Skip to Content

Support MinnPost

Assessing Heather Mac Donald's counter-narrative about blacks and police

Heather MacDonald
Heather Mac Donald

Conservative scholar Heather Mac Donald believes that the Black Lives Matter (BLM) “narrative” describing the police is detrimental to law-abiding African-Americans and based on misleading statistics that exaggerate the role of racism in policing. She laid out that view last week to a luncheon of the Center of the American Experiment, based on facts and arguments developed in her new book, “The War on Cops.”

If you live in a liberal bubble, Mac Donald’s facts and arguments might seem to be coming from the moon. Actually she has been making this argument — using the “war on cops” rhetoric, and updating the facts that she uses to support it — since before Black Lives Matter came into existence. Her 2003 book, “Are Cops Racist?” was subtitled “How the War Against the Police Harms Black Americans.” A large portion of the audience for her Minneapolis talk were police, and she is something of a hero to them. If you were a cop who didn’t consider yourself a racist, you would understand that.

I’m a liberal who tries to break out of the bubble on occasion, which is why I appreciate hearing many of the smart righties to whose views the CAE gives a platform. In a better, more open, honest, truth-seeking world, which seems to slipping further away all the time (see Trump, Donald, death of facticity), we would all go out of our way to expose ourselves, as open-mindedly as we can, to arguments with which we might disagree, and try to treat them with respect nonetheless.

Mac Donald herself isn’t arguing that there are no bad or racist cops, although those cops are not very evident in her “narrative.” I put the word “narrative” in quotes, in this sentence and above, because Mac Donald’s argument is very explicitly meant to rebut what she called the “narrative” of BLM and their “media enablers” (her words). That narrative is that there is an “epidemic of racially-biased police shootings of young black men” of such virulence that “the police are the greatest threat to young black men today.”

If you accept that frame, Mac Donald’s task is greatly simplified. She doesn’t have to argue that there are no racist cops, only that many cops are not racist and that some of the shootings were justified. She doesn’t have to argue that race played no role in the shoot-or-don’t-shoot decisions made in these cases, only that the cops in many of the cases, taking everything into account, believed that the overall circumstances indicated that they were in situations where the shooting was reasonably necessary to save their own or their partners’ lives or the lives of others.

Mac Donald also scores the intellectual honesty points of acknowledging that her “narrative” doesn’t cover all the cases, and that there are some in which the fatal cop shootings of young black men cannot be justified. (I had a chance to ask Mac Donald one question after her talk, so I asked her to comment on the two recent local high-profile police killings of young black men. She said she understood that the evidence indicated that Jamar Clark was trying to get control of an officer’s gun when the officer’s partner shot and killed Clark. The officers in that case were not charged. In the case of Philando Castile, she said she understood that Castile was not pulling out the gun that he possessed. The officer in that case has been charged with manslaughter. She made no comment on the possible role of race in either case.

But back to the “narrative” for a moment. Mac Donald argues that there is lots of good evidence against the BLM narrative, and lots of cases that don’t fit it. For example, she said that there were almost twice as many whites as blacks killed by police officers last year. But police killings of whites don’t get nearly the attention because, she said, they don’t fit the BLM “narrative” that shape the media’s and the nation’s thinking on police shootings.

Of course, according to the last census, the number of whites in America is five times larger than the number of blacks, so, if it’s not racism, why shouldn’t the number of white fatalities of police shootings be five times larger? Mac Donald raised the question and gave her answer:  

“When we’re talking about police activity, the relevant benchmark is crime, not population,” Mac Donald said. “Policing today is data driven. Police go where people are being victimized and that means, unfortunately, police spend more time in black neighborhoods” where the crime rate is highest.

In Chicago, Mac Donald said, where blacks are about a third of the total population, 80 percent of the homicides are committed by blacks, compared to one percent by whites.

I googled for a minute to see if that checked out, and it didn’t. But the numbers I found were from a different year and the difference was small. In 2011, the last full year for which I could find the statistics, of 128 homicides in Chicago broken down by race, blacks represented by far the most killed (75 percent of all victims compared to 5 percent for whites) and the vast majority of killers (71 percent of those convicted for homicide to 4 percent for whites.)

The reasons for this are surely rooted in history, economics, sociology and some other social sciences you can name. And it doesn’t exactly prove everything Mac Donald might like it to prove, but it does demonstrate that a lot more African-Americans are being killed by other African-Americans than by white cops.

Does this demonstrate anything fundamental about the questions that divide Mac Donald and the Black Lives Matter “narrative”? Not really. If we’re talking about whether there is some racialized thinking that leads to some officers being more likely to pull the trigger if the target is black, it doesn’t change things much if we bring in numbers, by race, of who is killing and getting killed when no police officer is involved.

But I suppose it does support her implication that if someone wants to reduce the number of killings of African-Americans, the effort should focus on stopping the main murderers of African-Americans.

In her presentation, Mac Donald did not bring up the issue of whether the race of a driver is a factor in whether or not they get pulled over by police. Some of the tragedies in the larger pattern (including the Philando Castile case) start with an officer pulling over a black driver, often for reasons that seem small or nonexistent, leading to the impression that they are being accused of “driving while black.” But she was asked about it during the Q and A, and her answer was unconvincing and relatively incoherent.

Personally, I have friends who are totally convinced that they get pulled over much more often than white friends do, and with no more cause. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, one of only two black Republicans elected to the Senate since Reconstruction, gave compelling testimony on the Senate floor just this past summer about how he had been pulled over by police seven times in the past year, never because of anything illegal he was doing. (I wrote about it at the time and video of his Senate floor remarks is accessible here.) Personally, I’ve never been pulled over when I was doing nothing wrong, and I’ve been driving longer than Sen. Scott.  

Get MinnPost's top stories in your inbox

Related Tags:

About the Author:

Comments (57)

Amazing

"many cops are not racist and that some of the shootings were justified."

In what other circumstances is it acceptable to say "some" of the shootings are justified? That admits that some aren't. Yet the Right's answer is to focus on BLM. The quickest way to stop the BLM protests is to stop the unjustified killings.

