Friday, September 23, 2016

Why #BlackLivesMatter should be #PoorLivesMatter—now with graphics

The Short Take

1. Because most people killed by the police are poor, police killings are racially proportionate to US poverty: twice as many white people as black are killed by the police and twice as many white people as black people are in poverty.

2. When poor white and black people are killed at the same rate, the problem isn't a war on black people. It's war on poor people.

Three Necessary Facts for Understanding
the Relationship of Poverty and Police Killings in the US

What I've Learned from Two Years Collecting Data on Police Killings: "it’s poor people who are killed by police."

Why Are So Many Black Americans Killed By Police? | FiveThirtyEight: "a greater proportion of black Americans than white Americans live in poverty. Poverty is positively correlated with certain kinds of crime."

To end police violence, we have to end poverty: "For prison, the difference in lifetime risk of incarceration is something like ten times as great for low-class blacks as it is for high-class blacks. If we assume that the police are generally arresting the same people they interact with generally, then something similar likely holds for police shootings."

The Full Take

A casual glance shows police killings are racially disproportionate to our population — though black people are 13.3% of the US, 25% of people killed by the police are black. But that hides another fact: Police killings are racially proportionate to America’s poor. Which makes sense—though there are exceptions from all races, most people killed by the police are poor.
As I write, The Counted reports a total of 654 people killed by the police in 2016—166 black, 322 white, 107 Hispanic, and 59 Other/Unknown. Here’s what that looks like for white and black victims:



The Kaiser Foundation reports 47,021,300 Americans in poverty in 2014–10,145,200 black, 19,796,700 white, 13,214,100 Hispanic, 3,865,300 Other. Here’s what that looks like for white and black people in poverty:




No, I didn’t use the same chart twice. The black and white racial statistics for police victims and Americans in poverty are perfectly proportional. That 2-to-1 ratio doesn’t change: In 2015, the police killed 581 white people and 306 black people. Over a decade, the police killed 2,151 whites and 1,130 blacks.
Including other races reveals a disproportionality, but it’s not about white and black — Hispanics are under-represented, perhaps because police killings tend to be urban while Hispanic poverty is more rural than white or black poverty.




Under “Other” is a neglected fact: American Indians are the group that’s most likely to be killed by the police. The Counted’s breakdown of people per million killed by police:
5.49 Native American
4.16 Black
1.89 Hispanic/Latino
1.63 White
0.56 Asian/Pacific Islander
The racial list of who is most likely to be killed lines up with racial household income: Native Americans are poorest, followed by blacks, then Hispanics, then non-Hispanic whites, then Asian Americans, who have higher incomes than white Americans. The basic rule for police killings: the richer the group, the less likely its members will be killed by police, and the richer the individual, the less likely that person will be killed by the police.

Focusing on black victims hides similar examples of white and Hispanic people killed under outrageous circumstances, like Robert Cameron Redus, pulled over for speeding and shot after saying sarcastically, “Oh, you’re gonna shoot me?” and Derek Cruice, killed while weaponless and wearing nothing but basketball shorts, and Andy Lopez, whose toy gun was mistaken for a real one, and Christopher Roupe, who answered the door holding a WII controller, and Kristiana Coignard, a bipolar 100-pound teen who entered a police station carrying a knife, and Autumn Mae Steele, killed by a cop who was aiming at her dog, and David Kassick, shot lying facedown in the snow after being stopped for an expired inspection sticker, and Brenda Sewell, whose guards withheld her prescription medicine.
We all know there are racist cops, but statistically, they don’t affect the larger picture. Our police are trained to kill when they feel threatened and have little training for dealing with people who don’t follow orders — which explains why half of the people killed by the police have a disability, which ties into most victims being poor: the disabled are twice as likely to be poor.
Martin Luther King almost certainly would agree with the majority of black folks who prefer #AllLivesMatter to #BlackLivesMatter; he once said, “…there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike.”
He said that to support Basic Income as the best way to end poverty, but Basic Income also offers the fastest way to reduce police violence. In a pilot program for Basic Income in Namibia, crime fell by 42%. By reducing inequality and eliminating desperation, we can make a world where all Americans can see police officers as their friends, and the police can be free to protect and serve everyone.


ETA 2: For people who believe the richest black people are more likely to go to prison than the poorest white people: "...the very wealthiest black youth —  those whose household wealth in 1985 exceeded $69,000 in 2012 dollars — had a better chance of avoiding prison than the poorest white youth. Among black young people in this group, 2.4 percent were incarcerated." That's acknowledged in the mistitled Poor white kids are less likely to go to prison than rich black kids - The Washington Post.

ETA 3: For anyone who thinks this means I think racism is "over" or unimportant, of course it's not. So long as there are racist people, racism matters. I agree with everything Adolph Reed Jr. said in Antiracism: vague politics about an nearly indescribable thing, including this:
My position is—and I can’t count the number of times I’ve said this bluntly, yet to no avail, in response to those in blissful thrall of the comforting Manicheanism—that of course racism persists, in all the disparate, often unrelated kinds of social relations and “attitudes” that are characteristically lumped together under that rubric, but from the standpoint of trying to figure out how to combat even what most of us would agree is racial inequality and injustice, that acknowledgement and $2.25 will get me a ride on the subway. It doesn’t lend itself to any particular action except more taxonomic argument about what counts as racism. 

ETA 5:


Less-lethal weapon holders make up only about 20% of deadly force victims in the US. Yet the rates of these deaths alone exceed total known deadly force rates in any European county. 
Knife violence is a big problem in England, yet British police have fatally shot only one person wielding a knife since 2008 – a hostage-taker. By comparison, my calculations based on data compiled by fatalencounters.org and the Washington Post show that US police have fatally shot more than 575 people allegedly wielding blades and other such weapons just in the years since 2013. 
...racism alone can’t explain why non-Latino white Americans are 26 times more likely to die by police gunfire than Germans. And racism alone doesn’t explain why states like Montana, West Virginia and Wyoming – where both perpetrators and victims of deadly force are almost always white – exhibit relatively high rates of police lethality.
...according to the Washington Post data, the states with the highest rates of police homicide per million of population are among the whitest in the country: New Mexico averages 6.71 police killings per million; Alaska 5.3 per million; South Dakota 4.69; Arizona and Wyoming 4.2, and Colorado 3.36. It could be possible that the high rates of police killings in those states are concentrated among their very small black populations—New Mexico 2.5%; Alaska 3.9%; South Dakota 1.9%; Arizona 4.6%, Wyoming 1.7%, and Colorado 4.5%. However, with the exception of Colorado—where blacks were 17% of the 29 people killed by police—that does not seem to be the case. Granted, in several of those states the total numbers of people killed by police were very small, in the low single digits. Still, no black people were among those killed by police in South Dakota, Wyoming, or Alaska. In New Mexico, there were no blacks among the 20 people killed by police in 2015, and in Arizona blacks made up just over 2% of the 42 victims of police killing.