The hashtag competition has been going on for months: #BlackLivesMatter, #PoliceLivesMatter, #AllLivesMatter. The string of police shootings of young, unarmed black men, coupled with the highly publicized murders of a handful of police officers has stirred up an argument about police techniques and tactics, particularly in the black community. Recently, with no evidence to support him, FBI Director James Comey said that citizens using cell phone cameras to catch police misconduct were responsible for an uptick in the violent crime rate. Sure, police have a tough, dangerous job.
But this might surprise you: in America, it is more dangerous to be black than it is to be a police officer.
If you ask the average person on the street where being a police officer would rank on the list of most dangerous occupations, that person would probably put it at or near the top. They wouldn’t even be close to correct.
Last January, The Washington Post offered two charts showing the most dangerous occupations in America. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job with the most fatal injuries per 100,000 full-time workers was logging. A close second was commercial fishing. As for police? They ranked 15th on the list, ahead of painters and construction workers, but behind grounds maintenance workers.
The Post observes that when it comes to being murdered on the job, those who work with the public are the most likely to be victims, because they are the most likely to come into contact with criminals during their day-to-day duties. But even by this measure, police come in a distant second, this time to taxi drivers and chauffeurs. In 2013, those who drive others for a living were murdered at more than two times the rate of police officers.
Many people in the right-wing universe, such as the Fox News audience, look out at the world and wonder, from their fortresses of white privilege, why black people are so upset about confrontations between law enforcement and black citizens. Maybe this will give them a clue. If we were to take the murder rate for black Americans in 2013, and place it on the second chart above, it would fit in at number two — behind taxi drivers, but well ahead of police. Based on census data and FBI crime statistics, black citizens were killed at a rate just shy of six per 100,000. That puts their murder rate at almost double that of the police.
This should give everyone a sense of perspective on #BlackLivesMatter. The #PoliceLivesMatter hashtag was started as a pushback against black citizens who were calling for changes in the way police deal with the black community, and carried with it racial overtones suggesting that blacks were responsible for police deaths. But the numbers show, in America, it’s far more dangerous to be black than it is to be a cop.
Featured image via Fibonacci Blue/Flickr