I started this blog as a place to discuss science, and have refrained from discussing overtly political matters. This is no longer possible. Today is June 10, 2020 – the date set to strike for black lives. I want to contribute in a tiny way by writing here. If that seems inappropriate to you or otherwise makes you uncomfortable, then that probably means that you need to read it and reflect on the reasons for your discomfort.

To start, I quote the statement made by my colleagues and myself:

The CWRU Department of Astronomy stands in solidarity with our Black colleagues and fellow citizens across the United States in expressing what should be a clear moral absolute: that people of color should enjoy the same freedoms as other Americans to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We condemn the de facto system of racial oppression that leads to pervasive police brutality up to and including the extrajudicial murders of Black Americans like George Floyd and far too many others.

We strive to build an academic community that welcomes, encourages, and supports students and scientists of color. To achieve this goal, we recognize that we must continually reflect on the injustices faced by under-represented and marginalized people, and repair the institutional structures that place them at a disadvantage. We encourage our colleagues in astronomy, throughout academia, and more broadly across society to do the same.

We will participate in the Strike for Black Lives this Wednesday, June 10, and encourage others to join us.

As the current chairperson of the CWRU Department of Astronomy, I was initially reluctant to post something about the Black Lives Matter movement on the department website. It is a different thing to make a statement on behalf of an organization of many people than it is to do so for oneself. Moreover, we are a science entity, not a political one. But we are also people, and cannot separate our humanity from our vocation. There comes a point when way too much is ever so much more than more than enough. We have reached such a point. So when I contacted my colleagues about doing this, there was unanimous agreement and eager consent to do so among all the faculty and scientific staff.

I value the freedom of speech enshrined in the first amendment of the constitution of the United States of America. I think it is worth reproducing here:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Freedom of speech is often construed to mean the right to espouse whatever opinion one might hold, and I think that is indeed an essential personal freedom that Americans take for granted in a way that is rather special in the history of humankind. Note also that the first amendment explicitly includes “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” – a right that Americans sometimes exercise but also frequently attempt to deny to each other.

Why does this come up now? Well, if you haven’t been keeping up with current events, George Floyd died in custody after being arrested in Minneapolis, sparking protests – peaceable assemblages – across the country and around the world.

In the last sentence, I intentionally use a misleading structure common in both the press and in police reports: “George Floyd died…”, as if it were something that just happened, like a butterfly happening to pass by. Indeed, the initial police report on the incident stated that Floyd “seemed to be in medical distress” while omitting mention of any causal factor for that distress. Similarly, the medical examiner’s report exonerated the police, attributing Floyd’s death to “underlying medical conditions.”

That is some major league bullshit.

The cause of Floyd’s death is not mysterious. Officer Derek Chauvin crushed Floyd’s windpipe by kneeling on his neck for eight minutes and forty six seconds. That is considerably longer than the longest TV commercial break you have ever been modestly annoyed by. Who among us has never raged WILL THESE COMMERCIALS NEVER END? Now imagine feeling the life being crushed out of you for a considerably longer period while lying flat on your belly with your hands already cuffed behind your back. That’s right – George Floyd was already handcuffed and on the ground while being pinned by the neck. In no way can this be construed as resisting arrest. He was already under police control and in no position to resist anything, up to and including being murdered.

A more accurate statement using the active voice would be “Police arrested George Floyd, then brutally murdered him as he lay helplessly handcuffed on the ground.” There was an obvious  cause for his “medical distress:” Derek Chauvin’s knee and body weight. “Underlying conditions” played no role. Before being pinned and crushed, Floyd was alive. After, he was dead. It didn’t matter if he had been suffering from terminal cancer: that’s not what killed him. Officer Chauvin did. There is no alleged about it: we can all personally witness this heinous act through now-ubiquitous video recordings.

The more puritanical grammarians might object that I am not merely using the active voice that the police and coroner’s report (and some press accounts) take care to avoid. I am also using pejorative adverbs: brutally and helplessly. Yes. Yes I am. Because those words apply. If you want an illustration to go along with the dictionary definition of these words, then go watch all 8:46 of the execution of George Floyd.

As egregious as this case is, it is not an isolated incident. That both the police and coroner’s reports whitewash the incident with intentionally vague and passive language is a dead give away that this is standard operating procedure. They’ve done it before. Many times. So many times that there is a well-rehearsed language of obfuscation to subvert the plain facts of the matter.

