Hello to you today. It’s 8:32 am as I write to you. I hope you will bear with me on my subject choice again today. After seeing Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died (RIP Hugh!), I saw the headline about Russian hacker trolls behind the NFL Kneeler debate and felt myself get so frustrated! What you have here as a final product is definitely not what I started off with…far fewer expletives in my narrative here lol!
Lawmaker: Russian trolls trying to sow discord in NFL kneeling debate
“Russian Internet trolls are trying to gin up even more controversy over NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem, a senator said Wednesday — warning that the United States should expect such divisive efforts to escalate in the next election.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) made the assertion in a hearing with the heads of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center.”
This new headline feels like an attempt to try and bury more of the embarrassing things going on in this country. All of what is so eagerly being dismissed to Russian hacker trolls was here well before we even had the first computer! Many Americans, who aren’t out burning football jersey’s on You tube, are really embarrassed about the direction this country is being steered into….back to.
As a prior Air Force Veteran of 16 years, someone who had a Grandfather who risked his life to help minorities register to vote and someone who has always cared about all people, I realize this whole thing goes way deeper than about a flag or a song. Yes it’s not just about race and probably a lot about how unhappy many people are with President Trump and our government, but it is still about race and so much more shitty stuff going on in this country!
A segment of this debate, many of them living Veterans like myself, want to say that these players kneeling during the National Anthem is offensive and disrespectful to our flag, our fellow Veterans and our country. I would like to remind these offended folks that many of the people buried in Arlington National Cemetery and so many other graveyards like it all over the world are filled with people who died in combat believing at some point we wouldn’t even be having these sort of debates! They died hoping we would finally have peace on this earth! For the love of God, WHY CAN’T WE GET PAST THIS SHIT?! Can we please evolve?!
I am reminded, and it is easy to forget, that my fellow Veterans did not die to free anyone from the sting of condemnation or ridicule for exercising all the rights we have today…seem to have…hope we still have? Anyhew….I digress. It’s important to acknowledge to yourself that if you make the choice to kneel in protest, don’t be surprised or too hurt if your jersey goes up in flames on You tube. If you fly a Confederate flag in your front yard or in the cab of your pickup truck, go right ahead! Just don’t get butt hurt when your neighbor, who may be black, doesn’t want have coffee with you anymore afterwards.
All of this is cause and effect…..an action causes and opposite reaction – especially in polarizing debates like this one! When you make a choice in one direction, chances are someone or something will come at you with one from the opposite direction.
You can only offend people who choose to be offended.
Being offended is a choice you make anytime you interact with people who are different than you are….that you don’t agree with. Being the kind of person I am with the kind of upbringing I had and living where I do now….not easy being me (or Kyle who shares a lot of my views on things). I am originally from Sioux Falls South Dakota, my family is comprised of conservative, Roman Catholic and or Christian white people who fall also into the Trump demographic. My Dad, who is about the same age as our President, served in the Navy and is a Trump supporter. This is hard for me but I have had to learn to accept it. It’s his right to do and think whatever the hell he wants as long as he doesn’t try and impose it on me and he doesn’t. We just don’t talk about it!
In my family and with some friends we do a lot of agreeing to disagree to keep the peace between us. There are many subjects so heated we have decided it’s better if we don’t discuss them at all which is frustrating (mainly for me) but that just the way it is. My parents are Baby Boomers who came from upbringings where you just don’t talk about politics, religion or other controversial things if it means there will be a fight. Apparently our President didn’t get that generational memo.
A saying my Mom taught me and I have to remind myself often of it when doing this blog, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t fucking say it! Bite your tongue!” Sometimes, and my Mom knows this about me, I go for the jugular and say what nobody else will say. She taught me that too! She is my sensei for the art of brutal honesty!
During one of my recent visits with my parents that’s what we discovered about ourselves. When they did part of their winter birding at our place, I had exclaimed, “Well what can we talk about that we actually agree on?!” Turns out we could agree on was eating meat lol! We agreed most anything else (media, religion and especially politics) is just off limits! So we just duke it out playing cribbage lol!
