Black and White in the U.S.
A few data points for anyone who thinks what’s been happening in Ferguson, MO is an isolated incident as opposed to an ongoing, systemic problem.
- Ferguson Mayor James Knowles was asked about the diversity of his police department: 53 officers, just three of them African-American in a community that’s 67 percent African-American, according to 2010 Census data.
- Blacks in Ferguson are almost twice as likely to be searched during traffic stops; But statistically, Ferguson police find contraband significantly more often after searching whites.
- From the same source, blacks in Ferguson are disproportionately more likely to be pulled over in the first place, and more likely to be arrested, than whites.
It’s not just Ferguson.
- Blacks comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, and are consistently documented by the U.S. government to use drugs at similar rates to people of other races. But blacks comprise nearly one – third ( 31 percent) of those arrested for drug law violations – and more than 40 percent of those incarcerated in state or federal prison for drug law violations.
- New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 5 million times since 2002… [B]lack and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics.
- A report on 313 black people killed by police, security guards, and vigilantes in 2012. Note that at least 44% were unarmed.
- [T]he young, the male, the Black and the Latino are disproportionately incarcerated. Put those factors together and you have almost 9% of Black men in their late 20s behind bars.
- A 2012 study found that unemployment rates “were highest for Blacks (13.8 percent) and for American Indians and Alaska Natives (12.3 percent).“
- On average, blacks receive almost 10% longer sentences than comparable whites arrested for the same crimes. At least half this gap can be explained by initial charging choices, particularly the filing of charges carrying mandatory minimum sentences. Prosecutors are … almost twice as likely to file such charges against blacks.
- There are 44 African American Members (8.1% of the total membership) in the 113th Congress. (The 2010 Census found that 12.6% of the population identified as Black or African American.)
- A 2010 study on racial motivation for hate crimes found that:
- 18.2 percent stemmed from anti-white bias.
- 69.8 percent were motivated by anti-black bias.
- The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households.
There’s a lot more data out there, but I hope this will help people who are watching events in Ferguson and throughout the country, and having trouble understanding where all of the anger is coming from.
David M. Perry (@Lollardfish)
August 15, 2014 @ 11:55 am
Jim – This is a strong post and I think racism has to be at the absolute center of this conversation. I’ve also been trying to talk about broader trends so that people can see that police culture matters to all of us, and have a new piece on Al Jazeera this morning. I’m sharing it with smart writers I follow. I hope you don’t mind.
I come at this as a writer on disability and police violence.
August 15, 2014 @ 11:57 am
The most shocking number for me are the 9% of black males in their late 20s behind bars. I researched the number of incarcerated in that age group here. It’s below 0,2%.
August 15, 2014 @ 12:51 pm
I hope that the events in Ferguson will help people start talking, as opposed to quickly forgotten the moment that it dies down.
Related to that is how they are handling the media. They seem to be taking New York’s approach in shoving news crews out of the way (arresting to negate them). Of course, then they would see the way the police is responding, which won’t paint them in a positive light.
(I dislike arresting people for videotaping public officers, besides it being illegal in most states.)
I think problems like these won’t survive the light of the day *if* they are kept out in the light long enough *and* they are kept in the focus. I can only hope that happens with this.
August 15, 2014 @ 1:29 pm
Excellent round-up of links: I’ve been following this story rather obsessively myself.
THree links to contribute: the #Ferguson hashtag twitter feed where people can read (even without a twitter account). The first few days, the only news coming out of Ferguson was via twitter, from people there. Even the professional media were using it (i.e. the reporters getting arrested tweeted about it on the way so to speak).
The article that gave me the hashtag as well as other information about the importance of net neutrality in this context:
And, finally, depressingly, a study that shows that sharing the sort of data that many of us routinely do to show the inequalities in the system might actually lead to (some) white people becoming more racist: I’m not qualified to analyze the study or its results, and it may be overstating it, but it struck me as potentially very possible based on my own experiences teaching.
August 15, 2014 @ 1:41 pm
D. Moonfire, I’m white and I’ve been guilty of this myself, but fyi when you say:
“I hope that the events in Ferguson will help people start talking, as opposed to quickly forgotten the moment that it dies down.”
What you mean by “people” is “white people”. Black people started talking about this literally centuries ago, and they’ve never forgotten.
August 15, 2014 @ 2:00 pm
I hope this adds to the conversation rather than distracting from it, but also wrapped up in the response to the protests are massive issues of the militarization of the police. I thought this interview with the former Seattle chief of police who was in charge of the 1999 crackdown on the WTO protesters. He says it was “the worst mistake of [his] career.” As we could se ein Ferguson, absolutely nothing was learned from that either.
However, like I said, this maybe too tangential since it isn’t race-specific (I do not want to take away from the really horrifying problem of rampant racism in our justice system), but more like “here is YET ANOTHER major problem with police in the US right now.”
August 15, 2014 @ 2:19 pm
Even with the specific problems with current police forces, the term DWB “Driving While Black” has been around for a decade or likely even longer.