This event has sparked protests around the country because it illustrates an all too familiar pattern of police behavior in black communities. I’ve heard various people say things like “It can’t be that bad.” Yet this systematic police brutality is what protesters are saying is their life experience of being black in America. Are you in a position to know better than they?

I’ve heard people say worse things. Like blaming the victim. Floyd was a career criminal, so he deserved what he got. This is such a common sentiment, apparently, that it affected a Google search I did the other day. I was trying to look up a geology term, and got as far as typing “geo” when Google auto-suggested

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Really? This is such a common conceit that the mere three letters g e o leads Google to think I’m searching on George Floyd’s criminal past? I can think of a lot of more likely things to follow from g e o. Given the timing, I can see how his name would come up quickly. Just his name. Why add on “criminal past”? How many people must be doing that search for this to be Google’s top hit? 

News flash: people are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. It is the purpose of police to apprehend suspects and that of the courts and a jury of citizens to decide guilt or innocence. Whatever the alleged crime, the punishment is not summary execution by the police on the spot. As much as some few of them seem to want to be, the police are not and should not be Judge Dredd.

The same victim-blaming is going on with the protests. People have assembled in communities all over the country to protest – a right guaranteed by the first amendment. As near as I can tell, most of these assemblies have been peaceable. Given the righteous, raw anger over the arbitrary state-abetted murder of American citizens, it is hardly surprising that some of these assemblies devolve into riots. The odds of this happening are seen time and again to be greatly enhanced when the police show up to “keep order.” All too often we have seen the police act as the aggressors and instigators of violence. If you haven’t seen that, then you are not paying attention – or not following a credible news source. Fox, OANN, Breitbart, the Sinclair broadcasting network – these are not credible new sources. They are propaganda machines that are keen on focusing attention on the bad behavior of a minority of protesters in the hopes that you’ll be distracted from the police brutality that sparked the demonstrations in the first place.

Victim-blaming is an excuse closet racists use to dodge engagement with the real issue of police misconduct. “He was a career criminal! He deserved it!” and “Riots are bad! Police must keep order and protect property!” These are distractions from the real issue. Property is not as important as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Black Americans are not assured of any of those. When they peacefully assemble to petition the government for a redress of grievances, they are met with masses of police in riot gear hurling flash-bangs and teargas. Even if a few of these assemblages lead to riots and some looting, so what? That is nothing in comparison with existential threat to life and liberty suffered by all too many Americans because of the color of their skin.

An old friend tried to make the case to me that, basically, “mobs are bad.” I reacted poorly to his clueless but apparently sincere buy-in to the misdirection of victim-blaming, and felt bad about it afterwards. But he was wrong, in an absolute moral sense, and I have no patience left for blaming the victim. Yes. Mobs are bad. Duh. But going straight to that willfully misses the point. This didn’t start with mob violence out nowhere. It started with the systematic oppression of an entire group of American citizens defined in literally the most superficial way possible –  the pigmentation of their skin. The police have many roles in our society, some for the good, some not. One of the bad roles has been as enforcers of a de facto system of white supremacy – a system so deeply ingrained that most white people aren’t even aware that it exists.

I would like to believe, as many white folk apparently do, that white supremacy is a thing of the past. An ugly chapter in our past now relegated to the dustbin of history. Yet I look around and see that it is alive and well all around us.

We – all of us who are American citizens – have an obligation to make things better for our fellow citizens. At a very minimum, that means listening to their concerns, not denying their experience. Just because it is horrible doesn’t make it untrue. So don’t try to tell me about the evils of riots and mobs until you first engage with the underlying causes therefore. These are mere symptoms of the societal cancer that is white supremacy. They are natural, inevitable reactions to decades upon decades of degradation and disenfranchisement heaped on top of centuries of dehumanization through slavery and lynchings. Until you acknowledge and engage meaningfully with these brutal aspects of history and modern-day reality, you have zero credibility to complain about any of their toxic offspring. Doing so is a clear sign that you are part of the problem.

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29 thoughts on “Black Lives Matter

  1. Well said. Very well put.
    There were demonstrations and anger in UK and the headlines were complaining about the police horses being attacked. Now I’m sorry that the horses were hurt. They did not choose to be there.
    But when you are peacefully and legally marching the streets and are faced with I line of mounted police?
    I feel for America. It looks bad from over here but you are not alone. Racism is everywhere.
    Thanks for posting this. I will share it where I can.

