The Black Lives Matter movement protests systemic racism, the justice system, and police brutality. This summer, a slew of African-American deaths at the hands of white police officers incited protests across the United States. Recently, the horrific killing of Jacob Blake by a police officer in front of his children in Kenosha, Wisconsin has sparked another wave of protests. However, the support for these protests have become highly partisan and polarized. The core of the debate circles around whether systemic racism exists in America; in sum, do the killings of black Americans at the hands of police officers constitute a trend of systemic racism? Or are they each individual cases?
This blog seeks to show some objective facts about racially motivated police violence and historical reasoning for these trends. To begin, let’s look at some analysis on the statistics for police violence and race.
This next graphic comes from a 2016 study from the Center for Policing Equity, highlighting the use of force by police officers per 100,000 residents by race. Based on this graphic, non-hispanic blacks had force used against them disproportionately higher than any other ethnicity. On an average year, 0.273% of the entire black American population had force used against them by police, compared with 0.076% of the entire white population, which is nearly four times as often.
However, these statistics can often be misleading, as the rates are population-based. The population of African-Americans in the United States is not the same as the population of white Americans. This means that one instance where police force was used against a black American will contribute a higher percentage of instances than one instance of white Americans. In fact, according to a 2019 Harvard study, while non-lethal force was used against black Americans at a 50% higher rate, lethal force was used at the same rate between black and white Americans.
At first glance, this equitable rate seems to disprove racial intent amongst use of lethal force. However, encounters with the police are also not the same between white and black Americans. As highlighted in this 538 article, black Americans have significantly higher encounters with police officers, due to racial profiling and other systemic practices like stop-and-frisk. If the lethal rates of police force are the same, but more black Americans are stopped due to racially biased practices, then the police use lethal force against more black Americans. In sum, if the police used lethal force against 20% of all stops, but stop 200 black Americans and 100 white Americans, then 40 black Americans are killed for every 20 white Americans.
In sum, systemic racism exists throughout the justice system. Racial profiling leads to more police stops of black Americans, which leads to more black Americans killed by police officers. Even if you account for statistical anomalies, like black Americans being a smaller share of the population than white Americans, these systemic trends continue to exist. The system of oppression has continued for years against ethnic and racial minorities in the United States and exists not only in the justice system, but throughout nearly all forms of governance.
Renew America Together fights for civility, leadership, and unity. Targeting minorities through a systemically racist justice system is neither civil nor unifying. Regardless of your political orientation, we can all agree that police officers should not use deadly force unless absolutely necessary. Looking at the objective facts and statistics, the systemic racism that plagues our country must be solved for our democracy to thrive and progress. Together, we can make a difference to reform our justice system and truly create an equitable system for all.