Friday, July 8, 2016

The 3-to-1 rule, or Using race to ignore class

A Multi-Level Bayesian Analysis of Racial Bias in Police Shootings at the County-Level in the United States, 2011–2014 is fascinating for what it reveals and what it leaves out—the writers don't think class is worth including, so they provide statistics like this:
The median probability across counties of being {black, unarmed, and shot by police} is 3.49 (PCI95: 1.77, 6.04) times the probability of being {white, unarmed, and shot by police}.
A three to one ratio also applies to how much more likely a black person is to be poor: According to National Poverty Center, "In 2010, 27.4 percent of blacks and 26.6 percent of Hispanics were poor, compared to 9.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 12.1 percent of Asians."

Here are the numbers on race, poverty, and police killing in the US today:

This year, according to the Counted, 279 white people and 136 black people have been killed by the police.

In 2014, according to Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity,19,796,700 white people and 10,145,200 black people were living in poverty.

Since the ratio of black and white people in poverty and the ratio of black and white people who are killed by the police is the same—there are twice as many poor whites and white victims as poor blacks and black victims—here's the question that race reductionists cannot ask: Are black people being disproportionately killed because they're black or because they're disproportionately poor?

The answer matters enormously. The solution to racism is sensitivity training, but the solution to poverty is ending it with Basic Income or some other form of sharing the wealth.

We know that most people in violent encounters with the police are poor, regardless of race. We also know that about 50% of police victims suffer from mental health issues, which are strongly related to poverty. To know whether most black police victims are killed because of their race or their class, we would need numbers comparing poor black victims with poor white victims, middle-class black victims with middle-class white victims, and rich black victims with rich white victims. Without that data, we can't know whether a three to one racial discrepancy is hiding a war on the poor of all races.

But we can conclude that the goal is not to make police killings racially proportionate. The goal is to end them.