Recently an ADI columnist, commenting on football players “taking the knee,” said that “police don’t kill a disproportionate share of blacks.” No source was given for this statement, so I did some research. Only took a few minutes to see that the columnist was dead wrong. Well, he was wrong and a whole lot of black people were dead.
According to Department of Justice and FBI statistics reported in the New York Times and U.S. News, 31.8 percent of people shot by police were African American. That’s two-and-a-half times the 13.2 percent black population. The 1134 young black men killed in 2015 was five times higher than whites killed by law enforcement personnel.
Black-on-black homicide is very real, but so is white-on-white homicide, with killings among both groups on the rise. Eighty-four percent of white murder victims were killed by other whites, and 91 percent of black victims were killed by other African Americans. Translated from statistics into people, 500 whites were killed by blacks in 2015, up 12 percent from the year before.
Two-hundred and twenty-nine blacks were killed by whites, up 22 percent and, again, way disproportionate to their population. Whites make up 62 percent of the US population and 40 percent of those killed by cops. African Americans are 13 percent of the population and 32 percent of those killed by cops. If you are black, you are more than twice as likely to be shot by law enforcement than if you are white. These numbers do not include killings by self-styled vigilantes or racially-motivated nut cases. Nor do they include the more than 20,000 annual suicides by gun, usually older white men.
To be sure, working in law enforcement carries serious risks and our officers deserve public support along with adequate training and decent pay and benefits. Law enforcement deaths in the line of duty range from a recent high of 845 in 2015 to 183 in 2016. It is understandable that a “them and us” mentality sets in, but efforts must be made to overcome that mind-set, and funds for training must be found. And whatever happened to Citizen Review Boards? Might be time to revive that idea and build bridges so that police are welcomed as community allies and protectors and not as a hostile occupying army.
This story I am about to share does not have a source I can name here, so you may well discount it as fake news, but, unfortunately, it is all too true. A friend’s son, Caucasian, went into law enforcement and was working in the mid-west. He had natural empathy for people and was trained to become a negotiator, someone who talked potential suicides down, defused hostage situations, and sought to break down racial barriers in his department. He was a preventer of violence, and was effective in his job.
He was often sent to law enforcement conferences to help launch efforts to reduce racial tensions in police departments as well as with the communities they served. It was not long before he was targeted as a “n—-r-lover.” The word went out that if he were ever in a dangerous situation he should not expect any help from his fellow white officers. Threats were made, serious enough that his superiors convinced him to enter a sort-of witness protection program. With new identities for him and his family, he was relocated and now works in the trades.
This story and the official statistics show that there is, in fact, a racial problem in the law enforcement community. Pretending that there isn’t doesn’t make it go away. Protesters are not just tilting at windmills; they are calling attention to the lingering and deadly residues of our history of slavery and segregation, and to the abuse of power by those we are not willing to call to account. It’s our problem.
A recent movie now available on DVD is Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” Billed as a “horror film,” it is entertaining, scary, and you’ll never look at white people the same again!
ABOUT COMMENTS FROM THE CHEMO COUCH: I am nearing 80 years of age and am taking chemo for multiple myeloma, an aggressive and incurable blood cancer that attaches itself to my ribs and spine and sucks the calcium out so that a sneeze breaks two ribs. That keeps me close to home. After several months of treatment it is still not clear whether the chemo is slowing the cancer down, but it all leaves me with little energy and a lot of time to think. And I think a lot, and because I’m a writer I want to put what I think into words for others to read. Give them something to think about too, about local and national politics, about nature, community, history, and maybe even about facing the end of my time on this earth. I am grateful to John and Lori Hunnicutt and the Arizona Daily Independent for carrying my opinionated stories, and hope these columns will get readers thinking. I am a trained researcher and do diligent research to present facts and avoid name-calling. Hopefully we will all learn something we didn’t know and will talk to each other about it. Right or Left, we have more in common than we are often willing to admit, and dialogue is, perhaps, the only thing that can save democracy in America. — AVL