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    1. WHS. We still have a serious problem with racism in the police and justice system in the UK.

      https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jun/11/black-deaths-in-police-custody-the-tip-of-an-iceberg-of-racist-treatment

      https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/ng-interactive/2020/jun/10/mark-duggan-shooting-can-forensic-tech-cast-doubt-on-official-report

      Even a known criminal, indeed particularly a known criminal, has a right to a fair trial and not to be summarily executed.

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  2. Right on. Every word. I especially like the comparison to “the longest TV commercial break you have ever been modestly annoyed by.” A very good way to put it. People should set their stop watch apps for 8:46 and see how few breaths they can take.

    Let 8:46 be the number of change.

    Black Lives Matter.

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  3. Thanks everyone for your perspectives.

    Perspective matters. I agree that it is unfortunate if horses were harmed. But is that really the issue worthy of headlines?

    The anger and call for action here is sustained. I hope it finally leads to real change.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your blog post contains more falsehoods than I can possibly address here, but I’ll respond to one or two.

    Floyd was not murdered. It is impossible for a person being choked to speak, and Floyd could be heard speaking loudly and clearly up until the moment he died. The prosecutor’s report reveals that Floyd said repeatedly that he could not breathe while still standing outside the car — before police officer Chauvin even arrived on the scene. Shortness of breath is common among both coronavirus sufferers and heart attack victims. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner found that Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease, hypertensive heart disease, and the coronavirus. The combined effects of Floyd struggling with the police, his underlying health conditions, and the intoxicants (fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cannabis) in his system, contributed to his death, with no evidence of traumatic strangulation. The medical report clearly states that Floyd died from cardiac arrest, not asphyxiation due to Chauvin’s knee.

    In 2019 police officers fatally shot 1,004 people, most of whom were armed or otherwise dangerous. African-Americans were about a quarter of those killed by cops last year (235), a ratio that has remained stable since 2015. That share of black victims is less than what the black crime rate would predict, since police shootings are a function of how often officers encounter armed and violent suspects. In 2018, the latest year for which such data have been published, African-Americans made up 53% of known homicide offenders in the U.S. and commit about 60% of robberies, though they are only 13% of the population. The odds of a police officer being killed by a black man is 18.5 times higher than the odds of a black man being killed by a police officer.

    In 2019, nine unarmed black people, along with 19 unarmed white people, were shot dead by the police in the United States. That puts the typical person’s odds of getting killed by the cops while unarmed on par with his chances of being struck by lightning, but the odds are twice as bad if you happen to be white.

    Whether armed or not, far more whites die at the hands of the police than blacks. The media, however, only take notice when a black person dies, and they always attribute the death to racism. They promote stories that confirm their preexisting opinions and ignore stories that do not. That’s why people know Tamir Rice but not Daniel Shaver, a white man killed under similar circumstances. It’s why people remember Alton Sterling but not Dylan Noble.

    What about interracial violence that doesn’t involve the police? Once again, whites are the overwhelming target. Between 2012 and 2015, blacks committed 85.5 percent of all black-white interracial violent offenses, amounting to 540,360 felonious assaults on whites.

    Facts don’t matter to people like you who only want to virtue signal and promote the black victim narrative. The rejection of evidence in favor of cherished myths is antithetical to science — the supposed subject of this blog. I recommend you abandon any pretense of being scientific and merely add your voice to the legion of hysterical conspiracy theorists who imagine that all whites are closet racists and all blacks are innocent angels.

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    1. “African-Americans […] are only 13% of the population”
      “In 2019, nine unarmed black people, along with 19 unarmed white people, were shot dead by the police”
      “…the odds are twice as bad if you happen to be white”

      “Facts don’t matter to people like you” indeed.

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    2. Here we have a textbook example of how to dissemble and obfuscate with statistics. This is a compendium of un-sourced, dubious statistics. In the typical style of a dissembler (more commonly known as a bullshitter), some of those statistics may be true, some half-true and some false. They are carefully chosen to support a peculiar narrative in which the oppressed people of this country are the cause of their own oppression.