My son has been a policeman for over 10 years. He has earned 4 Life Saving awards and has never fired his gun. His comment on this issue was "I don't agree with everything BLM says, but even though some of my colleagues won't like this what police have to do is stop covering up for bad shoots."

Most of BLM and the larger Black community would cheer a sincere outreach from the police to work together to end unjustified shootings by police.

cae

Since when do "scholars" title their work The War on Cops...

Probability

Racism: "The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races."

"the vast majority of killers (71 percent of those convicted for homicide to 4 percent for whites.)"

It always amazes me how often people want to misuse statistics in the name of proving Racism. I mean even Jessie Jackson understands probability. “There is nothing more painful to me … than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.” That is unless you believe he is Racist against Blacks?

Now the unfortunate reality is that minorities often live in high crime areas, drive older cars that have problems, commit some crimes at higher rates, etc and this leads to them being pulled over more often. Don't complain to the police, be thankful that they are being vigilant. Instead complain to those in your community who give it a bad name.

And yes there are some bad officers, but that number is miniscule compared to the number of gang members who spoil the reputation of neighborhoods, communities, etc. Let's focus on the real problem.

RE: Jessie Jackson

No, I do not believe he is racist against blacks. But I do believe he - like all of us - is affected by unconscious levels of implicit bias and that that's the source of the pain he feels at his own relief that the person following him is white.

And no, racism and implicit bias are not the exact same thing.

Rational Thinking

Is Implicit Bias another term for Rational Thinking? In Jesse Jackson's case.

He knows that facts and statistics indicate that he is much more likely to be violently mugged by a Black man than a White man in the situation he is facing, and even less likely to be violently mugged by a woman. So based on this data:

- he thinks he is safe if a woman approaches
- he is a little nervous if a White man approaches
- he is very nervous if a Black man approaches

To me this is logic based bias and is very healthy. Remember to always be aware of your surrounding when walking downtown at night. :-)

Now this does not mean people should take fight or flight action in the higher risk possibility, but you should be more aware. To do otherwise could end very badly.

Implicit Bias

There are lots of articles out there that explain what implicit bias is. You might do well to read one or two of them so that you can discuss the topic knowledgeably.

Yes

I have read them. And yes every human has preconceived views / beliefs regarding people and situations that are formed based on one's role models, new sources, experiences, education, etc. Often this is part of becoming wise. Of course one must always be open to challenging their existing knowledge in order to continue to learn and be flexible/effective in different situations.

Let's reverse this for discussion. A Black driver has an implicit bias towards Police officers. In his mind he is certain that they are going to suspect him of things and are out to get him. How do you think that affects his behaviors, communication style, driving skills, etc?

My opinion is that it drives their fight/ flight response which of course escalates given situations.

Now I agree that mature well trained offices should be able to de-escalate these situations most of the time. But I am not willing to risk the officer's life to do so every time. Some times bad things happen.

Missing a word there I think

interesting post, but the last paragraph seems to be missing something:

"U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, one of only two Republicans elected to the Senate since Reconstruction,"

well I know there are more than two Republicans elected to the Senate since Reconstruction, maybe it's from South Carolina, but perhaps, in the context of the paragraph, it's that he's a black Republican.

Heather MacDonald

You wrote:

"In her presentation, MacDonald did not bring up the issue of whether the race of a driver is a factor in whether or not they get pulled over by police. Some of the tragedies in the larger pattern (including the Philando Castile case) start with an officer pulling over a black driver, often for reasons that seem small or nonexistent, leading to the impression that they are being accused of “driving while black.” But she was asked about it during the Q and A, and her answer was unconvincing and relatively incoherent."

You might conclude that it was unconvincing, but to claim it was incoherent is malfeasance.

The question came from Peter Bell and MacDonald clearly stated that blacks suffer disproportionately because of the color of their skin. Were you no longer in attendance when she answered.

She went on to say that black males pay a price for the high level of crimes committed by black criminals.

Why would you claimy that her answer was incoherent?

No one should want to cover up a

"bad shooting" by cops! Police have a terribly hard job where a traffic stop turns into a life and death situation in seconds. There will always be shootings involving police because that is the nature of stopping crime but unwarranted shootings must be exposed. My problem with BLM movement is their rush to judge in cases like Ferguson, after a thorough investigation the "hands up, don't shoot" narrative was rebuked. Marching chanting "pigs in blanket, fry em like bacon" doesn't help their cause either. We as a society better back our police, appreciate all they do for us and understand they have a job most of us wouldn't want. That being said, bad shootings by police must be brought into the light.

I believe in high crime areas that there are many more stops for minor violations than in my neighborhood because there are many more police patrolling those areas. I would hope like hell that police are sending more cops to high crime areas than non high crime areas, if not we need new directives for our police! With more crime there comes more police, with more police more stops, seems reasonable to me.

Black Lives Matter

One thing we know for certain is the BLM folks immediately assume the police are in the wrong –long before any facts have been ascertained, and they immediately launch demonstrations and propaganda attacks. They also allow anarchists to infiltrate their group –people who are motivated to provoke violence, which they then hope to blame on the police. The BLM folks also refuse to accept the results of a jury trial. When the facts are shown and the narrative (e.g. "Hands up, don't shoot") is proven to be wrong, BLM refuses to accept the facts.

This reminds me of Trump's flip-flopping on the Electoral College. First, he didn't like it, now he does. If the EC overturns his election, he'll go back to denouncing it. People on the Left and on the Right are polarizing, and only want to believe that which supports their pre-conceived ideas. The BLM people "know" in advance the police are guilty because they tie specific events to a broader theme. That broad theme may have some merit, but you don't decide the guilt or innocence of anyone –police or civilian– based on statistics.

I have lived in the black community and I know many people there appreciate the role of the police are more concerned about violence coming from their own community rather than from the police. If and when the police are in the wrong, they should be dealt with accordingly. But don't assume, before the evidence is revealed, that every time an arrest goes awry the police have done something wrong. I am hoping the Trump administration has some solutions. The GOP has had a policy of benign neglect, and the Democrats take the black vote for granted and offer lip service to the issues. The crime, HS graduation rates, out of wedlock birth and other trends in the black community have gotten worse since the 1960s, correct? The problem isn't solving itself, and so Government needs to step in. If Trump can do it, more power to him.

