How does the Republican ticket for president feel about all this talk about Black Lives Matter and racial disparities in policing?
On Thursday, September 22, Donald Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, gave a blunt answer: “Trump and I believe there’s been far too much talk about institutional bias and racism within law enforcement.”
While Pence may be annoyed by all of this talk, the truth is people are going to keep talking about institutional bias and racism within law enforcement — because it’s real.
An analysis of the available FBI data by Vox’s Dara Lind shows that US police kill black people at disproportionate rates: They accounted for 31 percent of police killing victims in 2012, even though they made up just 13 percent of the US population. Although the data is incomplete, since it’s based on voluntary reports from police agencies around the country, it highlights the vast disparities in how police use force.
Higher crime in minority communities does not explain away the disparities. A 2015 study by researcher Cody Ross found, “There is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates), meaning that the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.” That suggests something else — such as, potentially, racial bias — is going on.
These are the statistics and experiences that minority communities have been talking about for generations — and that have only recently broken into mainstream discourse due to high-profile police killings, from Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina. And the conversation will continue, whether Trump and Pence like it or not, as long as these types of statistics are the reality of US law enforcement.