Vanity Fair published a whole bunch of statistics about blacks and police. So people think they are doing a lot of thinking about the subject. So here is my simple question. Can you identify racial bias?
I don't want to be too clever here, because I see a very simple way out of this descent into statistical madness, which is to avoid statistical morality in the first place. But when we think about 'racist white cops' and 'unarmed black men' we've already stepped into a pile.
Here's the problem put as simply as I can put it. The racism of 'racist white cops' is not the same as the racism of the KKK. Furthermore the 'profile' of black males is not the same across America. This is a logical assertion that cannot be proven or disproven by statistics, and that is because nobody really disambiguates the racial culpability of the victims, nor of the virulence of the racism of the perpetrators. So the inherent problem is that 'racial bias' could be criminal, or it could be offensive.
Why are black women not the target of racist white cops? If white racist cops were really out to get black people, wouldn't there be a lot more accusations like those made by Al Sharpton similar to that about Tawana Brawley? Is our press missing that, or is the racism of 'racist white cops' only directed at a certain specific kind of black male? What about the culpability of black males? If Barack Obama says 'I am Trayvon Martin', does he become that? Well if you were a KKK member, it wouldn't really matter what Barack Obama says, he's the same as any other black, male or female, ie worthy of being lynched.
Here's where Roland Fryer gets into trouble. He says
This paper explores racial differences in police use of force. On non-lethal uses of force, blacks and Hispanics are more than fifty percent more likely to experience some form of force in interactions with police. Adding controls that account for important context and civilian behavior reduces, but cannot fully explain, these disparities. On the most extreme use of force – officerinvolved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account. We argue that the patterns in the data are consistent with a model in which police officers are utility maximizers, a fraction of which have a preference for discrimination, who incur relatively high expected costs of officer-involved shootings.
His critic, Justin Feldman makes an excellent point that both criticizes Fryer and ultimately, everybody else:
Economic theory aside, there is an even more fundamental problem with the Houston police shooting analysis. In a typical study, a researcher will start with a previously defined population where each individual is at risk of a particular outcome. For instance, a population of drivers stopped by police can have one of two outcomes: they can be arrested, or they can be sent on their way. Instead of following this standard approach, Fryer constructs a fictitious population of people who are shot by police and people who are arrested. The problem here is that these two groups (those shot and those arrested) are, in all likelihood, systematically different from one another in ways that cannot be controlled for statistically (UPenn Professor Uri Simonsohn expands on this point here). Fryer acknowledges this limitation in a brief footnote, but understates just how problematic it is. Properly interpreted, the actual result from Fryer’s analysis is that the racial disparity in arrest rates is larger than the racial disparity in police shootings. This is an unsurprising finding, and proves neither a lack of bias nor a lack of systematic discrimination.
Yes, but what about the people who are black Americans who are neither arrested, nor shot? In this case, the entire fiction is that race is the proximate cause for all these matters and that the race of black Americans has a problem. Sure, if you find those who arrested and shot and young and black and male and numbering about 500 deaths per year to be representative of black America. The contradiction makes itself patently obvious when it is argued, in support of the rhetorical call that 'Black Lives Matter', that 'black on black crime' cannot be considered in the same context. There is no such thing as 'black on black crime', which is not some denial of the racial identity of perpetrators and victims, but a firm assertion that outside of those immediately responsible, this is not a satisfactory representation of black America. And of course it is not. Black America is not under threat from 'black on black crime'. But they are even less under threat from 'white racist cops'.
So does racial bias exist? Of course it does. Is it all of our concern? No. And that is what nobody wants to admit. We have decided that 'racist white cops' represent. We have decided that 'unarmed black men' represent. This is the state of race relations today in America. You and I know it's pathetic and wrong. Oh, by the way, same thing with Muslims. I lay blame at the foot of multiculturalists because this representational slight of hand only serves their agenda to have a balkanized American identity drive so much of our discussions about society.