I’m not proud of the fact that, whenever I’m exposed to a Michelle Malkin column, I feel compelled to write something in response. She’s not trying to inform, or persuade, or even make sense; she’s just trying to get a rise out of people and damn it if she doesn’t succeed more often than not. This turd of a column crossed the transom of my consciousness this morning and I’ve been feeling agitated ever since. It’s already been thoroughly and expertly rebutted; there’s really no need to say anything. So, it with no small sense of shame that I’m going to take time out of my Monday morning to write about something that doesn’t merit publication, reading, or consideration.
If you don’t actually want to read the whole thing (and truly, I do not blame you), I’ll try to summarize it for you: Malkin takes Hollywood celbrities, Al Sharpton, “demagogues decrying systemic racism”, narcissistic liberal journalists, and hipster colleges kids for believing that race had something to do with the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Then, she…well, I’ll let you read it for yourself:
Here’s a reality check. While narcissistic liberal journalists and college kids are all posting “Hands Up” selfies in hipster solidarity with Ferguson protesters, it’s law enforcement officers who risk their lives in “war zones” every day across the country.
You see what she did there? Without explicitly stating it, she made the claim that ‘kids being killed by racists cops aren’t the problem, it’s the cops whose lives are truly in danger.’ Before going any further into this Gish gallop of a piece, we have to address the most damning problem with Malkin’s proposition: The fact that police do, in fact, have dangerous jobs, has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not racism played a role in Brown’s killing. Not. One. Damn. Thing. It’s a not-particularly-clever attempt to deflect the argument.
You can understand why she’d want to toss a red herring into the discussion: There is a mountain of evidence that law enforcement is racially skewed in the United States (click here, here, here, here*, or here for a few easily retrieved examples). Frankly, I struggle to believe that anyone who has ever so much as visited the United States would be unaware of the bias in law enforcement.
So, yeah, the premise that police have dangerous jobs somehow means we shouldn’t talk about the systemic racism in law enforcement if stupid. But, if you think I’m letting you off that easily, you don’t know me very well.
Malkin goes on to note that one police office dies “in the line of duty” every 58 hours. This statistic is accurate, but terribly misleading for a couple of reasons. One is that she is using a 10 year average which tends to overstate the current death rate, which is down 50% from that level. The other, far more serious, problem with her statistic is obvious when you look at the page. The numbers include all deaths in the line of duty, not just deaths from violent attacks or even deaths related to the police work. I’m not saying that these deaths aren’t genuinely sad, but rather that deaths by heart attack in the line of duty don’t really tell us much about how dangerous it is to be a policeman.
Even if we use these numbers, exactly how dangerous is police work compared to other jobs? Well, using 2013 numbers, 105 officers died in the line of duty. How many officers are there? There were ~1.22 million federal, state, and local, in the United States in 2013. That’s a rate of 8.6 per 100,000. How does that compare to other jobs? It’s high, but it’s nowhere near the highest. It’s below construction (10.8/100,000), transportation (16.3) and well behind mining (27.8) and agriculture/forestry/fishing/hunting (29.6).
But, to close this out properly, let’s compare the death rate of police officers, to, say, black children and teenagers. That seems fair, right? It turns out that a black child or teenager dies by gun violence every three hours. Even if we assume that “gun violence” is the only cause of death among black children or teenagers (and you know it isn’t), that means that “being a black child or teenager” is just over 19 times more dangerous than being a police officer.**
So, seriously, if Michelle Malkin were intellectually honest…you know, there’s no point in even completing that statement, is there? For what it’s worth, I believe that police have horrifically dangerous job, I am thankful for the sacrifices officers make to protect me, and I believe that there’s institutional racism in law enforcement. There’s nothing mutually exclusive about those beliefs. Malkin I’m certain, knows this but doesn’t care. She’s just trying to get a reaction.
And she just did. Well played, Michelle. Well played.
* OK, this one’s really about racism within the police departments. I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb here to suggest that cops who are racist to their co-workers are likely racist in their enforcement of the law.
** I know full well that I’m not taking the number of black children and teenagers into account which isn’t exactly cricket, but, in fairness, Malkin uses the raw number, not the rate, so it’s very much an apples to apples, right?