Monday, June 22, 2020

The Driving While Black Meme And Other Fictions Fueling The Burning of Cities

Ever since the protests of the killing of George Floyd began, the phrases “America is a racist nation”, “Institutional Racism” and “White Privilege” seem to have become ubiquitous. The sad thing – among so many others about all of this – is that these seem to be considered the end all and be all for some who are engaged in the debate. The reality that cops are 18 times more likely to be killed by a black man than they are to kill an unarmed black manDoesn’t matter. Institutional racism! The fact that the poorest 20% of Americans are more prosperous than the average EuropeanSo what! America is a racist nation. That blacks make 8% of America's millionairesObviously white privilege.

We’ve been hearing for at least the last 30 years that America needs to have a conversation about race. But how are we supposed to have such a conversation when one side is not interested in facts? How are we supposed to address real problems if rather than focus on facts and data one side only wants to focus on anecdotal evidence? For example, cops and race. one can certainly appreciate that different people have different experiences with cops. Race is no doubt one of many factors that impact how those experiences play out. But everything else does too. Everything from height to girth to behavior to dress to politeness to language and countless other variables, verbal and non verbal all play a role. Race may even be one of the major factors, but it is far from the only one or even likely the primary one. Most – though not all – of the videos we see where someone is hurt or even killed by cops, whether the person is black or white, involves some level of conflict such as resisting arrest, ignoring warnings or things of that nature. Cops can and do make mistakes, but most interactions not only don’t end up with someone dead on the sidewalk, they don’t even end up with an arrest.

Not sure about that? Here’s the data. According to the FBI, in 2015 of 250 million Americans, 53 million of them had contact with police, one half of those initiated by police the other half by citizens. Of police initiated contacts 11.2% of whites had some interaction with police, while 11.3% of blacks did. The numbers remain consistent whether the person earned $24,000 or less a year or $75,000 or more a year.

We’ve often heard about the phenomena of the extraordinary perils of “Driving while Black”. The data don’t support that charge either. The percentage of white drivers who experienced a traffic stop: 8.6%. The percentage of black drivers: 9.8%. The percentage of stopped white drivers to receive a ticket: 46.4%; black drivers: 49.9%. The percentage of white drivers who were arrested as the result of a traffic stop: .3%. The percentage of black drivers who were arrested as the result of traffic stops: .5%. What these numbers mean is that out of 1,000 white drivers, 86 could be expected to be stopped by police and 3 could expect to be arrested. Of a similar number of black drivers, 98 could expect to be stopped by police and 5 could expect to be arrested. Further, of those traffic stops, 96.1% of whites believed that police had a legitimate reason for stopping them while 94.5% of blacks did. Finally, FBI data from 2008 show that of those who had contact with police, the average number of times a white person interacted with police was 1.7 times while for blacks it was 1.6 times.

These numbers tell a vastly different story than the one being told on the streets and in the media. These numbers indicate that most Americans, regardless of color have no contact with police during any given year, and even if they did, they face a tiny chance of being arrested. The differences in being stopped by police while driving, getting a ticket or getting arrested as a result of said stops varies only slightly between races. The number of multiple contacts between police and citizens is almost identical between races and is slightly lower for blacks.

Of course any conversation on race police would include other data like the fact that black males make up 6% of the population but represent 53% of known homicide offenders and commit about 60% of robberies.  And a wider conversation would include factors such as income and wealth gaps would be part of any such discussion as well as the impact education and unwed motherhood have on poverty rates. But it's the relationship between race and police that are animating the events of today.

As such, the overarching question is, do these numbers tell a story of a nation policed by an army of inherently racist storm troopers where blacks are oppressed by virtue of the color of their skin? No they don’t. Differences in the data do exist, but they are staggeringly small… but differences exist everywhere between people of different sexes, heights, weights, skin tone, amount of acne, hair and simple beauty. Not to mention religion, education, income as well as less distinct things like assertiveness, shyness, personality and level of politeness… The cornucopia of characteristics that impact our daily lives is almost infinite and race is but one of them, and a small one at that.

At the end of the day the data indicate that there is no significant bias on the part of police contacts with citizens based on race. Certainly nothing sufficient to warrant the burning of cities and neighborhoods across the country. Given that, one has to ask, what else might be going on here?  That something else is the media’s hatred for Donald Trump and BLM and the rest of the victim industrial complex’s desire for power. For them, burning the country to the ground is just another means to their ends of extinguishing individual liberty, crushing capitalism and most of all, getting rid of Donald Trump.  That's the real story that the data tell.

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