There’s no need to examine, anecdote by anecdote, whether Obama is right about racial profiling in America. It doesn’t take a single case to make the President’s point; there is a lot of data already on the books to substantiate his claims.
This post originally appeared at ThinkProgress
On Friday, President Obama gave a personal, emotional speech about the killing on Trayvon Martin, in which he spoke extensively on the broader issue of race in the United States.
Obama addressed the experiences of racial profiling that are all to common for Black men. “There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store,” Obama said. “That includes me. And there are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator.”
“The African-American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws,” Obama said, “everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.
There’s no need to examine, anecdote by anecdote, whether Obama is right about this. It doesn’t take a single case, like the case of 17-year-old Martin, to make the President’s point; there is a lot of data already on the boooks to substantiate his claims. Here are just a few charts that make Obama’s point:
1. Justified killings of Black people under ‘Stand Your Ground.’ PBS’s Frontline made this instructive chart on the way that defendants who invoke ‘Stand Your Ground’ — the policy that allowed George Zimmerman to walk free on the night that he killed Trayvon Martin — fare. PBS explains, “The figures represent the percentage likelihood that the deaths will be found justifiable compared to white-on-white killings.” The result? A huge racial disparity of when the defense works — and when it doesn’t:
2. Stop-and-Frisks of young Black men. In May, the Public Advocate for New York put out a report detailing the way that the city’s controversial ‘Stop-and-Frisk policy is unevenly applied. Not only did it find that Blacks and Latinos make up, on average, 85 percent of stops under the program, but it also conveyed exactly how skewed those numbers are compared to the city’s demographics:
3. Drug arrests for White and Black users. The number of White drug users is about the same as the number of Black users — but you wouldn’t know it from the arrest statistics. In recent history, Black people have been four times as likely to be arrested on marijuana charges:
4. Death penalty for Black prisoners. In Texas, the state that accounts for the most executions in the nation, 40 percent of death row inmates are Black. That reflects a national trend; across several states that have the death penalty, Black inmates make up a hugely disproportionate number of those sentenced to death, despite Black people’s relatively small percentage of the population. But perhaps the chart that best makes the point is this, from deathpenaltyinfo.org, that shows the racial breakdown of who gets the death sentence for interracial crimes: