The Washington Post recently awarded four Pinocchios to the much repeated claim that “every 28 hours, an unarmed black person is killed by police.”
The author of the report from which that number came contested the rating, explaining that those who “respect and take seriously the movement … understand that whether people repeat ‘every 24, 28, 54 or 84 hours’ is not the point. Any of these numbers carry the meaning that police killing of black people is systemic, routinized and without legal consequence.” It’s just a hashtag, and “like most hashtags, lends itself to oversimplification and misrepresentation.”
Enter ColorOfChange.org, which is rousing people to “reclaim MLK” this weekend by citing that police will kill blacks at nearly the rate they were lynched during the Jim Crow era.
Their source is an opinion piece in the Guardian newspaper, which draws its numbers from a USA Today article, which cites an FBI report whose numbers are incomplete and “likely” an undercount. “The database it’s based on has been long considered flawed and largely incomplete,” USA Today reports, noting that a 2008 report from the Bureau of Justices Statistics estimates “fewer than 2 percent of the 40 million people who had contact with police reported the use of force or threatened use of force.”
Those numbers certainly can inflame tensions, though.
What would Martin Luther King, Jr. say to suggestions of violence? Answer: Don’t answer.