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Now We Know (Not)

So, a Minnesota jury in 2021 found that a white policeman was guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the course of arresting a black man in 2020. What does this tell us about the police, and race, and the criminal-justice system in America? Well, it’s one datum. That’s it.

We humans like to tell one another stories, and listen to them, and then stare into the fireplace to think about the great truths they contain and what the characters and events in them symbolize. The media especially love this: Reporters report “stories” after all, not just incidents.

But most of the time one case is just one case. The first time I recall making this point was with Ferguson, Mo., when the circumstances of Michael Brown’s death were being hotly disputed. No murder there, by the way, according to Obama’s Justice Department: another datum.

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