As academic essays go, this might be one of the most overwrought and alarmist pieces I’ve ever read. It’s in the New York Times, of course. Here’s African-American Yale professor Chris Lebron discussing his deepest fears:
I’m not sure how many days are left in my life.
I am not suffering from a terminal disease. I don’t work in a high-risk occupation. No, I don’t have suicidal thoughts. I don’t even live in an especially dangerous neighborhood.
I am racially black and I live in America, which raises the question: Will I live as long as I intend?
Depending on who you are, the question may seem absurd. No one truly knows their own life span, and few live as long as they intend to. You may feel I am just being melodramatic in thinking that because I live in America as a black person I am somehow at special risk.
But I do believe that I am at special risk.
To be clear, he’s not “special risk” because he volunteers in gang-infested neighborhoods or because his writing or speaking has led to death threats, but because he might suffer the same fate as the “hundreds” of black Americans killed by police in the United States. Black Americans are hardly the only racial group to die at the hands of the police. Hundreds more white Americans die every year. Moreover, if you narrow the toll of black deaths by excluding the individuals who were armed and actively endangering police or the public – and then exclude the people who were unarmed and violent — then the “hundreds” becomes a number so small as to represent an utterly insignificant risk to any law-abiding person, black or white. But really, who needs facts when you can just presume what you want to presume? Here he is talking about Terence Crutcher’s death in Oklahoma:
As democratic citizens we should be collectively aghast that a man could be fatally erased on an American highway by the agency sworn to protect and serve. The immediate reasons for his death may only ever be known to Officer Shelby. But anyone who has been keeping score at least since 2012 knows the problem Mr. Crutcher’s plan ran into: blackness in America. It caught up with him, and the outcome that, despite plans, many black Americans know is possible became very real.
You see, all you need to do to understand the important facts about a single shooting in Oklahoma is to “keep score.” This makes absolutely no sense. For all he knows, the officer may not have even intended to pull the trigger. But he’s kept score, so he knows race was at the core of the incident. It’s essays like this that contribute to my profound short-term pessimism about race in America. Here we have a professor at the apex of his profession — a man who is among the most privileged people in the most powerful nation in the world, a man who’s chances of dying at the hands of the police are at the virtual vanishing point – and he actually says this:
So maybe this is how black Americans ought to plan for a life in America — holding out the hope to meet basic goals or striving to achieve larger ambitions knowing all the while that the present-day effects of America’s racial history can fatally disrupt enjoying, celebrating, commemorating the results of achievements small or large. Let me be honest with you — that is neither rational, nor is it fair. And there’s still the small matter of the luck that runs out.
I wish I knew America’s plan for me.
I’m sorry, but this is just bizarre. America’s “plan” for his life? Well, how about granting him economic and educational opportunities that have enabled him to enjoy a career far beyond the reach of almost the entire American population, of any color? There is not a single serious American who is against diligent investigation of police shootings. It’s one of the few areas of consensus in American life. Moreover, only the most perverse fringe endorses or excuses official racism. America has a crime problem far more than it has a cop problem, and denying that reality – along with hyping the risks from rogue cops – is worse than irresponsible. It’s dangerous.