Which women get shot and killed by police?

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2020

The Washington Post flails and flounders: Women get shot and killed by police a whole lot less often than men. 

Here's the way the numbers track according to the Washington Post's recent front-page report:

IATI (9/8/20): Since The Washington Post began tracking fatal shootings by police in 2015, officers have fatally shot 247 women out of the more than 5,600 people killed overall.

The names of these women are often not as well known as the men, but their deaths in some cases raise the same questions about the use of deadly force by police and, in particular, its use on Black Americans. 

Those were paragraphs 3 and 4 of the Post's lengthy report. As you can see, women have constituted roughly four percent of the people shot and killed by police officers.

In that early passage, we were told that these shooting deaths raise particular questions about the shooting deaths of black women, but we weren't told why.  The explanation may lie in these subsequent passages:

IATI:  Of the 247 women fatally shot, 48 were Black and seven of those were unarmed.

[...]

Since 2015, Black women have accounted for less than 1 percent of the overall fatal shootings in cases where race was known. But within this small subset, Black women, who are 13 percent of the female population, account for 20 percent of the women shot and killed and 28 percent of the unarmed deaths.

Black women were only 20 percent of the women shot and killed by police. But that's somewhat more than their share of the national population. This could raise an obvious question:

Why do a disproportionate number of black women get shot and killed by police? Also, why do black women account for a slightly higher percentage of the unarmed shooting deaths?

Was Iati trying to answer those questions in her sprawling report? She never quite said so, nor was it ever especially clear what she was trying to show. 

That said, she plainly did focus on black shooting deaths. As we noted on Tuesday, the numbers look like this:

Women fatally shot by police officers, 2015 to present:

White: 147 

Black: 48

Hispanic: 29

Cases discussed in Iati's report:

White: 1

Black: 5

Multiracial: 1 

According to the Post's Fatal Force site, white women have constituted 62.3% of the women shot and killed by police officers from 2015 to the present. Black women have constituted 20.3% of the dead.

But of the seven cases Iati discussed, only one decedent was white!  Unless you've given a clear explanation for such selective treatment, this strikes us as an unwise way to organize such a report.

What's wrong with that approach? As we explained on Tuesday, it may extend a misperception about who dies in such incidents. And since this is an important topic, a serious journalist would presumably want to avoid creating misperceptions.

In our view, the racial imbalance of Iati's roster was one of several major problems with this massive report. The fact that she bungled the facts of the one "white" case she discussed only adds to the problem.

That said, a question remains. Why have black women been shot and killed at a higher rate than others? In a graphic, Iati offers these numbers, and we'll assume they're correct:

Rates at which women are shot and killed by police, per year

White women: 1.5 per million

Black women: 2.3 per million

Hispanic women: 1 per million

Women of other races/ethnicities: 0.8 per million

Let's start with a bit of upbeat news; that famous "white privilege" only seems to extend so far! According to Iati's numbers, white women are shot and killed at a substantially higher rate than Hispanic women or "others."

That said, black women get shot and killed at the highest rate of all. Does that result from selective treatment by police? Or could that highest rate be tracked to some other cause?

Iati never really tried to address those questions. Instead, she offered accounts of seven fatal shootings, offering somewhat bowdlerized accounts of the events in question.

No one can learn a freaking thing from the crummy work the Post published that day. Tomorrow, though, we'll call your attention to one particular aspect of those seven deaths.

Two hundred and forty-seven women have been shot and killed by police officers. In truth, there's next to nothing we can learn from The Iati Seven.

The Post should be ashamed of itself for publishing such a lousy report. But police shooting deaths are a form of blue tribe religion now, and the Post wants to be a high priest.

Why are more black women shot and killed? After reading Iati's report, we have no idea.

Tomorrow, though, we'll look at Iati's first five cases. All five were tragic deaths, but if we want to start doing real journalism, we have to stop making offerings to The Woke Gods and we have to start looking at cases.

Along the way, we might want to start being grown-ups. Anthropologists sadly report that this is unlikely to happen. 

18 comments:

  1. "Why do a disproportionate number of black women get shot and killed by police?"

    Our uneducated guess would be that it's because the police shoot people who are dangerous, not by your liberal-hitlerian racial quotas, dear Bob.

    But hey, you already know that, don't you?

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  2. "As we explained on Tuesday, it may extend a misperception about who dies in such incidents. And since this is an important topic, a serious journalist would presumably want to avoid creating misperceptions."

    Somerby explains that Iati did include the exact numbers of black and white women who were shot. How then would presenting 7 cases (5 of black women) create a misimpression? The reader has been given the stats. Is Somerby suggesting that readers will ignore the stats in favor of the anecdotes, or that readers somehow count the relative number of each category, by race, when reading detailed accounts of how women get shot? He had to make a specific effort to do so, but will casual readers make that same effort, or even notice?

    The article is behind a pay wall or I might go and read through the 7 cases to see if I can figure out why each was selected. It wouldn't make sense to include 7 cases in which the details were repetitive, so most likely each illustrates something different about the phenomenon. It may be that the black women's details were better exemplars of whatever pattern Iati was trying to describe. There is probably a reason why they were selected, beyond race. If Somerby can figure out what it is, he might have something interesting to talk about here, but he is simply peeved that black women are over-represented among a group in a society in which white women usually exemplify qualities that are assumed to be normative for black women too.

    Somerby doesn't like living in a culture in which black women have greater visibility than white women. Imagine how black women feel when their lives are most frequently expected to resemble those of white women. If he truly doesn't believe race matters, why cannot black women be the most frequent cases? This is the same issue as when conservatives get upset because a mall has a black santa or a movie portrays a fictional president as a black woman. You can't say that race doesn't matter and then make a fuss when a reporter chooses to exemplify a shooting problem using the details of black women's lives instead of white women.

    Mao says black women are more dangerous, especially unarmed black women. Somerby says black women are the same as white women because race doesn't signify. Maybe the problem is that the cops disagree and think about race differently, more like Mao and less like Somerby.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe we can consider that no matter their race, it’s likely that these women are predominantly from the working class and that can come with certain cultural pathologies, particularly as a function of racism.

      Delete
    2. That's a hypothesis. You can go back and read the details in the article to see whether it is confirmed. "certain cultural pathologies" sounds like a euphemism for stereotypes about black lives. To the extent that cops hold such stereotypes, you don't have to be "working class" to be shot, if you are black.

      Delete
  3. Somerby asks: "What me worry?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Racism is a hoax

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  6. It is grossly inappropriate to say "All Lives Matter," because that is an attempt to deny the particular and excessive killing of African Americans. As for "White Lives Matter"...we won't even go there.

    However, "Female Lives Matter," is obviously OK. Nothing to discuss, right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who is saying "Female Lives Matter"? Somerby? He is characterizing Iati's article as being only about women in general, but then Somerby complains because 5 out of 7 examples are of black women being killed. Maybe Somerby is mischaracterizing Iati's intent in writing the article. We can't tell because the article itself is behind a paywall, but we have seen that Somerby isn't always entirely honest when presenting excerpts from other people's work.

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    2. The WAPO journalists. Was that really so hard?

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