I’ve been told that because I’m black I ought to exercise extreme caution around cops, specifically white ones — that I, a young black man, should carry myself in a certain way during any interaction with them so as to avoid being murdered. In light of recent tragedies, these suggestions are beginning to frequent me far more often. My ears are tinged with the hue of flashing red warnings and pity. Their words are always within earshot, laced with sympathy and genuine concern, but I never take them seriously.
Let me tell you why I don’t fear for my life when I’m around or interacting with cops.
There is a false narrative being played in our major news/media outlets: that blacks are being targeted and inexplicably gunned down by (racist) cops at an exceptionally high rate.
If this were true, there would be reason for fear, undoubtedly. However, there is too much evidence that suggests otherwise. It simply cannot be ignored.
According to the Washington Post, there have been 512 people killed by cops so far this year; 238 were white, 123 were black, 80 were Hispanic, and the rest were either unknown or were a mix of other various minorities. Last year there were roughly 990 people killed by cops, and of those 900, 494 were white, 258 were black, 172 were Hispanic, and the rest were, again, either unknown or a mix of other minorities. This trend remains mostly unchanged in previous years as well. Notice that whites are the ones suffering the most deaths-by-cops, not blacks; this has generally always been the case.
To be fair, it must be admitted that blacks make up only 13.3% of the current population, while whites make up 77.1% of the population (U.S. Census Bureau), which means that, in terms of population, blacks are disproportionately killed by police; however, blacks also commit a disproportionate number of violent crimes, which means they are involved in a disproportionate number of altercations with police, thus the disparities are accounted for. Blacks, albeit only making up 13.3% of the population, have been responsible for committing almost half of all homicides in the U.S. for decades (Homicide Rates in the U.S., Table 7, U.S. Department of Justice). This serves to explain why so many blacks get into violent altercations with police, and in some cases are killed, even though they are a minority group in the U.S.
According to the most recently completed report of homicides in the U.S. from the FBI, there were 6,095 black homicides in 2014 (Crime in the U.S. 2014, Expanded Homicide Data Table 1, FBI). Even if the number of black homicides in 2015 decreased to 6,000, the percentage of blacks killed by cops in that year would be just 4%, and this has been the trend for years. The percentage of blacks that are killed by cops is so low that it is, in fact, negligible in comparison to the larger context of black homicides altogether, and when black-on-black crime is considered — in 2014, nearly 50% of black homicides were due to black-on-black crime (Crime in the U.S. 2014, Expanded Homicide Data Table 6, FBI) — it becomes evident that the police does not even qualify as a considerable threat to blacks.
In other words, I am far more likely to be killed by another black person than I am by a cop. That doesn’t mean deaths by cops are any less of a tragedy — don’t get me wrong, I don’t deny the reality of police brutality. It does mean, however, that the current narrative of cops waging “war” on blacks is entirely untrue.
Let me end on this note: you do not have to fear cops just because you are black. It is an unreasonable fear. Do not allow the media to persuade you into believing that cops are out to get you, that they are murdering blacks at an exceptionally high rate, that they are killing us left and right simply because we’re black, that we’re the only ones being killed by cops — none of these things are true. Most media/news outlets only show isolated events to fuel said dishonest narrative, and these events will always generate more outrage and attract more viewers, but more importantly this type of selective reporting perpetuates the myth, the dangerously false narrative that I’ve detailed above. If these news outlets were fairly and accurately reporting incidents of police brutality, you would see much more reporting on cases involving white deaths at the hands of cops, since they are killed by cops more than any other race. They don’t, though, and therefore cases like the white 19-year old killed by cops in Fresno a couple weeks ago, or Vinson Ramos, Melissa Ventura, Anthony Nuñez, Pedro Villanueva and Raul Saavedra-Vargas who were killed by cops this week, are completely ignored or get little to no coverage.
I understand that there may be some, or perhaps many, of you who sharply disagree with me on this matter. To you, I ask one thing: evidence to support the contrary of my stance. Substantiate your claims. It would be malpractice on my behalf, and yours, to not act and live in accordance with reality; furthermore, I refuse to live by a narrative that, through thorough and careful examination and research, I’ve found to be dangerously false.
Mind you, I enjoy meaningful discussion and debate as long as it’s civil and respectful. Let’s dialogue.