with police than black people. But if we took a random sample of a million police interactions with white people and a million police interactions with black people, you are statistically safer as an armed white person than an unarmed black person.
Again, when we make the populations equal, you are better off being white with a gun than an unarmed black person.
“More black people are killed by black people!” Think about whether they literally just said some variation of “I don’t see color.” Wash, rince, repeat that one.
If they had just said the “more white people were killed by cops than black people” thing, you can dunk on them with a “more white people are killed by white people.” If you want to get really dark with it, you can ask “If white people are so worried about being shot by cops, why do they shoot themselves so often?”
But, inherently, those are just making fun of the statement and demonstrating how it becomes less applicable to them when it’s discussing white people. There are a few real problems with that statement, the least of which is the fact that most homicide victims are the same race as the murderer (full stop), but that statistic is intentionally used to make black people look worse.
The other problem is that, again, when it comes to black people, All/Blue Lives Matter likes to hold black civilians to a higher standard than trained cops. Black people need to be trained in verbal de-escalation and non-lethal methods of conflict resolution, but cops can just shoot haphazardly.
Some final thoughts: A lot of these arguments appear to fall into one of three categories: – Irrelevant but vaguely related: This is like arguing about which brand of orange juice is your favorite when the argument is about which fruits prevent scurvy. – Shifting the blame: This is like seeing someone steal a car and telling the owner they should have changed the oil. – Referencing dishonest stats: This comes in two flavors – – True but incomplete: This is like buying your first lotto ticket, winning, and declaring that all tickets are winners because you won 100% of the time. – True but not unusual: This is like saying “Why were they in the plane?” about people in some plane crashes but not others.
Ultimately, they’re all about shifting goalposts and distracting the conversation.
Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, said it best when talking about Trump and his own argumentation style: “…energy is more important than being technically correct.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter what exists as long as you’re being loud about your opinion.
You may have seen that this series was long and decided you didn’t have time to read the WHOLE THING. That’s fine. Here’s some quick stats to bring out at your next family get together or Zoom meeting (depending on when or if this COVID-19 shit lets up).
From Part II (black and white drivers): – 9.8% of all black drivers were stopped in 2015 while 8.6% of all white drivers were stopped. This difference almost disappeared when referring to white passengers and black passengers interacting with police. – 33.6% of black drivers who were pulled over received a warning. 38% of white drivers did. When being punished: 54.3% of black drivers were arrested, searched, or ticketed. This happened with 49.7% of white drivers. – “…black drivers were less likely to be stopped after sunset, when a ‘veil of darkness’ masks one’s race, suggesting bias in stopping decisions.” – “…the bar for searching black and Hispanic drivers was lower than that for searching white drivers.”
From Part III (NYPD’s stop and frisk programs in 2011 and 2018): – In 2011, 23% of NYC was black, but they made up 53% of stops and 55% of frisks. White people made up 33% of NYC, but made up 9% of stops and 7% of frisks. – From the 2011 data, 53% of black people were stopped without cause (meaning they were not arrested or given a summons) whereas this only happened to 9% of white people. – In 2018, 56.7% of stops were of black people and 9.7% of stops were of shite people. During stops of white people, they were frisked or searched 56.2% of the time while during stops of black people, 70.6% included frisks/searches. – During self-initiated stops, 61.6% of white people were searched and 80.6% of black people were searched (but found there was no difference in the amount of contraband found, had searches/frisks been performed randomly). – 6.7 times as many black individuals were subjects of self-initiated stops than white individuals and a higher percentage of black people had to be let go due to there being no reason to have stopped them, indicating that police may have been more prudent when evaluating whether to stop white people.
From Part IV (Rate at which black police interactions & white police interactions turn deadly): – If looking at the U.S. population in 2015, white people made up 72% of the population and 45% of unarmed people killed by police that year. Black people made up 13% of the population and 34% of unarmed people killed by police that year. – If narrowed down to police interactions in 2015: unarmed black people were killed by police at a rate of 12.85 per million police interactions. White people with guns were killed at a lower rate (8.2 per million) and unarmed white people were killed at an even lower rate (2.84 per million). – If narrowed down to people actually shot by police in 2015: unarmed black people were shot by police at a rate of 8.2 per million police interactions versus unarmed white peoples’ 1.3 per million interactions. – All of these discrepancies were even larger when evaluating rates of people who were killed when the civilian had a gun.
From Part V (Who cops threaten more): – During NYPD stops in 2018, 0.8% of white people had a gun drawn on them without instructions (roughly 8 people). This happened to 1% of black people (or 62 people). – During stops where police drew guns, 1.99% of white people (5 people in total) were found to be doing nothing wrong after these interactions and 1.86% of black people (or 31 people) experienced this.
From Part VI: – This part generally was responding to arguments, which will make up its own post.
From Part VII (Prison population, sentencing, and exonerations): – Between 2008 and 2018, the black imprisonment rate reduced by 28% (almost double the overall average of 15%, which was more than the reduction in white imprisonment of 13%) implying that there may have been a difference in how each race was being treated. – For decades, black people have been subject to a 100-to-1 difference in sentencing for crack (which more black people were caught with) versus cocaine (which more white people were caught with). – A study examining 77,236 federal sentences found that black men were less likely to get no prison sentence (if that option was on the table) than white people who have that option for the same crime. The highest discrepancies in these sentences were for drugs. – The U.S. Department of Justice, in trying to defend the 100:1 crack/cocaine sentencing, could narrow the disparity down to 6.3:1 overall, but 8.3:1 “for defendants with the lowest criminal histories.” – In 2013, sentence reductions were granted for 6,251 black people due to crack charges, which made up 85.8% of all sentence reductions. This is despite the fact that a higher percentage of black people also got rejected for reduced sentences. – One study of federal court sentences found that white people received sentences of, on average, 55 months and black people received 90 months. – The same study found that white people were more likely to get 0-36 month sentences and black people were more likely to get 37+ months. – Though a higher percentage of the prison population (as of May 30, 2020) is white, almost half of all exonerations since 1989 have been of black people. – Since 2006, every year a higher percentage of black people are exonerated than white people and the difference between the two has increased dramatically, indicating that black people are more frequently wrongfully convicted. – The average time (since 1989) that exonerated people stayed in prison before exoneration was 9.48 years for white people and 12.99 for black people.
From Part VIII: – This, like part six, was discussing common arguments that you can find in the next post.
To bring it all back home with the analogy from the beginning – the reason for the moniker “Black Lives Matter” is because the black house is on fire. It has been on fire for a long time. And the All/Blue Lives Matter movements aren’t out discussing police brutality. Even the ones who agree aren’t marching or protesting about that. They’re “stopping the firemen,” as it were, because All Houses Matter.
And their house is catching fire and they’re bellyaching about why that could possibly be. Maybe it’s because the house next door is on fire. And maybe because people, when not held accountable, tend to become monsters.
And if your response to the complaint that the people who are supposed to be protecting people are killing certain people is “but we don’t talk about black-on-black crime,” let’s have that discussion to close us out.
First of all, police brutality is a different discussion than black-on-black crime. They’re similar. Both have to do with black people dying and violence. But if someone walked into a restaurant with an allergy to peanuts and asked about whether the kitchen used peanuts, no one is asking them why they’re not bringing attention to allergies to bee stings. Sure, they’re both allergies, but one is significantly more relevant in a restaurant.
Breast cancer awareness month doesn’t have people clamoring for broken leg awareness month or heart disease awareness month or even pancreatic cancer month. There is a problem, some people are focusing on that problem. And, by and large, no one distracts from it by asking about other problems.
Unless, of course, the problem involves systemic oppression of black people.
Secondly, protesting the police and the government just makes more sense as a concept than protesting a random, unconnected group of people. If the statement that “more white people were shot by cops than black people” was countered by someone saying “what about all the white serial killers,” it would be pretty obvious pretty quickly that the argument doesn’t make sense and the person responding is arguing in bad faith.
But beyond that, there’s a distinct possibility that reducing brutal interactions between police and the black community might have garnered trust between them and reduced crime within those communities (but now we’re at dismantling the police, so that ship seems to have sailed). After all, if you don’t trust the police because contact with them (regardless of the reason) often ends poorly for you, you might not call the police if your car is stolen. And say you find that car. You might be tempted to simply take the car right back. But that can easily lead to an altercation that would have been less likely to happen had the police (rather, the stated ideal of a police officer) been there to take care of the situation in a legal way.
In other words, it’s extremely easy to imagine situations where a (completely reasonable) lack of trust in police officers by the black community leads to an increase in crime. So, if that is the case, talking about police brutality is the same thing as talking about crime in black communities.
Additionally, criticizing people for pointing out a problem that exists by pointing out another problem that exists isn’t helpful for either problem. And, just like when these commentators talk about police brutality existing, when people talk about the black people who commit crimes, none of them are helping out in those communities.
Again, they’re happy to tell you they don’t see color before they cordon off “black communities” in their mind. They’re happy to say that police brutality is a problem. They’re not interested in helping to solve either. They’re just admitting those things exist as a means to shut down the argument or change its course.
Also, people love to parade around the statistic that most murders of black people are committed by black people (89.5%) but fail to mention that 81.5% of white murders are committed by white people. Why aren’t we talking about white-on-white crime?
Most homicide victims are, in fact, the same race as the perpetrator. By a wide margin.
For the people who want to have the homicide discussion, why aren’t we then talking about the fact that 74.5% of all murders involve a gun?
If they’re so worried about white people getting shot by cops, why aren’t white people out in the streets talking about how many white people are shooting themselves?
It’s because they’re different arguments and changing the focus is dishonest and helps neither issue.
Furthermore, let’s talk about the fact that when people make this argument they are holding black people to the same standards as police officers, when this isn’t how accountability should work. Civilians, no matter who they are, should not be held to the same standards as people who are meant to uphold the law. Civilians are not expected to be trained in verbal de-escalation. Civilians are not expected to be trained in hand-to-hand combat, disarmament tactics, or the use of non-lethal weapons to subdue someone. Police are expected to use these tactics because they are (presumably) trained in using them. But the fact is that in the 2018 NYPD stop-and-frisk statistics, out of all stops with both white and black people combined (7,315 stops), officers used Tasers 13 times, an impact weapon once, pepper spray a grand total of zero times, and drew their gun 313 times (as we saw earlier, sometimes without verbal instructions).
By redirecting the discussion from police to black people, there is the implication that black people should be better than the people who are there to, ostensibly, protect people and uphold the law. That is a standard no civilian should be held to because it is not their job to.
You don’t hold some random person in the gym to the same standards as a personal trainer or nutritionist. You don’t hold people in the waiting room to the same dental hygiene standards of the dentist they’re meant to see.
This expectation is not put on white people. Even when people talk about police brutality and frame it as a problem that’s larger in the white community (by parroting the “more white people are killed by cops” statistic), no one ever asks about the scourge of white-on-white murder. No one is redirecting the conversation, putting the onus on them, and saying they have to be better than the people who are presumably there to enforce the law.
Unfortunately, when pundits and people who simply parrot talking points spout the completely nonsense idea that black communities aren’t worried about black communities, then people feel they have to write articles explaining how they do, detracting from the issue that is trying to be addressed.
Their house is on fire and you’re criticizing the fact that they had dishes in the sink.
One of the main counterarguments that people will spout almost reflexively when black peoples’ harsher treatment is brought up is the idea that “black people commit more crimes.” Often, these people will have prefaced all of their arguments in the idea they “don’t see race,” but it seems as though they “don’t see race” until they’re trying to say that racism doesn’t exist. A that point, it’s all about white people suffering and black people being animals.
Their evidence, when they could actually be bothered to cite a source, is largely based on the idea that there are more black people than white people in prison (and that the percentage of the black prison population is so much higher than the percentage of black people in the population as a whole).
Unlike the “more white people get killed by cops than black people” argument, the flat numbers don’t support the claim. There are more white people in prison than black people. But it’s at this point that the savvy All/Blue Lives Matter crowd will subtly switch their argument to analyzing percentages of populations, something they didn’t do with the “more white people get killed” argument.
So what’s true and what’s not? According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics 2018 report on prison populations, there were fewer black people in prison than white people, but the percentage of the prison population who is black is still several times higher than in the population at large.
In the same study, we find that between 2008 and 2018, the black imprisonment rate is declining at a fairly astounding rate (28%), which is almost double the overall decline in imprisonment in the same period (15%). And that’s strange since social mobility for black people hasn’t exactly increased and put significantly more of them into a different socioeconomic class. Blaming “black culture” for criminal activity is still around despite the fact that mainstream pop music has comparable amounts of violent content. So what could be a cause of the change?
One theory surrounding why this might be is because the war on drugs has shifted from crack and cocaine to meth and opioids. It was no secret that the 100:1 sentencing disparity between powder and base cocaine (crack) affected the black community significantly more than the white community. The reason it impacted the black community more because more white people are arrested for powder cocaine and more black people are arrested for crack cocaine. But in the end it’s all cocaine. Combine that with facts from a study examining 77,236 federal sentences noting that black men are less likely to get no prison term if the option is on the table and black men receive smaller reductions in sentencing and you have a recipe for more black men being in jail for longer. The highest discrepancies in these already massive gaps in treatment came from sentencing for drugs.
The U.S. Department of Justice attempted to do some justifications on the approach to the War on Drugs, but even while trying to dispute the 100:1 sentencing disparity, the best they could do was saying the disparity was generally up to 6.3:1 for sentences, though they do note the disparity is actually greater (8.3:1) “for defendants with the lowest criminal histories.”
That sort of torpedos the “but they had prior criminal records” argument for why black people tend to be treated worse.
The DOJ report further goes on to explain the rationale behind penalizing crack more harshly than cocaine, noting theorized addictive potential and association with violent crime. But at this point they’re trying to justify why the illegal product is more harshly punished than the illegal ingredient.
If they believed crack was worse and contributed to society’s ills, it stands to reason they would want to stop the production of crack (by attempting to halt the flow of cocaine, which involves much fewer people) rather than allowing it to be produced in the first place.
I’m not saying that targeting crack rather than stopping cocaine flow could have allowed crack to be made and contribute to violence, justifying a narrative that black people are more violent… but I’m also not not saying that.
For a simple analogy, say that both eggs and omelettes were illegal. A massive farm produces a lot of eggs. Let’s pretend that that farm only loads their eggs in two trucks. Let’s pretend those two trucks go to two stores each. Let’s say each of those stores sell a varying number of eggs to a hundred people each. Even with these very low numbers, you now have gone from one person distributing eggs to two people transporting eggs to four people selling eggs to 400 people who might make omelettes. Maybe some of them are restaurants who distribute omelettes around the community. Maybe some of them are inviting a smaller amount of people over to eat homemade omelettes. Either way, if someone had put the work in to stop the flow of eggs to or in the store, the omelettes (and violence caused by said omelettes) wouldn’t be a concern.
And if the argument is that those initial kingpins of drug cartels are harder to arrest, try, and imprison due to corruption, international borders, or some other aspect, you’re not wrong. But there are still dozens or hundreds of points in that tree where someone with a significant amount of cocaine, who is easier to catch than El Mencho or El Chapo, may be in prison for less time than someone in possession of far less cocaine (or even far less crack). If the goal is to interrupt the distribution of cocaine and the production of crack, the flow of an absolutely crucial illegal ingredient is being stopped for less time allowing for more crack to exist. If the DOJ report is correct and crack does contribute to violence, then punishing the people making crack more harshly than the people facilitating the production is allowing the problem of crack-related violence to occur.
Now, one could argue that crack is the more serious charge because it is more of a precipitator of violence than cocaine. But that the argument negates itself. If someone is saying that someone trafficking cocaine shouldn’t be held accountable for someone producing crack, then someone producing or distributing crack in a non-violent way shouldn’t be held accountable for someone committing a violent crime while using or distributing crack. This is the only instance in the justice system that I can think of where someone who didn’t necessarily do a crime is being held accountable for something someone may have done (or may do in the future) while using their product. And, surprise, it happened with a law that disproportionally targeted black people.
When people tried to hold gun stores and gun companies accountable for shootings, lawmakers thought the idea was absolutely mad.
According to that same DOJ report, 1 gram of powder cocaine yields roughly .89 grams of crack cocaine. Per the mandatory minimums for powder versus crack cocaine, the person in possession of 500g of cocaine has the potential to make 445g of crack whereas the person with 5g of crack had roughly 6g of cocaine. Even with the DOJ’s insistence that some of the sentencing for crack is only double that of cocaine, that would still translate to a person with the potential to create 10g of crack gets a smaller sentence than someone who made 5g of crack. Why? Because someone else might be violent and get addicted. But if the second to last person in that chain is considered implicit in the violence and addiction, why not the third or fourth up the chain? After all, cocaine is still illegal. It’s not as if we’re charging gas stations, liquor stores, and washcloth manufacturers because someone made a Molotov cocktail (or because someone might do it, like some Minority Report thoughtcrime nightmare).