I have thought recently it would be so cool if we could just get Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jon Un in a video game simulator and duke it out like they did in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. This way they, and the rest of us, would be so much happier and safer lol! Imagine what the world could be like if we agreed to settle all our real world differences like that?! That’s why a lot of gamers like Player Vs. Player. You can K.O your opponent over and over but the real person you are fighting with is still left alive to fight another day and no planet is destroyed for it!
So, yes, may be we’ll find out it’s true the Russians have exploited yet another weakness in our country (besides knowing we like to elect television celebrities for President) and are using it to their advantage. That doesn’t change the fact that what these men are kneeling about is still going on in 2017!!! We still have people donning white hoods and robes for the KKK, we still have people murdering people who aren’t white and heterosexual and using God’s word to justify it (read about yet another transgender man murdered just yesterday: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/joey-steinfeld-transgender-teen_us_59cbd381e4b05063fe0e7183), we still have people worshipping Adolph Hitler and we still have people segregating themselves because of race, color, creed, gender and sexual orientation….America’s got a long ways to go to be even o.k. again trolls or not!
This video has some good points on this debate:
Even if this Russian hacker trolling is really going on, even if Trump is President, it doesn’t change what all of this is really about:
http://www.dictionary.com/e/star-spangled-banner/ – the 3rd verse of our country’s national anthem which most, like me probably until recently didn’t even know existed:
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
and statistics like this – a disproportionate number, based on population, of black people are being killed with lethal force in police involved shootings:
Updated September 25th, 2017
So far in 2017 (as of Sept 25th), unarmed blacks make up 31% of those that were unarmed and killed by police. However, according to the latest US Census estimates, blacks make up only 13.3% of the population.
In this case, “unarmed” is defined as no weapon of any kind. The good news is that the use of lethal force by police on those that are unarmed seems to be declining. However, blacks remain a disproportionate number of the victims.
Data source for figures above: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings-2017/
When comparing complete data of 2016 to 2015, those that were unarmed (no weapon of any kind) that were killed by police continued to be disproportionally black, relative to the population size. However, the black/white racial discrepancy in the portion of the population compared to the portion of those that were unarmed when killed by police has decreased.
Below is a look at the percentages by race under all conditions (armed with a gun, knife, unarmed, etc.) when police used lethal force comparing 2015 and 2016.
While whites makeup the greatest number and largest percentage of victims of lethal force by the police in the US, it remains important to compare the rates to the distribution in the general population. As is evident in the figure above, there was a slight increase in the percentage of victims of police use of lethal force that were white and slight decrease in the percentage that were black. However, relative to the percentage of the general population, blacks are still over-represented as victims of the police use of lethal force under all conditions (see below). Whites and Asian/Pacific Islanders are under-represented relative to their portion of the general population.
. . .
The police killing of blacks has been splashed across the headlines for over a year and a half now and for much of the time we lacked data to decipher any trends.
Data is a crucial part of constructing sociological theory and empirical research.
Arguably, it should be a greater part of public debate and a greater influence on public policy decisions. In the last year and a half, the media coverage of, public concern about and social movement mobilization around the police killing of blacks has greatly increased. Several cases received particular media attention, in large part because of either the video coverage of the death (Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Laquan McDonald, and others) or the subsequent protests (Freddie Gray in Baltimore and Michael Brown in Ferguson).
The police seem to be disproportionally using lethal force on Black citizens. The best data available in 2015 and 2016 on this topic was from the Guardian newspaper out of UK. Due to the lack of any other systematic data collection on how many people police kill, the Guardian started a project they call, “The Counted”. Through police reports, their own investigation and readers tips, they have assembled this data and made it publically available. Click here to access the Guardian’s “The Counted” website. On the site, you can also access more news stories about each death and sort the data by state and other characteristics. The Washington Post continues to track this data in 2017.
When teaching this topic, any topic really, it is important to demonstrate to students how sociological conclusions come to be through empirical data, not the opinion of the professor or the view of select media outlets. Below I have generated several tables and figures analyzing data from “The Counted”. You can also download an Excel file of the data and use it in class. I use it for introductory Excel exercises in my Quantitative Research Methods course. The tables and figures below would also be good for the race section of any Introduction to Sociology course, a social problems course, a criminology class and/or a race and ethnic relations course. I hope you find it useful.
. . .
