You’re actually safer than when you were a kid… unless you’re black

Last week, while stretching and warming up for the day’s Krav Maga lesson, my buddy was filling us in on how she was super pissed because her car had been broken into and the cops were being less than helpful. Another gal chimed in that when she and her husband hired some contractors to work on their bathroom, her engagement ring was stolen, among other things. The culprit’s fingerprints were on her jewelry box, but still, the police did nothing.

This is why we’re in Krav. Because we don’t trust other people to respect our space, personal or otherwise. We want to know how to defend ourselves if and when the time comes.

We yearn for the days when we were children roaming our neighborhood streets without a care in the world.

Parents today wouldn’t dare to give their kids the freedom they themselves enjoyed growing up.

Can you blame them?

A quick glance any given day through Google News, CNN, social media, or even Fox News will likely show trending stories involving some degree of violence—hate crimes, police brutality, wars, child abductions, and on, and on.

We can thank the Internet for that though; for spreading information quickly, and broadly.

When we were kids, and the Internet was still a bougie luxury that cost $9.95 for five hours of sluggish 56K dial-up connectivity (yeah, that seems like gibberish, but trust me, it’d make you pull out your hair today), we weren’t so readily exposed to how awful humans were to each other on a daily basis. Sure, the Big Three networks grappled to bring us blanket coverage of the most sensational crimes, but overall, the daily offenses and general offensiveness of humanity thrived behind a willfully ignorant status quo.

And boy, did they thrive. According to the FBI, the violent crime1 rate in 1994 was 713.6 violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to a rate of just 365.5 violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants in 2014 (the latest available statistics).

So, that’s great, right? Americans aren’t being as awful to each other as they were 20 years ago. Kudos to us.

Sure, that’s good news. Unless you’re black. Or, to be more specific, unless you’re a black man.

To be honest, I’m the last person to try and “do math” to make a point. But the great thing about having an Internet with an abundance of information is that you can find answers to almost any question you have, instantly. (Yes, I once asked Google that question…)

I say “almost” because sometimes, the information just isn’t there. Like when it comes to examining rates of police brutality against African Americans, the available data is relatively new, and fragmented.

One trend that’s pretty striking though is that in 2014—that same year I just mentioned where violent crimes seemed super low compared to when we were kids—the rate at which police killed black men was higher than the national murder rate in 17 of our major cities. (mappingpoliceviolence.org)

Furthermore, just last year—yes, LAST FUCKING YEAR—unarmed young black men were killed by police at 5x the rate of unarmed whites.

But to top it all off, the overall crime rate in our country doesn’t even matter. Not if you’re a black man facing a police officer. Because apparently, “levels of crime in US cities do not make it any more or less likely for police to kill people.”

So, just because police killed black men at such a ridiculously higher rate than the national murder rate last year, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a trend (but it is), because the levels of crime have no bearing on how much police kill people (but they should).

Wait… So… police targeting black men is just its own phenomena?

Well, damn.

It probably goes without saying that there are many other factors behind this data that warrant additional exploration if we want to provide a comprehensive picture. For instance:

  • Is there any impact from the updated classifications or definitions of what constitutes “violent crime”?
  • Are there any significant changes in population base that affect the crime levels? (I believe this data pertains to major cities only)
  • Have there been any significant changes in police force demographics that might provide additional insights? (We kind of just assume that “killed by police” means “killed by a white man”)

And that’s not even getting into the not-so-residual effects of our historical treatment of blacks in this country…

Even so, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to conclude that while the risk of facing violent crime has gone down for most, Blacks face a uniquely treacherous threat that the rest of the population does not: the threat of being targeted by the very people who are meant to be our protectors.

Plus, with the advent of the Internet, another dark side of humanity is having its day in the form of trolls who rely on the premise of anonymity to attack and threaten those of us who dare to take a stand against this lopsided brutality, so that even some of the most well-intentioned advocates may become silenced out of fear for their own safety.

I should clarify that by no means do I expect the aforementioned statistics to be used as standalone arguments in a debate about the effects of institutional racism in our country. This is a personal blog aka individual opinion.

However, if those numbers aren’t enough to convince you that a debate is at least merited, that efforts like the Black Lives Matter movement indeed exist for a reason, then you’re part of the problem.

If you still disagree, then I’ll just thank you for reading this far… and urge you to try one more thing:

Take a moment to picture yourself as a child, playing with your siblings or friends in your neighborhood. Remember how safe you felt, even without any grownups around. Then think about your black friend. You know, the one who you always invite out because you’re not a racist. Try to imagine what their childhood was like; how they played in their neighborhood. Imagine how safe they felt. Do you picture their childhood the same way as you pictured yours? Does it evoke the same feelings of security? If not, consider why not? Really, consider the underlying factors.

If you did picture it the same as yours, you’re lying to yourself.

We’ve never felt as safe as you. And until things change, we never will.

So, while you think back fondly on the days of care-free childhood, I’ll be dreaming of a future where my biggest issue with cops is that they’re not being very helpful.

stop-and-frisk

 

1 Violent crimes include murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape (revised and legacy definitions), aggravated assault, and robbery.

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One comment

  1. […] I was so upset by the news of Alton Sterling, I wrote a lengthy post about how Black people—black men, especially—face a greater threat in their daily lives than […]

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