How much did these longer sentences for crack disproportionately affect black people? In a 2013 U.S. Sentencing Commission report about the Fair Sentencing Act, it was found that out of 7,282 offenders granted a sentence reduction, 6,251 (85.8%) were black. And if you’re wondering whether white people were denied more often and that’s the reason for the discrepancy, then it’s worth noting that 12.6% of black people who were considered were denied while only 7.3% of white people were denied.
A almost twice the percentage of black people were denied and still there were 15.3 times as many black individuals whose sentences were reduced. That’s how lopsided the law was.
The sentencing problem doesn’t solely apply to drug convictions though. In a study looking at sentences among races, it was found that the average sentence in federal courts during the study was 55 months for white people and 90 months for black people. In the paper, it is also shown that white people more often receive sentences of 0-36 months and black people were more likely than white people to receive sentences equal to or above 37 months.
The study also notes that black people are 1.75 times as likely to be charged with a crime that comes with a mandatory minimum than white people. And the most damning piece of the study is this single sentence: “this paper provides robust evidence that black male federal arrestees ultimately face longer prison terms than whites arrested for the same offenses with the same prior records.”
But there is another factor contributing to the myth of rampant black criminality: wrongful convictions. The Federal Bureau of Prison has an ongoing chart of the percentage of prisoners who are currently incarcerated. As of May 30, 2020, the site states that 38.0% of the prison population is black and 58.2% of the prison population is white. These numbers don’t mean anything in and of themselves, but they will in a moment.
Per the National Registry or Exonerations, there have been 2624 exonerations since 1989. Of those, 1295 are black people. That is 49.4% of all exonerations since 1989 have been of black people, 36.7% have been of white people. As time has gone on, a larger and larger percentages of exonerations are of black people.
Not only can we see this in all exonerations since 1989, but even in the trend of exonerations since 2006: it appears that black people are wrongly convicted at a significantly higher rate than whites. There is a higher percentage of black people exonerated than the percent in prison, similar to the fact that the NYPD contacts black people more often and has to let them go more often because they’ve been implicitly accused without cause. Not only that, of all exonerations since 1989, black people had been in prison for (on average) 12.99 years compared to white people, who had been in for 9.48 years on average. So even the average innocent black person stayed in for 1.4 times longer than the average innocent white person.
So, back to the common argument that “black people commit more crimes” or that the black man who was killed “had a criminal history.”
Before we even get to talking further about the data, let’s actually dissect what this is a defense of. This is saying that if someone commits more crimes, regardless of what those crimes are, shooting them is more justifiable. But no one is making the reverse argument about E.J. Walters, the man compared with Philando Castile. He had a very recent, violent criminal record and no one is saying that he should have been shot because he committed more crimes.
Beyond that, if someone has a prior criminal record then you can imply that they’ve gotten their punishment. So where does “they had priors” fit into the discussion? They most likely paid the penalty (and, judging by the data, it was probably a harsher penalty than a white person got for the same crime).
But back to the data – if more black individuals endure self-initiated by police and are more likely to be searched than white people, it stands to reason that more black people would be found with something that may cause them to be arrested simply because the police are trying harder with black people. Then they get in front of a judge and are sentenced more harshly than their white counterparts for the same crime. Not only that, but it appears that more black people (and a higher percentage of them) are erroneously convicted, leading to an even higher black prison population. But even within those exonerations, black people stay in prison longer before they are released.
The more frequent self-initiated stops, the higher scrutiny, the longer sentences, and the higher rate of false convictions gives two impressions: that more black people commit crimes (due to a higher population due to longer sentences and more scrutiny) and that black people commit worse crimes (due to longer sentences, which people assume to be related to the severity of the crime).
So, do black people commit more crimes (or worse crimes) than white people? We would have no way of knowing because the justice system, as a whole, treats black people significantly worse.
Cory Batey, Brock Turner, and sentencing
Brock Turner, a collegiate swimmer at Stanford University, was found guilty of raping an unconscious woman.
Cory Batey, a collegiate football player at Vanderbilt University, was found guilty of raping an unconscious woman.
Brock Turner got six months because the judge felt a longer prison sentence would negatively impact his future. Chanel Miller will always have been raped and if it weren’t for the outrage, Brock Turner would have walked off into the sunset after a misdemeanor charge.
Cory Batey got 15 years because the judge felt that “It is one of the saddest cases I have ever encountered.”
While there are stark similarities to the cases, there are two differences that people may bring up. Namely that Turner was intoxicated and Batey’s friends were involved in the rape. Pointing out these differences misses the point that Turner and Batey both raped someone and Batey’s sentence was 30 times worse. Had the sentences been, for example, 13 and 15 years, we could have a more nuanced discussion about how much the “gang rape” or possible premeditation aspect of Batey’s crime mattered. But the fact is that Batey got punished for a gang rape and Turner got the same sentence as a California man who, essentially, stole a cookie (for accuracy’s sake, the cookie thief’s six-month sentence was overturned).
In previous parts, there have been a great deal of statistics regarding police. But this part will be slightly different. It will be looking at the concept of the All Lives Matter movement, what its stated goals are, and what its actions say about those goals.
Many people I’ve spoken to who support the All Lives Matter movement are also apprehensive about police brutality (which is why they bring up the “more white people were killed by police” statistic), the militarization of the police, and the failings of our “rehabilitative” prison system.
With many other movements in America, there are usually things being asked for, marched for, or demonstrated against. There are generally specific points being made or changes being desired (or fought against). There are pro- and anti-gun rallies, pro- and anti-abortion rallies. Whatever your perception of guns or abortion, it’s undeniable that the people who don’t agree with your position have a specific end goal they want to make actions toward. They are not, by and large, simply against the other side and taking no action on their stated intentions.
