The senseless murder of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, perpetrated by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and three colleagues, catalyzed demonstrations in cities and towns across America. To that end, the organization Black Lives Matter (BLM) has been instrumental in bringing much needed attention to systemic racism, a non-colorblind criminal justice system, police bias - and brutality against black people, to a broad swath of Americans and global citizens. BLM is proving to be an effective change agent.
At TQC we believe black lives matter, reject the retort “all lives matter,” - because all lives can’t matter until black lives matter as much as every other race’s - and commend BLM for their continued hard work and dedication to improving the lives of black and brown Americans.
Do Not Go There
No, stop right there. We are not going to do that. Specifically, we take issue with certain right wing pundits who attempt to blunt any meaningful discussion about excessive police force (or worse) against minorities. We will not say something analogous to, “well, how come BLM and its supporters never discuss black on black crime” or “most black people are killed by other black people, not cops” etc. We also take issue with left wing pundits who refuse to have meaningful discussions on the topic of black on black crime and react to any invitation to do so as a nonstarter.
Black on black violence and racist police policies towards black people are separate (though one could argue intertwined) issues that both matter, and both deserve attention. We will address both subjects – and much more - in this post. But before we go any further, we want to make it clear that in our view, certain people on the right side of the aisle should immediately stop trying to change the topic of police brutality by bringing up black on black crime statistics; and certain people on the left side of the aisle should immediately stop trying to shut down any substantive conversation about black on black crime. Both topics in fact matter very much to black lives.
Fortunately, exhaustive amounts of research and subsequent data has been generated about both subjects. This is important; raw data is colorblind. Unfortunately, because most people respond to emotional pleas and/or personal experience, not statistics, disingenuous individuals on both sides of the political divide have become astute at cherry picking data from larger data sets or research to buttress their own agenda. Perhaps no facts and figures have been sifted through and cherry picked more than those generated by the meticulous research of Harvard economics professor, Roland Fryer Jr.. In a June 22nd Wall St Journal opinion piece that we strongly encourage people to read, Dr. Fryer wrote, “…I set out on a mission to quantify racial differences in police use of force. To my dismay, this work has been widely misrepresented and misused by people on both sides of the ideological aisle.”
Approximately 1,000 civilians are shot and killed by police each year. And each year, ~100 police officers are shot and killed in the line of duty. Though the data is patchy, most studies indicate that while people of all races experience mistreatment by the police, a black person is ~2.5x as likely to be killed by a police officer than a white person. Compounded by the fact that blacks represent only ~12% of the population, it appears there is a clear bias. And according to the work of Dr. Fryer, not surprisingly there is indeed bias, but surprisingly this was not the case when it came to shootings. According to Dr. Fryer:
“We didn’t find racial differences in officer-involved shootings…(but)…There are large racial differences in police use of nonlethal force. My research team analyzed nearly five million police encounters from New York City. We found that when police reported the incidents, they were 53% more likely to use physical force on a black civilian than a white one…We controlled for every variable available in myriad ways. That reduced the racial disparities by 66%, but blacks were still significantly more likely to endure police force…Compliance by civilians doesn’t eliminate racial differences in police use of force. Black civilians who were recorded as compliant by police were 21% more likely to suffer police aggression than compliant whites. We also found that the benefits of compliance differed significantly by race. This was perhaps our most upsetting result, for two reasons: The inequity in spite of compliance clashed with the notion that the difference in police treatment of blacks and whites was a rational response to danger. And it complicates what we tell our kids: Compliance does make you less likely to endure a beat-down—but the benefit is larger if you are white…”
Unfortunately, certain misinformed (or worse) people on the right side of the aisle cherry pick Dr. Fryer’s data and argue something along the lines of: “Dr. Fryer, a black Harvard economics professor even concluded that police were not racist when it came to using lethal force.” Of course, they conveniently withhold the balance of the information in the aforementioned statement. At TQC, we believe most police officers protect and serve their communities professionally, ethically, and whenever possible, peacefully. However, the data is indisputable, and the fact is undeniable, police bias exists in America. BLM is correct to bring greater awareness to this problem and fight for respect and equality under the law.