      According to this account, 400 years of violent oppression has nothing to do with the current situation, and the rampant on-camera police brutality visited upon non-violent protesters is to be ignored, not to mention the hideous on-camera murder of a defenseless man. All that we have recently witnessed is to be set aside, because of some bullshit statistics trotted out by a second-rate troll, who appears to know little or nothing about statistics to begin with.

      This is not a good faith argument, it is a bad faith argument. It is an authoritarian argument for the twisted purpose of undermining the basic principles of fairness that under-gird this country. It is an argument for the perpetuation of an unjust, racist system that ultimately harms all working and middle class Americans. Even if every statistic were true, its assemblage into this out-of-context, crudescent pile of racist ill-logic, comprises nothing but poisonous, evil drivel from a man who means his country ill. And the ill-intent is true whether stevego1 is a real American troll or just one of Vlad’s boys.

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  5. The “…the odds are twice as bad if you happen to be white” was obviously wrong… But other than that, is anyone here cares to actually refute what stevego1 said instead of just calling him a hater?

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    1. I do not know about the statistics stevego1 reported, as he did not provide sources, but having seen how he speaks about the murder of George Floyd, I would lean towards not believing anything he says until he shows the sources. Only then we can take the time to review them.

      Let’s assume it is true that George was saying he could not breathe before the police started to choke him (which is not shown in the video). What we know is that a person is being choked while complaining that he cannot breathe.

      The proper thing to do when someone tells you he cannot breathe is give him space. Once he is handcuffed, how is that not your top priority? Even if he died from a heart attack, that can perfectly been caused by the suffocation he was suffering. Even if he had underlying conditions, the man was telling you that he could not breathe, and the police chose to continue choking him.

      That stevego1 ignores this most basic rule of human decency speaks clear and loud, that you chose to ignore them too does too.

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      1. stavigo1 didn’t provide any sources but he is the only one here to even try to use some data and statistics to support his arguments..
        I do not deny that what happend to George was terrible, but to understand the bigger picture statistics are a must.
        I am not an American and I follow what goes on over there very loosely. Personally I would’ve liked to see a more rational discussions based on facts from both sides.

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  6. The brutality of law enforcement that led to the death of George Floyd is a systemic problem that is deeply rooted in the master/slave morality of our culture, where the ruling class is pitted against the underclass, i.e. the peasants, and the police become the civilian military of that paradigm. This dichotomy and cultural dysfunction is best expressed when race also becomes a contributing factor in that fundamental dynamic. Race is a contributing factor and a huge one, make no mistake about that fact. Nevertheless, what lies at the heart of the problem is a cultural war predicated upon class, the ruling class and the peasants, the masters and the slaves.

    Not much has changed folks, and don’t expect any miracles to pop out of the sky because of all the protests. It’s a systemic problem that has its origin in structured systematic thought itself, rationality itself. There is a genetic defect in the underlying form or reasoning and rationality. And unless or until we as individuals and collectively as a culture are willing to address that genetic defect nothing will change, because nothing can change,

    Peace

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  7. Well, he is not using either data or statistics, he is dumping numbers with no way for us to check if those are right. What we can factually check about his statement is what happened to George Floyd because there is a recording on it.

    Seeing how he dismisses someone dying after being choked for more than eight minutes and after repeatedly saying he could not breathe speaks volumes of his moral standings.

    By the way I am not an american either, but I know there is racism in my country too, as I except there is in yours.

    About the data, though, it is an interesting topic, but one that can mislead greatly. Take a simple example. The sentence “African-Americans made up XX% of known homicide offenders in the U.S.”. What does it tell us? Unfortunately, not many things.

    First of all, we have to realize that being convicted does not actually mean being guilty. Moreover, not solved crimes will not count towards that statistic. So if police is biased towards black people, the rate in which they will get caught (either rightfully so or not) will be higher than that of white’s.

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    1. Yes, exactly this. Black Americans are convicted of crimes at a higher rate because they are more frequently targeted by police as likely suspects. Just quoting such a statistic as if it is a meaningful measure of criminality is absurd on its face. In astronomy we call this a selection effect: you see what is easiest to see, especially if you go looking for it.

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  8. Obviously I mispoke when I said that whites are twice as likely to be killed by the police. Whites are killed twice as often as blacks, but that dosen’t mean that the probability is twice as high for any particular white person. Still, why do we rarely hear about whites being killed even though it happens twice as often? Where is the outrage? The protests?

