I see very few ways that race relations in the United States can improve.
The issue, as I see it, may be an example of the Chinese Robber Paradox. The paradox essentially goes like this: How many Chinese people would I need to prove to you were robbers before I could convince you that Chinese people generally were inclined to be robbers? A thousand? Ten thousand? What if I could show you a million Chinese people who were legitimately and indisputably robbers? A million would probably be enough to convince most people that Chinese people are generally robbers.
The problem with that conclusion is that there are over a billion Chinese people in China alone. One million Chinese people is not even 1%. Ignoring the idea that if you can find a million examples, there are probably many more you don’t know about, a million Chinese people says absolutely nothing about the overall likelihood of robbery among Chinese people.
But what if the Chinese were robbing people like you?
What if, every day, you were told that another person like you was robbed by a Chinese person? Every day another example of Chinese people being robbers, specifically robbing people like you. Groups who you think of as evil and wrong keep trying to tell you that these robberies are anomalous, and just a product of there being so many Chinese people, so of course SOME of them will be robbers, and SOME of them will be robbing people like you, but people not like you are robbed just as much or more.
But you don’t see that. You only ever see news stories about the people like you being robbed by Chinese people. Maybe not all Chinese people are robbers, but there has to be a pattern here, doesn’t there? People you respect in your community are telling you that Chinese people are robbers. People you think are evil are saying that that’s not true. Who do you believe?
What if this is what’s happening right now with police shootings?
There are approximately 900,000 active duty police officers in the United States. There are approximately 11,000,000 arrests made in the United States per year. How many of those need to go wrong for random reasons before people see a pattern? I would argue around 365 per year would be a solid number to go on. One police incident leading to the killing of an unarmed black male per day, for a year. Shaun King and Deray would have a meltdown if that happened. I would probably think there was something wrong if the number was that high. It’s not.
But let’s assume it is, to make the math easy. A rate that high would make the “Problems during arrest that lead to the death of an unarmed black male, including things like racism” rate 0.003% of all arrests.
Let’s also assume, for the sake of argument, that racism plays a negligible role in those deaths. Is that high or low compared to whites? Is that high or low compared to the percentage of cases where unarmed black men credibly threaten the life of a police officer? The answer is…
Truth seekers? Yes.
Who cares about them?
There is a class of people, in the media, in academia, and “community organizers,” whose job depends on there being conflict, and problems that “need solving.” Some of them may even want those problems to be solved. But the best way they’ve found to get what they want is to stir up “righteous anger.” So every time an unarmed black man is killed by the police, they point to the incident and yell that there is systemic racism in American police.
Conservatives point out, correctly, all the problems with this logic. They point to black-on-black murder. They point out that only a tiny percentage of black arrests end in death. They point out that black officers are more likely to shoot black suspects than white officers are. They point out that more whites are killed by the police than blacks. They point out that, eh, the officer may have been a little trigger happy, but that guy was running at him at the time, so it was probably a reasonable judgement in those circumstances.
Again, who cares?
Black people are fed examples of people like them being killed by the police nearly every day. Logically, it’s fairly obvious that these are anomalous events, statistical noise. But how does logic help the people who keep seeing people like them being killed? It’s not logic that’s driving them to their anger, and it’s certainly not logic that’s going to get them out of it.
How many fewer than 365 would there need to be before people were no longer concerned about police shootings? Police shootings will never be eliminated. There are simply too many arrests per year for some of them to not end in violence, barring some awesome future tech solution. So zero is out of the question. The actual number is around 100 per year. Out of 11 million arrests. That’s two per week. If one per month can be spun into a story, that is more than enough to keep racial tensions high. I think you could continue to see racial tensions at this height with a rate of one or two per month. That would be between 12 and 24 per year. I don’t think it’s possible to get the rate below 24 per year. I certainly don’t think it’s possible to get the rate below 12 per year.
Given this scenario, where race is a negligible factor in these deaths, how could we possibly ease racial tensions? You would need a concentrated effort by the media, academia, and community organizers all admitting that they were wrong about the issue, and convincing people that there really isn’t a problem. That’s not going to happen for two reasons. First, it goes against all the interests of the people involved except their altruism, and I have learned not to trust in the altruism of community organizers. Second, if the people currently handing out this rhetoric were to change their stance, that would simply leave open their position as agitators to someone that is still willing to say there is a problem, and the original agitators would simply take the place of the conservatives that everyone ignored.
That’s why I fear that race relations have nowhere to go but down in the United States. I have no interest in anything resembling a “race war,” but I don’t see many scenarios where something like that doesn’t end up happening.
The only possibly way I can see out of this trap is if some kind of world-class persuader manages to persuade the people filled with “righteous anger” that something is being done about their issue, and that that something is working. I have no idea how he’d do it, but that’s why he’s the skilled persuader and I’m not.