Saturday, December 6, 2014

Race, Ferguson, Assault Statistics and Perspective

One of the toughest things to do in America today is to have a 'conversation' about race.

If you are white, you are almost immediately labeled as a 'racist' if you disagree with any of the statements by activists such as Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson.

If you are white, you are told that you can not understand what it is like to be an African-American in America today or in the past.

Which is pretty much true. A white person can not ever truly know what it is like to be an African-American in the United States today or in the past.

But everyone can understand what it is like to be an 'American' even if we happen to be from different races and heritages, yes? We all have a shared stake in knowing what the rules of the games are when it comes to being responsible citizens who follow the rule of law since James Madison and Thomas Jefferson wrote often that a representative democracy such as ours depends heavily on every citizen taking personal responsibility for their actions and self-governing on a daily basis or else we will quickly dissolve into anarchy.

We think talking more about any issue is better than not talking about them, truth be told.

We are ok with any discussion about any issue as long as it is based on some cold hard facts and figures from reputable sources rather than solely on pure emotions. Emotional arguments usually lead to more hardened feelings on both sides of the issue but virtually zero progress towards any sort of workable solution in the end.

Based on the round-the-clock news coverage of Ferguson and now the Eric Garner case in New York, we don't need any more hardening of positions on either side or else we will never figure this problem out.

One thing we have tried to do consistently in the previous 574 posts over these past 5 years now is to bring every reader closer to the raw data and original fact pieces put out by various reputable sources with the hopes that we can at least agree on the facts first before starting to fight over them.

Former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) used to famously say: 'You have a right to your own opinion. You do NOT have a right to your own set of facts'

Richard John Neuhaus also used to say: 'The will of God is that we not kill each other...over what the will of God is'

Same with the issue of race in America. God grant that we not kill each other in America over what it is going to take to bring peace and justice and harmony among the various races but mostly between black and white Americans.

Just for perspective's sake, anyone who claims that race relations are 'worse' today than they were in 1960 or 1940 or 1920 or 1860 or before.....just doesn't know what they are talking about.

Enormous strides have taken place through the sacrifice of many brave people of all races, including the approximately 250,000 mostly white Union soldiers and citizens who died fighting to save the Union in the Civil War which centered around granting freedom for the slaves in the South.

Things are by no means 'perfect' in America today when it comes to race relations. But they are a lot better than they used to be if you talk to anyone who lived through the early civil rights days of the 60's for example.

All that being said, let's get some basic facts out on the table which might upset the running narrative that producers and editors of the cable and evening news broadcasts seem to want to perpetuate for some reason which appears to be as follows:

'White cops act with deadly malice towards black youth and other blacks in communities all across the nation all the time'

Here's some facts to put some perspective on what we are seeing on the news today around the nation:
  1. We have over 310 million people living in the United States of America.
  2. Our guess is that 99.35% of Americans of all races live in peace each and every single day in America as they try to support themselves and their families and make a better life for all of them.
  3. This is supported by the fact that in any given year, approximately 2 million visits to the emergency rooms are recorded and reported to the proper authorities. (Source: CDC, 2010)
  4. 308 million out of 310 million people every year do not go to the emergency room because of a reported assault or 99.35% of all Americans. (Unreported assaults drive this number higher obviously but they also are not reported in the emergency rooms)
This is not to suggest that we live in a Pollyanna-ish/Rebecca of Donnybrook Farm/Dr. Panglossian world where everyone wears rose-colored glasses and sings kumbaya with every citizen in town at dusk holding hands around the local maple tree in the town square in Whoville.

We don't. Humans never have and never will be devoid of human emotions, sin, demons, psychological disorders that lead to dangerous assaults on other people for whatever reason.

But to suggest we have a police state in America where white cops are running roughshod over black neighborhoods all over the country, as the news media seems to suggest with their round-the-clock news coverage and analysis is quite frankly ridiculous.

It is also very harmful and deleterious to getting at the root causes of the things that are causing unrest in the first place such as poverty; lack of jobs for unskilled workers; failure to complete educations which would alleviate the poverty in the first place; drug abuse; decline of the nuclear family not only in lower-income black communities but across racial lines and a loss of personal responsibility for the common weal and a sense of duty and honor to conduct your life in an exemplary manner for others to follow.