    A 2011 study [1] found that blacks constituted 12.4% of pedestrians stopped by police, and 12.8% of drivers stopped by police. Since blacks make up roughly 13% of the population, police do not target blacks disproportionately for street or traffic stops, even though blacks and the media constantly claim otherwise. However, a larger percentage of black drivers than white or Hispanic drivers were stopped by black police officers. Among drivers stopped in traffic stops, there was no statistical difference in the percentage of whites and blacks who were ticketed. However, a greater percentage of white drivers were ticketed when stopped by black officers (64%) than white officers (49%). For black and Hispanic drivers stopped by police, the percentage issued a ticket did not vary by the race or ethnicity of the officer.

    A study published in 2017 [2] found that blacks and whites were equally likely to be injured or killed during a stop/arrest incident when the disproportionate occurrence of criminal activity and violence among blacks is taken into consideration.

    An FBI report covering 1976 to 2005 [3] shows that young African-American males were homicide victims at levels ten to 20 times their proportion of the population and were homicide offenders at levels 15 to 35 times their proportion of the population. The black-white gap in armed-robbery offending ranged between ten to one and 15 to one. Even in crimes such as serial murder, blacks were over-represented as offenders by a factor of two. In more than 90 percent of cases, the killer of a black victim was a black perpetrator.

    According to the National Crime Victimization Survey in 2002 [4], the black arrest rate for robbery was 8.55 times higher than whites, and blacks were 16 times more likely to be incarcerated for robbery than non-Hispanic whites. Robberies with white victims and black offenders were more than 12 times more common than the reverse. These disparities cannot be attributed to police bias, since they reflect what was reported by the victims, who were often black.

    A 2004 National Crime Victimization Survey report which analyzed carjacking over 10 years found that carjacking victims identified 56 percent of offenders as black, 21 percent as white, and 16 percent as Native American or Asian. [5]

    According to the US Department of Justice [6], blacks accounted for 52.5 percent of homicide offenders from 1980 to 2008, with whites 45.3 percent and “other” 2.2 percent. These figures infamously added all Hispanic crimes into the “white” category, and once this distortion is eliminated, it is estimated that around 90 percent of all violent crimes in America during that period were committed by non-whites.

    According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics [7], of all individuals arrested during 2003 through 2009, 70% were white and 28% were black. The rate of arrest-related deaths was 0.005%. Among the arrest-related deaths, 42% were white, 32% were black, and 20% were Hispanic. Of all arrest-related deaths by intoxication, blacks were 41% of reported decedents, whites were 34%, and Hispanics were 21%. So the overall death rate was roughly proportional to the arrest rate for blacks, but disproportionately low for whites, and disproportionately high for Hispanics. That fact also holds when considering just the arrest-related deaths attributed to homicide. Homicide by law enforcement personnel accounted for 61% of reported arrest-related deaths from 2003 through 2009. The remaining deaths were attributed to suicide (11%), intoxication (11%), accident (6%), natural causes (5%), or unknown causes (6%). A person who dies while in police custody wasn’t necessarily killed by them, but if the deceased is black, the media regard murder as the only possible explanation.

    Nationally, approximately 95% of law enforcement homicide victims are male, 49% are white, 30% are black, and 16% are Hispanic.[8] Of reported arrest-related deaths, 45% of decedents allegedly engaged in assault either immediately prior to or during the process of arrest. Among arrest-related deaths attributed to homicide, 75% of decedents allegedly engaged in violent offenses.[7]

    In 2012, according to the CDC [9], 140 blacks were killed by police. That same year 386 whites were killed by police. Over the 13-year period from 1999 to 2011, the CDC reports that 2,151 whites were killed by cops and 1,130 blacks were killed by cops. While the death-by-cop rate for whites has held pretty steady over the last 45 years, the rate for blacks has fallen 75% since 1999.

    There are significant differences in the rates at which men of different races experience police violence — 0.6 percent of black men versus 0.2 percent of white men.[10] Although people often equate racial disparities with bias, this inference is fallacious. Men are vastly more likely to experience police violence than women are, but nobody doubts that most of it has to do with the fact that men are on average far more violent than women. Similarly, if black men commit violent crimes at much higher rates than white men, that would help explain the disparity in the use of force by the police.

