This article from American Main Street asks whether police officers are racist and presents different perspectives on the issue. It cites a Pew Research Center survey that found that white police officers are more likely to believe that racism is no longer a problem in America than white civilians or black Americans. It also cites a book by Heather Mac Donald that argues that racial profiling is a legitimate and effective policing strategy that benefits black communities. However, the article also acknowledges that police brutality and racial bias are real and serious problems that need to be addressed. It concludes by calling for more dialogue and understanding between police and the public, as well as more accountability and transparency in law enforcement.
Is America a nation “conceived in liberty, and two things: the existence of slavery at our founding, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” as Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg? Or is it a nation conceived in slavery and defined by “systemic racism,” as many claim today? Is our defining feature (both today and historically speaking) our republican devotion to freedom and the rule of law, or is it our failure to apply our laws equally to members of all races, resulting in the denial of freedom to many?
Those who say our defining quality is racism, rather than republicanism, rest their claim primarily on two things: the existence of slavery at our founding, and alleged ongoing oppression by those in authority today-namely, by the police. If police are “systemically racist,” then the whole country can feasibly be alleged to be so. If not, then the claim of “systemic racism” quickly unravels, becoming little more than a naked assertion belied by most Americans’ lived experience. Unfortunately for those advancing this narrative, but fortunately for our country, the best available evidence suggests that police are not racist and that America is not a land of “systemic racism,” but rather is a land of justice.
The best evidence shows that America is a land of justice, not of “systemic racism.”
- In terms of racial demographics, cops arrest those who actually committed the crimes. When the Bureau of Justice Statistics analyzed offender and arrest data by race, it found no statistically significant difference between the percentage of offenders and the percentage of arrestees of a given race (for non-fatal violent crimes reported to police).
- State and federal imprisonment rates also do not suggest racial bias. Among sentenced prisoners under the jurisdiction of state or federal correctional authorities as of 2019, the 2-point gap between black (33%) and white (31%) inmates matched the 2-point gap—reported by victims—between the percentage of black and white perpetrators of serious non-fatal violent crimes reported to police.
- Despite high rates of violent crime committed by black offenders against black residents, on the whole, black Americans are victimized by violent crime at similar rates as other Americans. The reason for this is that there are comparatively few violent crimes committed by white (or Hispanic) residents against black residents.