If you are among those who do not believe that race plays a large role in whom commits crimes, whom is among America’s poor, and whom gets stopped by police, treated poorly by police, or killed more often by police, then this article is for you.Professor Phelps responds to a recent study on the likelihood of African Americans to be stopped, treated poorly, or killed by police in comparison to Caucasian Americans. Phelps also suggests a different way of collecting data to account for the large disparities in whom is more likely to commit a crime in the first place and why.
One of Professor Phelps’ most striking lines for me was not one of the many that identified statistics supporting extreme disparities in how African Americans are treated by police in contrast with Caucasian Americans, but a line which discusses the media’s response to police shootings of African Americans; “As with so many areas of social inequality, commentators want to highlight individual racists—identifying which cops show racial prejudice (and, on the other side, which victims “deserved” to be shot)—instead of the broader structural forces shaping unequal outcomes.” The answer is not to demonize the individual police officers whom treat African Americans unjustly based on the color of their skin, but instead to try and fix the system, so that it creates more just and prepared officers (especially when they must make immediate and potentially lethal decisions at any time on the job).
Why is our system unjust? How can we control the many variables that promote injustice? Better yet, how may we promote justice and equality? Why are African Americans more likely to live in poor neighborhoods with higher crime rates? How can we better combat poverty and crime rates in poor neighborhoods? These are the tough questions that Americans of any race should ask themselves. Phelps’ article is a good read, but I would like to see the data she suggests collecting and comparing (hopefully someone will answer Phelps’ call).
Is there evidence of systemic racial bias in police shootings? A new study that says “no” isn’t telling the whole story.