    National Crime Victimization Survey data from 2015 [11] suggest that black men are three times as likely to commit violent crimes as white men. We should, therefore, expect black men to experience negative interactions with the police three times as often as white men, which is exactly the disparity found in the Bureau of Justice Statistics mentioned earlier. Injuries resulting from these interactions occur at the same rate for blacks and whites.

    Washington Post data [12] indicates that 25% of those who died from police use of force in 2015 were African-American men and 1% were African-American women. On the other hand, 468 (47.3%) of those killed by the police in 2015 were white (non-Latino) males and 26 (2.6%) were white (non-Latina) females. In other words, almost twice as many whites died from police use of force as did African-Americans.

    According to U.S. Census estimates African-American men make up only 6.6% of the U.S. population [13]. Therefore, many in the media have made an issue of the 6.6% of the population versus 25% of those killed by the police comparison. The police, however, only use force against those who are threatening them (or others) with imminent violence.

    Although African-American men make up just 6.6% of the U.S. population, they account for 33% of those who have murdered police officers in recent years. [14] In other words, African-American men are 5 times more likely to kill a police officer, but only 3.7 times more likely to be killed by the police. When the frequency of violent acts among African American men is taken into consideration, there is no evidence of police bias against blacks.

    A 2015 Justice Department analysis of the Philadelphia Police Department found that white police officers were less likely than black or Hispanic officers to shoot unarmed black suspects. [15]

    Across the U.S., though blacks are 21.3 percent more likely to be involved in an altercation with police where a weapon is drawn, researchers found no racial differences in police shootings: “Partitioning the data in myriad ways, we find no evidence of racial discrimination in officer-involved shootings. Investigating the intensive margin – the timing of shootings or how many bullets were discharged in the endeavor – there are no detectable racial differences.” [16]

    In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in August 2019, researchers found that the more frequently officers encounter violent suspects from any given racial group, the greater the chance that a member of that group will be fatally shot by a police officer. There is “no significant evidence of anti-black disparity in the likelihood of being fatally shot by police,” they concluded. [17]

    The risk of death from a doctor or nurse is 254 times greater than the risk of death from police use of force. [18] In spite of this fact, there are public demonstrations nationwide against the police, accusing them of being murderers, but none against doctors and nurses. This is partially due to the continual efforts of the media to convince African Americans that they are being systematically oppressed, particularly by the police.

    Liberals reject empirical results and label them as “hate speech” if they do not fit into their leftist ideology. Their dogma is this: Underprivileged groups can do no wrong because they are oppressed by society; any shortcoming or failure by minorities is the fault of their oppressors. According to this view, all persons of color are inherently victims of oppression, and any white person who objects to race-based policies is (nonsensically) a racist, bigoted, privileged oppressor. This binary view of our country where people are either oppressed or oppressors, compassionate or cruel, morally superior or morally bankrupt, only ensures more resentment and division.

    We should be judging speech and speakers by their content, not their skin color, gender, or any other irrelevant accidents of birth. Yet, we now live in a world where it’s your characteristics, not your thoughts, that determine whether you will be heard.

    Life isn’t fair, and all of us are affected, both for better and worse, by certain traits we were born with and have zero control over. But we should make sure that we are looking at others as individuals, not as groups — even if the groups happen to be police and white people.

    Being black isn’t enough to make George Floyd an innocent victim of murder. Likewise, being white isn’t enough to make Derek Chauvin a racist murderer. An objective review of the facts shows that, while Chauvin should have done more to deescalate the situation and keep Floyd comfortable while waiting for an ambulance, Floyd died of pre-existing conditions rather than police brutality.

    Though it will lend support to some of my points, many who read this will now label me a racist and make excuses for the rioters and looters. Even on a blog that’s supposed to be about science, personal attacks and virtue signalling often dominate the discourse.

    1. Lynn Langton and Matthew Durose. Police Behavior during Traffic and Street Stops, 2011. NCJ 242937, September 2013.

    2. Miller et al. Perils of police action: a cautionary tale from US data sets. Inj Prev. 2017 Feb; 23(1):27-32.

    3. Federal Bureau of Investigation Supplementary Homicide Reports, 1976–2005.

    4. United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics. National Crime Victimization Survey, 2002.

    5. U.S. Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics. National Crime Victimization Survey. Carjacking, 1993-2002, 2004.

