In almost every police shooting we see on American TV, the victim is black. Those are the only cases that are reported, and the only cases acted upon by the Black Lives Matter movement. Does either the media reporting or the public activism in the streets reflect the reality of the situation? Are black people being deliberately killed by police in preference to killing white people?
Actually, it is the diametric opposite of reality on the ground.
Police in the USA shoot and kill twice as many white people as black.
In 2015, The Washington Post launched a real-time database to track fatal police shootings, and the project continues this year. As of Sunday, 1,502 people have been shot and killed by on-duty police officers since Jan. 1, 2015. Of them, 732 were white, and 381 were black.
An attempt is made to obfuscate the actual figures by invoking the ratio of blacks to whites in the general population, as if that bears on the matter. It does not; the argument is statistically invalid. The correct statistical base is the ratio of blacks to whites amongst those who were confronted by armed police. You’ll find that it is the reverse of the ratio in general population (the statistics vary considerably with time, type of situation, and geographic location, but at worst, there is numerical equality of blacks, whites, and Hispanics).
That in itself is cause for concern, but that is not the point. Where more blacks than whites were confronted, yet more whites than blacks were killed, the argument that blacks are killed by police more frequently and more preferentially than whites fails completely.
In all situations in the USA in the last decade where police officers are looking at a suspect over the barrel of a gun, they are more likely to pull the trigger if the target suspect is white and restrain themselves if the target is black.
And then look at the ratio of whites to blacks amongst the shooters compared with whites and blacks in the police generally, and you have another statistical nuance. Both white and black police officers show a tendency to shoot whites rather than blacks in any given confrontation.
Now we come to the real issue: Media bias. During the time that the US media have been so graphically reporting homicide by police on black victims, more than twice as many whites were killed by the same police forces. None was reported in the media. They were completely ignored as if white lives are less important than black lives.
That is racial bias of the worst, most insidious kind.