It’s not easy to say this, but you need to know.
America’s police aren’t just killing black people in disproportionate numbers — in immensely disproportionate numbers. The ugliest truth of the situation, as I see it, is that America’s police are killing America’s young black people — both young adults and kids — at even more frighteningly high rates.
The age distribution of white people killed by police peaks in the 30-34 year-old range:
But the distribution for blacks peaks in the 20-24 year-old range:
America’s police are killing blacks under the age of 25, more than any other age group.
Is this the greatest sorrow of black America — that they not only fear for their lives, they so often have to bury their own children?
We can compare the rates of police killings by age and race, per capita (to allow for the fact that there are so many more whites than non-whites in America), and include hispanics as well (rates for blacks in black, for hispanics in red, for whites in gray):
The five age/race groups most likely to be killed by police are all blacks. Black teenagers are more likely to be killed by police than whites of any age bracket.
Now let me put it on the line.
In 1970, Americans were horrified — truly horrified — at the killings of 4 college students who were peacefully protesting at Kent State University in Ohio by national guard troops. Even the ultra-conservative, most ardent supporters of the Vietnam war, realized that when we started shooting and killing our own children, things had to change.
Today, Americans like me are horrified at the killings of blacks, including so many kids. But not all Americans are horrified. Too many white Americans don’t really understand how bad things are and how long it’s been tolerated, or are fearful of rioters, or are strong supporters of police, so they just can’t be horrified. Being horrified means you have to face the fact that you’ve been wrong about this for a long time. And that things have to change.
If you’re one of those, I’m talking to you. The real reason you’re not horrified by police violence against blacks, is that when you see black kids — teenage boys with black skin — you don’t see our kids. You see their kids, because you don’t include “them” (black folk) with “us” (white folk).
That’s racist. That’s racism. You will forever be part of the problem until you see another news story about another 15-year old black kid killed by police, and instead of thinking “What was he doing wrong?” you think “There but for the grace of God goes my child.”
America’s black kids are our kids. We are killing our own kids. I’m horrified.
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