Over the past 48 hours, news and social media have been flooded with two separate grotesque accounts of police shooting black victims: Alton Sterling, 37, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile, 32, in Minnesota.
These shootings were accompanied by grotesque video evidence — as was the case for 12-year-old Tamir Rice, 22-year-old John Crawford, and 43-year-old Samuel DuBose in Ohio; 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in Chicago; and 50-year-old Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Yet while we look to black people for responses to the latest victim’s death, whether mourning on social media or protesting in city streets for justice, ESPN radio host Bomani Jones shows we’re too often looking at the wrong people.
question is when the day comes that enough white ppl respect our humanity enough to demand this stop. don't ask me what's next. ask them.— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) July 7, 2016
A 2015 report by the National Bar Association, the oldest and largest predominantly black lawyer organization in the country, found that most black and white Americans agree that police treat black people differently — 88 percent and 59 percent, respectively. But the stark difference in the degree to which these attitudes are shared across racial lines should draw concern.
For most African Americans, whether policing practices are racist is not a question. By contrast, a substantial number of white people still aren't convinced.
The results aren’t shocking: According to a Pew Research Survey out this week, 70 percent of African Americans said racial discrimination is a barrier to black people getting ahead today, versus only 36 percent of white people who agreed with that statement.
And while 53 percent of white people said America still has work to do to ensure black people achieve equal rights to their white counterparts, white Americans were split on whether equality will be achieved in the future (40 percent) or if enough changes have already been made (38 percent).
But even as progress is made, African Americans and white Americans view life in America in vastly different terms — racist policing included, despite non-video evidence that racial disparities exist.
In a review of FBI data, Vox’s Dara Lind found that law enforcement officers in the US kill black people at disproportionate rates. In 2012, African Americans accounted for 31 percent of victims killed by cops despite comprising only 13 percent of the population. According to ProPublica, black teens were 21 times more likely to be killed by police officers between 2010 and 2012 than their white counterparts.
The NBA report showed that 67 percent of white Americans believe police officers are misunderstood by black people. But African Americans are similarly split (52 percent) on whether this is a matter of how black people perceive police. Racial attitudes toward police cannot be the sole explanation — especially when attitudes toward the police do not absolve police of their actions.
Actor Jesse Williams noted in his powerful BET Awards speech just days ago that people who are not invested in equal rights for black people need to "sit down." But the reality is that white people have to be the ones to stand up, too, and not just as the people African Americans stand up against.
The least white people can do is recognize that inequalities persist. In fact, most of them do. But the next step will be for white people to fix the system they see consistently denying equality along racial lines.