These are the core issues that no single federal program can solve or cure. We have spent trillions of dollars since the beginning of the Great Society in 1965 under LBJ perhaps over $22 trillion when measured in current 2014 inflation-adjusted amounts according to some estimates...and yet the problem of poverty remains.

To further focus the attention on the matter at hand, the incidents of white police brutality against black youth resisting arrest, consider these striking figures and facts from the Bureau of Justice Statistics department in the US Department of Justice in 2011, 'Homicide Trends in the US 1980-2008' *

Most murders were intra-racial. (as opposed to inter-racial or attacks on people of another race)

From 1980 through 2008—
 84% of white victims were killed by other whites 
 93% of black victims were killed by other blacks 

Sorta puts the dagger in the heart of the argument that there is a massive wave of inter-racial warfare going on in America today from both sides. The vast majority of crime is committed within racial boundaries, not outside of them.

People of the same race tend to assault other people of their same race because they usually attack, in order: 1) their spouse; 2) their family; 3) their neighbors and 4) people they know.

Putting cold hard numbers on such tragedies show that 15,000 people died in homicide attacks in 2010 in America. That is a terrible number that is still way too high for any civilized society in the 21st century but to put it into more narrow perspective, that represents .0004838 % of the entire population each year.

Close to half of those homicide deaths were black victims which is way out of proportion to the black share of the roughly 16% of the national population. But they are not being killed disproportionately by white cops or white people. They are being killed by other blacks, people whom they probably know.

By comparison, hardly any assaults are reported as women on other women of any race. All assaults and homicides reported for races other than white or African-American such as for Asians or hispanics amount to about 2.3% of the total each year.

Maybe women and non-white and non-black people are just less hostile than white and black males in America. Who knows?

None of this is intended to minimize the grave issues of any misconduct that may occur in any police department around the nation. Nor is it intended to ignore the very real sense of mistrust many in the African-American community have towards law enforcement or the legal system.

We will say this though based on personal experience: Being a cop in any city or jurisdiction is one of the toughest jobs anyone can have.

We had the chance to intern in the Hennepin County Police Department in Minneapolis, MN during the summer of 1975 for 2 months and we saw things that you never see on any dramatized police or law and order show on television.

One thing that has stuck in our mind ever since was the sign that we saw over the door during a summer internship in 1975 in the Hennepin County Police Department locker room for the cops that was the last thing they saw every day before heading out on patrol.

'Remember: You Have 2 Seconds To Interpret the US Constitution.....and the Supreme Court has 6 months'

That goes for any white cop, black cop, asian cop or hispanic cop on any law enforcement force in the nation. Think about that the next time you see any story about cops and crime in the news. Put yourself in the place of a patrolman or woman who goes out on patrol in the evenings trying to make sure that the community is safe for you to walk in and conduct your business every day.

It is not an easy job. Ask the police and the firefighters who risked their lives on 9/11 or during the Boston Marathon bombing to protect the rest of us why they do it and they will tell you because 'it is the right thing to do'.

The intent of this post is to try to bring some sense of perspective to the overall trends in assaults and homicides in the US today as they are and as they have been reported.  Our hope and prayer is that maybe, just maybe we can then really have an intelligent, civil and coherent discussion about what would have to take place not only in terms of federal, state or local government spending programs but among the various eleemosynary groups and individual acts of mission in these affected communities so that real progress can be made.

It is not going to be easy. Because if just spending more money in the affected areas was the 'Ultimate Solution', we would have solved the problem already. It is a complicated and multi-variegated problem on many levels with no easy way out.

We would like to see nothing less than the eradication of poverty in America and see everyone take the opportunity to take full advantage of the enormous opportunities and freedom this country has to offer anyone who chooses to do so.

Maybe then we would see everyone of all races singing kumbaya around the tree in the town square every night.

Who wouldn't want to hear that?

We won't get there without having a thoughtful, respectful, coherent discussion about race and all the ancillary issues that go with that, though. If the latest round of 'commentary' (sic) on Ferguson is any indication, we are moving away from coming to a common solution on race in America than closer to one.


*This is simply a tremendous in-depth study of assault and homicide facts in America. Read it cover-to-cover and you will know about this subject than almost every single talking and bobble-head you see on cable or network news and probably most elected officials as well

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