But All Lives Matter is different. I said earlier that many of the All Lives Matter folks I have interacted with believe the justice system needs and overhaul, but not all of them. And of the ones that do, they aren’t out marching to defund the police or tear down the prison-industrial complex. For a movement that purports to be all about inclusion and equality, it seems that their only reason for existing is to tell black people they’re wrong about cops.
Are there any other beliefs? Any goals? Any commonalities among supporters? Not that I’ve seen, personally. In the group, beliefs about the justice system run the gamut – some also support Blue Lives Matter and some hate cops. One I spoke to was openly happy about the police station in Minneapolis that got burned down.
But none of them are marching for anything. Simply against a black movement.
All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter are utterly hollow movements with no points other than “black people are wrong.” There is nothing joining the people within them outside of disagreeing with a group of black people and, in the case of Blue Lives Matter, liking cops.
The 2nd Amendment advocates and All/Blue Lives Matter supporters fall into a fairly tight Venn Diagram in some ways and it’s surprising that many people who fervently support their right to bear arms do so to ostensibly protect the people from the government are simply allowing the government to shoot rubber bullets in the eyes of journalists or push old men to the ground.
Many of them admit police brutality exists and say they’re armed in order to protect themselves from government overreach, but it’s just crickets when it comes to police brutality against black people or people protesting in a black movement.
Regardless of what people supporting All Lives Matter believe about police, that movement itself has no manifesto but “Black people are wrong.”
Austin Harrouff, Rudy Eugene, and horror
The cases of Rudy Eugene and Austin Harrouff are particularly horrific, but offer another case study into the fact that justice for white people is different than justice for black people.
I have no doubt you’ve heard of this first story. On May 26, 2012 in Miami, Rudy Eugene attacked Ronald Poppo after accusing Poppo of stealing his Bible. Poppo’s face was mostly eaten by Eugene and Poppo was left blinded. Initial reports speculated about bath salts, but Eugene’s toxicology reports came back only positive for cannabis, though several unidentified pills were found in his stomach during the autopsy. He was wanted and then fatally shot by police.
While the Rudy Eugene/Ronald Poppo case is widely known, this one didn’t get as much traction. On August 15, 2016 in West Palm Beach, Austin Harrouff was found after having stabbed Jeff Fisher and killed John Stevens and Michelle Mishcon. When contacted, Harrouff was still eating John Stevens. He was ordered at gunpoint to stop. When he didn’t, officers used their stun guns, which were ineffective. They then attempted to handcuff Harrouff, but he fought them off and continued eating Stevens. A K-9 then was brought to subdue Harrouff and deputies were finally able to apprehend Harrouff. He has yet to be tried, undergoing a bevy of evaluations after toxicology reports revealed he only had cannabis and small amounts of alcohol in his system.
In the case of Rudy Eugene, it would have been reasonable for the officer to assume Eugene was dangerous and had just murdered a man. I’ll not try and spin this to say that Harrouff was apprehended after a double murder and Eugene was shot for an assault. In each case, it would be fair for officers to assume both Eugene and Harrouff were imminently extremely dangerous and had murdered someone.
I also will not pretend to say that Harrouff was more or less frightening than Rudy. Honestly, I won’t pretend that I don’t understand why an officer would shoot either of them. In a very literal sense, both scenes must have felt like horror movies. No matter how much training officers get, I wouldn’t expect them to have been prepared for those scenes.
But there are two relevant differences: – Officers were able to assume Harrouff was armed as he had stabbed Fisher. Eugene was completely naked and clearly unarmed. – Harrouff physically attacked police at one point. Eugene had growled at police but I cannot find a report of him having had a physical altercation with any officers.
My point isn’t about saying one attack was worse or more deserving of force than another. My point is simply that two dramatically different things happened to two people doing such unique, but similar things. And, lining up with all the data, the more severe punishment befell the black person.
In the data from the NYPD in the previous post about stop-and-frisk tactics, it was clear that even when people were searching black people several times more often, they were finding that the same percentage of people, regardless of race, weren’t holding contraband. It also appeared that police who were approaching people unprompted, they were much worse at picking black people who were doing anything wrong than white people (and, to be fair, they weren’t good at picking white criminals either).
What I left out was how often a gun was drawn on someone without verbal instructions. For all stops of people of each race, guns were drawn on white people without instructions 0.8% of the time (roughly 8 people). For black people this goes to 1%, which doesn’t seem like much until you realize that it translates to roughly 62 black people getting a gun pulled on them without having been told anything beforehand due to the discrepancy in how often they are contacted. So this is not only happening in a higher percentage of black stops, it’s happening in higher flat numbers as well.
For self-initiated stops, that difference is steeper. For white people, 0.3% of them had a gun drawn on them without instructions. For black people it was 0.6%. But, again, because of the sheer numbers of people stopped, only one white person experienced this (which, yes, is still too many) but it happened to ten black people.
But how often were guns drawn on innocent people (with or without verbal instructions) that the cops selected? For white people, 1.99% of the time (five times in total). For black people, 1.86% of the time (31 times total). You can round that to say that consistently guns are drawn on innocent people in one out of every 50 self-initiated stops, but black people are targeted so much more often that six times as many innocent black people have guns drawn on them than innocent white people.
I can already feel the argument coming up, despite the rest of the data presented. There may be someone out there reading this who cherry picks the fact that 0.13% more often, innocent white people had a gun drawn on them in self-initiated stops.
But let’s even out the numbers and see the difference that makes in how often it is occurring.
