It's a weird time in the country right now. That national conversation about race seems to be happening, somewhat, but it's being driven by the continued killing of African-Americans by law enforcement. (We've requested situational statistics from the Colorado Springs Police Department on the last 10 years of officer killings, and will write a new post when we receive them.)
Jon Stewart couldn't even get a joke
from the death of 43-year-old New Yorker Eric Garner
. "None of the ambiguities that existed in the Ferguson case exist in the Staten Island case," the host said, "and yet the outcome is exactly the same."
And let's not forget how Cleveland police recently shot and killed a black 12-year-old named Tamir Rice
the video. True, the child was holding a BB gun without the orange tip that would signify it as a toy, but, oddly, Jared Lee Loughner
and James Holmes
actually murdered scores of people with actual guns, and were apprehended alive.
So, because it seems like it's essentially legal in America for police to kill black people — a country not that far removed from a time when it was actually
legal, in one form or another, to kill black people — here's a round-up of stories that offer some context.
• The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently released
numbers for 2013, showing 27 police officers were killed "as a result of felonious acts." Of those, 15 were killed by a white person, 11 were killed by black person and race was not reported for the remainder.
• OK, so there are roughly 45 million African-Americans in the U.S., and 11 of them killed a police officer last year. Numbers for 2012 — as collected by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
, which looked at the death of black people at the hands of security guards, law enforcement and "vigilantes" — show 313 black people were killed by authority figures that year. 136 of them were unarmed. Feel free to compare 2012 police killings
: "30 of the alleged offenders were white, 16 were black."
• "There’s never been a safer time to be a cop — or a more dangerous time to be a criminal,"
reads a Washington Post
headline from Nov. 24, adding: "The decrease in officer deaths and rise in felon deaths has corresponded with a rise in the militarization of the nation's police forces, fueled by a glut of surplus military equipment heading home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
• When there is a shooting, police are rarely charged with a crime. "New research by a Bowling Green State University criminologist shows that 41 officers in the U.S. were charged with either murder or manslaughter in connection with on-duty shootings over a seven-year period ending in 2011," reported
the Wall Street Journal
on Nov. 24. "Over that same period, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported 2,718 justified homicides by law enforcement ..."
Of course, there's the obvious defense that the shooting was justified. Still, even when an officer is charged, they're convicted at half the rate of the general public: 33 percent, as compared to 66 percent.
• With these, and other, statistics in mind, it's hard not to draw the same conclusion as journalist Max Read: "Why Should Anyone 'Respect' the Law?"
There is a troubling trend in American thought that holds we should "respect" cops as we might "respect" venomous snakes: by staying away from them, by avoiding eye contact, by not making threatening gestures. "It is important that we respect the legal process and rule of law" because otherwise we will be beaten and sodomized with nightsticks and shot to death on our doorsteps. "It is important that we respect the legal process and rule of law" because the state has a monopoly on violence that it has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to use, especially against poor minorities.
That's not respect. That's terror and fear.