Trump is neither the only nor the worst that African-Americans are up against in the US. He is just one of the heftier cards in a deck heavily loaded against the people of color.
If the first Trump-Biden debate was hugely disappointing with Trump doing his worst with his incessant, pugilistic interruptions and Biden failing to take his opponent down (frequently getting baited into the mire instead), leaving Chris Wallace disappointed at the “terrible missed opportunity”, it was nothing short of alarming and scary for Black America. Trump failed to condemn white supremacists, and Biden’s calling him “racist” did not do much to assuage or assure the African-Americans. What’s worse, when, spurred by Trump’s insistence for a name to condemn among white supremacists, Biden offered Proud Boys, a far-right group, Trump asked Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” instead, before turning around to say, “Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.”
Stand back and stand by.The words Trump used to endorse far-right, neo-fascist, male-only, white supremacist organization Proud Boys.
While antifa as a group is more fiction than fact, even according to the FBI director, the threat to safety and well-being of African-Americans in the US is very real, and rising, and stretches beyond Trump. Things are getting worse with a rising number of overall gun purchases, which escalates the possibility of armed conflict between the blacks and the law enforcement, and that can only worsen the rising racial disharmony in the country.
Guns And Police Brutality Against African-Americans
On May 25, 2020, a call from a convenience store reported that a man had purchased a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill, following which Minneapolis police officers reached the spot and placed a 46-year-old black man, George Floyd, under arrest. But one of them, Derek Chauvin, a white police officer and a veteran of 19 years in police service, did not stop at that. He pinned Floyd down, placed his knee on Floyd’s neck and kept it there for over eight minutes until the paramedics arrived. In fact, even after the paramedics arrived Chauvin’s knee remained on Floyd’s neck for over a minute. By then Floyd had stopped moving. He was later pronounced dead. All four officers involved in the incident have since been fired by the Police Department. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and faces the grim prospect of up to 40 years in prison. Floyd’s death led to nationwide protests over police brutality against people of color.
Watch: George Floyd’s death in Police Custody | Visual Investigations
On June 2, 2020, The New York Times ran a story on why black Americans feel the need to own and carry a firearm even when they do not particularly like guns simply because they derive a sense of security from being in possession of a weapon. One of the interviewees, Chloe Brown from Colorado Springs, said, “I wasn’t into firearms. I was kind of opposed to them. When you look outside, you can kind of see that there is a need for people protecting themselves, buying firearms, being conscious.” Narrating her experience with the police, Chloe Brown said, “Three years ago I was driving with my children. I was pulled over to a stop by a police officer. And the police officer brandished a gun on me, with my children crying in the back. That was the turning point for me, understanding that the people that are supposed to take care of us and keep us safe may not always be there for us.”
Chloe Brown was just one of the several people interviewed by The New York Times for the story; none of them like guns, and yet they feel the need to carry guns to protect themselves, given their perception of the state of things around them. This is not just bad news, but is, in fact, worse than it appears at first glance. With the rising tendency among blacks to carry guns combined with the higher rate of gun violence in America together with the disproportionate number of blacks in prison, the situation is far grimmer than it seems.
Watch: Why some Black Americans need guns to feel safe
The Role Of Violent Confrontations With The Police
In 2017, there were 1,549 black prisoners for every 100,000 black adults as compared to 272 per 100,000 for white adults and 823 per 100,000 for Hispanic adults, which means that per 100,000, there were six times more blacks than whites and twice as many blacks as Hispanics in American prisons, and the prison situation has not substantially improved since 2017.
Find more statistics at Statista
Statistics alone rarely tell the full story. The mere fact that the number of black prisoners is far higher than that of non-black prisoners by itself does not necessarily establish systemic racial discrimination though it does not rule it out either.
Another way of looking at it could be from the viewpoint of the number of confrontations between the law enforcement and people of color. According to a report in the New York Times, the racial bias of the police translates into a large number of encounters between the police and the African-Americans, which heightens the risk of both arrest as well as death in a shootout with the police. There can be many reasons for the face-off between the police and the suspect spinning out of control, including poor training, prejudice, misunderstanding or a simple mistake. “The omnipresence of guns exaggerates all these risks,” says the report. The risks are the same regardless of race, but the higher the number of confrontations with a section of people, the greater the risk of harm for people belonging to that section.
Arrest data, as per the report, shows that the 28.9 percent of arrestees were African-American, which number is pretty close to 31.8 percent, which is the percentage of African-American who were victims of police-shooting, but which is still substantially higher than 13.2 percent, which is the percentage of African-Americans in the US. Certainly, there is police prejudice against the African-Americans, but the large number of arrests and deaths of the blacks in violent police confrontations cannot solely be chalked up to racial prejudice of individual police officers. In fact, there is only a fraction of the injuries caused to the blacks at the hands of the police that can be attributed to racial prejudice. There are several other factors at work at many levels leading to the tilt against the people of color.
28.9 percent of arrestees are African-American, similar to the percentage of African-American victims of police-shootings (31.8). But substantially higher than the percentage of African-Americans in the US (13.2).
According to the report cited above, the thirty percent of the reported offenders are described as black, which means that in thirty percent of the reported cases, the policemen are looking for a black person, which means that they are as much more likely to get into a confrontation with a person of color. Also, poor neighborhoods are more closely patrolled by the police due to increased probability of crime in these areas, and Black Americans are twice more likely to live in poverty than white Americans or Asian Americans with black Americans constituting as much as one-fourth of the American poor. Furthermore, poverty also increases the probability of one’s taking up a life of crime, for the jobless poor have little to lose.
Black Americans constitute as much as one-fourth of the American poor.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a record five million people became gun owners this year largely due to the fear of civil unrest combined with the general lack of trust in the capability of the law enforcement agencies to maintain peace and order, which probably has a great deal to do with the spate of violence incidents and clashes in the recent times. A large number of these gun owners are likely to be African-Americans, given the fact that they in the current state of things they tend to feel more under the risk of harm than others and, therefore, are inclined to buy guns even though they are hardly enthusiastic about firearms as the June 2 New York Times report found.
All put together, the probability of African-Americans getting into an armed confrontation with the police has risen manifold in the recent times, which translates into a higher probability of a greater number of African-American getting injured or killed at the hands of the police, and all incidents of police violence against African-Americans would feed into the hardening perception of systemic racial discrimination within the police force, inspiring further protests and unrest. Not a bright picture, that. And there is every possibility of the picture getting further darkened by what Trump says and does to pander to his support base, as the first Trump-Biden debate has already demonstrated.
The probability of African-Americans getting into an armed confrontation with the police has risen manifold in the recent times.