A video of alleged police brutality has been making the rounds on social media recently. In the video, a black female student in a South Carolina school is aggressively pulled from her chair by a white police officer and thrown to the ground. She had been using her phone in class, was asked to hand it over, and refused. She was then asked to go to the principal’s office by several people and refused every time. Then, the police officer was called. He told her to get up and she refused, so he aggressively forced her out of the chair and onto the ground. The officer is now under investigation. While the officer was definitely too rough on the student, this is obviously not a case that warrants national attention. Racial inequality is a problem in the U.S., but this is not what it looks like. This really should not be such a widespread story, but it is.
While this video has been widely shared and discussed, there are numerous cases, in fact, whole trends of social injustice that nobody seems to care about. For instance, on the subject of black students being mistreated by police, people do not seem to care about the victim if the victim is autistic. Last fall, an autistic black sixth-grade student named Kayleb Moon-Robinson was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for kicking over a trash can. Then, when he struggled against a police officer who grabbed him, he was charged with felony assault of a police officer. His case is still pending. While I would expect there to be national outrage over this, the story was not covered by major news networks or spread by many people other than autistic groups and communities. That is a disgrace. Apparently, people’s lives don’t matter if they are autistic. If you need more convincing, here is a story about an autistic woman being held against her will in an institution. Here is a story about an autistic man who was murdered by a police officer. Neither have any kind of national attention.
However, it is not just autistic lives that apparently don’t matter. Unborn lives, and particularly unborn black lives, also apparently do not matter. Black women are five times more likely to have an abortion than white women, and even though blacks comprise only 13% of the population of the U.S., they account for 37% of all abortions. Other relevant statistics are that 69% of pregnancies among blacks are unintended, compared to 40% among whites, and Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, has 80% of its abortion clinics located in minority neighborhoods. Rather than trying to ascertain why this racial disparity exists and come up with a solution, most people deny it is even a problem and allow the murder of infants, especially black infants, to continue unchecked.
Blacks are also disproportionately affected by poverty. In a 2012 study, it was found that 27.2% of blacks are in poverty, compared to 9.7% of whites. During the Great Recession from 2007-2010, the median black household’s income fell 10.1 percent, compared to 5.4 percent for white households. In the aftermath of the recession, the unemployment rate for blacks rose to 15.9%, compared to 8% for whites. In addition, mobility for blacks is about twice the rate of whites. 62.9% of black children whose families were in the bottom fourth of all families by income stayed there as adults, compared with 32.3% of whites. A mere 3.6% of black children from the bottom fourth made it to the top fourth, which is about one-fourth the rate for whites.
Now we get to the criminal justice system. While I believe that most police officers are not racist, it is undeniable that our justice system disproportionately affects blacks. The U.S. has the second highest incarceration rate in the world (second only to the tiny country of Seychelles). Blacks make up 40% of the U.S. prison population, even though they only make up 13% of the general population. Whites, on the other hand, make up 39% of the prison population, and 64% of the general population. 450 whites per 100,000 are incarcerated, as opposed to 2,306 blacks per 100,000. Now, some people will say, (in fact, I have said it myself) that in order to prove that this is a problem, one must prove that either most blacks being incarcerated are innocent, or that whites not being incarcerated are not innocent. However, even if our justice system were perfectly enforcing the law and convicting all criminals while acquitting all innocents, and there is a lot of evidence that it is not, one would still have to ask why more blacks are involved in crime than whites. Any way it is examined, it is an enormous problem.
If we as a nation are going to solve our real issues of injustice with regards to race, we need to focus on those issues. Demonizing the police and using criminals like Michael Brown as examples of victims of brutality does not lend any credibility to this cause, nor does it help solve real issues for real people. The highly publicized cases, such as the recent video I mentioned at the beginning of this article, almost always involve people who are breaking the law or not cooperating with the police. I do not say this to minimize actual police brutality, but to say that solving these issues involves looking at the big picture, not just assuming that all police are racist or encouraging citizens to riot or even murder officers. We will only start solving these issues when we are able to accurately assess them and rationally deal with them, which means reforming how our justice system is run, getting rid of government policies and taxes that keep businesses from hiring poor people, examining societal trends that cause people to turn to crime, implementing better training for police officers, abolishing abortion, and looking at how to increase rehabilitation for former prisoners. Instead of inciting people to violence against the police, many of whom are innocent and simply trying to do their jobs, we need to work toward real solutions. All black lives (and all other lives, including police lives) matter. Not just when they trend on Twitter. Not only when they are reported by the media. All lives always matter. It is time we recognize that and act like it.