On BLM Protests, the NBA, and Police Brutality


The NBA boycotts have once again brought police brutality to the forefront of American discussion. Not that the protests ever stopped, but the momentum driven by the murder of George Floyd slowly dissipated as American life returned to relative normalcy. However, the shooting of Jacob Blake, followed by the NBA boycott, has brought these discussions back to the forefront. For the Milwaukee Bucks, the team that initiated the movement, the shooting hit close to home. The Jacob Blake incident took place in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 45-minutes from the Bucks home arena.

Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back with his three sons in the car. It is not a political issue; it is a simple human rights issue, not Republican or Democratic.

On the topic of whether these protests are justified or not, the usual counter-argument is that white Americans die more at the hands of police office officers than black Americans. They'll say something along the lines of, "Well, if you look at the numbers, last year more white people were killed by police than black people."

Now, if you understand basic math, you'll understand why that statistic is extremely misleading. The fact that people would willingly use such a misleading statistic frustrated me. That is until I realized that some of those who reference those statistics are not necessarily purposefully spewing out misleading information. It might come from a lack of full comprehension.

The United States has never been great at math as test scores reveal year after year. So let's break it down for those struggling to understand why people are passionately protesting.

An accurate interpretation of the situation would look at race and police killings by percentages, not a count with no context. In other words, we know better than to blindly count the total number of cop related deaths because that is skewed heavily by the fact that there are more white than there are Black Americans.

Of the estimated 328 million people in the United States. 60% are White Non-Hispanic Americans, while 13% are Black Americans. To simplify this, that means out of 100 people, 60 of them are white, and 13 of them are black.

When you look at percentages, black people are far more likely to die from the hands of a police officer.

Despite being 13% of the population, black Americans make up 23% of all police-related deaths. That means the average black American is 2.5 times more likely than a white American to die at the hands of a police officer simply because of the color of their skin.

To explain it further, let's look at it like taxation since that might be the only form of math all Americans understand.

In this example, John made 1 million dollars and had to give 5% to taxes, that means John paid 50,000 in taxes and got to keep 950,000. You, on the other hand, made 50 thousand dollars and was taxed at 40 percent. You lost 20,000 in taxes and got to keep 30 thousand.

It means that while John paid more in taxes, you were more affected because you had to give up a larger percentage of your revenue to taxes. So it would be justified if you were upset at the unfair tax rate.

This is what is happening with police shootings. Yes, more white people die from police shootings, but that is because the white American population outnumbers the black population by 154 million people.

But stereotypes exist, and for some, they comprehend these numbers but insist that black people are more likely to be killed by a police officer because of their actions. The stereotype is that black people are somehow more deserving of violent retaliation from police officers.

To address that incorrect stereotype, let's look at killings in situations where the victim was non-violent because, after all, that is what people are protesting.

In non-violent situations resulting in death, black Americans make up 36% of all deaths despite representing only 13% of the population.

That means in non-violent police interactions where the victim was unarmed, black Americans are three times more likely than white Americans to be killed. 

That is what people are protesting. The color of your skin should not determine your likelihood of dying at any point, but especially in situations where you pose no threat to a police officer.

The protests aren't about violent armed men and women who were killed by police officers. That would be absurd. No one is saying that a cop killing a person intending to cause harm is unjust. No. What the protests are about are the instances where black men and women are killed, in non-violent and non-threatening situations.

A non-violent situation like Walter Scott in 2015. In what started as a traffic stop for a bad brake light but ended with eight shots to the back.

A non-violent situation like George Floyd who, died from having his neck kneeled on for 8 minutes and 46 seconds after allegedly spending a counterfeit $20 bill.

A non-violent situation like Eric Garner in 2014, choked to death by multiple police officers for allegedly selling loose cigarettes.

A non-violent situation like Jacob Blake, shot seven times in the back with his three sons in the car.

Keep in mind these are just the incidents that people caught on video.

Then you have the "but black on black murder" people. They'll tell you that black on black crime results in more deaths than police on black crime, so protesters need to focus on that instead of police brutality.

To that, I say, pointing out one wrong doesn't eliminate another. That would be like saying the outrage over 9/11 and other terrorist attacks are overblown because Americans commit mass shootings against other Americans every year, which results in more death than 9/11 did. It would be absurd, but that is what you are doing when you point to black on black murders as a means of justifying police brutality.

Back to the NBA, this will go down an unforgettable moment in history. The boycott/strike/whatever you want to call it won't end racism. But it does generate the attention, conversations, and movements needed to implement the changes people are demanding. The truth is, without the stand those players took, a lot of us might have looked over the Jacob Blake incident.

The last time the NBA saw boycotts over racial issues was in 1961. Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics boycotted an exhibition game after black players were denied entrance to several locations in what was a segregated United States. Here we are 59-years later, and the need for athletes to take a stand is as strong as ever.

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