Is widespread racial bias evident?

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Valley News - Opinion

I feel like I always have to start by saying racism is evil. Any bias based on innate traits is inherently wrong, and I look forward to a post racial society where we can love and respect each other and treasure our differences. 

I also understand police aren’t perfect, and there is a lot of discussion around training, cameras, immunity, etc. I believe we will come out in a better place, but we have to be honest about some of these issues and data and not just believe emotional narratives that we are continually fed through social media and national news. We have to continue to question and be courageous enough to stand up to people who would distort facts to make things worse than they are.

Did you know that police have 375 million contacts a year with civilians? While it is widely believed right now that there is a disproportionate amount of white on black racism-fueled police arrests and shootings, the data doesn’t support it.

According to author Heather Mac Donald, “In 2019, police officers fatally shot 1,004 people, most of whom were armed or otherwise dangerous. African Americans were about a quarter of those killed by cops last year (235), a ratio that has remained stable since 2015. 

“That share of black victims is less than what the black crime rate would predict, since police shootings are a function of how often officers encounter armed and violent suspects. In 2018, the latest year for which such data have been published, African Americans made up 53% of known homicide offenders in the U.S. and committed about 60% of robberies, though they are 13% of the population.

“The police fatally shot nine unarmed blacks and 19 unarmed whites in 2019, according to a Washington Post database, down from 38 and 32, respectively, in 2015 (and closer to 100 in the 70s). The Washington Post defines ‘unarmed’ broadly to include such cases as a suspect in Newark, New Jersey, who had a loaded handgun in his car during a police chase. 

“In 2018, there were 7,407 black homicide victims. Assuming a comparable number of victims last year, those nine unarmed black victims of police shootings represent 0.1% of all African Americans killed in 2019. By contrast, a police officer is 18 1/2 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by a police officer,” Mac Donald said.

Any killing is devastating, especially if it’s caught on video as with George Floyd or Rayshard Brooks. The beating of white people by black protesters is horrible as well, but I don’t see that video looped over and over on the nightly news. 

Part of the reason it seems the police are racist and aggressive is because of media and technology. When the police kill an unarmed white man, like Tony Timpa in 2016 in Dallas, it typically doesn’t go past local news. There are no Hollywood star memorials. It doesn’t fit the popular narrative. No one knows Tony’s name.

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was leading the civil rights movement, they were fighting for their right to sit where they wanted in a theater or in the front of the bus. But they weren’t hurting people or burning and looting businesses. 

I believe we have a perfect storm right now with young people who have been taught by culture or maybe from their university to become social justice warriors. Partly because they are young, they don’t have an expansive knowledge of history or a good understanding of where we’ve come from. Because they are young, they don’t have as much wisdom as some of the older generations who have actually lived through the civil rights era or helped free the world of communism or socialism when a hundred million people died under Mao Zedong, Stalin, Lenin, Hitler or Pol Pot. 

These young people have lived in privilege, yet they believe the U.S. is evil. They have had the privilege of growing up in one of the freest countries in the world and in history for that matter. 

No matter what their race, they have been the product of some sort of privilege. Is race the most important one? By what standard? How important is the privilege of wealth, family structure, intelligence, geography, youth, education, attractiveness or health? Statistically, many of those are far more important. 

The greatest, I believe, is their privilege of growing up in this time in history and in America. While it’s not perfect, the U.S. is where a lot of immigrants still desire to make their home so that they too can live in a country where the rule of law is respected and they have the freedom, no matter what color their skin, hair or eyes are, to achieve whatever they dream for their family. They don’t have to fear their local government officials. 

It’s a far cry from how hard our ancestors had it hundreds of years ago, and I hope, before they destroy our country that they are able to get an understanding that violence is not the answer. 

I keep referring to the book that I published in 1996 by Mason Weaver, entitled “It’s OK to Leave the Plantation” because it was so pivotal for me in so many ways. Weaver, a black man and a Berkeley grad in political science and black history, recounted his growing up years, the strength and integrity of his family and the tragic racism he encountered. 

Ultimately, he found his strength in forgiveness and that gave him the freedom to achieve anything he wanted to do. He is a blessed man. He also has a soft spot for Fallbrook, Bonsall and Temecula where he started his career speaking to Republican groups. He was called all kinds of names by other black people, and he didn’t care. He is not angry. He doesn’t believe anyone has held him back or has the power to hold him back. Now maybe he comes from a stronger family. I don’t know. 

I do know that for those who may be refugees, immigrants, poor or for any reason still disenfranchised in our county, there are amazing organizations like Mission Driven Finance who provide funding for businesses who may typically not be fundable, and they concentrate on businesses who are good for the community. 

They are a group that funded Village News when we needed a boost, and they did it because they believed in us and what we were doing and our impact on the community. They are an example of the best this country has to offer: competent people working with generous funders to provide opportunity to grateful benefactors who wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise.

Also, here locally, we do our best for at risk and food insecure families through the food pantry, all our nonprofits and health care facilities. Other than the occasional deportation issue, we live in a place where we all feel pretty safe and respectful of each other, and I really cherish that. It’s definitely a privilege we all value. 

If we can keep the looters from destroying more neighborhoods, my hope is that the opportunity zones, school choice, the historic funding for historically black colleges and universities will help, and we will return to the lowest unemployment rate for the black community and the highest wage increases that were being enjoyed before the coronavirus pandemic. That’s a great start anyway. 

My guess is that the rioters weren’t aware that these historic things had happened in the last couple of years. If they had the perspective of history and the media was talking about them, people wouldn’t be quite so angry. They might have hope that while our systems aren’t perfect, they’re pretty darn good. 

We don’t need to destroy everything and start over. We need to continue to build from what we’ve started and recognize that we’ve come a long way with civil rights and that lowering the police shootings of 100 per year down to nine is not perfect, but it is a 91% improvement. Can we agree on that? 

Julie Reeder can be reached by email at