— Round 1 —
Although I appreciate your research and thoughts on this topic, I find your opinion rooted in a certain degree of naiveté. The problem with your argument is that it relies too heavily on poor data and the core of your argument is based on a false and, unfortunately popular, presupposition that issue at hand is police brutality.
Much has been made about the protests and riots that have ensued over the police-involved shootings of young black men. I would offer that the shootings did not directly cause the unrest, but instead served as the catalyst for a far deeper issue — institutional racism. As much as white people try to argue that "so much progress has been made since the Civil Rights Movement," the sad reality is that we have a LONG way to go. When white people use that argument, it is a slap in the face to so many black people fighting for true equality.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder ordered an investigation into the department following weeks of unrest in Ferguson following the death of Michael Brown. The DOJ found the department guilty of racial bias and excessive use of force. Essentially, the police force systematically targeted black people (stats from 2012 to 2014 - 67% of city population is African-American): 85% if vehicle stops involved African-Americans, 90% of citations issued were given to African-Americans, and 93% of arrests were of African-Americans.
The report also published racist-laden emails the DOJ found during the probe that are unbelievably disgusting. The Ferguson Police Department was also found to engage in a pattern of First Amendment violations and the municipal court levied extremely unfair fines for 'violations' and missed court appointment. The target? Blacks. That is institutional racism at its finest. The residents of Ferguson didn't protest and riot over the death of Michael Brown - his death served as the straw that broke the camels back.
The data you provide in your article is only a partial snapshot and does not even begin to venture into any sense of statistical analysis. You are right that data never lies, but data that is poorly/partially gathered and improperly analyzed is dangerous. You make mention of statistics that represent the incarceration rates of blacks versus whites and seem to offer that the high incarceration rate of blacks only has a correlational relationship? The problem is that blacks ARE targeted and are more likely to face prison. Blacks constitute near 1 million of the total incarcerated population (2.3 million) and are incarcerated 6 times the rate of whites. In 2008, over 1.5 million Americans were arrested for drug related offenses. Although five times as many whites report using illegal drugs, Blacks are sentenced to prison for drug-related offenses 10 times the rate of whites. And blacks represent 48.7% of the total prison population. I guess that is by accident? Again, that is institutional racism at its finest. Whites get lawyers, blacks get prison.
If my argument is based off of poor data, then I must ask, what data should we rely on? I pulled data from the FBI website, as well as multiple liberal publications. I didn't pull any data from anti-black sources, and I also stayed away from conservative publications such as Fox News.
I think the argument that "so much progress has been made since the Civil Rights Movement" isn't a statement that says were are where we should be as a society. But rather, it's a counter-argument to the initial assumption made by many blacks that we haven't made any progress in the past 50 years. We most certainly have, and to disagree with that means we are ignoring our history.
Let me ask you this, does a higher percentage of black arrests and blacks in prison mean that there is institutional racism? If a person commits a crime, whether black or white, shouldn't they be subject to the letter of the law? We know that blacks have a higher poverty rate, as I shared in my article, and higher poverty results in higher crime. Higher crime rates lead to a higher percentage of arrests and imprison rates. Is this a racial issue? Of course. Do we need to do more to reduce black poverty and bring economic equality to all Americans? Yes. But I don't think we can immediately jump to the conclusion that it is a racist issue.
First of all, my personal opinion of Eric Holder is that he is just as corrupt as any police officer found guilty of brutality. Were the racist emails found in the Ferguson investigation widespread throughout the department? Or were the emails from a few individuals? What I'm getting at is I'm not naïve enough to think that there aren't racists in America (it's also a two-way street). I'm also not naïve enough to think that there aren't a few racist cops in Ferguson, Baltimore, and elsewhere. But as far as institutional racism where there's a large conspiracy that a very large number of cops, judges, politicians, and others are using their power to continue to suppress blacks? I'm not convinced.
— Round 2 —
Let me be clear, I am not claiming progress has not been made since the Civil Rights Movement. But, to claim that institutional racism (any system of inequality based on race) does not exist because "we have made progress" since the Civil Rights Movement is patently absurd. How much progress had been made? And I don't believe in some conspiracy in which all white people purposely target blacks on a large scale, but I do think the current social constructs and the political and economical systems favor white people. I would offer that is those systems create a sense of implicit racism - people benefiting from those systems may not even realize it.
Take a look at the prison system and you will quickly find the perfect example of institutional racism (as stated in my previous point). Admittedly, poverty has a great deal to do with incarceration rates for a variety of reasons. However, when you take a close look at conviction rates the racial disparity is glaringly obvious. Why are blacks charged for drug-related offenses 10x the rate of whites although five times as many whites use drugs? Blacks only represent 13% of all drug users but are prosecuted 13x the rate of other races. Why? Blacks and Hispanics comprise almost 60% of the population even though they only represent 25% of the entire US population. And, yes, this is probably due in part to poverty. This is called institutional racism - that is the problem.
Why are so many other races mired in poverty? The system is set up better for white people - and I am not saying it is on purpose. White people have had access to more resources, rights, and opportunities than other races in the country for a longer period of time. We are really not that far removed from the Civil Right's Movement - the systems in this country have not been altered completely. The poverty rate of white people is low (1o%) compared to blacks (27.1%) and Hispanics (23.5%). The systems are not set up well for Hispanics or blacks. How many black neighborhoods have good schools? Why do we invest so much money in prisons when we could be investing in the future of young people by funding education? Black people are not mired in poverty because they asked for it and it is unfair to blame all of their problems on poverty. Why are white people so much better off? It's not a race thing?
I agree with you concerning the spirit behind your article. Yes, this country has made progress but we are not where we need to be. Should everything be blamed on race? Certainly not. Do too many people immediately jump to those conclusions? Yes. I think we do need to have more conversations and open debates. But, we must admit there is a problem before we can. Watch this video and still tell me institutional racism does not exist. Thanks for debating me!
I'm not making the argument that institutional racism doesn't exist because we've made progress. I'm merely saying that progress has been made, and we can build off that progress to continue to strive towards equality.
As far as institutional racism: which "social constructs" favor white people? Help me identify what constructs you are talking about, rather than just data that shows a higher percentage of blacks in our prison system. That sort of data could be a result of institutional racism, but it's not proof. There should be other things we can identify if institutional racism is a real and common thing.
You say that five times as many whites use drugs, however, the link you provided doesn't contain this data. If this is true, I'd be curious to know what the breakdown looks like. You're making the assumption that because whites use more drugs, they should bode a higher drug offense rate. However, there are a lot of flaws with this assumption. First of all, what kind of drugs are they using? Does that rate include alcohol? Prescription drugs? And who is doing the trafficking? Drug use and drug trafficking are very different offenses in our justice system. Even if whites use more drugs, if a higher percentage of blacks traffic drugs, then higher drug offenses would make sense since the Drug Enforcement Agency targets drug traffickers and not necessarily drug users.
In response to the video you posted, I have seen it before. However, how does this video prove institutional racism? We as human beings judge others based off of our own experiences, biases and presuppositions. Why do people assume the black man is stealing the bike, yet they don't assume the same of the white man? Everyone's answer may be different based off of their own past experiences. One thing I noticed is that they did this study in an all-white neighborhood. Do you think peoples' reactions would've been different if they did it in an all-black neighborhood? Would they have been more skeptical of the white guy? What if we put one of them in a police uniform? Would everyone assume the police officer is doing his job? Human beings immediately make judgments of others when they first come in contact. We make judgments based off of the environment, situation, the clothing the person is wearing, and the color of their skin. Is that right? Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But it's just one thing we use to understand the environment around us.