Saturday, April 21, 2018

Police shootings and crime

By the numbers.  Because of the big Starbucks kerfuffle that's dominating the news, and the underlying assumption that terror and oppression are the daily dose of events that Black Americans must endure, I thought I'd look at the issue that seems to have caused this sudden backlash against, well, everything American. That is the thing that started it, which was police shootings of unarmed blacks.  Here's where I looked (not including a few I didn't bother citing):
  1. From 2017, the number of Americans shot and killed by police, courtesy of The Washington Post.
  2. From 2016, the most recent take on race and homicides, courtesy of US News and World Report.
  3. Also from US News and World Report, a review of the drop in police killed in the line of duty. 
Here's what jumped out at me.  We hear all about cops killing unarmed blacks.  It's everywhere.  It's every day.  Commercials, PSAs, political messages, videos, and protests all insist this is a nightmare Black Americans live with everyday, knowing that around every corner and down every street is a cadre of cops just itching to drag them out of a car and put a round of bullets in them. It has come do justify the sensitivity that is quickly painting everything and all things in America's past as equal to Nazi.  It's helped make an issue at a local Starbucks become the biggest scandal since yesterday's Trump scandal.

And yet, according to the stats, a total of 68 unarmed people were shot and, sadly, killed in 2017. I must admit, that's quite a different story than the rather sensational headline suggests: "Nationwide, police shot and killed nearly 1000 people in 2017."  Wow.  That's a lot.  But that's everyone, including armed people, white and black, and anyone else who wasn't unarmed.

Now, for the record, that's 68 too many, though we don't know why they were shot or details of the cases.  Just because they are unarmed doesn't mean they didn't act armed, or threaten, or in some way indicate they were armed.  It's just 68 out of around 3000 shot, and 957 killed, who were unarmed.  The number of unarmed black men was 19 total.  So in 2017, out of a nation of 320 million, with 750,000 police with arresting powers, and out of around 20 million African American males, 19 were shot who were unarmed (without, again, knowing the details).

Forgive me, but I was under the impression it was a daily thing.  It was something that was happening by the hundreds, heck even the thousands.  I mean, 19 shot who are unarmed is, again, 19 too many, even if some of them provoked the police in other ways.  But it's 19.  Out of almost 20 million black men.

I do get the point about living in an oppressive society or one in which you are an oppressed minority.  I understand that just being an oppressed minority is enough, even if every day doesn't have millions of people being dragged off to gulags.  I get all that. But the numbers vs. the narrative just, to me at least, having said goodbye to our first black president and all, seemed out of wack.

Ah, but then they get to the point:
Black males accounted for 22 percent of all people shot and killed in 2017, yet they are 6 percent of the total population. White males accounted for 44 percent of all fatal police shootings, and Hispanic males accounted for 18 percent.
The point is, it might look like a small number, but it's the proportion that makes the difference.  Fair enough.  If it's all about the proportion, then let's look at another stat from the US News story on the subject: 
Among the roughly 6,000 cases in which the race of the victim and the offender were known, the number of blacks killed by blacks rose to 2,380 last year, an increase of about 8 percent from 2014.
The number of white people killed by other whites rose 3.5 percent to 2,574 victims in 2015.
So there are 6000 of the 13,455 homicide cases in which we have racial data on the victims and killers.  Out of those, 2,380 were blacks killed by blacks.  2,574 were whites killed by whites.

But let's apply the proportion rule.  When the number of black on black murders is brought  up, it's always - and I mean always - dismissed as merely the logical result of murders happening between people who know each other.  We kill who we love I guess.  But look at those numbers.  40% were homicides between blacks and blacks out of the 6000 total we know.  43% were white on white.  That means, blacks killing blacks were almost as many as whites killing whites, despite the much vaunted point that blacks make up - what was it? - a paltry 12% of the population.  

Am I the only one that looks at that and begins to think the big problem Black Americans have isn't cops killing unarmed blacks? 

Furthermore, we look at the 'myth' of blacks killing whites.  We hear all the time that this is a fear that has no basis in fact.  You might be shocked to find out that there were 500 cases in which a white victim was killed by a black assailant.  On the flip side, there were 229 blacks killed by whites.  According to the story, both of these marked a sizable leap in the numbers. 

But look again.  There were over twice as many whites killed by blacks as blacks killed by whites.  I have no clue what percentage of Americans are white, and George Zimmerman taught us that white can be as fluid as gender, but I'll bet it's more than 12%.  And yet, whites didn't even kill half as many blacks as blacks killed whites.  Again, think that all important proportion that has allowed 19 unarmed black men shot by cops to be elevated to the level of slavery, the Interment of Japanese Americans, and Jim Crow laws.  It's been so bad that the resulting avalanche has seen an almost overhauling of everything we've come to think about racial progress in America, if not America in general. 

It might also be worth noting that the amount of police killed in the line of duty dropped significantly last year after a disastrous year in 2016.  The number of police not only killed on duty, but purposefully targeted for assassination and murder, was staggering in that last year of the Obama administration.  Of course I've been told that more garbage collectors die on the job than cops are killed.  I'm sure the numbers can be crunched accordingly.

But it's worth noting that doing so relies on such things as proportions and keeping things in perspective.  That is, garbage collectors are far more likely to die on the job than cops, so don't get all upset about cops getting killed as if it's some big, constant thing.  And yet, far more cops are killed compared to blacks killed by cops.  In fact, assuming everyone in law enforcement, desk job or otherwise (1.1 million), they're still dying at a far greater percentage than blacks killed by cops, and that includes those killed by cops who were not unarmed but armed to the teeth. 

Now, math is not my strong suit, and stats even less so.  I'm sure a pro from Dover like Michael Flynn could crunch the numbers and make sense out of them.  And maybe I'm missing something that would help it all make sense, and validate the press's overwhelming focus on what would suggest is less of a danger than how many blacks likely die in the bathroom every year.  If I've missed something or made a mistake in the numbers, I'm willing to concede the point. 

But based on the numbers, if I correctly understand them, I see it this way.  If 100 people carried 200 sacks of potatoes up a hill within five minutes, and then 20 people carried 200 sacks of potatoes up the same hill in the same amount of time, we'd all be more than impressed with those 20 people.  That's quite an accomplishment.  Well, that seems to be the case in terms of violence within the black community.  A population barely 12% of America's total population is racking up homicide numbers that are on par with a demographic many times larger.  And the biggest group of victims of black violence are black.  And the biggest threat to blacks seem to be blacks.  Not whites.  Not cops.  In fact, in terms of just sheer numbers, you're twice as likely to be killed by a black if you're white than killed by a white if you're black.  

For me, given everything that is happening in terms of 'end white racist America' and 'we must do anything to save black America', it looks like the numbers just aren't adding up, at least with the issue that is supposed to be at the heart of the problem.  I mean, if it's really all about the proportions and percentages, it looks to me like black America does have a major problem in terms of violence and homicide, and virtually none of it has to do with anyone who is white or in law enforcement.   But I could be wrong. 

BTW, none of this is to say I know anything about the Starbucks issue.  If the Starbucks employee violated policy and the gentlemen involved did nothing wrong, then something should happen, though I don't know that shutting down 8000 stores is the answer.  But given the fact that everyone seems to be pointing to this canvas of terror that all blacks seem to live under, and that police shooting unarmed black men is the linchpin behind it all, I thought it was worth a second look. 

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