Black lives do matter. But so does some self-reflection and acknowledgement of facts. The bias portrayal of our government(s) from both sides has created an ideal environment for hot topic issues like this to be played out like games by the media to score points for their ratings and own self interests.
America is unquestionably a country with a dark past, but I feel it has evolved to one of the most diverse and tolerant nations in the world thanks to the work of civil rights movement and cultural awakenings. It’s far from perfect, but a racist, intolerant country – it is not.
Before going into this topic further, which I acknowledge will be met with plenty of disagreements, I believe it is imperative to first define the term racism which we hear so much of lately, especially as it pertains to the BLM movement and police violence.
The essence of racism is the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another.
There are certainly plenty of racist individuals amongst us; more so in some parts of the country, if they are from a different generation, or part of some nut job group. But true racist are exceptions, not the majority.
If anything, it is not a pandemic that the media, who are now more in the entertainment than news business will have you believe. Compared to the rest of the World, the United States is by far one of the most diverse countries on the planet with people from all walks of life living here and reaching the upper limits of financial and social success with very few cases of discrimination being their ultimate road block. Individuals who are denied opportunities and are looked down upon in 2020 America are the exception, not the norm.
If we look at the reality vs image of the situation instead of the other way around, we can at least have a valid argument that maybe, just maybe, the perception of racial bias of cops towards African American is attributed to simple stats and not racism. In order to do so, we have to put our nerd caps on and look at some numbers instead of the shocked faces of MSNBC anchors.
Whites (non-Hispanics) account for roughly 60% of the population vs 13% African American. However, according to FBI statistics, of all violent crimes committed by white and black individuals combined, 61% of those were committed by whites, and 39% were committed by blacks. So, comparing white (non-Hispanic) vs black population, It’s a simple fact that statically, African Americans are 3 x more likely to commit violent crimes. Concisely, out of the total number of white and blacks people killed by police in 2019, the same percentage of killings are reflected in the number of whites killed – 60% and blacks killed – 40%. Did racial bias play a role in some of these casualties? – Absolutely. But there is no evidence that this is a widespread problem nor that the numbers are disproportionate. If it is, more attention should be given to the fact that a cop is 18 x more likely to be killed by a black suspect than the other way around.
Now, let’s sidestep a little and talk about an innate human nature in all of us, which is gaining empirical and conceptual evidence or truths as we mature. We often misconstrue these terms with prejudice. These types of truths are gained through life experiences and pragmatic analysis.
Let’s take a simple example – If you go swimming in the ocean and see a dolphin vs a shark. You will no doubt be more cautious of the shark and probably come back to shore. Why is this? We are not born into knowing any distinction between the two species nor do we have hatred toward sharks. We formulate this bias based on what we know to be true about the likelihood of one creature posing a risk to us vs the other.
This type of bias will indeed carry over to our perception of other humans. However unfair it may be, this does not equate to racism. Do young black men get more negative attention when shopping or walking alone in a dark alley? Sadly, yes. But I don’t believe that in the majority of the cases, this is caused by the color of their skin, but rather due to the empirical evidence by the observer that the demographic which he represents is more likely to commit a crime.
After 9/11, Middle Eastern men were victims of numerous unfair interrogations by TSA, law enforcement, and looks by fellow passengers at airports. People of the World did not wake up on 9/12 being racist of Muslims. The horrific image from the day before and the individuals behind it altered their belief system to look at a group of individuals differently. Did the right-wing media portrayal of the situation put an unfair negative spin to the situation and facilitated people’s fears and prejudices? – Absolutely. Modern news engine runs on fear and use this to their advantage. But weather it’s a few big bangs or small doses of local news stories or personal experiences, all individuals have to bear the cross of the minorities within them who shine a negative light on the entire group.
We all engage in this mentality no matter how much Kale you consume. Imagine you turn on the TV and breaking news comes on. You hear there’s been a school shooting. What is the demo of the perpetrator you think of first? Or the aforementioned terrorist attacks? Gang related drive by? I can go on and on… so you see, we all have these “pre judgements” about different groups and that’s OK because that just the way it is. These thoughts do not make you a racist or bad. It simply means that you’ve reached an unconscious conclusion through gained empirical and conceptual truths throughout your life. Granted, some of these conclusions are not justified and it’s up to you to educate yourself of the facts. I.e. the rarity of shark attacks actually occurring.
Charles Darwin declared that organisms unable to adapt to the demands of their environment will fail to pass on their genes and consequently fall as casualties in the “war of nature” (Darwin, 1871).
What African Americans have gone through in this nation’s history up to only a few decades ago is deplorable and true racism still exists not just for them for but for all minorities throughout the world, and I am certainly not suggesting we should ignore it. And I acknowledge there are socioeconomic factors that also play a role in behavior, which would be another topic all together. However, we should not be so quick as to tag all senseless killings of African Americans by cops as the causation. If you want proof that police madness can be color blind just look up the killing video of Daniel Shaver, a white man who was literally executed by a deranged police officer without any uproar from social or mainstream media.
So if not racism, then what is it? For majority of the cases, the answer is mundane. It is a combination of cops who are inadequately trained or simply haven’t had enough experience, and lack the mental and emotional capacity to make correct decisions during intense situations. It would be awesome if we lived in a world where we are being protected by robocops. Robocops will be fearless and able to make split second judgement and determine if a suspect is dangerous without any sort of physical engagement. But robocops are not here, these are real people who are protecting us who have the same fears and vulnerabilities as the rest of us. They get portrayed in T.V. and film as sharp shooters with MMA skills, but young cadets are not SEAL trained Rambos. Per police training, a suspect is treated as armed until they are searched. When the media portrays victims as “unarmed” after the fact, ask yourself this question; how is an officer at time of confrontation supposed to know that without any doubt? If a suspect is physically resisting, then he is “armed” due to the potential of taking the officer’s weapon and using it against him or her. The reality is, being a cop is a tough job and we need more people on the streets than there are willing applicants. At the end of the day we need them more than they need us and just like any occupation, no matter how well trained you are, you don’t know how well a person is going to react until they are in the midst of a real situation.
Just think about the fact that there were over 250,000 malpractice deaths last year in this country alone. Why is it OK for those killings to be attributed to bad decision making, negligence, and incompetence, but not so from our police? If influential people on social media and WOKE celebrities who have impacting voices promoted cooperation and empathy with the police rather than animus, there would be far fewer violent altercations and arguably deaths.
We cannot let the bad kids feel like its open season to disrespect and trash their parent’s house just because the lady from social service is paying a visit.