Pretend there were 1,000 self-initiated stops of white people and 1,000 of black people. Here’s how those stats stack up: – Searched and/or frisked: 616 white people and 806 black people – Had a gun drawn on them without instructions: 3 white people and 6 black people – Had a gun drawn on them and later found to be doing nothing wrong: 19 white people and 18 black people – Were released due to having been stopped for no reason: 573 white people and 673 black people
In other words, if all things were equal, cops would have performed self-initiated stops on 100 more innocent black people, frisked or searched 190 more black people, and drew guns without instructions on twice as many black people. Suddenly, the extra innocent white person who had a gun pulled on them looks much more like random chance than actually being in line with other data.
John Crawford III, Jason Harrison, and the question of time
In the cases of Lance Tamayo, Joseph Houseman, and Elaine Rothenberg, they were all acting belligerent toward cops. Two of them were pointing guns of some kind at cops (Lance pointed a real pistol and Elaine pointed a BB gun). The third was holding a rifle at the time. Though Tamayo was shot once (then the cops switched to non-lethal means), they all lived.
John Crawford III didn’t. He was in a Wal-Mart holding a BB/pellet gun which was sold at the Wal-Mart and which he had pulled off the shelf to buy. Within 10 minutes, police had arrived. Within three seconds of them arriving, John Crawford III (who, again, had a gun that Wal-Mart sold off the shelf), was shot to death by Beavercreek PD.
To reiterate: John Crawford III was shot within three seconds for holding merchandise in the store where it was sold.
Jason Harrison was a mentally ill black man whose mother called the police to help him get to the hospital. He was shot within nine seconds of him stepping into view because he was holding a screwdriver. As you can see in the screenshot above, he wasn’t holding it in a threatening manner. And even if this could be interpreted as a “threatening manner,” the grip is clearly so loose that the cop likely could have slapped it out of his hand.
Lance Tamayo got to speak with police while pointing a gun at cops and people in a park. John Crawford III was shot within three seconds for shopping for a BB gun.
Elaine Rothenberg got to speak with police while waving a BB gun at cops. Tamir Rice was shot within two seconds for having a BB gun.
Joseph Houseman got to speak with police while holding a rifle. Jason Harrison was shot within nine seconds for holding a screwdriver.
Again, these cases aren’t the data. These cases put faces and names to the data. And these cases match much of the data – police see black people with screwdrivers as more dangerous than white people with guns.
Unless noted otherwise, the following uses data collected from The Counted’s 2015 data, the FBI’s 2014 Arrest Table, and the U.S. Census Bureau data for 2010. Also, unless specifically mentioned, any civilians spoken about in this section can be assumed to be unarmed. I did this because it wouldn’t have been feasible to look through every killing of a person with a gun and figure out whether the gun was out, threatening, etc. Also, it reduced the necessity of having to justify certain weapons and whether a cop was right to fear for their lives in cases where someone was wielding a baseball bat, knife, or (if the protests are any indication) a water bottle. Quite simply, an unarmed person may need to be subdued in some way (restraints, hand-to-hand combat, a baton, a Taser, pepper spray, etc.) but there is no justification in the vast, vast majority of cases for killing someone unarmed. Plus the unarmed statistics make the point without much trouble.
There were 235 unarmed people killed by cops in 2015. Of those, 106 were white and 79 were black. This is often used as a counterpoint by the All Lives Matter crowd. Why? Because it is absolutely true that more white people were shot and killed by cops, which changes the conversation to a conversation about systemic racism and implies that the All Lives Matter supporters think that, in reality, white people are targeted more often.
But this statistic is incomplete. And I’m sure if someone retorted with “more black people are killed by cops than cops are killed by black people,” the All/Blue Lives Matter supporters wouldn’t accept that logic, even though it’s true.
If you remember way back at the beginning of this series it was mentioned that service industry jobs and construction jobs have a higher number of fatalities due to “violence or other injuries by persons or animals” than officers. That is an indisputable fact. In the service industry there were 525 murders. For police, that number is 55. One number is simply greater than another number. But it’s not nearly 10 times more dangerous to be in the service industry than to be a cop. Those numbers alone simply don’t tell us anything about how comparatively dangerous being a cop is.
To continue the job analogy for a moment, there are simply many, many, many more service industry and construction workers than police officers in America. There were around 7.5 million construction workers in January 2020 and, as of July 2019, 107.8 million people were employed in the service industry. Both of those are a far cry from the 686,665 police officers employed in America around the same time.
In order to present a fact about how dangerous each field is (or, in our case, how dangerous or safe it is to be a certain race around cops), you have to make the playing field as equal as possible.
If 525 people were killed due to “violence or other injuries by persons or animals” in the service industry, that is 0.49 service workers per 100,000. The number for construction workers is 0.81 per 100,000. As for the 55 cops, that becomes eight cops per 100,000. This means that, if you’re a cop, you’re 16 times more likely to get murdered at work than a service industry worker and 9.9 times as likely as a construction worker.
Bear with me here because for the rest of these statistics, we’re going to go from a broad view to a narrow view so as to shut down any counterarguments before they even arise.
First, let’s look at the discrepancy between the population versus how many unarmed people (I want to re-emphasize that these statistics will mostly be concentrating on unarmed civilians) were killed by cops:
As you can see here, black people made up only 13% of the population in 2015 but 34% of the unarmed people killed by cops that year. For white people, they made up less than half of the unarmed people killed by cops while making up 72% of the population.
You would be right to point out the fact that not every person of every race has contact with the police. You would also be right to say that the NYPD data from part three showed that several times more stops were performed on black people than white people. More contact may just equal more chance to be killed by police.