Black On Black Crime
We would also be remiss not to point out that most critics of BLM that attempt to deflect the issue of police bias by invoking black on black crime statistics, conveniently leave out the fact that the majority of white people (~83%) are killed by other white people. Most crime is intra-racial. In a recent Op-Ed in the Miami Herald titled, “Let’s talk about black-on-black violence,” Leonard Pits Jr. discussed this and other points.
Wrote Mr. Pits: “being concerned over the shooting of unarmed black men hardly precludes being concerned over violence within the African-American community. (Rudy) Giuliani and others suggest a dichotomy where none exists.” We agree, Rudy Giuliani, Sean Hannity and other misguided (or worse) critics of BLM do suggest there is a dichotomy. However, just because somebody (else) might be truly concerned about black on black crime, does not mean they are not similarly concerned with police bias against black people. Furthermore, Pits argued:
“When black people commit crimes against black people, they face prosecution, but when police officers (or certain neighborhood watchmen) commit crimes against black people, they face getting off with little if any punishment.” We take issue with this statement. Mr. Pits (along with certain people on the left who refuse to discuss black on black crime) is correct that many police officers to not face appropriate (or any) justice for their crimes - in part because of the “blue wall of silence” – but he is incorrect that “when black people commit crimes against black people they face prosecution.”
Typically, they do not. Consider the following: the left-leaning Washington Post (WPO) found that out of ~55,000 murders committed in the United States, only 50% resulted in an arrest, let alone a prosecution. Not surprisingly, the WPO found racial disparities within the data. Specifically, when the murder victim was black, in almost every city the arrest rate was below the mean. Couple that with the fact that ~90 percent of blacks are killed by other blacks, and we arrive at a big problem in predominantly black neighborhoods: violent crime, including homicides, are usually not solved.
As we have maintained in this post, certain conservatives are wrong to immediately bring up black on black crime in a vacuum. And certain liberals are wrong to refuse to discuss the subject of black on black crime within the context of serious problems plaguing predominantly black communities. In an article penned by Troy L. Smith for Cleveland.com titled, “Stop using ‘black-on-black’ crime to deflect away from police brutality,” Mr. Smith echoed Mr. Pits:
“The majority of black people murdered are killed by other black people. That’s true, but also misleading. The overwhelming majority of white murder victims each year are killed by white assailants. So, when’s the last time you heard the term ‘white on white crime’?”
Mr. Smith is correct. Very few pundits discuss white on white crime. However, equally misleading is the extremely important piece of information Mr. Smith omitted from his article: there is exponentially more black on black violence than there is white on white violence.
Consider the following: According to Statista, in 2018, there were 14,123 homicides in the United States; 6,088 victims were white and 7,407 victims were black. Given that whites predominantly kill whites and blacks predominantly kill blacks and the percent of murder victims broken down by race (white vs black) is almost equal, one could be forgiven if their prima facie assumption was that murder is committed at more or less the same rate across races (white and black). However, this is incorrect – and is a poignant example of why one must be mindful not to cherry pick data within a larger context – blacks make up ~12% of the U.S. population and whites make up ~60% of the U.S. population. Given that 1) the majority of crime is intra-racial and 2) the number of murder victims are about equal, the data clearly shows that blacks commit murder ~5x more than their white counterparts. We agree with Mr. Smith, one reason that very few people talk about white on white violence is because people are simply misinformed (or even racist). However, one reason some people talk about black on black violence more than white on white violence is simply because there is disproportionately more black on black violence than white on white violence.
Black Lives Matter
According to Statista, in 2018, 209 black people were shot to death by the police in the United States; some of those shootings were justified, some were not. In that same year, ~6,600 black people were shot to death by other black people. The likelihood that a black person will be killed by another black person is ~31x greater than he or she will be killed by a police officer. Yet, for every 31x an unjust police shooting of a black victim (and one is too many) is protested, tweeted about, etc., there might be one substantive conversation about black on black crime and the factors that contribute to it. That is a misallocation of resources.
