The Washington Post website is currently running an opinion piece by Maryland State Delegate Jolene Ivey titled Trayvon Martin’s death: Could something similar happen to my son, too? Ivey proffers a tale of woe that has become a common refrain among black pundits from the gentlemanly Clarence Page to the noisy charlatan Al Sharpton. She’s worried that one of her five sons might be targeted by police or the neighborhood watch and suffer a “shooting that would end my baby’s life.” But do the facts justify such anxiety?
Rep. Ivey represents Prince George’s County, which as of 2011 (the last year crime statistics are available) holds the second highest murder rate of any county in Maryland—three times greater than the next most homicidal county. And Maryland is historically the second most murderous state in the U.S. Not surprisingly, there were also 15 police-involved shootings in Prince George’s in 2011, resulting in eight deaths—a relatively high number compared to surrounding counties. Should those shootings give Ms. Ivey genuine reason to fear for her sons’ safety? Well, yes, in that they are at least somewhat proportional to the staggering rate of violent crime in her community that statistically threatens her boys every day. But are the police and neighborhood watchmen wantonly targeting young unarmed black men and shooting them in PG County? Nope. I can find no evidence that there was ever a neighborhood watch shooting anywhere in Maryland and in all but two of the 2011 police shootings in PG the suspect had a firearm and confronted officers. In the two cases in which the suspects were not carrying guns, one suspect wielded an ax and was shot to death while advancing on a daycare facility and the other was a car thief shot in the hand as he made a threatening move after leading police on a long and high-speed car chase.
Photos of some of the PG suspects are easy to find on the web, but others are more elusive, so it’s difficult to identify the race of all the people shot by police. A quick web search reveals that at least three were black men. But even if all of them were black, it doesn’t change the fact that in each incident police actions were justified. But don’t take my word for it. Every police-involved shooting in 2011 in Prince George’s County was reviewed by State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, a black woman and a Democrat. Additionally, Alsobrooks’ office has emphasized that it consults with police constantly on these cases and develops “best practices and training scenarios.” Since 2011, the number of officer-involved shootings in PG County has gone down, giving Ms. Ivey even less reason to worry about the police.
Ivey laments that she’s had to give her sons “specific instructions about how to behave, should you have an encounter with the police…extra deference, slow movements, keeping your hands out of your pockets…” But is this only good advice for black men? Wouldn’t it behoove all of us to act this way should we be approached by a police officer? As a white male highway commuter with a lead foot, I’ve had my fair share of discussions with police officers and let me tell you, even with my pale white skin, suit and tie, I still have my hands in plain sight on the steering wheel when Johnny Law approaches the driver-side window and every other word out of my mouth is “yessir.”
Now, something Ms. Ivey should worry about is the danger her boys face just walking down the street—especially from other black males. Blacks make up about 30% of the Maryland population, but according to the Maryland Department of State Police 2011 Uniform Crime Report blacks were an astounding 80.9% of all homicide victims and at least 64.8% of homicide offenders (the real number of offenders is probably much higher, but in cases where the offender is not caught race cannot be confirmed).
At least 49% of male black homicide victims were killed by black men in 2011. But the race of 47.6% of the offenders is unknown, so once again the real number is no doubt substantially greater. The confirmed number for white men killing black men is 2.1%. And there is no data for Hispanic offenders, so depending on your racial prejudice you can either include them in the white statistics or not.
Another recent statistic: 22% of murders in Prince George’s were committed by an acquaintance. So, perhaps Ms. Ivey should warn her boys not to try to make too many new friends in their county. In fact, if Ivey were as concerned about the real threat to her boys as she is about the imaginary one, she’d move them out of PG County.
Ms. Ivey’s reaction as a mother is understandable. I’m sure she and her husband have experienced their share of prejudice and worse from white people, and she naturally worries for her five boys. And bless her and Mr. Ivey for having so many children in an era where the birth rate in the U.S. has sunk to a depressing 1.89 per mother and even less per married mother. But, inconveniently for Ms. Ivey the politician and pundit, the stats don’t show a great white and/or police threat to young black men in Maryland. What they do show, in addition to the high rate of black-on-black crime, is that a large portion of white murders are committed by black men—about 25% on average for the five years from 2007-2011 (with about 25% “unknowns”) according to Maryland’s Uniform Crime Report. In other words, black men are about 21 times more likely to kill a white person in Maryland then vice versa. Nationwide data reveal similar trends throughout the country.1
So, while Rep. Ivey frets and the folks at MoveOn.org and the NAACP demand that the Department of Justice launch a civil rights suit against Zimmerman and investigations into Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, the real numbers don’t expose any significant danger for blacks from police, neighborhood watches or white people.
But enough of statistics. Let’s take a look at the man called “racist.” Much has been written about Zimmerman’s background, except for his actual ethnicity. We’ve heard him described, of course, as half white and half “Hispanic.” But is Hispanic a race? Some say maybe, some say no and some say you’re a bigot for saying “Hispanic” instead of “Latino.” CNN continues to use the accusatory label “white Hispanic” to reinforce the left-wing narrative that Trayvon Martin was the victim of racism pure and simple. And Rep. Ivey ignores Zimmerman’s race altogether.
The facts, however, once again prove that there is more to the story than what has been reported. First, Zimmerman is only partly “cracker.” Second, most people in the U.S. with roots in Latin America have complex ethnicity. And it would appear that Zimmerman is not an aberration. A report by Reuters back on April 25, 2012, claimed that Zimmerman is partly black through an “Afro-Peruvian great-grandfather.” If true, this would be a relevant and very compelling fact. But no other major media organization ran with the story or even explored its veracity—not even to refute it. Even Reuters never seems to mention it again. But in September, 2012, Gladys Zimmerman, George’s mother, was interviewed in Spanish on Univision and stated that “In my family we proudly come from the Afro-Peruvian race. My sons know their uncles, they know their aunts, they know their roots and my roots are not white, my roots are Afro-Peruvian.”
Again, nothing but silence from the media and pundits who seem content to ignore George’s blackness and any other non-white ethnicity his DNA might include (according to the last national census there are 60 distinct indigenous peoples in Peru). And, by the way, from her official photo, Rep. Ivey looks awfully light—even whitish. In fact, she’s kind of George Zimmerman’s shade. Nonetheless, she’s apparently black enough to conclude that Zimmerman is white enough that his acquittal is proof that her sons are in dire threat from others who are white enough. Would we even be having this national discussion if George were just a few shades darker?
Once upon a time, white European colonizers of the Americas applied pejorative terms like Quadroon, Octoroon and Quintroon to identify the blackness of people of mixed-race because a person’s rights were based on the degree of European blood that one had. Later, slavers would use the “one drop rule” in order to qualify people with any black blood for bondage. In an odd modern reversal, it would appear that Zimmerman’s blackness is not black enough to disqualify him as a white racist.
In their quest to turn Trayvon Martin’s killing and George Zimmerman’s acquittal into an indictment of rampant and lethal white racism that doesn’t actually exist, Rep. Ivey, the major media and race-baiters have completely ignored not only the evidence presented to the Zimmerman jurors, but the evidence that’s all around them. They’ve also monopolized discussion trumping the honest introspection our nation so desperately needs as we strive to bridge the continuing racial divide.