America’s Original Sin

Creative Commons photo by Chris Yarzab

On July 7, 2016, a lone black radical, Micah Xavier Johnson, opened fire on white Dallas Police officers, wounding 11 and taking the lives of 5. Then, only 10 days later in Baton Rouge, Gavin Long killed three officers – two white and one black. After both killings, other radicals took to social media celebrating these horrible incidences, including running-back Isaiah Crowell of the Cleveland Browns who posted a picture of a person, cloaked in black, slitting the throat of a white officer.

Such a reaction comes as a response to the many instances in which predominantly white police officers have been perceived to be targeting and singling out African Americans, resulting in unjustified beatings or fatal shootings. This year alone, police have shot and killed 258 black people. Blacks also have the highest poverty rate in the country at 27%. These two issues alone have conveyed the notion that America, the Land of the Free, is an inherently racist nation.

Tensions are growing increasingly high throughout the country. Turn on any major news channel or log in to your favorite social media site, and you will be bombarded with videos, memes and rants from commentators and “friends,” about how white folk are hunting down black people  in the streets; or how black folk are race-baiting whites. Some have even gone so far as to say that the new game sensation, “Pokémon Go”, is dangerous for African Americans. Many, including President Barack Obama, express the opinion that racism is “deeply rooted in our society.”

It is clear that America has a history of racism and prejudice, both systematic and social. Everything from early American slavery to Jim Crow laws, antisemitism to the internment of Japanese Americans, demonstrate that this nation has been tarred and feathered with the stain of discrimination and bigotry. But is America inherently racist? The question is not if racism still exists in America. Racial bigotry is a condition of the mind. In every nation on earth, you will find at least one peculiar individual convinced of his racial hegemony over another. The question I am posing is whether America is a systematically intolerant, xenophobic hotbed for race supremacy?

Whenever I ask this question on social media – a pastime I do not recommend – the first argument I get that suggests that America is racist is that police are targeting innocent black civilians. It feels like every time the news reports on an officer involved shooting, or if you happen upon a video titled ‘police brutality’ or ‘cops shoots unarmed man,’ it is nearly always a white cop vs. a black person. But does this echo an actual trend in police activity?

According to a study conducted by the Washington Post, in 2015, of 987 fatal police shootings, 50% resulted in the death of white suspects and 26% in the death of black suspects. These statistics still hold true today. The report goes on to indicate a disproportion, in that blacks account for only 13% of the population, while whites represent 62%.

However, the disproportionality seems to all but disappear when adjusted for crimes actually committed and arrest resisted. According to FBI reports, in 2012, 4% of whites committed 69% of all crimes, and 8% of all blacks commit 28%. Of all murders and cases of intentional manslaughter, whites committed 48% and blacks, 49%. And, of all illegal possession of weapons, whites accounted for 58% and blacks, 40%. Of violent crimes, whites average at 59% and blacks at 39%.

Furthermore, in major cities like San Francisco where blacks are 10% more likely than whites to resist arrest, and New York where blacks are 85% more likely to do so, one would reasonably expect the proportion of whites and blacks gunned down by police to be almost equal, far more than is the case.

Moreover, a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research that further indicates that whites are more likely to be shot by cops than blacks, shows that blacks are “more likely to be touched, handcuffed, pushed to the ground or pepper-sprayed by a police officer[.]” Still, based upon the likelihood to resist arrest, nonlethal measures taken by police seem to be justifiable. Then when you take into account that in this same study, on occasions where suspects complied with the officers, though blacks are 21% more likely to have hands placed on them, they are 14% less likely than whites to be pepper sprayed of batoned.

‘But what about our prison system?’ many have asked. The NAACP addresses a disparity in racial imprisonment that many Americans find disturbing: “African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population… Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population.”

Accordingly, based upon the likelihood to commit a crime and resist arrest, after having been arrested, The Marshall Project points out that “blacks are about 17 points more likely arrested after release than whites.” Furthermore, black males are roughly twice as likely as white males to be convicted of a gun crime, and “offenders convicted of gun crimes are [68%] more likely… to end up being arrested again.”

