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Uncomfortable Shoes – A Preacher’s Position on Black Lives Matter

I have the utmost respect for law enforcement and the daily sacrifices they make for their respective communities. I have had the privilege to get to know our county sherif by serving with him on the Administrative Team of the Tugalo Baptist Association, and I am better for knowing him. I have friends who are police and many, many friends who have family and loved ones in the police force. The vast majority of law enforcement are amazing individuals who give so much to their communities. Nothing in this article is meant to disparage the police or discredit their service in anyway, but I do want to discuss Black Lives Matter.

When discussing Black Lives Matter, it is important to begin by stating what it is not. Black Lives Matters is not anti-law enforcement. This movement, along with any sane person, recognizes the vast majority of police officers are outstanding men and women of valor who work tirelessly to serve and to protect. Black Lives Matter is not against the fact that other lives matter. Saying Black Lives Matter, does not mean Blue Lives, Brown lives, White lives, Other lives do not matter. Black Lives Matter is about bringing attention to some serious issues within our legal system that is well past time for us to address. If you are like me and not black, let’s attempt to put on their shoes for a moment but allow me to warn you, this was not a pleasant piece to research.

First, let’s put off the recent police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and come back to them. I want to begin with a few facts that surprised me that were indeed facts. When committing similar crimes and with similar criminal histories, minorities are given longer prison sentences than whites. This is supported by multiple studies, across multiple years, and multiple United State geographies. I hope you will spend some time reading these studies.

Study 1Study 2Study 3Study 4Study 5

These studies also reveal bail tends to be higher for minorities. Whites tend to have their sentences downgraded more often, and minorities have their sentences upgraded more often. These studies clearly show that race matters in sentencing. The five studies that I have referenced here are not even close to the amount of studies published in journals all supporting this truth. Google it. The results are overwhelming.

Second, let’s talk prison population. On December 31st 2013, there were 549,100 blacks incarcerated, and 505,600 whites in prison. There are more blacks in prison than whites when the 2010 census reveals blacks make up only about 13% of the population and whites about 70%. That is staggering. Do blacks commit so much more crimes than whites to justify this fact? The answer is a surprising and yet resounding no.

FBI violent crime statistics, year after year, show that whites commit more overall crime including significantly more violent crimes than blacks. In 2014 whites committed 21.7% more violent crimes than blacks: in 2013, 19.7%, in 2012, 20.2%, in 2011, 21.1%, in 2010, 21.2%. Whites on a yearly average commit over 20% more violent crimes than blacks. Using this 5 year span of FBI nationwide crimes statistics, that adds up to whites committing 420,703 more violent crimes than blacks, and yet, blacks outnumber whites in prison.

Third let’s talk searches. According to the 2010 census in New York City, 44% of New Yorkers were white, while 25.5% were black, and yet again, under New York City’s Stop and Frisk law, on a 13 year average, blacks were stopped and searched over 43% more than whites. Driving statistics are hard to come by because not all states compile data, but two facts are worth noting. People of color are pulled over more than whites. Also, during traffic stops nationwide, blacks are 3 times more likely to be searched than whites.

Finally, we are in constant bombardment of what appears to be an insane double standard. Brock Turner a white student athlete attending Stanford, rapes an intoxicated/unconscious person and is sentenced to 6 months in prison. While Cory Batey a black student athlete attending Vanderbilt will spend a minimum of 15 years in prison for the same crime.

Let these facts sink into your heart. Whites commit more overall crime and more violent crime than blacks, and yet, there are more blacks in prison.  7 out of 10 people are white, but the 3 out of 10 people of color are pulled over more, not more often, but more in total for traffic stops. Blacks are 3 times more likely to be searched in those traffic stops than whites and 43% more likely to be frisked in New York City than whites.

It is time we get answers to why these facts are true.

Also, desiring answers to why these things are true, does NOT mean you are anti-cop in any way. I imagine our country is filled with thousands and thousands of police officers that want these answers too! Part of the answer may be poverty because inner city people of color cannot afford to get broken tail lights and improper exhaust systems replaced. Part of the answer may be our failings in the war on drugs. Part of the answer may be the types of violent crimes committed. Part of the answer may be a poor educational system in certain areas. Part of the answer may be the wealth gap between whites and minorities and the ability to hire more competent lawyers. Part of the answer may be an underfunded, undertrained, and very overworked police force, and we must be honest and admit, part of the answer just might be passive or even overt racism.

