Stay Angry

Because just like the Incredible Hulk, I’m always angry.

It seems the storm has passed in Ferguson, MO. As the Washington Post reported this morning, “hugs and kisses [have replaced] tear gas.” And that is truly great. The worst of this crisis, it seems, is behind us.

But there’s so much more to be done. So much to still be angry about.

For example, Mother Jones today examined the data on how often police shoot unarmed black men.

I was particularly stuck by the data from my hometown of Oakland, California:

In Oakland, California, the NAACP reported that out of 45 officer-involved shootings in the city between 2004 and 2008, 37 of those shot were black. None were white. One-third of the shootings resulted in fatalities.

(For those unfamiliar with Oakland, it may also be helpful to know that during that same time period, there were a total of 582 homicides in the city.)

Mother Jones attributes the discrepancy to racial bias in police officers. That’s something to be angry about.

Of course, I get a little persnickety about data interpretation, and I’m not quite ready to accept Mother Jone’s explanation.

Oakland isn’t nearly as segregated as some cities, but it’s still fairly segregated. The wealthy (well, wealthier, I really mean middle class) people live in the hills and the poor people live in the flats. Most of the wealthy people are white and most of the poor people are black and Latino. Most of the crime happens in the flats.

I don’t have the data to map where police shootings in Oakland take place, but if I were to venture a guess, I’d bet most of them take place in the flats.

So if the crime happens in the black part of town, and the police shootings take place in the black part of town, then it doesn’t necessarily follow that more shootings of black people is the result of racial bias.

Of course, the fact that “weapons were not found in 40 percent of cases,” does seem to indicate a level of racial bias. But then again, perhaps it’s equally possible that there is more police activity in the neighborhoods with more crime – thereby generally increasing police/civilian interaction, and police in those areas, knowing there is more crime, are more swiftly moved to action. Biased not by race, but by the higher crime rate.

While I personally believe that racial bias is an important factor, not only in Oakland but in cities around the country, let’s just go with this for a moment and assume that the Oakland PD is nothing but perfect in this regard.

But wait.

I’m still angry.

Even if you can attribute that disparity not to the racial bias of police officers but to the demographics of the area –

Isn’t that essentially saying: the problem isn’t with a hundred guys on the police force, the problem is with deeply ingrained, shamefully historic biases and disparities which have continually privileged everything white and degraded everything black to the point where all social, emotional, educational, and health outcomes are noticeable tipped in white people’s favor.

How is that argument supposed to make anything seem better?

Oh no, no, no. There is much to be done.

And I, for one, will stay angry.

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