Still, when we look into a more detailed demographic of gender, we find a very different and striking disproportion. Though an estimated 52% of the United States is female, and 49% are male, The Federal Bureau of Prisons graphs that 6.7% of the total number of inmates are women, and men account for a stark majority of 93.3%. Granted, this demographic is in no way exhaustive or comprehensive, it does stand to show that disparities are not an absolute indicator of injustice. Rather, studies have shown that the high school dropout rate is a higher indication of imprisonment when adjusted for the above statistics.

Another very common tending toward America being racist, and relating to police activity, is the concept of “white privilege”. By asking different people what white privilege is, the definition seems to vary accordingly. For instance, some believe that it’s measured in things you get, or don’t get. Some say that it is based on how you are treated by others. The Washington Post, in one article, defined it as, “the level of societal advantage that comes with being seen as the norm in America, automatically conferred irrespective of wealth, gender or other factors. It makes life smoother, but it’s something you would barely notice unless it were suddenly taken away — or unless it had never applied to you in the first place.” To simplify, it’s a feeling; for whites, being “normal,” and all other races, not.

However, as far as feelings are concerned, one group not feeling what another group may or may not feel, and judging that the latter group benefits from this feeling, based upon their race, is not scientific and cannot be measured in anything other than assumptions.

That being said, we can scientifically measure economic and social trends. Forbes reports that Latino families typically have 8% of the wealth of a white family, and blacks only 6%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has proven that whites make 25% more than blacks, with a median of $756 over $607. But, yet again, these statistics are not so cut-and-dry. The best way to adjust for income proportionality is by judging actions and decisions that affect income.

4.3% of black students drop out of school before the 11th grade, Hispanics at 3.5% and whites at 2.1%. 40% of white students receive a bachelor’s degree between the ages of 25 and 29, while only 20% of black students, and 15% of Hispanic students at the same age receive the same degree. African Americans have the highest rate of single mothers in America at 64%, followed by Latinos at 40%, and then whites at 29%. These figures help to explain any income disparities.

But these measurements do not necessarily favor whites as the majority race. In all these categories, Asians outperform whites in terms of actions and decisions. Where 2.1% of whites drop out of school before grade 11, Asians averaged at 0.3%. Where 40% of white students receive their bachelor’s degree before the age of 29, Asians come in at 58%. Where 29% of single mothers identify as white, Asians have an average of only 17%. In 2012, where whites committed 69% of all crimes, Asians (or Pacific Islanders) committed a mere 1% with a minority rate of 5%. Asian men and women make a higher weekly income median than whites of $1,811 over $1,624.

Needless to say, these statistics are not so black-and-white.

But why is this type of dialogue so important to the American people? For what cause should a person speak to such a degree against common misconceptions, if not an apologist for the law? And what is there to gain from expressing the obvious disparities among races, if not to bombastically praise the skin color of one and humiliate another? Simply put, if in fact the government and police force have devised a systematic scheme to denigrate the lives of black men and women, on no other grounds but a hatred for the tone in fellow a human’s flesh; then the actions of Micah Johnson and Gavin Long are completely and constitutionally justifiable.

The Second Amendment of our Constitution provides for the right of “the people to keep and bear arms,” to ensure “the security of a free state,” against a despotic and tyrannical central government. How else should a people, after having exhausted every effort to negotiate peace, guard their God-given liberties and natural rights, against rulers who see it fit to take and spare lives at will?

It would be foolish and disingenuous to assume that some officers have not, from time to time, made abhorrently reprehensible errors in judgment (i.e. Walter Scott, Cory Jones, Oscar Grant, Kathryn Johnston, etc.) that must be, and many have been held accountable for their actions. But the narrative that officers, as a whole, are “out for blacks” simply does not stand up to the facts.

America is very much a peaceful nation; and we must look passed our fear, hatred and anger, without disregarding the genuine concerns for the lives of our citizens, to find a common ground where we can have an honest dialogue and get to the root of the problem… and there is a problem. For, no matter the tones in our flesh or the curls in our hair, our accents or our diverse heritage, our race and our posterity, we are, in the end, all Americans.

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