The data don’t show racial bias in police use of deadly force. A few viral videos don’t prove otherwise.
So far, we haven’t seen a shred of evidence that George Floyd’s death in police custody last month was racially motivated. But for those looking to exploit the incident, that doesn’t seem to matter.
The violence in the streets, and the liberal commentary that toggles between justification and cheerleading, is fueled by assumptions that racial discrimination in policing is widespread, that low-income minority communities are overpatrolled, and that black men are targeted for their skin color rather than for their behavior. There’s no denying that there was a time—in the living memory of many Americans—when this was true. The question is how true it remains.
Activists and politicians with their own agendas have taken the Floyd episode and similar incidents and shoehorned them into a pre-existing narrative about race and policing, but the reality is more complex. Race relations and violent crime rates among blacks have ebbed and flowed over the decades, and policing has reflected these changes. In the first half of the 20th century, when black poverty was significantly higher than it is today, and it was not uncommon for police officers in the Deep South to belong to the Ku Klux Klan, black crime rates and incarceration rates were significantly lower than what they would become in later decades.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images