Despite the fact that we’ve established that the NYPD police are choosing to contact black people erroneously or for no reason more often as well as the fact that traffic stops of black people decreased when the race of the driver was unknown, lending to the idea that many of these stops were race-based, we can certainly look at just people who had contact with police.
First, let’s talk about where the Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American categories went: they weren’t in the 2015 BLS data and were all listed as “other.”
Since that’s out of the way, we can take a look into that graph above. The 2015 BLS data, mentioned a few other times in this series, does give a hard number for how many individuals who were over 16 were contacted by police in 2015: 53,469,300. There were 37,334,200 white individuals, 6,146,400 were black, 6,680,700 were Hispanic, and the remainder were of another race. As for people who were under 16 when killed by police, there were four such individuals killed by cops. Their inclusion or removal did not make enough of a difference to change the conclusions the numbers lead to.
As you can see in the above data, in any given police interaction unarmed black people were more likely to be killed than a white person armed with a gun. It appears as if they were also slightly more likely to be killed than a Hispanic person with a gun as well.
If you’re pointing out that “killed by cops” is nebulous and doesn’t take into account someone who ran in front of a police cruiser or other tragedy that could have legitimately been an accident, that’s fair. Let’s narrow it down further to how many people, per million police interactions, were actually shot by police.
In 6.5 out of every million stops with black people, an unarmed black person was shot by a cop. This only happened in 1.3 out of every million stops with a white person. That means an unarmed black person is a full five times as likely to have a gun drawn on them, shot, and killed than an unarmed white person. But congratulations, with this data, we finally have a point at which white people with guns were killed by police at a higher rate than unarmed black people (8.2 per million versus 6.5 per million).
Based on this data, it appears that the police believe a white person with a gun is 1.2 times as dangerous an unarmed black person, who is five times as dangerous as an unarmed white person. And that, to be frank, sounds pretty racist.
Mind you, this isn’t data talking about the whole population. This is data that explicitly shows how police are treating individual groups of people. If you are an unarmed black person being stopped by police, you are five times more likely to be shot by police than an unarmed white person stopped by police. If you are a black person with a gun, you are 2.7 times more likely to be shot by a cop than a white person with a gun.
It seems as though black people are treated significantly worse than white people. That is not to say white people aren’t unjustly stopped, searched, or even killed. Dylan Noble and Daniel Shaver were two unarmed white men who were shot to death by police for no good reason. Joseph Hutcheson was a white man who was strangled to death by police while in custody. Be mad about them.
You can be mad that it’s happening to everyone and also be mad that it’s happening with more frequency to black people (specifically black men) than anyone else.
Lance Tamayo, Joseph Houseman, Milton Hall, and threat levels
Pop quiz: in the above image, there are three people. Guess which one was shot 46 times, which one was sentenced to 180 days in jail (with time served), and which one received an apology from the police. Here’s some more information about each: – Milton Hall, a mentally ill black man, who stole a cup of coffee and was brandishing a knife – Joseph Houseman, an elderly white man, who was waving around a gun and yelling at people – Lance Tamayo, a man who pointed gun at cops and people in a public park
Side note: If you’re frantically searching for whether Lance Tamayo is white or Latino, you’re missing the point. He can pass as white and definitely isn’t black.
Lance Tamayo, who pointed his gun at police, was shot once before officers switched to non-lethal means to apprehend him. He was given 180 days (with time served). Joseph Houseman, the elderly man with the rifle, was given an apology after a 40 minute standoff with police. Milton Hall, who had a knife and stole a cup of coffee, was shot at 46 times.
Some could argue that it was justifiable for police to shoot Lance Tamayo. Frankly, I would agree. He was, after all, pointing a gun at police and passersby. But whatever your opinion on open carry laws, it’s telling that a white man holding a rifle and yelling at police was given his rifle back after a 40 minute standoff when Tamir Rice, a black child holding a fake gun, was shot within two seconds without warning.
Of the eight officers that approached Milton Hall, six of them fired. Those six officers shot, on average, 7.7 rounds at a man with a knife who stole a cup of coffee.
Lance Tamayo, a man pointing a gun at cops, was shot once before they switched to a non-lethal means of apprehension.
Apparently in line with the data is the idea that a black man with a pocket knife is significantly more dangerous than a white man with a gun.
Here’s how our friends across the pond handle blades:
Stop-and-frisk laws have been heavily criticized for years due to the incredible bias toward stopping and frisking black people. NYCLU analyzed over 685,000 stops in 2011 (the data itself can be found from the NYPD) and discovered several issues that disproportionately affected black and Latinx people. While Latinx people have a bevy of systemic problems in America, this article is only going to concentrate on black/white interactions with police so as to not lose focus on the purpose of this series of writings.
In the article, they mention that the population of New York City is approximately 23% black but they made up roughly 53% of total stops and 55% of frisks. White people, on the other hand, make up 33% of the population, but 9% of the stops and 7% of frisks. One of the more telling statistics is that of those who were not arrested or given a summons (likely meaning there was no cause to stop them), 53% of them were black people and 9% of them were white people. In other words, it appears that the NYPD was much more judicious when choosing to stop and frisk a white person than a black person.
How did this fare versus 2018 (the data for which is also available from that NYPD link)? There were 11,008 stops that year (significantly fewer than 2011), but still only 9.7% of people stopped were white and 56.7% were black. I’ll note here that I only included those described as “Black” or “White” in the data and ignored the categories for “Black Hispanic” and “White Hispanic.” Feel free to let me know if this closes the 47% gap.
Of those stopped, white people were frisked and/or searched 56.2% of the time (from here on in, I will be using frisk and search to mean “frisked and/or searched” for brevity’s sake) and black people were frisked 70.6% of the time. Despite being searched a little over 1.25 times as often, there was only a 1.7% difference in how often contraband was found.