When police kill a suspect or innocent bystander, does race matter?
Which racial or ethnic group in the US is the most frequent victim of deadly force from law enforcement officers? On the surface, the answer is clear, whites. You can see in the chart below that in 2015, in the US, 578 whites were killed by police. This is nearly double the number of blacks at 301. However, we need to compare these rates to the rates of each group in the general population. Of course (non-Hispanic) whites are the most frequent victims, they are the largest portion of the population – 62.2% in 2014 according to US Census estimates. If we lived in a society where one’s race had no impact, then we would expect to see the portion of each racial/ethnic group killed by police equal to that of the portion in the general population. That is not what is evident from the 2015 data.
Whites make up a disproportionally smaller portion of those killed by law enforcement compared to their portion of the general population – 11.3% less. Blacks, on the other hand, make up a disproportionally larger portion of those killed (26.5%) compared to the general population (13.2%) – 13.3% more or double!
Hispanics make up victims of lethal police force at about the same rate as they are in general US population, as do Native Americans. The data distinguish Arab Americans, but the US Census data does not. Asians made up a much lower portion of those killed by police relative to the portion of the general population (2.1% vs. 5.6%).
The same data as the table above is presented in column chart below. Here is visually evident the disproportionally higher percentage of blacks killed by police relative to population.
Being a law enforcement officer is a dangerous job. There are certainly times when lethal force by an officer is justified. When a suspect has a firearm, the police and any others in the area are at much greater risk and under most of these conditions it is at least understandable why deadly force is used. The table and chart below show the armed status of the victims in 2015. Just under half, 48.6%, of those killed by police were in possession of a known firearm. Meaning, it was visible during the interaction with the police. Almost a third had something other than a firearm. This included knives, vehicles, non-lethal (BB) guns, etc. However, US police still killed 223 people in 2015 alone that were completely unarmed. That is nearly a fifth of all those killed.
Most, 95.2%, of those killed by police in 2015 were men. The pie chart below shows that only 4.8% of the victims identified as anything other than male.
How were people in the US killed by police in 2015? Mostly by gunshots. The table and pie chart below shows that 89.1% of the people killed were killed by the officer(s) using their gun. Tasers, which are designed to be non-lethal, killed 49 people or 4.3% of the total. Forty-one people, or 3.6%, died in custody and 2.9% were struck by a vehicle (intentionally or on accident).
In 2014, 12-year old Tamir Rice was shot on site by Cleveland police as he played with a toy gun. While the person who called 911 told the dispatcher that the gun was probably fake, she failed to pass that along to the officers. The officers pulled up within feet of Tamir and killed him within seconds. How many others who were in possession of a nonlethal firearm (toy, BB gun, etc.) were killed by police in 2015? Thirty-seven. In the table below we see that blacks were disproportionate victims under these conditions.
If we just look at those that were unarmed, does the racialized pattern that disadvantages blacks continue? According to the data and shown in the table and chart below, unarmed whites continue to make up a smaller percentage of victims than their portion of the population, while unarmed blacks make up about two and a half times the portion of the unarmed victims compared to their portion of the general population.
The average age of those killed by law enforcement officers in the US in 2015 under all conditions was 37. The age distribution is surprisingly broad with a range of 6 to 87 years old. Just over 30% of the victims were between the ages of 18 to 29. Another 28% were between the ages of 30 to 39. Nineteen of those killed were minors under the age of 18. Surprisingly, 214 people who were killed by police in the US in 2015 were 50 years old or older! This accounts for nearly a fifth of the victims. The most prevalent age was 24 with 46 victims.
Through the analysis of this data a pattern emerges. Compared to their portion of the overall population, blacks are disproportionally the victims of lethal force by law enforcement officers, even when they are unarmed. While most of those killed by police were white, the portion of white victims is lower than the portion of whites in the general population, more than 10% lower. The vast majority of those killed by police were men and most died from gunshots. Only about half of the victims were armed with a gun themselves. The victims in 2015 varied widely in age, but most were between 18 and 39 years old. This data further solidifies the concerns and demands of the Black Lives Matters movement; there is a pattern of police using deadly force disproportionally on blacks that needs to be addressed by policy makers and police departments across the nation.