    6. Alexia D. Cooper, Erica L. Smith. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008, 2011.

    7. Andrea M. Burch. Arrest-Related Deaths, 2003-2009 – Statistical Tables. NCJ 235385, November 2011.

    8. Banks et al. Arrest-Related Deaths Program Assessment Technical Report. NCJ 248543, March 2015.

    9. Centers for Disease Control’s searchable mortality data are located at:
    http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html

    10. Shelley S. Hyland, Lynn Langton, and Elizabeth Davis. Police Use Of Nonfatal Force, 2002-11. Bureau of Justice Statistics, November 14, 2015 NCJ 249216

    11. United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics. National Crime Victimization Survey, 2015.

    12. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings/

    13. U.S. Census Bureau. Quick Facts, 2016. Located at:
    https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/00

    14. Richard R. Johnson. Dispelling the Myths Surrounding Police Use of Lethal Force. Dolan Consulting Group, July 2016.

    15. George Fachner and Steven Carter. Collaborative Reform Initiative: An Assessment of Deadly
    Force in the Philadelphia Police Department. US Department of Justice, 2015.

    16. Roland G. Fryer, Jr. An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force.
    NBER Working Paper No. 22399, 2016.

    17. David J. Johnson, Trevor Tress, Nicole Burkel, Carley Taylor, and Joseph Cesario. Officer characteristics and racial disparities in fatal officer-involved shootings. PNAS 116 (32) 15877-15882, 2019.

    18. A. E Cha. Researchers: Medical errors now third leading cause of death in United States. The Washington Post, May 3, 2016.

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    1. The WordPress system held this comment up pending approval. I allowed it to post because I do believe in free discourse. But it is also my personal space – I pay for this microphone – so I reserve the right to moderate the content.

      You make a case that contradicts my life experience and the evidence I can see with my eyes. So I am unimpressed by the statistics you cite. These are utterly irrelevant to the reality that I witness.

      You repeat the assertion that George Floyd did not die because of his treatment in police custody. Hell of a coincidence then, the timing of his death. Those preexisting conditions really seem to have a way of cropping up just when a black man gets arrested. No sir, not buying it. This is not a legitimate argument. This is an excuse you are making for yourself to avoid facing up to an ugly truth.

      You selectively quote Floyd’s dying words, neglecting the part where he begged for his life in the fateful knowledge that it was being crushed out of him. As the many witnesses to the event could also see as they begged for the police to stop. As anyone with eyes can see when they watch the video. No amount of citations or statistics can make us unsee the obvious.

      I specifically stated in the post that anyone who went straight to victim-blaming without first acknowledging the history or racism in this country would have zero credibility. That’s exactly what you did. Now you somehow seem to think you present a reasoned analysis by using lots of citations when all you have done is double down on your failure to engage with the deeper issue. The details of your case don’t merit being addressed. I could look into this or that, and perhaps agree with this number or find a better interpretation for that. That would be engaging on terms that are not valid to begin with. You have zero credibility.

      You worry about being labeled a racist while accusing me of “virtue signaling.” That is a thing that I have seen others do, for example by chain-tweeting pledges to be a better human or posting little black squares. I have explicitly declined to participate in such activities because it provides cover for the insincere to pretend to be sincere by joining in with those who are. Apparently you think this blog post is itself some form of “virtue signaling.” No. As I explicitly said at the top, I was setting aside the science [a bottle you would apparently like to put me back in] and was reluctantly addressing politics BECAUSE I LEGITIMATELY FEEL THAT STRONGLY ABOUT IT. Maybe I’m wrong, but that is honestly how I feel – an unscientific, emotional, political opinion that I do get to express, right or wrong. If you equate my post with some insincere form of “virtue signaling” then you are a fool.

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      1. This will be my last visit to your blog, since you’re disregard of evidence leaves you “zero credibility” on science and all other matters. For any readers who may be more open-minded and logical, please consider the following.

