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Greatest Threat to Democracy: Police Violence Against Black Men?

Melissa Harris-Perry: The Deaths of Black Men in America

Melissa Harris-Perry: The Deaths of Black Men in America

According to police violence and murders of mainly Black men is the greatest threat to American democracy. Certain events lend credence to this declaration.

  • Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Florida by a neighborhood watchman.
  • John Crawford was gunned down by local police in an Ohio Wal-Mart for holding a BB gun.
  • Michael Brown was shot six times by a Missouri police officer.

These men shared two important characteristics: they were Black and unarmed. Many other similar occurrences support the assertion in that hunting season is on and Black men are prey.

There is no centralized data base that keeps track of extrajudicial killings by police but there are reports that shed light on the situation.

The National Safety Council reports that Black males are 21 times more likely to be shot, maimed or killed by police than their any other racial group. A 2007 investigation by Colorlines and the Chicago Reporter looked at media reports of police shootings and found that in every city the publications examined, the percentage of Blacks killed by police was at least double the percentage of Blacks in that city’s total population. A Bureau of Justice Statistics Report in 2008 found that Black people were almost three times more likely than white people to be subjected to force or threatened with force by police.

Operation Ghetto Storm ( reports that in 2012, a Black person was killed by law-enforcement every 28 hours. Melissa Perry (video available) notes that in this country from 2006 -2012 at least two Black people were killed every week by a white policeman. Operation Ghetto Storm also reports that although Black people make up about 13% of the U.S. population, 41% of those who died by taser between 2009 and 2013 were Black.

Despite these grim statistics, there is good news: Police shootings need not be inevitable. Washington, DC had the nation’s highest rate of police shootings in the 1990s but cut the rate through a combination of training and accountability. Increasingly,  police departments like those of Los Angeles and Portland are looking less at whether a shooting was justified and more at decisions made by policemen and supervisors that led to the shooting. A 2012 Riato California study showed that when police wore cameras complaints against police dropped 88% and use of force by police dropped 60% when compared to the previous 12 months.

Watch video of Melissa Harris-Perry:

Article by Y. A. Young

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