Just to throw some fuel on the fire…

I’m inclined to think there’s at least a bit of truth to both sides of the argument.

Police need to – and we want them to – spend more time and resources in areas with high crime rates than in areas with low crime rates. That the high-crime areas tend to be poor and minority is undeniable, but fixing poverty, housing discrimination and several other problems that lead to that sort of segregation by both race and income is beyond the capabilities of even the best police officers. They’re societal issues, and because, as a society, we don’t really want to deal with those issues and their causes, we often ask the police to keep a lid on situations they did not create and can’t fix. An acquaintance, a “beat cop” of more than a decade in another Midwestern city, has said that much of the time he’s dealing mostly with people of little education, no social skills, and who are often under the influence of some illegal or improvident substance.

It appears to me that the police are no better (and no worse) than the rest of us. They volunteer to do a really hard job, and since most police organizations are authoritarian to begin with, police officers tend to be authoritarian personalities themselves. Most officers don’t respond positively to having their authority questioned. I didn’t either, when I was teaching, but I wasn’t allowed to shoot people I viewed as threatening.

What’s viewed as threatening varies with the person and the circumstances, but in general, I’d like to see the institutional bias of police forces shift away from deadly force to something less lethal and permanent. Shooting someone ought to be the action of LAST resort, after everything else has been tried, or in those split-second situations, when there seems to be no other choice. Instead, it appears that resorting to deadly force is – too often – the action of choice simply because other approaches appear to be unsuccessful, and when it is, if not the first choice, then one very far up in the hierarchy from a last resort. Lack of cooperation, for example, when an officer’s life is not being directly threatened, doesn’t strike me as a reasonable justification to kill someone.

Are most cops murderers? Of course not. Are there some who are? I’d argue yes, I believe there are. What Ms. MacDonald failed to address, apparently, is the number of unarmed civilian deaths at the hands of police. Are most cops racist? I don’t think so. Are some of them racist? Yes, I believe so. Ms. MacDonald doesn’t seem to want to address that issue, either.

Excellent post Ray

Just a couple of points. First, being "unarmed" is a bit of a red herring. Both Jamar Clark and Michael Brown were unarmed, but that didn't mean they weren't dangerous and they both put those officers in a position that left them no choice but to use their weapon.

If I were a police officer and it were my job to "protect", I'd focus my attention on those individuals statistics tell me are most likely to commit crimes. So I'd look closely at males, teens and young adults, and blacks. Many young black males turn to crime based on a whole lot of factors mentioned by Ray and others. But it's not a cop's job to fix those. He has a very different and difficult role to fill.

Profiling

…is a troublesome issue, and a good argument can be made that it's simply an acknowledgement of reality, statistical and anecdotal. If I'm the one being profiled, and pulled over without reason because of it, I'd object just as strongly as some in the African-American community have objected, and not without reason. It's another instance of an issue being rather more complicated than slogans on either side would suggest.

I grew up and lived for more than 40 years in Ferguson, MO, where Michael Brown was killed. Because I'm an increasingly elderly white male, I was never once pulled over in Ferguson, and more importantly, was completely oblivious to the systematic exploitation of black Ferguson residents by both the police and the local court. It's a perverse and blatantly discriminatory system that was never reported in local media, and as a middle-aged (at the time) white guy, I never experienced it. Thought I moved away nearly 20 years ago, I was as surprised as anyone to find out just how corrupt municipal policing had become, not only in Ferguson, but in quite a few neighboring St. Louis County communities.

I'll cede your point about Brown, given what I've read about the incident in multiple accounts. I'm less persuaded about Jamar Clark. Even with the circumstances as described, he was already on the ground, and it still seems reasonable to me that he could have been shot, if that was deemed necessary, to wound and/or incapacitate, rather than in the head, which is almost always going to be fatal. I understand that pinpoint accuracy isn't possible at night, with a subject 10 yards away, and that police training is generally not amenable to the TV show "shoot the gun out of his hand" scenario, but even at night, when the subject is literally an arm's length distant, something other than a head shot ought to be not only possible, but expected.

Finally, Brown and Clark don't explain Philando Castile, who appears to have done precisely as he was instructed to do, and was killed at point-blank range anyway.

That said, it's a hard job that cannot be made risk-free. Were I a police officer, I'd be doing just as you suggested – checking statistics and listening closely to reports from colleagues.

The Clark case, in

The Clark case, in particular, may have been a "justified" shooting, but only because the officers blundered themselves into a corner where they gave themselves little recourse.

Exactly this

It was a cascade of bad decisions that could have been stopped at any time. But, because the cops compounded on those bad decisions, they may have forced themselves into a deadly situation. I'm not saying that Clark was innocent, or even that in the end, the shot wasn't justified. But I am saying that the entirety of the situation was completely unjustified, and should lead to some punishment to the officers (firing, at the very least) for being incompetent. It might not have been murder, but it was certainly manslaughter.

Policing IS a very hard job. Officers should be selected accordingly and paid accordingly. They should be supported for doing the right things, and fired for doing the wrong things. "Good" cops that cover bad cops are not good cops, either, and should be fired. Mistakes should be rare because poor judgement should be a trait that makes an individual unqualified for the job. That said, even the smartest, most well-trained people will make mistakes. But mistakes are not necessarily "doing wrong", so officers should be supported even when they make mistakes.

Finally, officers are civilians. The use of the word "civilian" for non-police civilians surrounds a mentality that they are not us, which is something that should absolutely be scrubbed out of every civilian police force in this country.

The last point is a good one

The United States has two codes of justice: civilian and military.
Members of the armed forces are subject to the military code; everyone else (including the police) is subject to the civilian code of law, and thus legally a civilian.
I agree that too often some police view themselves as an occupying army, and act accordingly.

Yep

Yep, just normal civilians like us... Except they are willing to risk death daily for a moderate wage.

Which of us actual normal civilians are willing to do this?
Are we willing to walk into a domestic dispute to save the family?
Are willing go to a party to help a woman who has been injured?
Are we willing to walk up to a car in the dark to question the driver?
Are we willing to try and arrest someone jacked up on drugs?

Now it is terrible that sometimes officers and/or suspects get shot, but this is not a normal job where mistakes mean that someone gets the wrong email, your suit case goes to the wrong city, a part is not installed correctly. etc. Do you expect perfection and zero mistakes at your job? Why do you expect perfection and zero mistakes in the high risk, high urgency and highly volatile police world?

Who said otherwise?

That they are doing a hard job has not been disputed. That they do it for "moderate wage" is not disputed. That they are not perfect and that they shouldn't be expected to be perfect is not disputed.

What has been said is that cops are civilians. Period. End of story. They are us.
What has been said is that they should be expected to make very, very, very few mistakes, and that those mistakes should err on the side of life, not death.
What has been said is that they should be expected to hold high moral expectations, and should be paid appropriately.

Cops, like it or not, are doing a job they CHOOSE to do. That does not make them non-civilians, and it does not make them judge, jury, and executioner in any case they feel slightly uncomfortable in. Yep, they put their lives on the line. That does not mean that they get to put anyone else's life on the line without clear justification.

Agree

"those mistakes should err on the side of life, not death"

I agree they should protect their lives and come home to their families. :-) No one should die at work, and certainly not when they are protecting us...

They actually are more than just citizens in this role, they are employees of the city, state, etc. Just as soldiers are. I want them protected against liability / prosecution in all but the most egregious errors, so they are willing to challenge potential wrong doers, enter domestic disputes, run towards the gun fire, etc. Rather than walking by for fear of getting thrown in jail or sued.

First priority

I would argue that their first priority is not THEIR life. It is the life and safety of the public. Otherwise, we wouldn't need police, as it would be every man for themselves. If they weren't willing to die at work, they should have chosen another profession.

Really

Really, you think these civil servants should take the chance and let someone shoot them because on a very very very rare occasion an innocent may get injured?

Please remember that there are millions and millions of police/civilian interactions each year and only a handful of fatal errors / abuses.

By your comment, it is sounding more the military all the time. "Go take that hill for the good of the country." :-)

Certain

Are you certain that you don't consider them to be soldiers? Even soldiers are killed by friendly fire, operational errors, etc.

Now I am fine with having them risk their life in the name of duty. But asking them to just take a bullet and not shoot the person who they believe is trying to harm them seems like an extreme request.

You have a way

of taking a comment waaaay past the limits of reasonable interpretation. Way beyond. Hyperbole isn't a communication tool, Mr. Appelen.

Clear

Your comment seemed cold and clear. This does not seem like a job requirement that any other citizen has, except possibly a soldier and maybe a firefighter. And I respect the right of all three personnel to do what is necessary to stay alive for their families.

"If they weren't willing to die at work, they should have chosen another profession."

And only if they truly screw up, should they get in trouble. But the benefit of the doubt goes to them, until they are proven guilty in court.

T2: Object

What would you object to?

Personally I would be very angry with my peers who poisoned the well for me. Sure I would be frustrated at being pulled over, but given the goal of improving law and order, and saving the lives of my friends, family and neighbors... It would be an acceptable inconvenience.

Now if my peers got their act together and stopped being much more likely to join gangs and commit violent crimes... And my neighborhood became as law abiding and safe as others, then I would expect the nuisance stops to drop off.

As for Philando Castile, that was a terrible error. And the officer is facing charges for it.

Statistics abuse

One cannot use anecdotes to refute conclusions based on statistics.
Given that most of her background (B.A. and M.A.) is in English, capped by a J.D., I'm not surprised at the level of her reasoning.
-----
And a minor rejoinder to Ray-- police officers are supposed to have training that should enable them to behave with more control in dangerous situations. We DO expect more of them.

Left out of this discussion

I noticed that any consideration of implicit bias appears to have been left out of this discussion which instead seems centered on racism. And that's a significant oversight, because racism is a much more conscious attitude while implicit bias can operate "under the radar" and out of the awareness of all of us - whether cop or civilian.

I found myself realizing this lack as I was reading through Ray Schoch's comment and his thoughts on the authoritarian leaning of many police officers as well as his observation that the choice of deadly force appears to be higher on the hierarchy of chosen response than it probably should be in any given situation. Pair those two things with unacknowledged implicit bias, and it's not hard to see why black men are justified in their concern over getting shot.

Implicit bias can exist even in the absence of overt or conscious racism, and we all need to learn to accept that. Even cops. Maybe especially cops.

Article

Appreciate your article as I listened to MPR''s rebroadcast for the same reasons you described. After the speaker made several points contrary to reality, turned off the radio.

Curious

I'm curious what those "contrary to reality" points were that turned you off.

Ms. Mac Donald is paraphrased

Ms. Mac Donald is paraphrased as saying that “many cops are not racist and that some of the shootings were justified.” I highly doubt that this is what she says. I guess she wants to present an idea that MOST cops are not racist and MOST of the shootings were justified. Otherwise, it does sound like a problem.

But I am glad Mr. Black agreed that “a lot more African-Americans are being killed by other African-Americans than by white cops,” which makes it unreasonable for BLM to concentrate on police shootings as a way to save black lives (just as it would be unreasonable to concentrate on burning candles as a source of global warming). And since BLM does concentrate on police shootings, the logical conclusion should be that their goal is different than saving black lives. It is also totally logical that for police officers the major deciding factor is perceived danger and perceived danger is based on crime rates, not general population percentage. So the reason blacks are indeed stopped more often than whites is not racism and not bias but a probability theory and experience. So while there are definitely racist cops (just like there are racist businessmen, custodians, journalists, politicians, liberals, blacks, and any other population group we can think of), it is not an institutional problem.

Mr. Brandon, what statistics are you referring to in your post? And yes, police officers are supposed to behave with more control in dangerous situations; the problem is that they have disproportionally too many of those dangerous situations.

Ms. Curoe, can you please list “points contrary to reality” that Ms. Mac Donald made?

