I was listening to the tail end of the Diane Rehm show on NPR this morning. During the wrap up of their discussion of the Zimmerman verdict, Rehm went around the panel and asked for final thoughts. The last to speak was Michelle Bernard, whom the show’s website identifies as the “president, the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy and author of the recently released, “Moving America Toward Justice, The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 1963-2013.”
Bernard was pressed for time, so perhaps some nuance fell by the wayside. But she offered the following observation: “Gun homicide is the leading cause of death among black teens between the ages of 15 and 19. This is a civil-rights issue. We need to end racial profiling.”
I completely agree that the homicide rate among blacks is a major issue. As Juan Williams writes:
The Justice Department reports that between 1980 and 2008, “blacks were six times more likely than whites to be homicide victims and seven times more likely than whites to commit homicide.”
The dire implications of these numbers is evident in a Children’s Defense Fund report that included a chilling historical perspective: The 44,038 black children killed by guns since 1979 (when national data on the age of gun violence victims was first collected) is “nearly 13 times more” than all the black people killed by lynching in the 86-year period of 1882 to 1968.
But does this have much to do with racial profiling? According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, roughly 93 percent of black victims are killed by blacks (and 85 percent of whites are killed by whites). There are entirely legitimate debates to be had about racial profiling – many of them revolving around what people mean by racial profiling — but I suspect you could eliminate the practice entirely and not change the epidemic by much more than a rounding error.