Wednesday, November 26, 2014


As I write this, another night of protesting the grand jury's decision in the murder of Michael Brown is ending. I spent too much time arguing with people online yesterday about the case and reaction to it. So let me share my thoughts about it, for what it's worth.

"You all kicked me in my motherfucking ass. You all got me fucked up. Because I got a twenty year old son, I got a twelve year old son, and I'm scared to death for them." Killer Mike, on Monday night.

First of all, let's get this out of the way. The racists and haters and conservatives naysayers aren't wrong: black men in America are much more likely to be killed by their own than by a police officer, or even a white man. Black men are also statistically disproportionately involved in criminal activities, compared to whites. Let me lift from the NAACP:

Racial Disparities in Incarceration
  • African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population
  • African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites
  • 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
  • According to Unlocking America, if African American and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates of whites, today's prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50%
  • One in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime
  • 1 in 100 African American women are in prison
  • Nationwide, African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice).
Drug Sentencing Disparities
  • About 14 million Whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an illicit drug
  • 5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites
  • African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense.
  • African Americans serve virtually as much time in prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months). (Sentencing Project)
Contributing Factors
  • Inner city crime prompted by social and economic isolation
  • Crime/drug arrest rates: African Americans represent 12% of monthly drug users, but comprise 32% of persons arrested for drug possession
  • "Get tough on crime" and "war on drugs" policies
  • Mandatory minimum sentencing, especially disparities in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine possession
  • In 2002, blacks constituted more than 80% of the people sentenced under the federal crack cocaine laws and served substantially more time in prison for drug offenses than did whites, despite that fact that more than 2/3 of crack cocaine users in the U.S. are white or Hispanic
  • "Three Strikes"/habitual offender policies
  • Zero Tolerance policies as a result of perceived problems of school violence; adverse affect on black children.
  • 35% of black children grades 7-12 have been suspended or expelled at some point in their school careers compared to 20% of Hispanics and 15% of whites

If blacks are disproportionately involved in crime, they are also disproportionately arrested for it, and treated more harshly than whites by the system. In shorts, blacks, and particularly young black men, are seen as defacto criminals and treated thusly by the system.

People like Ted Nugent who point out levels of black criminality to justify/explain the killing of Michael Brown are proving the point: because some of the group are involved in crime, the entire group is treated like criminals, and it is perfectly legal and acceptable to murder them. Never mind that law enforcement should be held to a higher standard than a 16-year-old gangbanger. Never mind that being treated as guilty until proven innocent is unconstitutional. Never mind that basic management skills teach you that treating people with disrespect and suspicion is not a good way to get them to be on your side. 

There was a sign among the protesters in Ferguson that read something to the effect of "We aren't mad because the system failed, we are mad because the system worked." That sums up a lot of how I feel about Ferguson. I can say for sure if Wilson genuinely felt his life was in danger. His injuries don't seem to indicate a brutal attack by a "demon," but I'm not a doctor and I'm judging from a photo. I do think that cops should be able to apprehend robbery suspects without killing them, and that anytime an officer of the law shoots and unarmed person, it should be a Big Fucking Deal. I also think that the police in communities like Ferguson need to work doubly hard to work with the communities they serve, and take care that they aren't being perceived as an invading force who are there to keep the animals in line. 

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