Black Lives Matter wants answers to these facts that almost boggle the mind. Over a 5 year span whites committed over 400,000 more violent crimes than blacks, but yet, there are more blacks in prison. That fact needs an explanation. My mind cannot grasp how that is even possible.

Let’s return to the high profile shootings and police inflicted deaths on the black community. Put yourself into the African American community’s shoes, if you are not already in them ethnically: blacks are pulled over more often, searched 3 times more than whites during traffic stops, frisked 43% more than whites in New York City, sentenced longer than whites for similar crimes with similar criminal histories, blacks have higher bails than whites in similar situations, and have sentences upgraded more often while whites have sentences downgraded more often. Now watch the video of an unarmed black man, Eric Garner, declare that he can’t breathe 11 times before he finally succumbed. Watch the deaths of Oscar Grant or Eric Harris, both of whom were shot when the officer involved mistook his gun for his taser. Watch a Walter Scott shot in the back as his ran, when the officer’s life was clearly not in any danger. Watch Alton Sterling who is face down on the ground shot in the back. You can understand why the black community, with a great deal of support outside the black community, are crying out to our nation.

I cannot imagine making a life or death decision as a police officer in a matter of seconds. No one, including Black Lives Matter, think these decisions are simple. They are immensely complex and the speed at which they must be made makes these decisions exponentially more difficult. Admitting that these decisions are so difficult, let’s again remove them from this argument. Without bringing up the names of Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, and others, we are still left with very significant questions:

According to the FBI, not some internet blog, how can whites commit more crime and annually 20% more violent crimes than blacks and not significantly outnumber blacks in prison?

Why do minorities receive longer prison sentences than whites when performing similar crimes with similar criminal histories?

Why do minorities with similar criminal histories and crimes have higher bails set?

How can 70% of our population be involved in fewer traffic stops than 30% of our population?

Again, absolutely the vast majority of the police force is full of incredible men and women who sacrifice so much of themselves in service to others. Black Lives Matters does not dispute that fact.  Do I agree with every action performed in the name of Black Lives Matter? Of course not, and neither does the majority of those involved in Black Lives Matter.

Do not let the despicable actions of the shooter of the officers in Dallas or the violent actions of others, cause you think the Black Lives Matter movement does not have any truths to share with those outside their community. Do not let baseless pithy arguments cause you to miss the point, such as, “who are those complaining going to call if they are threatened?” Well, of course, they will call the police. The vast majority of law enforcement are incredible. Do not let the misnomer that if you stand with Black Lives Matter that you must stand against, the police, or judges, or brown lives, or white lives, or Muslim lives, or Christian lives. Our Governor, in Georgia, made this mistake when he referenced the “anti-police” rally in Dallas.

13% of our population makes up over half of our prison population when another race annually commits more crime and 20% more violent crimes than they do. We cannot address this until we realize that there is a this to address.

I am wholly confident that the vast majority of police and other legal system players will be clearly proven to not be a part of this problem, but there is a source to this problem whether it is training or resources or bigotry. We need to understand that we will have a more trusted police force, a more trusted legal system, and more fairly treated people, when studies are conducted to discover where the root of this problem is found.

This problem has a root. Hard working, honest cops, have nothing to fear for the search of this root. Our society has much to gain at the discovery of this root.

America will be stronger, safer, and more moral, when we discover the reason that 13% of our population makes up over half of our prison population when another race commits more crime and 20% more violent crimes than they do, year after year after year.

Blue Lives will matter more when we truthfully answer the questions Black Lives Matter are asking.

All Lives Matter are ignoring the problem and need to pull their collective heads out of the sand. Ignoring Black Lives Matter or attacking Black Lives Matter will cause us to miss an opportunity to grow as a nation. I will pray that Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter will come together and find the answers that will help us grow as a nation. I will also continue to pray for end of violence in connection to this issue. It’s time to look in the mirror.

Jesse Colbert

July 12 – typo correction – Originally I had the population of whites in America at 77%, but that has been corrected to 70% to more accurately match the 2010 government census data in the article linked to this piece.

One thought on “Uncomfortable Shoes – A Preacher’s Position on Black Lives Matter

  1. Pingback: Uncomfortable Boots – A Preacher’s Position on Blue Lives Matter – Sunnyside Baptist Church

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