        Try saying something without breathing. If you cannot move air into and out of your lungs, that also means that you cannot move air across your vocal cords. If you can say “I can’t breathe”, then you CAN breathe! Not only was Floyd heard speaking up until the moment he died, he was speaking loudly and clearly, with no evidence at all that his windpipe was being “crushed”, as was suggested. And a crushed windpipe would have been obvious to those who performed an autopsy. They explicitly stated, however, that there was no damage to Floyd’s windpipe and no evidence of asphyxiation. He had coronary artery disease, hypertensive heart disease, and the coronavirus, all of which can lead to cardiac arrest. He also had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, which can also trigger cardiac arrest. Before Chauvin even arrived on the scene, and long before anyone touched Floyd’s throat, Floyd was saying that he couldn’t breathe — a fact that is corroborated by the prosecutor’s report. Shortness of breath is a classic symptom of someone who is having a heart attack or suffering from coronavirus. The county medical examiner attributed the death to cardiac arrest brought on by the combination of resisting arrest, underlying heath conditions, and drugs in his system. Don’t take my word for it: watch the full video (not just video edited to omit Floyd resisting arrest), and read the report by the medical examiner.

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        1. “The police, however, only use force against those who are threatening them (or others) with imminent violence.”

          Is there a citation for that?

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        2. The above comment is nauseating.

          First of all, you fail to report on other autopsies. A more fair account would be this:

          https://edition.cnn.com/2020/06/01/us/george-floyd-independent-autopsy/index.html

          by the way, the county autopsy does call it homicide, even if it does not say it is by suffocation.

          But what infuriates me is that you are going out of your way to exonerate a brutal police action. Too bad for you, it is on tape for everyone to watch. If we apply Occam’s razor, a death immediately after a brutal police action should be attributed to such action. Both autopsies call it homicide. Whatever the justice decides after that is anyone’s guess, but to my mind the police brutality on the tape should warrant the current demonstration, even if no homicide was involved.

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    2. Now that it seems you are willing to enter in a meaningful discussion, let me point the obvious: The data on crime you provided overwhelmingly biases towards black people. A scientist’s job should be to explain that.

      Your thesis is that there is no bias in the police behavior. Then, given that data, what is your explanation? Do you think that there is something innate in black people that make them more susceptible to crime?

      If you think the answer is yes, then you are a racist and we do not discuss any further.

      Otherwise, you would agree with me that the main cause of crime is poverty. As long as you have good life prospects your chance of committing a crime is lower.

      According to this link:

      https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/poverty-rate-by-raceethnicity/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D

      22% of black people lives in poverty while 9% of white people does. That means that around 44% of the poor are white, while around 21% are black. So we need to evaluate the data based on this bias.

      Let me review the data on the first two links:

      [1] Black driver population is 10% of the total driver population, so black does get stopped more than white, contradicting your statement (appendix table 2), but also stated in the highlights. It is reported there that 13% of black and 10% of white are stopped, making it 30% more likely to be stopped while driving if you are black (note, moreover, that black people is a lot less likely to drive). Not as outrageous as the next point, though:

      Table 7: Black people has 6.3/2.3 = 274% more chances of being searched if the police does stop them.

      Unfortunately in table 9 when physical force is reported, we do not get the data by race.

      It is also curious that you chose to omit that black pedestrian think the police behaved properly in 37,7% of the cases (subject to high variation) while white pedestrian think that in 77.6% of the cases. I admit this is subjective, but as pointed out already in other post, data on crimes cannot be taken at face value as our thesis is that black do get targeted more often than white.

      [2] Table 2 shows that 28% of arrests involve black people. and they account for 11% of the american population over 16 (appendix table 2 in [1]), White, on the other hand, represented 48% of the arrests and 69.3% of the population. Once arrested, yes, the peril is the same, but the disproportionate number at which black people is arrested over white is abnoxious. If we assume that poverty is a key proxy for crime, then there still is an over representation of black people and lower representation of white people.

      A study from 2018 showed that “Black individuals were at the highest risk of legal intervention injury per capita in 2005 (for black vs white individuals, rate ratio, 2.90; 95% CI, 2.74-3.06)” (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30646155/), so all in all, you are 300% more likely to be injured by a legal intervention if you are black than white.

      So I sincerely hope that you provide me with you explanation to the data, because if you do not provide an interpretation you are not a real scientist, you are a mere statistician and then it is not your place to talk about the data.

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    1. Yep. His terms are a network of presuppositions that are manifestly invalid on their face – all the cites and statistics are window-dressing to obscure the fact that his position is completely disingenuous.

      Like

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