I remember seeing an interview with LeVar Burton about how he made sure to teach his son if he’s ever pulled over, what steps he needs to take to minimize his chances of being seen as threatening the officer. All across America, he teaches kids about loving books on Reading Rainbow, but goes home and has teach his kid how not to get shot. How f’ed up is that??
Also, these things can be subtle to notice, which makes it even more insidious. Earlier this summer I was taking a grad seminar on epistemic injustice (from one of the 30 black female philosophers out of the 11,000 or so philosophy Ph.D.s in the US) and we discussed Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. Besides completely ignoring the problems faced by black girls, she was also quite upset because the entire presentation of it, if you actually think about it, presents young black men as a public health concern. “We need to decrease crime by helping young black men” and so on. Nowhere in there is “we need to fix how society treats young black men (and women).” No, from the President himself, it is clear that we need to change the behavior of young black men if we want to reduce crime.
It’s like the lesson from the Trayvon Martin tragedy is that that boy just needed a mentor.
It’s insane how deeply ingrained it is in our mainstream culture that black men in particular are naturally threats until proven otherwise. They are a problem to be dealt with and the only debate is how best to deal with that problem. But until you realize that these assumptions underlie how these topics are even framed, all discussion just perpetuates that racism.
August 15, 2014 @ 2:40 pm
> What you mean by “people” is “white people”. Black people started talking about this literally centuries ago, and they’ve never forgotten.
I meant everyone. The problem is people have gathered up in their personal little groups and talk about it among themselves. They don’t talk outside of their groups and confirmation bias continues to push people into a “us verses them” mentality. And, when they do talk among the camps, you get the minimization and negation.
August 15, 2014 @ 3:03 pm
Yeah, as a white male who has never had any experience of police as anything but helpful folks, that interview with LeVar Burton was the thing that really woke me up about this. I had seen the statistics, but the meaning didn’t really sink in until I heard that from one of my childhood icons.
August 15, 2014 @ 4:26 pm
Another good essay:
August 15, 2014 @ 4:36 pm
Further to that, here’s an analyisis of the gear carried by one of the officers. (By a former military interrogator). http://pecunium.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/more-police-problems/
And in one way, I suspect racism *is* involved in the militarization: Can you easily imagine a police force dressed like this for a white-majority protest on the grounds of the nearest government building? I don’t remember seeing many pictures of police dressed like this even for the Occupy movement, which is the one recent movement I know a lot of white people were involved in and where the police did in some cities go overboard.
August 15, 2014 @ 5:13 pm
Wow. These statistics are really eye-openers. And yes, as much as I do wish Ferguson was an isolated incident, there is definitely something larger and systemic going on here. I only hope *this* particular incident opens up a dialogue about it, or at least results in serious repercussions for those responsible.
August 15, 2014 @ 6:31 pm
Thank you so much for posting these links and trying to reach people with this information. Too many white people are simply clueless about these realities.
August 16, 2014 @ 4:43 pm
I’ve been obsessively following this the entire thing all week too. I’m so pessimistic about this bc already I can see the police spin doctoring this case to legitimize the shooting but what’s so horribly depressing about this is no matter how many dozens of times this happens there are people who insist on making excuses for the police and criminalizing the victim and then going on to vilifying all other Black people. Essentially making the argument that we all deserve to die. I don’t understand that level of hatred. I have never understood it.
Sadly, I’ve become inured to the lack of justice in such cases and I have absolutely no optimism about it ever being done now or in the future, but it’s also the complete lack of empathy and compassion of those who just support the police, no matter what they do. These are the kind of people who would cheerfully see my entire race executed and I don’t understand it. I just don’t.. How can anybody argue that an entire race of people DESERVE to die?
But then I try to remember that these mentally inert people have been primed by decades, of media stereotypes of police as fine upstanding White hats standing tall against the Black and Brown villains. Every movie, every cop show ,every news program. What else are they going to believe, especially when they lack any ability to question anything the media tells them about anything.
Ken Marable: what you’re talking about is “Respectability politics” . That if we present ourselves in a respectable enough manner this will make White people feel comfortable bc obviously whether or not White people are comfortable, whenever we’re in their orbit, takes priority. It’s especially important for them to feel comfortable in our presence if they’re armed, I suppose, bc when they aren’t, we end up dead.
August 16, 2014 @ 4:56 pm
I’m sorry if I seem bitter but any hope I had that anyone outside of these marginalized communities will give a care, that hope died years ago. I feel like after Trayvon Martin was criminalized after his death, it’s pointless to have any hope about it bc that’s how the police and media are just going to handle this now.
I think respectability politics is useless bc no matter how reputable you look, you can be killed and a justification will just be made for it afterward.
September 1, 2014 @ 5:26 pm
Thank you for this. It’s hard to argue against real numbers. Plenty of people will still try to, of course, but maybe this will “plant some seeds” that eventually grow into greater understanding.