AFRICANGLOBE – A recent study suggests that larger numbers of white people may have evolved in their thinking about deaths of unarmed Black men in police custody. In January of this year, in reference to Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, 56 percent of white people thought the police shooting of the teenager was just an “isolated incident,” as opposed to the 31 percent who believed it was “part of a broader problem,” according to a YouGov survey. Contrast this with a poll in taken in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore recently, where just 36 percent clung to the idea that it was an “isolated incident,” and 38 percent saw it is “part of a broader problem.”
Progress? Well, a little bit, but there’s still a vast gulf between the races in the perception of policing. And technically, only slightly more, a whole two percent, of whites see Gray’s death as part of a broader problem than those who see it as an isolated incident, so it’s not time to break out the champagne yet.
The same poll found that, even after Freddie Gray’s death, 41 percent of white people believe that police treat Black people fairly and just 34 percent disagree. When asked the same question, 76 percent Black people think they are treated fairly by cops, compared with a paltry 13 percent of Blacks who feel they are treated equally by police. YouGov’s findings are similar to a December NBC News/Marist College poll that found that white people were more confident than ever that law enforcement treats Black people in their communities equally.
The recent unrest of Baltimore has raised questions about whether it has evoked the nation’s conscience over the issue of police abuse and if it can force changes in how bad cops are handled. When asked if the only time the federal government pays attention to Black problems is when they resort to violent demonstrations or riots, most Americans (42 percent) agree and 41 percent disagree. But broken down by race, only 37 percent of white people agree that violent demonstrations get more results with 47 percent disagreeing. Sixty-nine percent of Black people, on the other hand, feel that violent reactions force the government to pay attention to their issues; 15 percent disagree.
While there are sharp differences in how Black and white people feel about race relations and interactions with police, a recent Pew Research poll does reveal that Blacks and whites agree on one thing: it was the right decision to charge the six Baltimore police officers in connection with Freddie Gray’s death. Seventy-eight percent of Black people and 60 percent of white people agreed that Marilyn J. Mosby, the Maryland state attorney in charge of prosecuting the case, was right to charge the officers.
Without question, there are disagreements between Black and white communities over perceptions of police abuse, but there is no question that Black people are disproportionately impacted by police violence. In South Carolina, the same state where Walter Scott was shot and killed by N. Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager, police shot at 209 people were shot at over the past five years; 79 people died. Forty-three percent of those who died were Black. Only 29 percent of the state’s population are Black Americans.
ProPublica’s extensive investigation on available data of police killings reveals that young Black males are 21 times more likely to be killed by cops than their white counterparts.
It is impossible to know the exact figures of how many Black people are killed by cops each year when compared to whites because, bizarrely, no such statistics are kept. Perhaps one thing that can be agreed on is that more centralized tracking of police killings, both in general, and by race needs to happen so that Americans have a clear set of data when they are debating the racial disparities in policing all over the country.
By: Terrell Jermaine Starr