66.1 F

Salter: Perception, Reality, and the Nation’s Deep Divide over Police and Race

Unfortunately, the perception is that there are two sets of rules, two sets of standards, two sets of laws in this nation and particularly in this state when it comes to race – one for blacks and another for whites.

Perhaps an even more pervasive perception is that there is another dual sets of rules, standards, and laws when it comes to “haves” and “have-nots” – the affluent and the poor – when it comes to crime and punishment.

In Mississippi, the poorest state in America, those perceptions meld into a general distrust of law enforcement officers, the judiciary and “the system” and spell increased danger for the vast majority of brave, honorable men and women who wear a badge and are charged with keeping all of us safe.

There’s no single set of statistics that explain those perceptions better than these – the racial composition of the state’s population compared to the racial composition of the state’s prison population.

The Census Bureau indicates that Mississippi’s population is 59 percent white and 37 percent black, with the remaining four percent split between Hispanic, Asian, American Indians, mixed-race citizens and other races. But the state’s prison population as of June was 66 percent black, 32 percent white, and the remaining two percent split between other races.

While a few percentage points less, the state’s probation and parole statistics reflect the same racial disparities.

So the basis for the distrust of law enforcement and the judicial system by blacks can be quantified in terms that we can all understand. So, too, some would argue, can the racial divide be argued from the perspective of whites who perceive themselves to be in greater danger from black criminals than from white criminals.

Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey suggest that those otherwise irrational fears have a statistical basis in that in 2013 – of the approximately 660,000 crimes of interracial violence that involved blacks and whites – blacks were the perpetrators 85 percent of the time.

Of course, the “chance encounter” argument – which takes into account that there are five times as many whites as blacks in the American population – lessens the impact of the initial analyses of those numbers. But the balance of those statistics rarely make it into the increasingly heated debate of crime statistics.

Again, we’re talking perception here – the stuff of social media rants. The myriad of incidents in venues like Ferguson, Baltimore, and now in Dallas – and here at home in Mississippi in venues like Tupelo – in which black citizens question police actions or responses that have resulted in injury or death to black victims tend to reinforce perceptions on both sides of the racial divide.

Caught in the middle, unfortunately, are the very law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day to keep us all safe.

The carnage for law enforcement is shocking. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, A total of 1,439 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 10 years, an average of one death every 61 hours or 144 per year. There were 123 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2015.

In 2014, there were 15,725 assaults against law enforcement officers that resulted in 13,824 injuries. Since the first known line-of-duty death in 1791, more than 20,789 U.S. law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice – including Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Special Agent Lee Tartt on Feb. 20 this year.

Clearly, these competing perceptions have created an increasingly dangerous reality. Fear and distrust of the police are real by blacks in America. A Pew Research Center study after the Ferguson incident and subsequent protests showed that 65 percent of blacks believed the police response to the protests went too far, compared to just 33 percent of whites.

The competing perception that fuels the fire that produced the deadly shootings in Dallas this week is that black suspects are somehow inherently more dangerous than other suspects and hence that deadly force is a more acceptable police response when confrontations develop.

Mississippi has the highest percentage African American population in the nation. If America’s problems are the perceptions that blacks can’t trust law enforcement officers and that those same officers have an irrational fear of black men, the point where perception meets reality is that no state needs to find answers to these problems more urgently than do Mississippians.

Sid Salter--studio headshot
Sid Salter–studio headshot

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him sidsalter@sidsalter.com

Follow HottyToddy.com on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat @hottytoddynews. Like its Facebook page: If You Love Oxford and Ole Miss…

Most Popular

Recent Comments

scamasdscamith on News Watch Ole Miss
Frances Phillips on A Bigger, Better Student Union
Grace Hudditon on A Bigger, Better Student Union
Millie Johnston on A Bigger, Better Student Union
Binary options + Bitcoin = $ 1643 per week: https://8000-usd-per-day.blogspot.com.tr?b=46 on Beta Upsilon Chi: A Christian Brotherhood
Jay Mitchell on Reflections: The Square
Terry Wilcox SFCV USA RET on Oxford's Five Guys Announces Opening Date
Stephanie on Throwback Summer
organized religion is mans downfall on VP of Palmer Home Devotes Life to Finding Homes for Children
Paige Williams on Boyer: Best 10 Books of 2018
Keith mansel on Cleveland On Medgar Evans
H. Gilliland on