Stop right there. No, we are not going to do that. As we stressed earlier, whenever certain conservatives bring up black on black crime, their objective is to deflect the topic away from police bias and brutality. This is categorically wrong, and we reject it. Systemic racism and corruption has indeed infected some of the 18,000 police departments across America. Biased policing tactics and the use of excessive force absolutely exist. Dr. Fryer’s work does a wonderful job proving as much and he is absolutely correct when he argues, “we need to find ways of holding police accountable without sacrificing more black lives.” Indeed, by no means are we discounting the significance of every single black life that was taken and or disrupted by an unscrupulous police officer. We are not. Those lives matter.
Later in Mr. Smith’s piece for Cleveland.com, he wrote “if you want to have a real discussion about crime, let’s talk about the factors that contribute to it happening in the first place.” Excellent idea. After engaging in our own due diligence, this is what we have come up with:
• Like any profession: bankers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, etc., there do exist a few bad cops, rotten to the core. They should be rooted out, not protected by any blue wall of silence, and terminated. A bigger problem and one that is unique to predominantly black communities is a serious lack of trust between the police and those communities they are supposed to protect and serve. Of course, one big reason for this is racism. Another is a general lack of respect by some officers towards black citizens. Bearing this in mind, of course many black citizens are going to be tentative or unwilling to help a police officer that has mistreated them, do their job.
Naturally, because there is a low level of trust, there is a low level of cooperation. Because there is a low level of cooperation, the percentage of cases that are solved drop. And because so few cases result in arrest and prosecution, the small minority of people in these communities that commit violent crimes continue to commit multiple offenses. Fortunately, there are exceptions to this phenomenon, like in Camden, NJ and other police departments that might be used as a model of reform.
• Federal drug laws enacted in the late 1980’s resulted in elevated convictions and prison sentences for a disproportionate number of black men. Those laws were unjust because of blatant inconsistencies between longer penalties recommended for crack-cocaine offenses, a drug often associated with inner-city minorities than for powdered-cocaine wrongdoings, a drug of choice amongst Caucasians. Ironically, these unfair laws were rectified by Donald Trump – one of the most divisive presidents in this nation’s recent history – when he signed The First Step Act in 2018.
• According to the Economist, “Children who grow up poor—as 32% of African-American children do, a rate nearly three times that of white children—all tend to do badly by various measures. But children who do so in communities where over 20% of the population is poor do very badly indeed. Whatever their race, such children face increased risks of dropping out of school, getting pregnant while still teenagers, being incarcerated, experiencing poverty in adulthood and dying early…6% of white children born between 1985 and 2000 spent part of their childhood in neighborhoods with at least a 20% poverty rate. For black children the figure was 66%…Poor neighborhoods impose environmental costs, as well as social ones. Black families are 70% likelier than the rest of the population to live in substandard housing, and black children are nearly three times as likely to have high levels of lead in their blood.” This contributes to learning disabilities and points to a more violent adulthood.
• Lack of access to quality healthcare.
• Restrictive zoning laws in left-leaning metropolises exacerbate a shortage of affordable, quality housing.
• Concentrated poverty today. in part as the result of forced segregation in the past.
• “Food deserts” but liquor stores abound.
• Lower revenue streams from property tax to support education. This translates into less education funding per pupil in urban, mostly black schools. This is a shame because “boosting school’s spending per pupil by (just) 10% reduced poor children’s chances of poverty in adulthood by 6.8 percentage points.”
This list is far from exhaustive. If anything, it is simply a starting point for a much more substantive discussion about the issues and injustices that continue to disproportionately affect black and brown Americans, in addition to systemic racism the extremely complex, often interlocking reasons why they do, and what can be done to remedy them.
