Excerpt from chapter entitled “A Few Bad Apples”
“White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said Wednesday that he doesn’t think systemic racism exists in the United States.
‘I don’t believe there is systemic racism in the U.S. I’m not going to go into a long riff on it,’ Kudlow, who is white, said when a reporter asked about the country’s black unemployment rate. Kudlow spoke to reporters at the White House following an interview on CNBC’s ‘The Exchange.’
The existence of systemic racism in the United States has been widely acknowledged by experts and academics, as well as by lawmakers and corporate leaders.
Kudlow’s comments Wednesday came as protests against systemic racism and police brutality have filled U.S. cities of all sizes in recent weeks following the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
Kudlow, in trying to push back against the existence of systemic racism, touted efforts by the Trump administration on criminal justice reform and historically low unemployment figures for black and Hispanic workers last year.
Asked again by a reporter whether he believes there is systemic racism ‘at all’ in the U.S., Kudlow said, ‘I do not.’
Kudlow said he believes the ‘harm comes when you have some very bad apples’ in law enforcement, and he condemned Floyd’s death.
‘And I think everyone in this country agrees with me,’ he said.” (Stankiewicz, 2020)
As I watched the outpouring of support for George Floyd from white Americans and other ethnic groups, I applauded, but it wasn’t the most heinous example of police brutality resulting in death that I had seen. I don’t say that to minimize George Floyd or the terrible manner in which he died. However, as African Americans we have seen too many black men shot execution-style, even in the back, as was the case with Walter Scott and now Jacob Blake.
In this chapter, I plan to further dismantle the fallacy that racism in America’s system of policing does not exist. Earlier I quoted a Forbes article that spoke about the police experience of Black Americans and the different experiences of white Americans. The quote said that the extent of the different experiences “goes to the heart of the question of whether all Americans feel that they are part of a single nation rather than living in separate communities divided by color and subject to differing rights and burdens.” (Sullum, 2016)
There is a different America that white Americans experience, especially with the police. Comments made by Mr. Kudlow and the president about a “few bad apples” serve only to widen the divide between blacks and whites in America. They fuel dismissive attitudes that divert attention away from what is becoming a national crisis for black Americans.
An August 2019 study entitled “Risk of being killed by police use-of-force in the U.S. by age, race/ethnicity, and sex”(Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences https://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1821204116) highlights the disparity between deaths by the police between black and whites.
“We estimate that over the life course, at levels of risk similar to those observed between 2013 and 2018, about 52 (90 percent uncertainty interval) of every 100,000 men and boys in the United States will be killed by police use of force over the life course, and about 3 of every 100,000 women and girls will be killed by police over the life course. Figure 2 displays the ratio of lifetime risk for each racial/ethnic group relative to white risk for both men and women. Note that a rate ratio of one indicates equality in mortality risk relative to whites. The highest levels of inequality in mortality risk are experienced by Black men. Black men are about 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police over the life course than are white men. Black women are about 1.4 times more likely to be killed by police than are white women… Among all groups, Black men and boys face the highest lifetime risk of being killed by police. Our models predict that about 1 in 1,000 Black men and boys will be killed by police over the life course (96 per 100,000).” (Frank Edwards, 2019)
The Washington Post’s own “comprehensive examination of police shootings showed that black Americans account for just 13 percent of the population but one-fourth of shooting victims. Among unarmed victims, the disparity was even greater: More than one-third of those fatally shot were black.”
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