I came across an article written by Nate Silver, famous for running the statistics heavy news blog FiveThirtyEight. It was written last year, in the wake of the shooting in Charleston, but remains incredibly relevant to our times. Here’s the big takeaway: black Americans are about 8 times more likely to be murdered than white Americans.
While the homicide rate of White Americans is on par with other wealthy countries (as you can see from the chart), the homicide rate of Black Americans is something you can only find in developing countries – places that Silver elsewhere described as having “vast disorder” – like Rwanda or Myanmar. The article isn’t talking about homicides by police, or really making any statement about the causes of this disparity. But this is a dramatic disparity that speaks volumes about the experience of Black Americans, and about all the ways that that community has been shut out of the various policies and economic changes and positive changes that has led White America to be safer.
If you are a White American, like me, just imagine for a minute that that statistic isn’t a number at all, but an experience that you have lived everyday. Consider how that might change how you feel as more and more videos surface of police officers (the people that are meant to protect you) shooting people that look like you.
Law enforcement is in many ways just the tip of the iceberg of institutional racism that has decimated black communities. But whatever the causes (and they are deeply connected), all Americans must say that this is unacceptable.
(As a side note, a different yet particularly heartrending statistic is that while the US taken altogether has a homicide rate of 5.2 per 100,000, Honduras’ homicide rate is a staggering 87.9 per 100,000)