While people mourn the black lives killed by police and police killed at the Dallas shooting Thursday night, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) acknowledged that he, like other white Americans, simply can’t understand what it feels like to be black in America and live with a persistent fear of violence.
"It took me a long time, and a number of people talking to me through the years, to get a sense of this: If you are a normal, white American, the truth is you don't understand being black in America and you instinctively under-estimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk," he said during a CNN interview Friday.
Gingrich is right.
A recent Pew Research Center report found that black and white Americans views are largely worlds apart today. White Americans were evenly split on the state of race relations today: 46 percent say things are good, but 45 percent also say things are bad. By contrast, 61 percent of African Americans believe race relations are bad.
While 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 — the stark difference in the degree to which these attitudes are shared across racial lines is telling.
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.
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.
"It is more dangerous to be black in America," Gingrich said. "It is more dangerous in that they are substantially more likely to end up in a situation where the police don't respect you and you could easily get killed. And sometimes for whites it’s difficult to appreciate how real that is and how it's an everyday danger."