Locking up rookies is easy: Earlier today, we linked to a recent post by New York magazine's Eric Levitz.
Levitz began his post with an inaccurate statement. Overall, he made a good point about the absurdity of a narrative which quickly emerged in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd.
Where looting occurred, so did this peculiar story line. Plainly, the looting was being done by people from out of state:
LEVITZ (6/1/20): The account was first articulated by officials in the Twin Cities. “The people that are doing this are not Minneapolis residents,” Mayor Jacob Frey said of the violence in his city Friday night. “They are coming in largely from outside of this city, outside of the region, to prey on everything we have built over the last several decades.”In Minnesota, both major mayors made the charge. In fairly ridiculous fashion, so did Governor Walz, who somehow escaped being named by Levitz.
Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul echoed this assessment, announcing that “every single person” who’d been arrested on his city’s streets Friday night had been “from out of state.”
Levitz went on from there. But the claim traveled far and wide, possibly seeming to defy several points of logic.
There is some truth to the claim, Levitz said. But when he offered his overview of the matter, a statistical claim was observed:
LEVITZ: Fundamentally, the very concept of the “outside agitator” is incoherent in the context of nationwide protests over a nationwide problem. America saw 1,004 of its people killed by police officers last year, a higher tally than any nation besides Brazil, Venezuela, the Philippines, or Syria. A majority of those killed had light skin. There is no one in the United States who lacks standing to protest this state of affairs. Police departments may be local, but their capacity to use force is expanded or constrained by federal policy. If one wishes to see one’s representatives in D.C. pursue police reforms, traveling to the Twin Cities to join in its protests—and thus amplify its message of discontent with the status quo—is a reasonable thing to do.Police killings are indeed a problem in this country. We base that claim on the assumption that we'd rather not have any such killings in a given year, as opposed to 1,004.
Is it true that "a majority of those killed had light skin?" Since we don't quite know what the statement means, we aren't sure how to answer. We assume this is away to say, without saying that police kill many more "white" people as opposed to people who are "black."
Within the next week, we may review the data on police killings compiled by the Washington Post. Earlier this year, the Post abandoned its multiyear effort, perhaps acknowledging an obvious fact:
No one cares about this topic. At least, no one cares about it enough to ever discuss such data, or to attempt to say what such data might mean.
Indifference to suffering, disadvantage and death is part of the modern condition. Our guess? In Minnesota, politicians were leaping to blame outsiders, sometimes to an absurd degree, as a way of dodging the role they themselves may have played in the Twin Cities' ongoing problems.
Unflattering reports about the Minneapolis police department have continued to emerge. What did Walz or Frey do, over the years, to address these ongoing problems? To address the state's widely-discussed public school "achievement gaps," the largest in the nation?
So too perhaps with Amy Klobuchar and with Keith Ellison. What have those two ever done? Or were they merely standing around all these years, perhaps a bit like the rookie police officers they now want to send off to prison?
For all we know, Ellison may be the world's nicest person. On Sunday's Meet the Press, he made the remark we've liked the least of all the remarks we've seen this past week:
ELLISON (5/31/20): Well, Minnesota is a kind of a tale of two cities. It really is a beautiful, wonderful place. I love it here. I've raised all four of my kids here. There's so many great things about it. So many great people. And yet we have very stark disparities when it comes to African-Americans. Health disparities in health care, health disparities in housing, health disparities when it comes to employment. And disparities all around.It's what he says to people! If Minnesota can have some of the highest SAT scores in the country, Minnesota can do it for everyone!
I'll give you a quick example, about 70 some percent of Minnesotans own their own homes. But only about 27% of African Americans do. African Americans are in a fragile economic position in this state. And we need massive investment. And what I say to people is, "Look, if we can have some of the highest SAT scores in the country, if we can have some of the highest voting participation in the country, highest voter—home-ownership in the country for whites, we can do it for everyone. We just have to have the will to do it for everybody. And I think that this sad, tragic situation might give us the energy to really, really make those kind of commitments because they are absolutely needed.
We've seen people making jive remarks of that type since the 1960s. Such jive remarks convey the sense that the speaker just really believes and cares.
Out in cable land, we liberals are dumb enough to buy it. It doesn't occur to us to wonder what Ellison has ever done to achieve this nirvana over the past many years.
Or has he just been standing around? To us, his comment seemed very familiar and very faux. To us, his comment was the standard remark of the fake and the uncaring.
Meanwhile, statistics can be hard! According to Levitz, Amerika "saw 1,004 of its people killed by police officers last year, a higher tally than any nation besides Brazil, Venezuela, the Philippines, or Syria" (our italics).
Here we go again! That italicized claim is only true because of the fact that Amerika has the world's third largest population. If you adjust for population size, Amerika falls behind a much longer list of nations when it comes to the rate of police killings.
We also rank at the very top among fully developed, first-world nations. At that point, you might want to starting adjusting for the number of guns in circulation. But also perhaps for the overall rate of violent crime.
We'll have more on this in the week ahead. Meanwhile, statistics and caring can be hard. Locking up scapegoats is easy.