I try not to be political on this blog. It’s about my spiritual journey, but today I have to break my rule. I just had an overwhelming feeling that I need to write this.
As I was taking my walk on Sunday, I was the only one out. I was up early, as usual. I walk five miles through a predominantly white neighborhood, my neighborhood. I am always conscious of how I appear. I dress in running clothes and running shoes. I want it to be clear I am out exercising, not loitering or casing homes. I follow all traffic rules. I’m on the sidewalk where there is a sidewalk. I”m on the proper side of the road where there is not a sidewalk. On school mornings, there are kids walking to the local elementary school. I make sure to steer clear of the kids. I don’t want any 911 calls about a creepy old man approaching school children. Today, though, all is quiet. No one is out. Then, I look up and I see a police car coming up the street towards me. There has been another shooting of an unarmed black man. This one a father of four. His car broke down in the middle of the road. The cops came. For some reason, they came at him with guns drawn. What they suspected him of, I have no idea. There is a video. The cops initially reported that he refused to put his hands up. I guess they forgot there was video, because the video clearly shows him with his hands up, before they tasered him and shot him. All of this runs through my mind as the police car approaches me. I start to strategize. If he stops, what do I say? Do I put my hands up? Could moving my hands be seen as a threatening gesture? Do I lie face down on the ground? Should I wait for a command before moving or should I be proactive in making myself less threatening? One of the cops was heard saying the father they shot looked like a “bad dude” Do I look like a bad dude? As this all goes through my mind, the cop rolls by, waves and moves on.
I posted my experience on Facebook this morning and one of my friends shared it with her friends. One of her friends remarked that not all cops are like that and that more white people are shot by cops than black people. I should learn the statistics and stop being afraid. I had to inform her about the statistics.
In 2015, The Washington Post launched a real-time database to track fatal police shootings, and the project continues this year. As of Sunday, 1,502 people have been shot and killed by on-duty police officers since Jan. 1, 2015. Of them, 732 were white, and 381 were black (and 382 were of another or unknown race).
But as data scientists and policing experts often note, comparing how many or how often white people are killed by police to how many or how often black people are killed by the police is statistically dubious unless you first adjust for population.
According to the most recent census data, there are nearly 160 million more white people in America than there are black people. White people make up roughly 62 percent of the U.S. population but only about 49 percent of those who are killed by police officers. African Americans, however, account for 24 percent of those fatally shot and killed by the police despite being just 13 percent of the U.S. population. As The Post noted in a new analysis published last week, that means black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers.
U.S. police officers have shot and killed the exact same number of unarmed white people as they have unarmed black people: 50 each. But because the white population is approximately five times larger than the black population, that means unarmed black Americans were five times as likely as unarmed white Americans to be shot and killed by a police officer.
BTW, I am ALWAYS unarmed. So, yeah. I know the stats. That’s why I’m scared.