Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Gimmie Numbers

Here's what I want done.

We are capable of mapping every dirt road and muddy footpath on the planet and of putting the information into a little plastic box that talks to us and tells us when to turn our cars, so I figure it can't be too hard to tally up the exact number of people killed by American police in the last, say, two decades, and to break them into African American and white -- or into any other racial categories.

Let's get the real numbers. Then, let's argue about the issues represented.

I'm not implying anything at all. What I want to know is, does anyone want to see the truth? I do. Then, at least, one side or the other will have to shut up about which way the numbers lean. If the cops kill 70% more African Americans people than white people, we will be faced with a number. (That number, of course, will then be interpreted; bigots will say that it is that way because African Americans are no good; supporters of the dead will say it is because white cops are racist; reasonable people will come up with reasonable theories. But, at the very least, we will have concrete numbers to start with.)

I don't think it can be too hard to do.

One thing I know is that we need to put a stop to vague and emotion-based argumentation on the topic. Everyone is not Michael Brown and Michael Brown is not everyone. I want to know if he is one of 10,000 young black men killed by cops in the last decade or one of five. I want to know if 8,000, 15 or 302 young white men were killed by cops in America in the last decade. We can use that info to help define our problems, which is the step before solving them. Otherwise, we are just flailing in the dark.

I want to know the same thing about guns. I want numbers. How many evildoers were shot by upstanding citizens? Exactly, how many -- and how many crimes were committed with legal and illegal guns, respectively? How many people actually defended themselves with guns in the last decade? I want the stories about the grandma who killed the home invader and the stories about the guy who shot a grandma while she was petting her rescued pit bull puppy that she bought to bring to visit a six-year-old cancer patient to stop.

Again, statistics are not the end of an argument and they can be skewed. (See John Oliver's brilliant piece on Miss America and its scholarship claims as an example.) You will always have the idiots who think that because 90% of the kids who don't do drugs come from families who eat dinner together that eating dinner together is the cause of a drug free life and not that families who eat dinner together have a strong foundation that comes from an overall philosophy and base of love and interaction the leads them to eat dinner together and that contributes to the constitution of a kid who makes good, self-respecting choices...

...but let us at least try to dry things up a bit. Don't put away, but put aside the hankies for a little and look at numbers. Then we can fight over what they mean. But at least our starting point will be statistics and not agenda or sympathy.

I don't know if these figures are available, but they should be. If they are, show me where. I want to see. Do you? If  you do, will you follow the path of logic or take out the machete of wishing?

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