Recently, Roland Fryer (an economist, not a sociologist) dropped a working (not peer-reviewed & published) paper claiming that his research shows that there is no racial bias in Officer-Involved Shootings (OIS). Immediately anti-BLMers (the #WhiteComfortMatters crowd) began to repost this paper, hoping to ride its wave of false triumph all the way to the salty white shores of white justification (note: I have only seen this topic trending, I have not seen anyone I personally know post this, so this is not a personal clap-back against any specific individual). However, for the following reasons, his methodology in this study is so flawed, it is about one variable away from being anecdotal:
1. He relies on only raw numbers, failing to adjust for a per capita analysis. Sure there’s been approximately 200 more white deaths by police shootings than black deaths by police shootings, but there are approximately 196 million white Americans compared to approximately 37 million black Americans. As such, black Americans are approximately 6 times more likely per person to be shot & killed by police than are white Americans.
2. His data is based on OIS per stop, failing to adjust for the statistically verifiable fact that black Americans are more likely to be stopped by police, even when not presenting danger or committing a crime, making the numbers of black Americans to be shot by police per non-crime disproportionately high. Conversely, white Americans are more likely to be stopped only when actually presenting danger or committing a crime (even then, white privilege affords white people more leniency with law enforcement), making the likelihood of white Americans being shot by police per non-crime disproportionately low. Essentially, there is no warranted vs. unwarranted shooting metric of any sort, so if police shoot 1 white mass murderer & 1 innocent black child, both events are weighted the same by Fryer & company.
To put this in more relatable terms: My wife & I have 5 nephews & 1 niece. If each year we attend the birthday parties of only 1 nephew & 1 niece, giving them $20 as a gift, Roland Fryerian logic would conclude that our nephews & niece(s) are equally likely to receive $20 from us on their birthdays. However, this reasoning is clearly flawed, as even the most novice statistician can see that, while our niece has a 100% chance of receiving the gift, our nephews only have a 20% chance. So, though nephews & nieces receive the same annual amount per birthday event attended by us, we are initiating far less nephew birthday attendances per capita, thereby actively perpetuating niece privilege.
3. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) is hardly a neutral source: http://www.sourcewatch.org/…/National_Bureau_of_Economic_Re…
4. “Our results have several important caveats. First, all but one dataset was provided by a select group of police departments. It is possible that these departments only supplied the data because they are either enlightened or were not concerned about what the analysis would reveal.”
So, much of the data were volunteered from select police departments, meaning that there is a large selection bias in the samples. In fact, only one of their samples (which does not contain any metrics on police shootings) is nationally representative and randomly sampled.
5. When they “controlled for contextual effects,” all they did was input what was written on police reports BY police officers. So, much of the data is self-reported, by people who (like most) are not going to report that which would incriminate them. This severely limits their findings’ explanatory power and generalizability.
6. The study only addresses shootings; not Sandra Bland-ings, Freddie Gray-ings, Eric Garner-ings, & other forms of killing by police.
7. The study fails to consider the aftermath of OIS. How often per capita are officers investigated, indicted, tried, found guilty, appropriately sentenced when shooting a black person vs. a white person? After all, BLM’s interest is not limited to shootings only, but encompasses all racial injustice, especially as it pertains to the US legal system.
In conclusion, racists who poured the white tears out of their champagne flutes to make room for some celebratory bubbly will need to refill said flutes with their original contents, as this study in no way even begins to subvert the thesis of #BlackLivesMatter. In fact, given that “even when officers report civilians have been compliant and no arrest was made, blacks are 21.3 percent more likely (even in raw numbers!) to endure some form of force”, this study serves as an apologetic that would further attest to the veracity of the #BLM movement’s claims. If there is anything to take with us from this study (in its present underdeveloped & rudimentary state) it is that Americans across the board are shot by police far too often.
As a personal take-away, this study has renewed my hope that the value of black human life may one day be universally recognized & protected in our society. The reason it has performed said function, is that since the Darren Wilson verdict (or more accurately, lack thereof), our society’s general reaction to Black Lives Matter has cultivated in me the belief that the movement’s opponents are all either knowingly willful racists or willfully ignorant racists. However, Fryer (& any research partners) has brought the category of genuinely ignorant racists back to my plausibility structure. He said that this study produced “the most surprising result of (his) career.” This means that, before being misled by his own erroneous research, he subscribed to the truth about black Americans being killed by police at a disproportionate rate, but was swayed by a simple (but thorough) series of oversights that led to a false conclusion. In light of this, some #AllLivesMatter advocates might, like Fryer, be seeking truth but simply lack the analytical bandwidth to rightly assess our society & identify the undervaluing of black life which has been transpiring in our nation since its inception. This gives me hope, as true ignorance is generally easier to cure than hate or fear.