“The greatest trick racism ever pulled was convincing the world it existed [everywhere]” – Not Kayser Soze.
I think we can all agree that racism is bad and it does happen. However, it is not something that should inform policy decisions. In my experience, racism is used as a smokescreen to defer from other societal issues.
Everyone can agree that George Floyd’s murder was preventable and demonstrated horrible negligence and cruelty. If this is, in fact, a matter of race is another inquiry altogether. To any social scientist worth his salt, a mere attribution Floyd’s murder to racism should not suffice. If the former police officer is proven to have racially motivated this incident the fact remains – black crime in America exists independently of police racism. Racism would have to be so widespread under all ethnicities of police officials that it is inconceivable. The protests and social upheaval has mostly been based on the disproportionate killing of African Americans – it’s not that simple.
I’ll attempt therefore to investigate other factors which could be regarded as influential in predicting criminal behavior and see if the theory of racial police killings holds up to snuff.
Firstly, in America black offenders are disproportionately represented as offenders of violent crimes in relation to the population – 21,1%. More so 70% of these crimes are committed against members of the same community. I will make a reasonable assumption here – these crimes occur in black neighbourhoods. The logical follow-up question then is why are these communities so much more inclined to be so very violent?
A 2013 study published in Violence and Victims by academics from the University of Washington (peer reviewed) investigated this question. They attest that when looking at precipitating factors in black crime such as deviant peer affiliations and income level could differences in the ratio of black and white crime are potentially mediate. Furthermore they explain that these issues are more pronounced black communities, where resources are scarce and household leader migrations are real issues. According to the latest US census this would make sense as 28,5% of Black Americans live their lives in poverty. Black Americans seem to be communally afflicted by some of the biggest and most obvious precursors to crime. This is a community issue.
Why then the brutality? Crime hotpots typically require a larger police presence and are much more likely to result in fatal encounters between police and citizens. I am not suggesting that my makeshift research should constitute a definitive result, but it sure as hell requires deeper inspection. Wouldn’t we feel silly proclaiming that everyone who shoots a black man is racist, rather than focussing on those factors that rot out black communities?
The problem in looking for racism everywhere is that when it is found there exists no tangible solution. Posting on your Instagram story that we should be more tolerant and changing your screen saver to black does absolutely nothing. Looting stores does not help either. What should be the focus here is policy reform, infrastructure investment and any mechanisms which can enable poverty eradication.
These set of circumstances can be easily compared to South Africa as well. The reason our police aren’t “racist” is because we have a majority black police service. The sufferings of our citizens at the hands of our protectors are the same as in the case of Floyd – a bad cop and rotting communities.
Andre du Toit completed his BA majoring in Psychology and Criminology at the University of Pretoria – where he is currently a second year law student. He has a keen interest in criminal phenomena and basically everything that has to do with sport.