Fortunately we do not live in

Fortunately we do not live in a zero-sum world, where politically-minded individuals can and do care about multiple issues simultaneously. Having personally attended many BLM events and spoken with many individuals at them, I can assure you that there are many people who are a 'part of BLM' (whatever that means) who do work preventing violence in their communities through a wide variety of different initiatives such as youth work with troubled teenagers. They're not marching in the street and blocking freeways while they do it because it is a fundamentally different type of work with a different goal.

To criticize these individuals for also caring about eliminating inequalities in policing is quite frankly, absurd, and evidence of how little you actually have bothered to learn about the people you are criticizing. It's amazing to me any good actually comes in this world when attitudes such as yours are so prevalent - that people trying to solve tangible real world problems are harshly criticized for not caring about other issues in the specific way and degree others think they should. They are doing both, and your zero-sum attitude isn't accurate or actually making anything better in the world.

Martin Luther King Jr. said that 'injustince anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,' not: 'certain types of injustice are unimportant (and the people facing them should just sit down and be quiet) because other types of injustice are more common.'

Dr. King

Well said, Max, and I especially like that last paragraph.

Thank you, Max ...

... for your excellent reply. "We do not live in a zero-sum world" and what you wrote in your second paragraph really hit home.

Statistics and Data

I'd like to provide some statistics, data, and statements for you, since you seem unconvinced that racial profiling in policing is even remotely a problem. This is just what I could find for 5 U.S. cities:

1. Baltimore: In 2016 the Justice Department issued a scathing report on racial inequities in the City of Baltimore's police department that noted numerous unconstitutional practices and violations of federal law resulting from systematic internal deficiencies in the organization. Here is a sample finding:

"Baltimore police stopped pedestrians more than 300,000 times from January 2010 to May 2015. It said the precise number of those stops was “likely far higher due to underreporting.” The department found that most stops by the police were made in predominantly black neighborhoods without “reasonable suspicion.” African-Americans accounted for 95 percent of the 410 individuals B.P.D. stopped at least 10 times. One African-American man in his mid-50s was stopped 30 times in less than four years. Despite these repeated intrusions, none of the 30 stops resulted in a citation or criminal charge.”

2. Cleveland: In 2014, the Justice Department found during a two-year civil rights investigation that uncovered a pattern of “unreasonable and unnecessary use of force” that resulted in dangerous and reckless behavior by officers, including regular use of excessive force with lethal and non-lethal weapons. The report found that the Cleveland police routinely used stun guns inappropriately, punched and kicked unarmed people and shot at people who posed no threat. The episodes were often unreported and not investigated. Cleveland, as you may recall, was the notorious location of the shooting of a 12-year old boy, Tamir Rice, who was playing with a replica gun and was gunned down within two seconds of police arriving on the scene.

3. San Francisco: A report by retired federal and state judges and the San Francisco district attorney’s office found “racial disparities regarding S.F.P.D. stops, searches, and arrests, particularly for Black people.” The judges, working with experts from five law schools, including Stanford Law School, found that “the disparity gap in arrests was found to have been increasing in San Francisco.” (Officers in San Francisco were previously revealed to have traded racist and homophobic text messages, and those working in the prison system had reportedly staged and placed bets on inmate fights.)

In San Francisco, “although Black people accounted for less than 15 percent of all stops in 2015, they accounted for over 42 percent of all non-consent searches following stops.” This proved unwarranted: “Of all people searched without consent, Black and Hispanic people had the lowest ‘hit rates’ (i.e., the lowest rate of contraband recovered).” In 2015, whites searched without consent were found to be carrying contraband at nearly two times the rate as blacks who were searched without consent.

4. Ferguson: A scathing 2015 Justice Department report for that the Ferguson Police Department's approach to law enforcement 'reflects and reinforces' racial bias, including stereotyping and direct discriminatory intent,' and that court and police practices disproportionately effect African Americans. African Americans are more than twice as likely as white drivers to be searched during vehicle stops even after controlling for non-race based variables such as the reason the vehicle stop was initiated, but are found in possession of contraband 26% less often than white drivers, suggesting officers are impermissibly considering race as a factor when determining whether to search. The report found a pattern of unlawful conduct that violates the 1st, 4th, and 14th amendments to the constitution and federal law. The report also found that city law enforcement practices were widely shaped by revenue needs from the city and not actual public safety needs.

5. Chicago: A 2016 Police Accountability Task Force report found that “black and Hispanic drivers were searched approximately four times as often as white drivers, yet data show that contraband was found on white drivers twice as often as black and Hispanic drivers.” The police department’s own data, the report found, “gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color.”

Logic and human nature

Mr. Millon, at some point I was trying to find some evidence of BLM’s dealing with black on black violence… and I couldn’t. On the other hand, how can blocking freeways help prevent bad cops from killing people? However, maybe BLM should march in Chicago and thank police officers and ask them to come to troubled neighborhoods and assure them that they have support of black people in doing their jobs of preventing crime and catching criminals. I am sure that would be helpful, much more than closing highways. Or maybe BLM may have a campaign to stop rappers from glorifying violence and drugs. Plenty of ways to help black communities that do involve PR… and I have not seen anything.

You may also want to read some psychology books about people’s behavior which will reinforce Ms. Mac Donald’s assertion that cops kill black people not because they are racists but because they perceive them as a much greater danger based on true crime statistics. So the way to reduce the black deaths from the cops is to reduce the black crime – it is just simple logic.

Now about your examples. I don’t know if you actually read Fergusson DOJ’s report but I did – the entire thing to find it for myself (so I do bother to learn). And there was not single evidence there that blacks were targeted because they were blacks. There are plenty of facts there supporting an idea that people were targeted to get more money for the city and, because most people in Ferguson and around are black, blacks were paying more in this scheme but that was not based on racism. And all your other examples are just statistics. But statistics does not prove causation. 90% of jail population is male – would you insist that the reason is sexism?

MLK is correct – injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. So injustice to cops (falsely accusing them of racism) is a threat to justice for all of us, including blacks.

Protest

I think BLM could gain a lot credibility and accomplish a lot more if they started protesting in front of the gang houses of Mpls. Just imagine the stress they could cause gang management by standing there with all the news cameras around them...

