Tag Archives: Politics

Black encounters with the justice system

So what happens if you’re Black and you have a police encounter and, lucky you, you don’t get killed? You just get stopped, detained, arrested….

Writing for Slate, Andrew Kahn and Chris Kirk explain “What It’s Like to Be Black in the Criminal Justice System.” They provide graphics illustrating statistical differences in how Black, White, and other non-Black AMERICANS (yes, I’m shouting) are treated in our American criminal justice system. It’ll only take a couple of minutes to read.

As Mr. Kahn and Mr. Kirk show, these days we don’t need John Griffin to expose how that old racism is lurking about in our society. We simply have to look at the data. Of course, some people will likely try to argue away the data and Mr. Griffin’s Black Like Me case study, but their arguments won’t actually hide contemporary racism, let alone mitigate it.

At the end of Mr. Kahn’s and Mr. Kirk’s article, if you have the strength, you can watch a video interview that Slate has been running during the last week of July and the first week of August 2015 (as I recall). It features a drive around Baltimore featuring an interview with Michael Wood, Jr., a former Baltimore (MD, US) police officer who has spoken out about problems with police training in urban environments. It’s about 12 minutes long, but it’s pretty informative. Mr. Wood explains why, he thinks, urban police officers are essentially trained to respond improperly to Black citizens.

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If you’re an unarmed citizen and you have a police encounter, your chances of being killed by police depend on your ethnic group

As of 8 August 2015, police officers in the US have shot and killed 585 people during 2015, according to reporters Sandhya Somashekhar, Wesley Lowery, Keith L. Alexander, Kimberly Kindy of the Washington Post. In just over 90% of those cases, the police killed armed citizens, but in 24 of the 60 cases where they killed unarmed citizens, those citizens were black.

So far this year, 24 unarmed black men have been shot and killed by police – one every nine days, according to a Washington Post database of fatal police shootings. During a single two-week period in April, three unarmed black men were shot and killed. All three shootings were either captured on video or, in one case, broadcast live on local TV.

Those 24 cases constitute a surprisingly small fraction of the 585 people shot and killed by police through Friday evening, according to The Post database. Most of those killed were white or Hispanic, and the vast majority of victims of all races were armed.

However, black men accounted for 40 percent of the 60 unarmed deaths, even though they make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population. The Post’s analysis shows that black men were seven times more likely than white men to die by police gunfire while unarmed.

Writing under various headlines— “Black and unarmed: One year after Michael Brown’s shooting death” or “Police gunfire: Unarmed black men: 7 times more likely to die than whites ”—that point to the same story, Ms. Somashekhar and colleagues present a thorough examination of the data they have assembled (and made public). There are compelling personal accounts and thoughtful analyses.

I used their data to create the graph shown here. (Please note that my quick extraction has slightly different counts than those they report, likely because a combination of different counting rules and weaknesses in my technical skills.) The data set is available on GitHub, so others can analyze them; the data set will also change as more incidents are added to it.

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Racism, how healthy thou art

In Racism is Real, Brave New Films illustrates just a few areas where bias lurks for people of different ethnic backgrounds. In what, to many white people, are everyday life events, actors illustrate different experiences documented in research studies. Go ahead a watch it now. It’s brief—only about as long as a TV break.

Perhaps you saw it in the spring of 2015 when it was first airing. At that time, the film got some coverage from the press. For example, Ana Swanson of the Washington (DC, US) Post suggested

[I]f you have any doubts about whether racism still exists in America, this 3-minute video from Brave New Films, a California-based company that makes films to spur political activism, might clear them up. The video counts down eight reasons that racism is still very real in America, using research from Yale University, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New England Journal of Medicine, among others.

Ave. Number Killed per US state per 100,000 White Black
10.4
(3.9)
18.3
(6.5)

Now, please add one more statistic. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation reported the number of deaths due to firearms per 100,000 population by race or ethnicity for the year 2013. Guessing that these numbers haven’t changed much in the last couple of years, I took a look at them. Some states did not report numbers because there were not sufficient data or because reporting the data would identify specific individuals. To get an idea of the difference by white and black groups, I eliminated the states where there were not per 100,000 rates for one or the other group. Then I simply tool the mean (and standard deviation) for the remaining 34 states. Those are the data you see in the table.

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Kansas student to Gov. Brownback: “Tip the schools”

I may be a bit late to the dance, but I still want to admire the provo-like action of Kansas University student Chloe Hough. According to a story by Rochelle Valverde in the Lawrence (KS, US) Journal-World, while working as a waitron in a local restaurant, Ms. Hough served Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on 2 May 2015; Gov. Brownback has been leading an effort to make substantial reductions in Kansas state spending, including on education, on the argument that lowering government costs and reducing taxes will spur substantial growth in business, industry, and jobs. When Ms. Hough presented the governor with the check, she annotated the check with a personalized message. You can see an image of the check and get the full story in the LJ-W‘s version of Ms. Valverde’s story.

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Bring more that just your Irish family

In case you’ve missed it, an entire country will be holding a referendum on marriage equality. Nope, this is not just nine old jurists in Washington, DC, USA. It’s The Republic of Ireland, a bastion of battles between religious groups, and Ireland actually is leading the way here. The question will be put to the electorate 22 May 2015.

Polls show widespread support of the initiative, but will the voters turn out to endorse it? The Belongto organization (BeLonG To— BeLonG To Youth Services; they have lots of different capitalizations!) developed another marvelous spot in its series of LGBT supporting spots. The one shown here encourages folks to vote “yes” on the initiative.


In a story in the Guardian entitled Irish voters to decide on same-sex marriage in May referendum, Leo Varadkar, a minister of the government came out and encouraged a positive vote. Additionally, in a separate story in the Guardian, entitled Irish voters keep campaigners guessing as gay marriage referendum nears, Henry McDonald reported about Irish people of note (the Irish drag artist Panti, whose real name is Rory O’Neill, and Pat Carey, who was once a whip in parliament) who also supported a “yes” vote.

The BBC reported on this process in November of 2013.

All of this is worth reviewing, I’d say. But see if you can watch the YouTube clip without getting a little emotional.

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Change the naming of hurricanes

Over at ClimateNameChange.org there is this too funny video. It won’t even take three minutes for you to watch it, so don’t hesitate, click now!

Flash of the electrons to my pal Frank for turning me on to this.

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On teens, bullying, and gay bashing in Iowa

Are teen bullying and gay bashing events in Iowa typical or an aberration? I haven’t had the time to research it closely and compare data in a state-by-state fashion; that’ll have to wait. But, consider the following list.

  • Jan 2014: News sources in Des Moines (WHO-TV 1 and WHO-TV 2; KCCI; Des Moines Register) reported that 16-year-old Nathan Rogers suffered multiple facial injuries from a beating he suffered around New Years Eve at the hands (literally) of several other teens, who have been charged with felonious assault. Continue reading

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