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Police shootings: a vile American epidemic

Melvin B. Miller
Police shootings: a vile American epidemic
“I’m way more scared of the QAnon types than the BLM protestors.”

During the campaign for president, Republicans frequently asserted that Black Lives Matter protesters were a danger to public safety. While the crowds were large, the protesters were generally orderly. Nonetheless, since the racially mixed protesters were substantially Black, it was relatively easy to inflame racial fears.

Now, after the violent rampage on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Americans who viewed the videos are shocked. Few people would have believed that citizens from all parts of the country would invade the Capitol in a violent insurrection to prevent Congress from reviewing the Electoral College vote for president as required by the U.S. Constitution. And what is more shocking, almost all of the invaders are white Americans.

This violent event was serious enough to cost the lives of five people. BLM protests rarely result even in harm to participants, except for that caused by the police flouting the law. Citizens concerned about safety should now believe that they are in greater danger from racist radicals than from Black and white citizens who are protesting against excessive police abuse in the United States.

The unbridled violence in the hallowed halls of Congress should induce thoughtful Americans to be concerned about the daily fatal police shootings by U.S. police forces. In 2020, the police fatally shot 999 civilians: of those, 432 were white and 226 were black. This amounts to 34 fatal shootings for every million members of the Black community. The rate of police shootings of whites is far lower.

Americans simply accept police shootings, especially against Blacks, as the anticipated cost of preserving the peace. It is hardly satisfactory that police trigger fingers also end the lives of numerous whites. What is the consolation to a Black family that has lost a husband, a father or a brother to learn that the police shoot to death almost twice as many whites as Blacks?

In Europe, the British police do not function as a risk to the public. The police in England and Wales fatally shot only three people in 2018/19, and in fact, there were only 13 incidents in that period where the police fired their weapons. The fatal incidents are so few it is statistically difficult to determine whether racism is involved, but it would be informative to consider the racial concerns because they are such a major issue in the U.S.

The population of England and Wales is 86% white, 8% Asian and 3% Black. However, essentially all of the Blacks live in the London area, where they and other ethnic minorities constitute 44% of the population. Blacks primarily from the Caribbean and Africa experience social discrimination and subsequent criminal prosecution in London that leaders complain is excessive. While the police have been accused of racism, shootings are rare.

England has strict gun laws and even most of the police do not carry firearms. These practices would reduce fatalities in the U.S.

In Switzerland, every able-bodied male is trained for the military reserve, and are then able to take their weapons home so that they are readily available in the event of a national emergency. Despite the availability of weapons, Switzerland is not concerned about mass murders.

Americans have to consider how the nation came to disrespect the sanctity of human life. The attackers on the Capitol did not care about the physical safety of others. They were willing to injure or kill Mike Pence, then the vice president, as well as Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House. The potential victims’ offenses were only that they insisted on following the U.S. Constitution.

Americans should fear those whose objective is to violently destroy the democracy that so many others are trying to perfect.