Every once in a while someone says something so incisive that it causes you to look at an issue in an entirely different way.
Rev. Jesse Jackson managed to do that earlier this week.
Police kill more whites than blacks. Of the 700 killings it has recorded, the Guardian reports that 340 were white, 179 black and 101 Hispanic. The Post reports that African-American men were 40 percent of the unarmed deaths, but whites and Hispanics made up the majority. The system has a class bias as well as a race bias. An investigation by Alternet’s Zaid Jilani revealed that in the first five months of this year, 95 percent of police killings occurred in neighborhoods with median family incomes under $100,000. There were no killings in neighborhoods with median family incomes of $200,000 or above.
Not surprisingly, lower-income whites are more likely to say police abuse of authority is on the rise than middle- or upper-income whites.
Excessive force puts white lives at risk, as well as those of blacks and Hispanics. But the silence of the white community and of the white church is deafening. The victims of police abuse are left to seek justice on their own.
Forget for a moment why many whites are silent about blacks being shot by cops, and ask yourself why whites are silent about other whites being shot by cops? It's not like whites being killed by cops is a rare occurrence. Why is there not a #WhiteLivesMatter (or similarly named) movement?
Isn't that a little strange?
Why, for instance, did a white, armed militia (i.e. the Oath Keepers) feel it necessary to patrol the streets of Ferguson during a BLM protest? Even the police didn't want them there.
It begs the question of what these people believed and what part of society they thought they belonged to. How is it possible that a largely anti-government group would be patrolling the street on behalf of the police? Just how out-of-touch are these people?
The article by Reverend Jackson got me thinking. Almost the entire reason that BLM and its followers have decided that police killings is an issue of racism first and foremost is because blacks are being killed in this country by cops at a greater rate than white are being killed by cops. And that much is true. Blacks die from cop shootings at a rate of around a 2:1 to whites ( 2.74 deaths for every million blacks, to 1.28 deaths for every million whites).
Now let's say that suddenly that problem is "fixed" and that blacks are "only" being killed at the same rate as whites are.
Does BLM no longer have a reason to exist? Mission accomplished? Wrong.
Let’s look at our immediate neighbors to the north, Canada. The total number of citizens killed by law enforcement officers in the year 2014, was 14; that is 78 times less people than the US.
If we look at the United Kingdom, 1 person was killed by police in 2014 and 0 in 2013. English police reportedly fired guns a total of three times in all of 2013, with zero reported fatalities.
From 2010 through 2014, there were four fatal police shootings in England, which has a population of about 52 million. By contrast, Albuquerque, N.M., with a population 1 percent the size of England’s, had 26 fatal police shootings in that same time period.
China, whose population is 4 and 1/2 times the size of the United States, recorded 12 killings by law enforcement officers in 2014.
Let that sink in. Law enforcement in the US killed 92 times more people than a country with nearly 1.4 billion people.
It doesn’t stop there.
From 2013-2014, German police killed absolutely no one.
In the entire history of Iceland police, they have only killed 1 person ever.
All that would happen if blacks were "only" being killed in this country as the same rate as whites is that blacks would still be getting killed at around 50 times the rate
as anyone else in a first world country.
Talk about lowered expectations!
On the other hand, it seems perfect for today's liberal politics, where real world defeats are sold to us as symbolic victories.
In other words, the problem would only be "fixed" on a selective relative scale, nothing more.
And as long as people approach this as an issue of only racism and nothing else, then nothing of consequence will be fixed.
That is not to say that racism isn't a factor. What it does mean is that the issue here is much larger and more complex than just racism. Which shouldn't be a surprise, because that's what normally happens when large groups of real human beings are involved.
It also means that unless you look at this realistically and factor in all the causes then a satisfactory resolution is impossible. How your group feels about something does not outweigh reason and facts.
This made me think about the other point that Reverend Jackson made, the one concerning class bias.
So I went looking for the Zaid Jilani article he was referring to and I found it.
For the 441 police killings I researched, the average neighborhood family income where a killing occurred was $57,764. The median family income was $52,907.
Just over five percent of the killings were in neighborhoods with over $100,000 median family income. The richest neighborhood that saw a killing was the 700 block on 14th street in northwest Washington, D.C.
This skews against what the actual income variation in America is. A household income of $100,000 or more puts you in the top 21% of American income earners; this means that incomes below this number are overrepresented by four times compared to the income distribution in how often they are killed by police.
Being black makes you twice
as likely to be killed by cops, but being middle-class or poor makes you four times
as likely to be killed by cops. In fact, according to this article, "95 percent of reported police killings were in neighborhoods with incomes under $100,000."
Looking at this from face value, the greater determining factor of whether you are going to be shot by the cops is the amount of cash in your pocket and where you live, not the color of your skin. If you stay out of middle-class and poor neighborhoods you have almost zero
danger of being shot by cops.
And speaking of where you live, I made a quick look and found this.
White (and Asian-American) middle-income families tend to live in middle-income neighborhoods. Black middle-income families tend to live in distinctly lower-income ones.
So besides the fact that the median black income is lower than the median white income, middle-class blacks often live in poorer neighborhoods. Neighborhoods where cops tend to be more trigger-happy based on its income.
