Unfortunately, the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere in the U.S. continues. During the 10 years I spent in America, I was mostly exposed to environmental bubbles where no open racism existed – except for some reverse racism. But my understanding is that despite the legal arrangement that guarantees equality of people of different races, some manifestations of racism are bound to exist in 2014. They are a part of the human nature. They have some reasons that will never disappear.
But some problems associated with the co-existence could disappear or become better. They haven't been improving for quite some time – and from many viewpoints, the things became worse. The picture above appeared among some fresh photographs from Harvard published in The Harvard Crimson. The folks' banners say #BlackLivesMatter and I agree with that. However, this slogan is too superficial to solve anything.
Last week, a major Czech news server idnes.cz published a thought-provoking article named
He mentions that a TV station was showing a divided screen. One half of the screen was airing Obama's speech urging peace; the other half of the screen communicated the live pictures from the burning Ferguson that was resembling Baghdad. Darren Wilson who has shot Michael Brown dead wasn't indicted, and that's why a new wave of violence has erupted across the States.
On November 26th, the author predicted that all the events would be "analyzed" but no important conclusion would be reached because the political correctness doesn't allow any real debate. So it's guaranteed that people would end up talking about minor technicalities, e.g. the proposal to equip all cops with personal minicameras; or about the fact that the U.S. police forces became militarized after they bought some excess firearms from the Pentagon.
An apparent detail that has contributed to the problems is a policy that has been enforced by the police since the 1980s – the broken window theory. The idea is that vandalism becomes very likely in a building that has a broken window – or another sign of a "minor offense". In practice, the theory says that police should fight "big crime" by fighting against the "small crimes". That should discourage the "big fish", the theory says.
Mr Vodička thinks that the theory is likely to be flawed. In the real world, the theory increases the police activity in black suburbs because that's where the number of broken windows and similar "small crimes" is higher. However, such a form of police activity pushes police itself into the role of enemies of those who are officially being defended by the police.
There are other, even more serious problems. In a debate between Rudy Giuliani and Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown, ex-mayor's black opponent, Giuliani said that the surplus of white cops would be unnecessary if the blacks were not murdering each other. Dyson would reply that this comment by Giuliani was a classic example of the white supremacy. These are twisted and oversimplified talking points that America used to know decades ago.
And the twisting isn't even necessary to be worried. Blacks are the most troubled racial group in the U.S. Their 13% of the U.S. population is responsible for approximately 50% of the criminal activity. The crime rate is higher than in the times when Martin Luther King talked about "his dream". Blacks are also the leaders in out-of-wedlock children and divorces.
The other side of inconvenient statistics is that every 28 hours, a black guy is killed by a cop. The number of blacks killed in this way is far higher than the number of whites who are killed in similar circumstances. This inequality holds even if you divide the people killed by cops by the crime rate. There's some logic (is that true?) that could suggest that these ratios could be equal in a fair society. So the number of blacks killed by a cop per unit black crime is greater than the number of whites killed by a cop per unit black crime.
So when a policeman sees a black, it is more likely that the civilian will be shot than if the civilian were white (or even Hispanic). Now, it's interesting to ask whether one may explain, interpret, or attribute this fact. A possible interpretation is that the blacks' track record is such that they are being rationally viewed as more dangerous by the cops which is why the cops simply have to press the trigger earlier than they would if the other person were white. But because the aforementioned ratio is higher for blacks, it suggests that the blacks' track record as imprinted in the cops' behavior is (even) worse than they deserve.
In other words, this "worse track record" is just a plausible explanation or a possible factor that may partly explain the observation. It is a hypothesis, not a proven fact. And this hypothesis may make some detailed predictions that seem to be falsified. The numbers make it likely that the worse (deserved) track records of the blacks only explains a part of the effect – the much higher probability of a black to be killed by a cop.
There are lots of differences, quantitative and qualitative ones, and they have various reasons that are only partially known – and they're almost completely unknown to the public because these questions aren't being openly discussed.
Another difference between the blacks and whites is that when a black cop shoots a white person dead, the whites don't start protests in the streets. In the reverse situation, the streets start to boil because the blacks consider themselves to be "one tribe". That's why Ferguson is guaranteed to reemerge, under different names, in the future. As Roy Lewis (a retired police official) said last week, there is one thousand Fergusons in the U.S. (And I am sure that he didn't even count Sheila Ferguson, a retired secretary of the physics department at Harvard LOL.)
If the situation improves, people should produce and understand some realistic expectations about the optimal – but not physically impossible – society. There are certain parameters that are unlikely to substantially change, at least not in the foreseeable decades or centuries. They may be rooted in biology or the culture and it doesn't really matter in practice. What matters is that they are slow degrees of freedom that won't change.
And given these constants, one may discuss how the society should adjust itself so that the safety and satisfaction of all the Americans is maximized. For example, I have mentioned the broken window theory. If the number of broken windows decides about the number of cops assigned to a street, well, I think that the algorithm has to be improved and the coefficient has to be race-sensitive etc. simply because it's pretty normal, and not necessarily a sign of more serious crimes, when a window is broken in a black neighborhood. So these coefficients similar to the "number of cops per broken window" should be adjusted in a way that takes the character of the neighborhood – and perhaps not just one bit of information about the "color" – into account.
There are tons of similar coefficients. With a realistic model, one could get some estimates how many blacks and whites might be shot by police if the police acts optimally – increases the safety in the street but doesn't kill too many people along the way. All these models and expectations will depend on the "color" (of the neighborhood, cop, and his or her potential target) and maybe some finer pieces of information. When all these numbers are known, one may look at the actual dramatic events – like the people shot by police – and determine which classes of these events are overrepresented and should be reduced, and so on.
But the color-blind expectations can't give the cops (and other officials) a usable, advanced recipe to behave constructively. They are as bad an approximation to the optimum treatment as the racist attitudes that America knew centuries ago. The truth is somewhere in between. Meanwhile, all influential white people in America love to say that all people (and suburbs) must be treated exactly the same, regardless of the color; while the cops' behavior inevitably deviates from this hypocritical rhetoric and is much closer to the behavior of cops during the era of slavery. There is a huge gap between the rhetoric and the real world behavior that certain occupations – such as cops – inevitably face.
And I agree with Mr Vodička that America doesn't even have the courage to start a serious discussion about the right "middle of the road" attitude of the police – which takes both the human dignity and human rights of all the people; and their differences into account. Note that such topics aren't taboo in Czechia at all; a text that is pretty much the Czech translation of this blog post appeared as the #1 story on the #1 news server in the country last Wednesday. Is it possible that the Americans have something to learn from the Czechs?