(Part 1 of this piece is here.)
To recap, The Disproportionality Argument is a thing that holds:
Since a disproportionate number of Black American people commit crime, all Black people in the United States should be totes okay with being 2nd class citizens. Specifically:
- They should be okay with being presumed guilty and dangerous.
- They should be okay with having their freedom of movement restricted (stop and frisk, pullover traffic stops).
- And they should be okay with being killed or having violence done against them by police in larger numbers than other racial groups
At the core of this theory is the unacceptable “collective guilt”-style belief:
It’s okay for prejudiced people, especially those with power, to ignore their prejudices and infringe on the lives and rights of the people about whom they hold prejudice- as long as the prejudice has some basis in statistical fact.
This is wholly unacceptable, extralegal and UnAmerican.
And it’s also based on a false foundation.
That false foundation is that white people – including cops – have a subconscious or even conscious prejudice that Black people are inherently violent and dangerous because of what they observe of crime news or through their own interactions with Black people.
In other words, the prejudice comes from an accurate perception of what’s going on now.
White people – including cops- don’t have a subconscious or conscious prejudice that “Black people are inherently violent and dangerous” merely because of contemporary disproportionality.
Nor does it come merely from negative personal interactions with individual Black people who were violent or dangerous.
The white prejudice that Black people are inherently violent and dangerous has existed since the start of our society. Since, as it were, the birth of our nation…
This prejudice has existed since the times when a Black person couldn’t walk across a street without permission, let along commit a crime.
It’s existed since the times when a Black person had no civil rights to get violated and no recourse in law when she was victimized, anyhow.
It’s existed since the times white people treated Black people like property- enslaved them, raped them, segregated them and murdered them.
Implicit bias that we hear so much about, is, in part, a vestige of white supremacy.
It’s in our brains because it’s part of our environment, floating around, like water and the air we breath. It’s inherited as surely and as involuntarily as our DNA.
And while everyone in every group has prejudices, none are so consistently and concretely destructive as the ones held by the people in power towards those who aren’t.
This reality cannot be whitewashed anymore with “Yeah, but look at what all those Black kids do in the cities. The stats! The stats!”
The white prejudice of Black people and their “ways” as inherently dangerous and violent, subhuman and suspect, gross and indecent, and definitely, unequivocally, eternally inferior to those of whites, has existed since long before any Black young men were shooting each other in Chicago.
It was irrational in the past. It is irrational now. And if we don’t face it, we cannot solve it.
Which means infringements on Black Americans’ movement and freedom keep going. It means ongoing police brutality, secrecy and extra-legality keep going. It means the hemming in of good, courageous cops by system which does not equip them to optimally do a job that must, to save lives, including their own, be done optimally….keeps going.
We have to admit this root of the problem. Because it is not about this year’s crime numbers it’s far deeper than that.
And as a white person, I can only guess the anger and frustration is about something more than specific recent tragedies. It’s about parents who have spent their lifetimes under a shadow now seeing the lifetimes of their children clouding over in the same way, no hope for change in sight.
Because mistreatment of African Americans hasn’t only been since crack, since Reagan, since zero tolerance, since the 70s, since the 60s, since the post-War since, since the Civil War.
It’s been forever.
White people cannot keep demanding African Americans look at the disproportionate number of crimes committed by a small subset of Black people in this year or that and then stubbornly, indignantly refuse ourselves to look at the disproportionate number of crimes committed against all Black people in all the centuries that we’ve been on this continent.
As if there is no legacy, as if the past doesn’t work as a force shaping the present. Among all the things we’re saying matter these days, shame on us if we don’t include history.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a cop. I don’t know what it’s like to be Black. The only perspective I can really take is one of a writer who believes numbers don’t speak for themselves – meaning anyone who cares to speak for them must take great care in a times of crises to do so responsibly.
If you’re going to come, come correct.
If you’re not, and excuse me for not using capital, but please,do us all a favor, and just zip it the hell up.
Thanks for reading,