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November 24, 2015


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According to Nate Silver, formerly of the NYT, “Extending on an analysis by the academic Kieran Healy, I calculated the rate of U.S. homicide deaths by racial group, based on the CDC WONDER data. From 2010 through 2012, the annual rate of homicide deaths among non-Hispanic white Americans was 2.5 per 100,000 persons, meaning that about one in every 40,000 white Americans is a homicide victim each year. By comparison, the rate of homicide deaths among non-Hispanic black Americans is 19.4 per 100,000 persons, or about 1 in 5,000 people per year.”

Thus, according to Silver: “[T]here’s no other highly industrialized country with a homicide death rate similar to the one black Americans experience. Their homicide death rate, 19.4 per 100,000 persons, is about 12 times higher than the average rate among all people in other developed countries.”

Are the deaths of these black Americans attributable to “white people”? According to Politifact: “Northeastern University Criminology Professor James Alan Fox modified the FBI data files to estimate the characteristics of unsolved homicides and unreported cases. Fox’s data shows that the majority of people are killed by someone from their own race. For example, for 2010-13, his data showed that about 92 percent of blacks who were murdered were killed by other blacks, while the statistic for whites killed by whites was 81.5 percent. That is very close to the official numbers.”

Are the deaths of these black Americans attributable mainly to “the law”? The Guardian, last July, did what appears to be a credible study of FBI and other stats, and concluded: “Of the 547 (Americans) found by the Guardian to have been killed by law enforcement so far this year (as of July 2015), 49.7% were white, 28.3% were black and 15.5% were Hispanic/Latino. According to US census data, 62.6% of the population is white, 13.2% is black and 17.1% is Hispanic/Latino.” (The vast majority of these deaths were found to have been justifiable homicide. But, perhaps the BLM movement would have us stipulate that all were not, so be it: so stipulated for this purpose.)

In contrast, as reported in the Atlantic last September, “From 1980 to 2013, 262,000 black males were killed in America.” That’s about 8,000 per year. If my math is correct, that's about 8000 per year v. about 200 or less (with most of the latter ruled justifiable homicide and not in significantly greater proportion than white deaths from the same cause, especially given the level of violence reflected by the other facts mentioned above).

One wonders, as the question is often put: Do the lives of those murdered by their fellow citizens matter as much as the number (comparatively) murdered by "the law"? Of course, any murder by the police should be harshly punished. But, many evince seeming indifference to reasons for the murders of 90% or more of murdered black males.

Should legal academia focus on how we address the conditions that cause the ongoing slaughter of those lost to gang violence and otherwise motivated murders every day? Is a sole focus on police violence purposefully narrow minded and reflective of something less than intellectual honesty?


In the words of Akbar: focus should be where violence truly is "lethal and routine."

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