It doesn’t matter who’s killed.
It only matters who does the killing.
That’s an unavoidable conclusion as you look at the current upset over the shooting of an 18-year-old African-American man in Ferguson, Missouri.
Yes, this man’s death is tragic. What occurred, we don’t yet know. But no matter what happened, he is dead and his young life’s potential is lost.
But, in the context of violent crime in America and the state of Missouri, his death is one of many. And yet the reaction to it is wholly different from the others. Being honest about that difference, and understanding why it exists, is essential.
Here’s what I mean.
In the United States in 2011, the most recent year for which there are statistics, the FBI says there were 6,329 black people murdered. That does not include manslaughters and other non-murder homicides.
Nonetheless, it accounts for half of the murders in the country, and exceeds the number of whites murdered by about 500. That’s significant because blacks comprise a far smaller proportion of the population than do whites.
What percentage of murdered blacks are killed by other blacks?
In most cases, race of victim and perpetrator is not tracked. Of the 6,329 murdered black people in 2011, the FBI was able to identify the race of victim and perpetrator in 2,695 cases. Of those 2,695 black victims, 2,447 were murdered by other black people.
That’s 91 percent.
That means that – based on relatively low 2011 numbers – some 17 black people are murdered each day in the United States and 91 percent of them are killed by other blacks.
That’s fifteen a day.
Three hundred and sixty-five days a year.
The numbers for Missouri are even more staggering.
Most years, Missouri leads the nation in black homicides. In 2009, there were 239. That works out to a black murder rate of 34.72 per 100,000.
The national black murder rate is 17.9 per 100,000. The national murder rate for all races is 4.76 per 100,000.
That means a black person in Missouri is twice as likely as the average black American to be murdered, and is seven times more likely than all Americans to be murdered.
This lad who was killed in Ferguson, even before you get to the police, was living in the most dangerous state in America for a black person.
Getting numbers on how many blacks are killed by police is harder. In 2011, one crime-stats blogger counted, there were 607 Americans killed by police. No agency seems to record the racial breakdown of those people.
But there is something of a non-racial demographic profile. Of the people killed by police in 2011, the large majority had criminal histories, were male, and aged 25 to 40.
They also overwhelmingly had it coming.
In almost all the cases, the police action was found to be justified by the violent conduct of the subject, and by the fact that that violent conduct typically involved a weapon.
The numbers aren’t available to make an apples-to-apples comparison, or really anything close, but it is clear that each day in America some 15 innocent black people are murdered by other black people, and that about two people of all races are killed by police, and more than 95 percent of the time it is under justifiable circumstances.
Translation: A lot of black people are murdered by other black people and very few black people are innocently killed by police.
Which gets us back to the paradox of community reaction.
If it were driven by concern for the victim, there would be upset at the black murder rate. If it were driven by antipathy toward the police, there would be upset like that in Ferguson.
It’s not about who’s killed, it’s about who does the killing.
Which makes it not about love for black people, but about hatred for the police.
And that’s a tough mirror to look into.
There are any number of heartbroken black mothers who have had children slain. The only ones who get the press conferences are the ones whose children fell at the hands of police.
That is morally uncomfortable.
Because it says that we don’t really care about that hypothetical mother or her son, we are merely using her pain and his death as instruments to advance our hatred for the police.
We are not respecting the loss, we are exploiting it.
To foster anti-police sentiment, to whip up a political base, to promote electorally beneficial racial polarization, to broaden the divide which immorally benefits the ruling elite.
Which may explain the press releases from the Congress people and senators, and the announcement from Martha’s Vineyard.