And yet they stake out the police station, highways, governor's mansion, etc.

Kahneman and Tversky

The standard psychological source on human choice behavior.
I've read it; have you?

Black Lives Matter doesn't

Black Lives Matter doesn't deal with so-called 'black-on-black' violence, because it's a group of activists who, when together under that name, are focused on ending racial injustices in police killings. That's it. That's the reason. It's not complicated.

People who are involved in Black Lives Matter DO those things in their communities, just not under the label of the group called 'Black Lives Matter' because that is not the focus of the group. They do it under the label of other organizations, or independently. That is why you don't see it from 'official' Black Lives Matter sources, because it's not the actual focus of the organization. I can't believe I am having to explain this to you. It's like strutting up to a scientist who is part of a team of researchers studying breast cancer and saying, 'You really should be focused on other forms of cancer that are more deadly.' No one would say that, because it's preposterous.

As for the statistics and Ferguson, let me simplify this for you:

1. The statistics I provided, which are just a sampling of many other similar studies undertaken by reputable experts, show widespread institutional biases in police departments across the country. Sometimes these studies provide strong evidence (such as the evidence I listed above that these practices continue despite actual real-world reasons to justify them) that correlate the outcome (racially inequitable enforcement) with a potential cause. Sometimes the studies just point to the institutional biases themselves without evidence to the causes.

2. Very rarely do the studies PROVE that the majority of police officers are racist. They don't do this because A.) It's not the point of the study and not what they set out to prove and B.) Institutional biases against African-Americans have been proven to exist regardless of their cause (psychology or otherwise). These institutional biases inherently cause racial disparities. Regardless of whether the individual officers are racist, the biases are real and cause racial disparities in enforcement and incarceration. This is a system which is racist, intentionally or not.

3. In the case of Ferguson, widespread extreme racial injustices were found to be occurring. Having established the above, I want to provide additional evidence that Ferguson was one of the locations where direct discriminatory intent was actually established. The following are all direct quotes from the DOJ report.

"This evidence of bias and stereotyping, together with evidence that Ferguson has
long recognized but failed to correct the consistent racial disparities caused by its police and
court practices, demonstrates that the discriminatory effects of Ferguson’s conduct are driven at
least in part by discriminatory intent in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment"

"As noted below, in assessing whether racially disparate impact is motivated by discriminatory intent for Equal Protection Clause purposes, disparity can itself provide probative evidence of discriminatory intent."

"The race-based disparities created by Ferguson’s law enforcement practices cannot be
explained by chance or by any difference in the rates at which people of different races adhere to
the law. These disparities occur, at least in part, because Ferguson law enforcement practices are
directly shaped and perpetuated by racial bias."

"The race-based disparities we have found are not isolated or aberrational; rather, they
exist in nearly every aspect of Ferguson police and court operations. As discussed above,
statistical analysis shows that African Americans are more likely to be searched but less likely to
have contraband found on them; more likely to receive a citation following a stop and more
likely to receive multiple citations at once; more likely to be arrested; more likely to have force
used against them; more likely to have their case last longer and require more encounters with
the municipal court; more likely to have an arrest warrant issued against them by the municipal
court; and more likely to be arrested solely on the basis of an outstanding warrant. As noted
above, many of these disparities would occur by chance less than one time in 1000."

"These disparities are unexplainable on grounds other than race and evidence that racial bias, whether implicit or explicit, has shaped law enforcement conduct."

"Social psychologists have long recognized the influence of implicit racial bias on decision making, and law enforcement experts have similarly acknowledged the impact of implicit racial bias on law enforcement decisions."

"We have discovered evidence of racial bias in emails sent by Ferguson officials, all of
whom are current employees, almost without exception through their official City of Ferguson
email accounts, and apparently sent during work hours. These email exchanges involved several
police and court supervisors, including FPD supervisors and commanders. The following emails
are illustrative"

--A March 2010 email mocked African Americans through speech and familial
stereotypes, using a story involving child support. One line from the email read:
“I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year
after year, all dose payments!”
--A November 2008 email stated that President Barack Obama would not be
President for very long because “what black man holds a steady job for four
years.”
--A March 2010 email mocked African Americans through speech and familial
stereotypes, using a story involving child support. One line from the email read:
“I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year
after year, all dose payments!”
--An April 2011 email depicted President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee.
--A May 2011 email stated: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was
admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she
received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from.
The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’”
--A June 2011 email described a man seeking to obtain “welfare” for his dogs
because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have
no frigging clue who their Daddies are.”
--An October 2011 email included a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women,
apparently in Africa, with the caption, “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.”

It goes on, and on, and on. I could post more but I won't, except for this:

"Courts have widely acknowledged that direct statements exhibiting racial bias are
exceedingly rare, and that such statements are not necessary for establishing the existence of
discriminatory purpose. See, e.g., Hayden v. Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 163 (2d Cir. 2010) (noting
that “discriminatory intent is rarely susceptible to direct proof”); see also Thomas v. Eastman
Kodak Co., 183 F.3d 38, 64 (1st Cir. 1999) (noting in Title VII case that “[t]here is no
requirement that a plaintiff . . . must present direct, ‘smoking gun’ evidence of racially biased
decision making in order to prevail”); Robinson v. Runyon, 149 F.3d 507, 513 (6th Cir. 1998)
(noting in Title VII case that “[r]arely will there be direct evidence from the lips of the defendant
proclaiming his or her racial animus”). Where such evidence does exist, however, it is highly
probative of discriminatory intent. That is particularly true where, as here, the communications
exhibiting bias are made by those with considerable decision-making authority. "

Thought police?

If BLM concentrates on police killing, they should not refer to “all” black lives in their name and should make clear that only 5% of black lives matter to THEM. Then the rest of the society will act accordingly and will not be fooled by their name. Just like people know that certain charities and scientists concentrate on specific type of cancers and may decide if that is important enough for them to support.

