I'm an amateur painter. I recently was struck by a photo taken by John Minchillo of four men protesting the death of George Floyd in front of a burning building and decided to paint it.
I had hours to look into the eyes of the shirtless man and his literal "brothers-in-arms" and could see their pain and anger.
While the killing was tragic and worthy of (peaceful) protest, I became angry for a different reason.
These men, and many like them, have been driven to take part in increasingly violent protests because they fully and unquestionably believe that black men are disproportionally being killed by police due to police bias.
They see daily stories the media, educators and activist groups telling them this is true.
But is it true?
A part of being an agnostic is to not rely on "faith" alone to form a belief but to first examine evidence both in support and opposition.
The media and activists routinely show evidence in support that unarmed black men are being killed by police. Every few months when one occurs, we immediately are bombarded by videos and outrage. We rarely hear of white men being killed so naturally we assume that they rarely are.
Let's consider now the evidence in opposition:
According to the Washington Post database, the police fatally shot 9 unarmed blacks and 19 unarmed whites in 2019 or a ratio of 2.1 white people for every black person killed. Since there are about 4.8 white people for every black person in the US, this suggests that unarmed Blacks are about 4.8/2.1 = 2.3 times PER CAPITA more likely to be killed than Whites. However, since the number of unarmed people killed per year is very small (down by more than half since 2015), this ratio changes considerably year-by-year.
As there are about 30 times as many armed people killed by police per year than unarmed, ratios of racial differences is more stable and statistically useful.
Another article by the Washington Post shows that, armed or not, Blacks are killed also around 2.5 times PER CAPITA as Whites. Data: Black 32/Million, Hispanics 24/Million and Whites 13/Million. (Asians rarely get shot)
If we stop here, as the Washington Post does, we only know half of the story.
What they (purposely) don't say are the ratio of crime by race! (why?)
The US Office of Justice Program data shows that:
It is assumed that the number of potentially life-threatening encounters with police are roughly proportionate to the number of arrests. If so, it would be expected that Blacks have 2-4 times as many chances to be shot and killed by police. This is comparable to the 2.1 and 2.5 ratio we see above in the black/white ratio of deaths of unarmed and armed people.
This means that police are not disproportionately killing Blacks as the shooting rate per-capita disparity is more than accounted for by the number of chances that blacks get involved with the police (while doing violent things)
Why does the media and outrage only follow the shooting of unarmed black men and not white men? Can you name a single one of the 19 unarmed white men shot and killed last year? Why not?
I believe it is to maintain the false narrative that black men are especially in danger from (mostly white) police. It angers me that daily the media, I assume knowingly, repeats this for economic and political gain. Instead of pushing the false narrative, we should be focusing our energy on finding ways to reduce crime by all people and to reduce the chances the police end up killing the people they try to arrest.
Activism and championing the causes of those that are suffering is a noble and humanistic endeavour. We must also be careful to examine the facts that underlie our beliefs so not to be cause of more suffering.