Some of the responses to my recent blogs illustrate a tendency that illustrates a particularly human foible – the tendency to attribute a problem or a success to a single factor. I recently suggested that there were multiple causal factors lying behind fatal police interactions with young blacks, and a number of individuals basically insisted that the sole or the overwhelming cause was the racist excessive use of force and position by police officers and the policing system. There’s no doubt that in many cases, as in Ferguson particularly, such racist excessive use of force exists.
But there are other factors, also important, that have led to situations such as the Michael Brown and Anthony Robinson cases, and they’re continually minimized or dismissed as self-serving conservative or establishment rhetoric.
Young black males commit over a quarter of all homicides in the United States every year, yet those young black males comprise less than one percent of the population. Young white males also have a much higher homicide rate than the average as well, committing 16% of all homicides, but there are six times as many young white males as young black males. It’s not surprising that black males commit the majority of black homicides [roughly 90%], just as 84% of white homicides are committed by whites, because the vast majority of homicides are committed by people who know the victim.
But cities with primarily black police forces, such as Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, have only slightly lower murder rates than the ten worst cities in the U.S., with rates well above the national average, and the murder rates in many cities with high percentages of black police officers are among the highest in the country.
Regardless of all the rhetoric, there are a myriad of factors contributing to the higher percentage of blacks being killed by police than racist police officers. Poverty is an enormous contributing factor. So is the prevalence of dysfunctional and single-parent families, as is a bias against education among all too many young black males, as are poor schools in all too many minority communities, not to mention the gang structure in many inner cities and minority communities.
And, just as there isn’t one cause of the problem, there isn’t going to be one single solution, no matter how politically convenient that might be.