Not only do more resources need to be allocated towards the bullet points above (and many more important points we failed to list) but more existing resources should be as well. Because for every tens of thousands of tweets about excessive police force, might there be but a few discussing restrictive zoning laws and substandard housing. For every couple of hundred Instagram posts about defunding the police, perhaps there are a few about the benefits of funding education. For every thousand Facebook posts about police corruption, there may be a sporadic post about a dearth of markets to purchase affordable, nutritious food. Protests, posts, tweets, can and should continue to be made about endemic racism embedded in policing. But it is imperative that activists, politicians, athletes, celebrities and the general public allocate more of their human capital towards other issues that disproportionately impact black and brown American’s.
It is vital that in the wake of nationwide protests condemning the killing of George Floyd and other victims of police misconduct, that law enforcement officers do not pull back and become “afraid” to do their jobs (properly). Because when this happens, often predominantly black communities become less safe. Stated Professor Fryer:
“We found that investigations (of police departments) not preceded by viral incidents of deadly force, on average, reduced homicides and total felony crime. But for the five investigations that were preceded by a viral incident of deadly force, there was a stark increase in crime—893 more homicides and 33,472 more felonies than would have been expected with no investigation. The increases in crime coincide with an abrupt change in the quantity of policing activity. In Chicago alone after the killing of Laquan McDonald, the number of police-civilian interactions decreased by 90% in the month the investigation was announced.”
TQC has advocated for both sides of the aisle on several issues. On those occasions where we focus on specific politicians, our analysis is predicated on three important “P’s”: person, policies and principles, and not the party with which they happen to be affiliated.
We would be remiss not to state the fact that almost every major city in America afflicted for decades with both corrupt and racist police and high levels of black on black crime, have been run almost exclusively by democrats – ones with answers for everything, solutions to very little, who promise their constituents bread, leave them crumbs, and take most of the loaf themselves. Irrespective of past and/or current policies, these politicians have (for the most part) failed and continue to disenfranchise the citizens they are entrusted to serve.
Too often, when a black criminal perpetrates a crime against a black victim, a mayor, city councilperson, community board member, civil rights leader, the majority of which are democrats, are nowhere to be seen; not on television, social media, radio, nowhere. Because having frank discussions about black on black violence and the factors that underpin it do not typically get politicians elected. However, when a police officer commits a civil rights violation against a black person, you can bet they will be on TV or social media in New York minute - which they certainly should be - condemning the injustice. Both black lives are equally important. But too often for the (predominantly) democratic politicians who lead large cities, their actions do not support that statement.
Let us be very clear, we are not implying that republicans could or would do better (or worse) but given the state of despair in communities run almost exclusively by democrats, might it not hurt to give a thoughtful, republican leader a chance to effect change?
Defund The Police
We respectfully disagree with the idea of defunding police departments across America. Instead of defunding, we advocate redirecting those funds within police departments with the objective to mend relations with the communities they serve, particularly in predominantly black neighborhoods. Better terms and mutual respect would yield enhanced cooperation, render more crimes solved and more repeat violent felons off the streets. With proper training, funding, community engagement, hard work and education, we are optimistic that this can become a reality.
Black Lives Matter
At TQC, we believe black lives matter very much. As we reiterated earlier, police bias, corruption and brutality are serious problems; the data is irrefutable. Kudos to BLM for their efforts to bring awareness to and combat them. But we fear that until the resources of BLM, politicians, athletes, celebrities, other influencers and the general public who have marched for weeks calling for an end to excessive police force, etc., are channeled more proportionately into other extremely serious issues that plague black communities across America, black lives will continue to be compromised.
Argued Stanford history professor Clayborne Carson, “a lot of things that didn’t change and probably won’t change with only focus on police brutality and reforming the police. Yes, that should be done. But don’t expect that to have any impact on the race problem. It’s the tip of the iceberg. You can have polite police—that would be wonderful. You can have social workers. But unless people have the ability to basically change the opportunity structure, the changes are not going to be apparent.”