Also note how Asian-American middle-class families live in better neighborhoods and get shot by cops at half of the rate of whites
. This data point runs counter to the theory that the primary problem is racial bias, while supporting the theory that the primary problem is class bias.
Interestingly, commenters to Zaid Jilani's article suggested that rich people don't get shot because they don't commit crimes. So Zaid Jilani followed up his original article with this one, where he makes a very poignant observation.
Jeffrey Reiman is a criminologist, sociologist and philosopher based at American University. In 1979, Reiman published the first edition of the book, The Rich Get Richer, The Poor Get Prison. The book had a simple but counterintuitive thesis: the rich are actually committing society's most destructive crimes in terms of both financial damage and loss of human lives, but our criminal justice system is harshest toward the poorest Americans, whose crimes inflict the least damage.
"If it takes you an hour to read this chapter, by the time you reach the last page, two of your fellow citizens will have been murdered. During that same time, more than six Americans will die as a result of unhealthy or unsafe conditions in the workplace. Although these work- related deaths were due to human actions, they are not called murders. Why not? Doesn't a crime by any other name still cause misery and suffering? What's in a name?"
The poor commit the lion's share of street crime
, but widespread, destructive crime is the domain of the wealthy.
The average punishment for homicide is six years. The punishment for negligence by an employer in a workplace death is generally a modest fine.
The double-standards in punishment based on class are everywhere these days. For instance, from yesterday's news
With the blessing of the White House and the Justice Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is attempting to sneak through a major policy change that would enable big banks convicted of felonies to continue lending through a federal mortgage program, according to federal records and government officials.
When it comes to the common serfs at the mercy of HUD administration, such as people living in public housing, they can be evicted for suspected criminal activity
regardless of whether they've actually been arrested or convicted.
This is not to say that racism isn't a factor in police killings. That seems self-evident. Although the degree that racism is involved is up for debate.
It does leave open the question of where some of this racism is coming from. Let me refer the reader to this photo from last year.
Be honest. When you see the Ferguson police tank below with the machine gunner, your reaction was, "Is this Ferguson or Fallujah?"
Or was your reaction, "Why in the Hell does a police force need a goddamn MRAP?"
When you take a group of men and train them like they are going to war, dress them like they are going to war, arm them with military-grade equipment, and use terms like "war on drugs" and "war on crime", is it really a surprise when they start acting like they are at war?
Doesn't it make sense that someone in that situation might be more incline to be of the attitude of being ready to "pop off" a few shots when they enter a "bad neighborhood" (i.e. where poor people live)?
Another data point to consider is the historically poor record of intergrating police forces. (i.e. Black Cops Aren't Better For Black Communities Just Because They Have The Same Skin Color).
So what is one of the first things that happen in a war? Dehumanizing the enemy.
It's not hard to find incidents of our troops calling locals "ragheads" and "sandn*ggers", not to mention countless act is individual racism against people who may or may not look muslim here at home.
As if it wasn't obvious enough, just last month Wesley Clark called for the return of internment camps, which just shows even racist policies from the history book can be made new again if we ignore the lessons of history.
America has a very long history of racist foreign policy.
From post-Civil War Latin American policy, to the Philippine Occupation, to the Internment of Japanese during WWII.
Generally our foreign policy is less overtly racist now. At least today's politicians will deny being racist anyway.
Our police forces are being armed by a foreign war of choice that is inherently racist.
Does anyone doubt that if Obama's bombs were killing nice white British teeangers or smiling blond Swiss infants - rather than unnamed Yemenis, Pakistanis, Afghans and Somalis - that the reaction to this sustained killing would be drastically different? Does anyone doubt that if his overhead buzzing drones were terrorizing Western European nations rather than predominantly Muslim ones, the horror of them would be much easier to grasp?
Amazingly, some Democratic partisans, in order to belittle these injustices, like to claim that only those who enjoy the luxury of racial and socioeconomic privilege would care so much about these issues. That claim is supremely ironic. It reverses reality. That type of privilege is not what leads one to care about and work against these injustices. To the contrary, it's exactly that privilege that causes one to dismiss concerns over these injustices and mock and scorn those who work against them. The people who insist that these abuses are insignificant and get too much attention are not the ones affected by them, because they're not Muslim, and thus do not care.
It takes a great deal of effort to not see the connection between a racist foreign war -> military war weapons going to local police forces -> local police forces killing people in a racist way.
It makes no sense to ignore the obvious connection, and it makes even less sense to start at the end.
What is also curious is how the problem of the militarization of the police force has been somewhat forgotten without being fixed.
Even after Barack Obama, prompted by Ferguson, ordered a government-wide review of the provision of military hardware to police, lethal weaponry, vehicles, equipment and cash continue to funnel down to police – only now with more layers of red tape.
It appears that the issue of police shootings is far more complex and touches on far more issues, both domestic and foreign, both racial and class, than how the issue is being discussed today. We aren't doing ourselves any favors by dumbing down the debate.
11:19 AM PT: h/t to Meteor Blades who pointed out This report on NativeLivesMatter.
"The racial group most likely to be killed by law enforcement is Native Americans, followed by African Americans, Latinos, Whites, and Asian Americans."
Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice