A real puzzler

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Now for some basic math to refute one small bit of Bill Barr’s typical, deliberately misleading, in this case racist, sophistry. Bill Barr shot back the other day, while brazening his way through questioning by members of the House Judiciary Committee, that more unarmed “whites” than unarmed “blacks” have been killed by police this year. 11 “whites” versus 8 “blacks”. Fair enough, if those numbers are true, unless you weigh them by proportion of each group in the population. Basic fairness requires this extra step.

Let’s grab our calculators and do the basic math. “Blacks,” google tells us, comprise 13.4% of the US population. “Whites” make up 60.4%. If you divide 60.4 by 13.4 you get 4.507– there are 4.5 “whites” to every “black” in the country.

For an accurate picture of which unarmed group is more frequently killed by police, multiply white fatalities by that number. A proportionally equivalent number of “white” deaths, you will see, is 49.57. Add one, to make Barr’s statement true, and you get 50 “white” deaths at the hands of police, to be strictly accurate about who gets killed more often by our law enforcement officers. If more than fifty unarmed “whites” had been killed by police this year, then proportionally, more “whites” than “blacks” would have been killed by police so far this year.

Another way of putting it — if “blacks” were 60.4% of the population, instead of 13.4%, the number of unarmed “blacks” killed by police would be over 30, quite a bit more than 11.

We can easily see, without our adding machines, that “blacks” are about four times more likely than “whites” to be killed by the police in this country, according to Barr’s numbers. Barr also stated that police killings of unarmed civilians was declining.

For some reason, the New York Times fact check gives us this conclusion about Barr’s statement, in a report entitled Barr Repeats Trump Falsehoods in Congressional Testimony :

Dig, first, this buried gem, and then read the rest of the Times’s fearless, yet acrobatically evenhanded, partial rebuttal of Mr. Barr’s claim.

Research has also shown that in the United States, on average, the probability of being shot by a police office for someone who is Black and unarmed is higher than for someone who is white and armed.

As for the rest of Barr’s sworn comment, which echoed Trump’s “technically accurate but misleading claim”

This is misleading.

Mr. Barr accurately cited a database of police shootings compiled by The Washington Post. But the raw numbers obscure the pronounced racial disparity in such shootings. (The statement was also an echo of Mr. Trump’s technically accurate, but misleading claim that “more white” Americans are killed by the police than Black Americans.)

When factoring in population size, Black Americans are killed by the police at more than twice the rate as white Americans, according to the database. Research has also shown that in the United States, on average, the probability of being shot by a police officer for someone who is Black and unarmed is higher than for someone who is white and armed.

Nationwide, the number of police shootings has remained steady since independent researchers began tracking them — declining in major cities, but increasing in suburbs and rural areas.

When Representative Cedric L. Richmond, Democrat of Louisiana, took issue with Mr. Barr’s presentation of the data, Mr. Barr responded, “You have to adjust it by, you know, the race of the criminal.” But some research has shown that even when controlling for the demographics of those arrested, there are still racial disparities in the use of police force.

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