What the Data Say: Live White shooters, dead unarmed Blacks

  Rap Brown once famously said, “Violence is as American as apple pie.” That was over 50 years ago. Unfortunately, it was true then and might be even more valid now. For example, there have been over 300 mass shootings in 2022—some more gruesome than others.

  While processing the barbarity of that societal situation, another phenomenon becomes more and more evident—the kid gloves approach of law enforcement to white mass shooters. One cannot help but contrast that approach with how police gun down many unarmed blacks.

  The young White male shooter on the Fourth of July in Highland Park, Illinois, killed seven people and injured many others. Later that evening, miles from the scene, he was apprehended without incident after a brief auto chase. No incident, no shots.

  This occurred while we were still reeling from the brutal killing of Jayland Walker in Akron, Ohio. After a routine traffic stop, a car chase followed with Walker accused by the police of shooting once at them from the moving vehicle. Walker then exited the car and ran unarmed. 

  Officers fired at him 90+ times, hitting him 60 times and killing him.

  A mass shooting, a much later car chase, and no shots fired.

  A routine traffic stop, a car chase, and a dead young black male. This keeps happening.

  A few days before that, three law enforcement officers in Kentucky were killed and five wounded when a White man with a rifle fired on police attempting to serve a warrant. After some negotiations, the police arrested the man without further incident.

  A few weeks ago, after a traffic stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a white police officer wrestled with the driver, a young Black man, Patrick Lyoya. Videos show that Lyoya ran and was tackled by the officer, who shot Lyoya in the back of the head, killing him.

  Amid the revelations of the ineptness of the Uvalde, police is the clear fact that the school shooter was treated with kid gloves for over an hour.

  Social science research shows that police officers and civilians are quick to fire a gun at unarmed Blacks but not as hurried to shoot at White suspects.

  The Associated Press pointed to a litany of examples of White men taken calmly into police custody after shootings, including Dylann Roof, who killed nine Black people at a South Carolina church in 2015; Robert Aaron Long, who killed eight people at Georgia massage businesses last year; Patrick Crusius, who is accused of killing 23 people in a racist attack at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart in 2019; and Kyle Rittenhouse, whose attempt to surrender immediately after shooting three white people at a Wisconsin protest was rebuffed. Meanwhile, George Floyd, Atatiana Jefferson, Tamir Rice, and a host of other Black people have died at police hands when the initial circumstances were far less volatile.

  “There’s just a stark contrast between how a Kyle Rittenhouse or a Payton Gendron gets treated by the system in these incidents versus how a Black man gets treated in general,” said Insha Rahman, vice president of advocacy and partnerships at the Vera Institute — a national nonprofit research and advocacy group focused on criminal justice.

  Rahman said there are a lot of similarities in the public perception of the two cases. Rittenhouse walked toward police with an AR-15-style rifle slung over his shoulder, his hands raised. He testified at trial that police told him to “go home,” and he turned himself in the next day. He was acquitted of all charges after arguing self-defense.

  Live White shooters, dead unarmed Blacks. That is too often in America today.

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