At first blush, data seems to indicate that police kill blacks disproportionately more than whites. But when we look more deeply and consider confounding variables the influence of race diminishes nearly to margin-of-error levels (data linked below), suggesting that the violence and destruction by some BLM activists may be an unwarranted overreaction.
This is not an excuse for abuse of power by police. Nor is it a denial of the existence of racism in policing. Both are real problems that must be addressed. Rather, it is a claim that the failure to look beyond the first blush, combined with the all-too-human tendency to force-fit data into a preferred narrative, is a pervasive problem that harms Western culture, exacerbated by the very people who should be ameliorating it.
Symptoms of this problem of superficial thinking include not only the failure to carefully examine confounding variables but also the failure to understand and apply basic principles of statistics and data analysis like correlation does not equal causation and numerical disparities between identity groups do not prove discrimination. Additional symptoms include the cognitive bias of presentism, and a problem called The Knowledge Gap, in which inadequate foundational knowledge of a subject area causes us to draw incorrect conclusions about it, particularly in the areas of human nature, human cognition, political history, and why people on the other side think the way they do. It is a failure of the practice of active listening. At bottom, it is a failure of empathy.
The tendency to look only, or even just mostly, at visible symptoms, often causes us to misdiagnose the root cause(s) of the problems we face, which in turn causes us to implement policies that not only fail to mitigate problems, but worse, mask them, allowing them to fester and grow worse, and in many cases exacerbating them. It’s policy-making that makes *us* feel better about *ourselves,* but that in the grand scheme of things makes matters worse.
Racism is just one of many types of bigotry. Our single-minded focus on racism as the great boogeyman of our time blinds us to other types of bigotry that we ourselves may be committing when we condescend, disparage, condemn, oppress, or deny a voice to people who see and experience the world differently than we do.
People in positions of power have a greater responsibility to act ethically, honestly, and fairly. Abuse of power by police is just one type of such abuse. In today’s culture, intelligence, education, and credentials confer power (See Dignity by Chris Arnade.) The intellectual class is in a position of power. Anyone who fancies themselves intelligent, educated, credentialled, intellectual, or enlightened has a greater responsibility to think ethically and fairly. Sadly, the very people who have this greater responsibility, in whom we place our trust for reliable information and common-sense thinking, are more often than not the worst violators of it. This violation of trust, This abuse of power, is one of the largest contributing factors to the extremist rage of the BLM movement.
What follows are links to some of the kind of thoughtful, balanced, honest, and ethical, data and analysis of which there is far too little in today’s culture. Some of the linked articles and research contain links to still more research:
“the basic premise of Black Lives Matter—that racist cops are killing unarmed black people—is false”
“Instead, you must do what all good social scientists do: control for confounding variables to isolate the effect that one variable has upon another (in this case, the effect of a suspect’s race on a cop’s decision to pull the trigger). At least four careful studies have done this—one by Harvard economist Roland Fryer, one by a group of public-health researchers, one by economist Sendhil Mullainathan, and one by David Johnson, et al. None of these studies has found a racial bias in deadly shootings.”
“the perception that the police regularly kill black people under circumstances in which white people would be merely disciplined is in fact a misperception.”
We find no evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities across shootings, and White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than non-White officers.
on the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we are unable to detect any racial differences in either the raw data or when accounting for controls.
“We find that the probability of an unarmed black suspect being killed by a white police officer is not significantly greater than the probability of a black suspect being killed by a black police officer. We also find that while black officers are generally more likely than white officers to kill unarmed black suspects at a higher rate than they kill unarmed white ones, the differences in these gaps for black and white officers are not statistically significant.”