“Very rarely do the studies PROVE that the majority of police officers are racist. They don't do this because A.) It's not the point of the study and not what they set out to prove and B.) Institutional biases against African-Americans have been proven to exist regardless of their cause.” Imagine a study that shows that people who drive BMW’s live longer and will suggest that government should give away free BNW’s in order to prolong lives... Hopefully, the government will not fall for that and would realize that people who drive BMW’s don’t live longer because they drive those expensive cars but for totally different reasons. Correlation does not equal causation which is why all scientific studies are required to prove causation.

“…disparity can itself provide probative evidence of discriminatory intent.” So should DOJ investigate every state and county because in all their jails, as I pointed out, males outnumber females 10 to 1.

Obviously, DOJ could not find anything in Fergusson but a few generic not-job related “stereotyping” e-mails to confirm its assessment. On the other hand, there were plenty of e-mails directing and explaining that more people should be stopped to bring in more revenue. So here is the difference: targeting people to get money is supported by directives and explanations while racism is supported by statistics… As for courts opinions, they are biased too. No one may know the intent and thoughts of people unless they are expressed; otherwise, we become a state with a thought police… and we are moving in that direction. Like in the Soviet Union where at some point saying that the weather was gloomy could have been interpreted as a criticism of the regime with highly negative consequences for the offender. Or a month of underperforming (statistics) was interpreted as intentional sabotage by a plant director… again with grave results for him.

Again,

well said. Kudos for taking the time not only to flesh this out but to identify some of the horrible examples that help explain why these statistics even exist. This evidence did not go away when Ferguson became old news.

Statistics

Mr. Millon does it nicely.

Really Heather?

It would be most unjust to judge the ultra-conservative, Mac Donald of COAE by the color of her skin? Yes indeed.

...but the content of her character one could say is laced by the denial of the reality that all cops are not good

... and recognizing those inequalities do exist most blatantly in most recent times?

It takes a blind man to try to wipe away the idea that there are no bad cops... and yes,there are many good cops too...but, and if cops are good only some of the time and bad some of the time, the protectors of our civil rights on the streets of this nation should not be so flippantly denied ignored?

Good cops exist but abuse of power by some even some of the time; those who fail to protect all of the time is not just.? .

Most cops probably support equal and fair justice and yet it only takes a few to play bad cop too often and spoil the faith of those among us so targeted?

A hypothetical situation

Let's say I Am a black mother with her pre- teen boy Christmas shopping at Southdale and sees she's out of gas. Takes a side trip into Edina and tells her boy to run down to drugstore down the street and get some Xmas wrapping paper. Almost forgot, for their acquired presents, while she fills up the tank.

"But be quick about it...it's cold out here so scoot" she says and notes,it's been one fine day for the two of them.

Boy scoots, runs down to drugstore, runs up and down the aisles - his mom said hurry so.... but can't find any wrapping paper so hurries out the door and back down the block where Mom is waiting.

Let's say clerk sees "black kid" racing out of the store, his hands doubled up in his pocket - forgot to wear his mittens...looks lumpy to clerk and calls a cop.

Cop sees boy racing and follows in pursuit, pulls out a gun Yup.

Your guess or apprehension may be as good as mine as I remember. am a black mom watching and by god, hoping, hoping he reaches the car on time, for what may happen who knows for this is a hypothetical situation...and this is a just society which promises justice for all under the law, okay, that's what they say...

Happy ending

It’s a lot of assumption… but here is the end of the story: Police officer does not pull a gun because there is no danger as the boy can be well observed under the street lights; so police officer follows up a boy who comes to his mother waiting at the gas station next to a Lexus under the well lit canopy. A police officer approaches and politely asks a question. After receiving a polite answer, he wishes them both Merry Christmas, and leaves.

Talk about assumptions!

You have plenty!
Yes I live (within blocks and perhaps houses) from where black kids have been shot for not pulling their hands out of their pockets or having BB or pellet guns. And I am not saying all cops are bad, we have a problem with too many dead folks for not good reasons. Their is a difference between war and policing, seems a lot of folks don't understand that, especially since we have made our police "militarized" .to fight a "drug war" . It is our own ignorance as a populace that has lead us to this ugly situation, And no John, it wasn't the "liberalst" that forced this war on us, it was the Conservative government. Try Tricky Dick 1971!

Too many indeed

We do indeed have a problem with too many dead folks for no good reason… you (and BLM) are just looking in the wrong place. How about Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia… and forget cops, think about gangs… sure drug war is a mistake, just like the Prohibition was but that doesn’t change much – gangs are fighting for power and influence and if not drugs, they would have found something else.

Cops

If the author had a legitimate case to make and did it fairly she wouldn't be relegated to speaking at the CAE would she?

We gain nothing when grant credibility to frauds

This so-called "counter narrative" that Mac Donald is offering is a racist formulation that goes back decades, at least back to 1965 and Danial Patrick Moynihan's claim that black family "structure" was the cause of high black poverty rates. The racist assumption behind Mac Donald's narrative is that black people are more prone to criminal behavior and commit more crime against their own "race" and against those of other "races", i.e. "black on black and black on white" crime. The reason so many blacks are being shot by police is because so many blacks are criminals.

Mac Donald is one of many conservative architects of institutional racism, her intellectual lineage can be traced all the way back to Jim Crow.

Architects like Mac Donald and Charles Murray (Author of: "The Bell Curve") rely on a plethora of manufactured assumptions and false claims based on bogus analysis. The last example I saw here in MN was a 2013 Jason Lewis commmentary: "Black on White Crime in America" http://www.startribune.com/black-on-white-crime-in-america/223696071/ The problem is Lewis, Mac Donald, and others at CAE manufacture data to support their false claims, these are NOT "smart" righties, these are intellectual frauds and architects of institutional racism.

Back in 2013 I analyzed Lewis's claim that blacks are assaulting white's at an alarming rate, and found that, as usual, he'd flubbed his data analysis and smudged his sourcing. You can read that here if you'd like: http://pudstrand.fatcow.com/blog/?p=763

Getting back to Mac Donald you see the decades old claim (not a "new" counter narrative) that black men are the biggest threat to black men and their plight has little if anything to do with racism (aside from the racist claim that black men are poorer, less successful, and more violent... because they are black men). This isn't "new" narrative constructed to combat a recent BLM narrative, it's centuries old racist claim. A claim that by the way... any liberal should recognize immediately.

