Mac Donald on Police Racism

Heather Mac Donald argues that police are not more likely to kill black people than white people, factoring in that black people commit disproportionate crime. But I think she basically misses the point. A tiny fraction of police altercations result in death. Although one-off anecdotes prove nothing, when we hear an unending stream of reports of police abusing black people, we need to take that seriously. Whereas white Americans are roughly split on whether police use too much or too little force, black Americans overwhelmingly say police use too much force. I personally have gotten away with interacting with police officers in a way that very likely would have resulted in police violence had I been black. (In one of those instances, I was clearly in the wrong; in another, I was making a reasonable complaint.) The murder of George Floyd was the point of an iceberg. However, I do think there’s a deeper sense in which Mac Donald is partly right. I think a larger problem than police abusing black people is police abusing disempowered people, people unlikely to raise hell among elected officials and hire high-powered attorneys. I think in many cases police abuse black people (when they do) not fundamentally because they are black but because they lack the status to do much about the abuse. There is a deeper sense in which that problem, too, is largely the result of institutional racism.

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