The recent killing of George Floyd by an officer of the Minneapolis police department has spawned another round of civil unrest. Make no mistake, what happened to George Floyd was unconscionable in any circumstance, but clearly a miscarriage of justice when consummated at the hands of a 19-year veteran of the police department.
This narrative, however, is not about what happened to George Floyd.
What happened to George Floyd has brought another round of focus on Black lives matter. My questions are the following: to whom do Black lives matter and when do Black lives matter?
I know going into the research that the initial response to this blog by certain groups will be negative. I also know that people who are emotionally tied to an issue have a very difficult time with facts. Mark Twain once said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story!” Maxwell Scott was quoted as saying, “. . . when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” People believe what they believe. Or, more precisely, people believe what they are told to believe, and facts don’t matter. Just read any newspaper or watch any national news program for examples of same.
For the last several years, approximately 1,100 individuals per year have died at the hands of police in this country. Statistics indicate that in 2017, 457 Whites and 223 Blacks died in this manner. In 2018, 349 Whites and 209 Blacks died the same way. And in 2019, 370 Whites and 235 Blacks died at the hands of the police. What this projects is that approximately .000314% of the total population in the United States will be killed by police while approximately .000493% of the Black population will be killed by the police.
Statistics indicate that 59% of high school students in the 50 largest cities in the United States drop out of school. Statistics further indicate that 60% of Black high school dropouts spend time in prison. The Pew Research group reported that at the end of 2017 there were approximately 476,000 Black prison inmates and approximately 436,000 White prison inmates. Prisonpolicy.org reported in 2010 that 2,306 Blacks per 100,000 population are incarcerated. This is nearly twice as many as the next ethnic group. The “Sentencing Project” and numerous other criminological research projects have identified educational outcomes as one of the individual level factors in the disparity in the incarceration rates by race. This is nothing new. Where is the outrage? Where are the demonstrations to improve the educational outcomes for Blacks? Where are the forward thinkers and their proposals to reverse this trend?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that from 1999-2015 the largest percentage of cause of death for male Blacks aged 18-34 was homicide. The “Murder” category of the 2016 Uniform Crime Report published by the FBI indicates there were 2,870 single victim/single offender Blacks killed in the United States. Of the 2,870 Black victims, 2,570 were killed by other Blacks. This is an 89.5% Black-on-Black homicide rate. By comparison, in 2016, 3,499 Whites were killed in the United States. Of the 3,499 victims, 2,854 were killed by Whites. This is an 81.5 % White-on-White death rate.
Such a statistic is only reported when information about the offender is available. One might expect the same-race murder rate to be reflective of the general population. Whites comprise approximately 77% of the population of the United States so the White-on-White murder rate of 81.5% is not too far out of line. However, the Black-on-Black murder rate is 89.5% and Blacks comprise approximately 13% of the population of the United States. This is inordinately skewed. Where is the outrage? Where are the demonstrations for resources to address this trend? Odell Owens was the medical examiner in Hamilton County (Cincinnati), Ohio. Dr. Owens had stated on numerous occasions that the primary mitigating factor in homicides in Hamilton County was the drug trade. This is nothing specific to Hamilton County, Ohio. This is a trend in most urban areas of the United States. Where is the outrage? Where are the demonstrations to reverse this trend?
Blacks are disproportionately represented in the jails and prison systems of the United States. Approximately 60% of violent crime in the United States is perpetrated by 6% of the population–young Black males. Where is the outrage?
The Center for Disease Control published findings that suggest the following: “Blacks had a higher death rate and a higher prevalence of many chronic health conditions, and lower prevalence of some healthy behaviors. Blacks were less likely to participate in leisure-time physical activity and maintain a healthy weight. This report suggested that Blacks had significantly lower educational attainment and home ownership and almost twice the proportion of households living below the poverty level and unemployed than whites in all age groups.” Where is the outrage here? Where are the demonstrations for resources and education as they relate to a healthy lifestyle?
In 2018, Whites comprised 77.1% of police officers in the USA while Blacks comprised 13.3% of police officers. This is reflective of the demographic of Whites and Blacks nationwide. In 2018 police officers averaged $69,000 annually. This is approximately $15,000 above the national average salary. This is not a bad wage, particularly in urban areas, which have a tendency to pay more. If policing is systemically racist, why has there not been a movement by Black leadership to become active in the recruitment of Blacks to the police forces? If policing is systemically racists, why has there been no civil unrest when a Black police officer shoots a Black suspect, or a Hispanic officer shoots a Black suspect? If there is systemic racism in policing, then these shootings also should be considered racist and evoke calls to justice.
The “Sentencing Project” identified poverty, education outcomes, unemployment history, and criminal history as individual level factors for many of the disparities in incarceration rates. Where is the outrage over the poor educational outcomes for Black Americans? Where are the attempts to interdict the lifestyles that land a disproportionate number of Blacks in the jails and prisons of this country? Where is the outrage when rioters carrying “Black Lives Matter” signs loot businesses that have Black proprietorships, where Blacks work and shop? Where is the outrage over the disproportionate number of Black-on-Black homicides?
All lives do matter. Unfortunately, it appears that Black lives matter only when the life of a Black individual is taken by a White police officer.