Some of you who are looking through the data (please do) may feel that using the “self-initiated” stops may be more reasonable to figure out racial bias in police, since searching someone on the basis of a report from someone else may be the police using bad information from a racist. That’s a reasonable request, so let’s look at the stops the police themselves initiated.
Of all white people stopped by police, 23.2% were self-initiated. For black people, the percentage of time is slightly higher (surprise) at 26.7%. Of these stops, it should come as no surprise that police searched white people far less often than black people (61.6% and 80.6% respectively). To reiterate that last point – the cops chose to stop someone and still chose to search black people 1.3 times as often.
To make the illustration simpler, let’s say the starting numbers were equal (as if cops performed self-initiated stops on white and black people the same amount: 250 times each). There would have been 47.5 more black people searched resulting in 18.7 more pieces of contraband found. If you crunch those numbers, you find out that there were 1.3 times as many black people searched and, surprise, 1.3 times as many pieces of contraband found.
It’s almost as if black people and white people are committing crimes at the same rate, but black people are being scrutinized more, making it appear as though they’re engaging in more crime. Spoiler alert: this concept will come back later.
For one last point about the NYPD stop-and-frisk tactic, let’s look at how many people are completely released with no summons or arrest. Out of all stops of black and white people (self-initiated or not), 69.5% of white people were simply let go and 70.2% of black people were. Given how close these percentages are (and the fact I’m not a statistician), these numbers just make the whole stop-and-frisk program look useless, rather than racist.
The racist part of the program comes when we, again, narrow it down to self-initiated stops. The discrepancy of how often people are released increases from a 0.7% difference to a 6% difference. Not only are 6.7 times more black people stopped at police discretion (250 white people versus 1,671 black people), but a higher percentage of black people are being let go than white people, implying that police are significantly more discerning when determining whether or not to stop a white person. This is even given the fact that, again, black people are searched significantly more often.
You’d be fair to say that a 57.3% failure rate (the amount of times self-initiated stops on white people were conducted and found to be unnecessary as the person was not summonsed or arrested) seems less like stopping crime and more like harassment. That is absolutely true. Stop-and-frisk programs also affect white people negatively and they are an appalling failure, regardless of the race of the person. The reason it’s important to concentrate on black people is because it’s clearly affecting them more severely, more often, and with more regularity.
To go on with the analogy from the linked video in part one: the white house caught on fire because the black house is completely engulfed in flames. Both are important, but one needs attention now.
Elaine Rothenberg, Tamir Rice, and BB guns
Elaine Rothenberg was outside of a police station pointing a BB gun at passerby and police. She was arrested. Tamir Rice was sitting at a park bench with a BB gun and was shot by police before the car came to a complete stop. It probably took you longer to read this paragraph than police gave Tamir Rice to drop the gun.
We’ve all heard the term “driving while black.” It’s been in the public consciousness for quite some time. While this doesn’t (usually) translate to police brutality, the concept of being pulled over for driving while black, as well as the numbers backing it up, are indicative of many of the more problematic areas of policing that open black people up to being killed with more frequency than white people.
In 2015, there were 53,469,300 people 16 or older with police contact of any kind (including police initiated contact, self-initiated contact, or contact initiated by others). Of these interactions, fewer than 2% of them included use of force or threat of force (a rate of roughly 1,842 uses/threats of force per 100,000 interactions overall). For white people, this rate was approximately 1,300 uses/threats of force per 100,000 interactions. For black people, this jumped up to 3,271 uses/threats of force per 100,000 interactions.
In the same report, it is shown that out of the entire population of black drivers in the United States, 9.8% were stopped, whereas only 8.6% of white drivers were stopped. When calculating how often people experienced interactions with police as a passenger, race seemed to simply not matter that much (with a total disparity of 0.3% between all races).
During stops with drivers, 38% of white drivers received a warning, whereas only 33.6% of black drivers did. This switches when it came to tickets and searches/arrests, a trend we will continue to see. These more punitive measures were taken for white drivers 49.7% of the time (46.4% were tickets and 3.3% resulted in arrests and/or searches) whereas the number rose to 54.3% of interactions involving black people (49.9% were ticketed and 4.4% were arrested or searched).
For those of you looking at the data, you may have noticed a few numbers I don’t want to gloss over: black people have no enforcement action taken in 14.6% of stops as opposed to 13.5% of stops for white people. While it still doesn’t cover the total disparity between white people receiving more warnings than punishment, it’s a fair question. My guess would be that it lends itself to the idea that black people are pulled over for literally no reason more often than white people. A study from May 2020 analyzing 100 million traffic stops supports this. It found a significant disparity between black and white drivers being pulled over, but that “black drivers were less likely to be stopped after sunset, when a ‘veil of darkness’ masks one’s race, suggesting bias in stopping decisions.” Additionally, the study noted “the bar for searching black and Hispanic drivers was lower than that for searching white drivers,” further indicating that there is likely a racial bias in how police handle drivers in day-to-day interactions.
Philando Castile, E.J. Walters, and road rage
Let’s compare a single instance of driving while white and driving while black. This, obviously, isn’t indicative of everyone’s interactions with the police, but it’s helpful to remove abstractions and put a face to the data.
E.J. Walters was pulled over for waving a gun during a road rage incident. He had a gun and alcohol visible in the car and refused to exit the vehicle. He was forcibly removed by police. He also had a criminal record, having been out of jail on bond a two months earlier. That arrest? A drunken road rage incident involving a detective. As you can see from his mug shot, he survived to get hauled back to jail.
Philando Castile, on the other hand, was told he was being pulled over for a broken taillight (or a “wide-set nose” that matched the description of a robbery suspect, depending on which version of the story you subscribe to). He informed the officer he was carrying a legal weapon and was shot.