Mac Donald's thesis cannot have any explanatory power because she's shadow boxing with an imaginary opponent. The problem progressives, women, Indian people, other people of color, GLBT's, have been confronting for decades isn't individual racists, sexists, etc. The problem is INSTITUTIONAL racism, sexism, oppression and violence.

I've had my share of differences with BLM, I think their MOA demonstrations were a fiasco for instance. But if you think BLM is claiming that the police are the greatest threat to black people or that the individual racist cops are the problem, you're either not paying attention or you're deliberately mischaracterizing their mission.

I hate to say it but if you're "wowed" by Mac Donald's facts it's not because she's a such a factmiester, it's because you're not analyzing her conclusions competently. Even if you look at her numbers those numbers need to be adjusted for population so for instance while it may be true that cops kill more whites than blacks, you need adjust that data for population, you can't just look at the raw numbers. (hint: there are more whites in the general population than there are blacks, it's about the likelihood of getting killed depending on whether or not you'r black or white, not the raw number of whites vs. blacks getting killed). As far as I can tell Mac Donald has a decades old law degree and no particular training in statistical analysis, so you trust her analysis at your own peril.

We gain absolutely nothing if we assign credibility to intellectuals hacks and architects of institutional racism. On the contrary, it's probably counterproductive to pretend that places like CAE are producing or presenting any serious intellectual work. If you want me to "open" my mind to race bating... I'm afraid I'm going to have to pass.

Today

There are likely many different views regarding the causes of our current reality.

Unfortunately the current gang membership in the USA consists mostly of Hispanic and Black male citizens. And it is unfortunate that so many young Black and Hispanic men join gangs and poison the well for their peers.
http://www.statisticbrain.com/gang-statistics/

Now the question is what can we do to protect all law abiding citizens from these folks, and to decrease their membership to better match the racial make up of America. Ignoring today's reality doesn't seem like a good solution to me.

Ignoring reality

Interesting, we start a relativist declaration that reality is a function of subjective perceptions and views, i.e. there is no "reality", just different views of reality. Then we end wih a call to accept some universal reality that transcends individual points of view? You can or the other, but not both John.

I tend to prefer public realities in most cases especially those that involve community and social policy. At any rate if we are to accept reality, we need to ignore false realities built upon the backs of straw men and racist stereotypes. Those who engineer false realities simply don't deserve a place at the problem solving table. Those who can't distinguish between manufactured realities and genuine realities need to work on their powers of recognition.

Real reality

I think Mr. Black in his article agreed with Ms. Mac Donald that blacks kill many more blacks than cops do. That is the fact and there is nothing racist here because facts cannot be racist. I don’t think Ms. Mac Donald or others agreeing with her say that “black men are poorer, less successful, and more violent... because they are black men” – the second part explanation of the facts stated in the first part is totally Mr. Udstrand’s who attributes thoughts and statements to others. And again, Mr. Udstands, where is the evidence of institutional racism? Reality is that it does not exist.

So

So are you saying that my source is incorrect and that gangs are not mostly made up of Hispanic and Black citizens?

Is this Brookings article incorrect? It shows great deal more gun violence in the world of young Black men.
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/social-mobility-memos/2015/12/15/guns-and...

Not incorrect, simply irrelevant

The current composition of "gangs" isn't the issue in question here. If you want to deal with "reality" lets stick to the subject.

A late comment ...

I heard this broadcast on MPR, but missed Eric Black's post until the Weekend Update newsletter came out. I had never heard of this person before, and when I heard the speech, I was flabbergasted. Her speech certainly didn't sound like the language of a scholar, and I had to wonder what her academic credentials were. I see now that she has an M.A. in English from Cambridge, and a law degree from Stanford. She never had to defend a Ph.D thesis.

A few questions that I would like to put to Ms. MacDonald: a) How many, if any, Latino and African-American friends & acquaintances does she have? b) Has she ever had the experience of riding in a car with a black or Latino friend, of getting pulled over, questioned, pulled out, and frisked? c) Is she familiar with the term "White Privilege"? (My white 22-year-old son, who has many friends & acquaintances of color, could explain it to her.)

What is the depth of her knowledge of the history of gang violence, specifically in New York and Chicago, before, during and after the Prohibition period? (Hint: the perpetrators, Al Capone et al, shared two things in common: they were white, and they were first-generation European immigrants. (So much for Katherine Kirsten's theory that more blacks & Latinos are incarcerated because they commit more crime!)

Lastly, and I ask this question in earnest: does anyone know exactly how many people attended this speech? If so, what was the racial make-up of the audience? Did it reflect the racial make-up of the City of Minneapolis, or the Twin Cities metropolitan area?

Thank you.

They broadcast this on MPR?

Seriously?

A Couple of Thoughts

During later grade school and junior high one of my best friends was African American in Southwest Minneapolis in the 70s so he was one of a pretty small number. When he and I would walk into the local drug store, the employees would immediately start following him around, so he'd head toward the back and I'd grab a pack of gum and sneak out the door. There's an undocumented problem with racism, possibly.

Just a few years ago, I was sick and unshaven, hair was a mess; I had put on a very old tattered coat because it was a very cold day and that was very warm. I had a knit cap, old jeans and boots. I had to get something from the office supplies store and despite how I felt and looked, I went anyway. From the moment I stepped through the door, I was followed by employees. I was standing in one aisle looking for a particular product for a little while. On multiple occasions, employees walked by the end of my aisle and watched me. On two occasions (within a couple of minutes) employees actually walked right into my aisle and pretended to be fronting the shelves.

That was a very strange feeling. I'm a stand up guy, middle class, a couple of kids, pay my taxes and all that good stuff, but I was immediately persona non grata due to how I looked. It was unsettling and quite honestly insulting. I knew then what my friend had felt all the time and probably still does.

This is not a simple black and white issue, but one of biases we all hold, but we are, as a people, extremely (often willfully) ignorant of our own biases.