Black people are 2.5 times more likely than whites to be shot and killed by police officers. Black men are arrested at higher rates than whites or Latinos. In August, a Department of Justice report detailed prevalent racism within the Baltimore Police Department. That report came a month after the Oakland Police Department became embroiled in a racism scandal of its own.
But in the wake of two more black men being killed by police officers this week in Tulsa and Charlotte, Donald Trump’s vice presidential choice — Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) — doesn’t think we should be talking about any of that. Speaking Thursday, Pence said, “Trump and I believe there’s been far too much talk about institutional bias and racism within law enforcement.”
“We ought to set aside this talk, this talk about institutional racism and institutional bias,” Pence said during a roundtable with pastors in a Colorado Springs church. “Police officers are human beings and in difficult and life-threatening situations, mistakes are made and people have to be held to strict account.”
"You kill our fathers then mock us for being fatherless."
— Splinter (@splinter_news) September 23, 2016
The death of Terence Crutcher at the hands of Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby encapsulated the systemic racism American blacks encounter during their interactions with law enforcement. Crutcher was unarmed and apparently seeking police assistance because his car had broken down. But police audio captured an officer saying Crutcher “looks like a bad dude” shortly after cops arrived on the scene. Officer Betty Shelby gunned down Crutcher moments later, despite there being no indication he posed a threat. Yesterday, Shelby was indicted for manslaughter.
The major criminal justice policy proposal rolled out by Trump and Pence this week — an expansion of New York’s “stop-and-frisk” tactics that were eventually ruled unconstitutional — would perpetuate systemic racism. As ThinkProgress previously reported, before it was banned, the NYPD practice did little to stop crime, while contributing to people of color being detained at disproportionate rates. Over a period of ten years, approximately five million people, largely African Americans and Latinos, were stopped by the NYPD. Roughly nine out of 10 walked away without an arrest or a ticket.
During an appearance on Sean Hannity’s show earlier this week, Trump touted stop-and-frisk as a way to confiscate guns from criminals. But according to a report by the New York Civil Liberties Union, NYPD officers’ stop-and-frisks recovered a gun less than 0.02 percent of the time.
Pence says he and Trump both believe there’s too much talk about systemic racism, but Trump has been in the habit of playing the race card with black voters. While data indicates black poverty rates are at a generational low and the black middle class is on the rise, Trump frequently describes their lives as if they are all living in a hellscape — the implication being blacks might as well vote for a Republican for a change, since Democrats have failed them.
During a rally on Tuesday, Trump said, “Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before, ever, ever, ever… You get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street.” The next day, he appeared at a campaign event with boxing promoter Don King, who dropped the n-word while Trump looked on with a smirk.
Trump has openly supported using racial profiling as a counterterrorism tactic. In the wake of the deadly terrorist attack in San Bernardino last December, Trump said that “everybody wants to be politically correct,” but added, “you have people that have to be tracked. If they’re Muslims, they’re Muslims.”
Closing our eye to systemic racism, as Pence suggests, won’t make it go away. Donald Trump’s policies, meanwhile, are likely to make it worse.