The murder of George Floyd was heinous and the protests in his home state and home country are understandable.
To the citizens of most Western countries, the numbers of people killed by the American police are rather surprising, to say the least, but so are the numbers of police killed.
Roughly speaking, a policeman in the United States is about fifty times more likely to be killed than to kill, and this is without taking into consideration that the majority of the killings by the police are at least prima facie justified by self-defense or the interruption or prevention of a serious crime. Let us exclude only half of those killings on these grounds (probably a gross underestimate): This means that a policeman is 100 times more likely to be killed than to kill.
Let us also suppose that the police are killed by black and white in the same proportion as blacks and whites commit homicide in general (again, a generous, that is to say a conservative, assumption). This means that a policeman is about fifteen times more likely to be killed by a black man than to kill a black man, and again this is not to take into account the fact that many of the police killings would be at least prima facie justified.
A black man is about thirty times more likely to be killed by another black man than to be killed by a policeman (and some of the police are themselves black, of course). A white man is only fifteen times more likely to be killed by someone of any race than to be killed by a policeman. Are the police biased against whites? . .
None of this alters the individual responsibility of the policeman who must surely have caused the death of George Floyd. (Would the latter have died anyway, even if not under arrest and treated in the way he was treated?) Nor does it alter the responsibility of the accessories before the fact. But it does cast a strange light on the rioters, and even on the peaceful demonstrators, most of whom seem to have expressed little concern, much less moral outrage, at the much more frequent murder of blacks by other blacks, or at the comparatively high rate of the murder of policemen. (The general homicide rate in the U.S. is about five per 100,000, that of policemen fifteen per 100,000.).
Now, it might be argued that an unjustified killing by an agent of the state is far worse than any other kind of killing, so raw statistics do not apply. I can see that this argument has a certain force. On the other hand, the killing of an agent of law and order also has a special seriousness, for it undermines law and order itself. And egalitarians who uphold the sanctity of (or at least the inalienable right to) human life are ill-placed to claim that one killing is worse than another. . .
Black lives matter, all lives matter.
So why no marches for the persecution of Christians ‘at near genocide levels’?
Why no protests against all sorts of atrocities in many different countries?
Is there something about the USA that makes this crime much, much worse than many others committed in many other countries?
And why are we importing indignation anyway? Don’t we have more than enough to be protesting about here?
Perhaps it’s too soon to be indignant about the unexplained death of a young child in Palmerston North. It might have been the result of illness or accident.
Or it might have been yet another to add to the sorry toll of babies and children maltreated and killed far closer to home than Minneapolis.
Anna Leask wrote of the 61 little names on New Zealand’s roll of dishonour:
A child is killed every five weeks, putting us high on list of world’s worst offenders.
Sixty-one. It’s the number of children who have died as a result of non-accidental injuries in New Zealand in the last 10 years.
Their names are scars on a shameful landscape of child abuse – Chris and Cru Kahui who would have turned 10 today, Nia Glassie, JJ Ruhe-Lawrence, Jyniah Te Awa.
Thirty-one of those young ones were violently assaulted. They were kicked, punched, thrown, stomped or bashed to the point of death.
New Zealand has the fifth worst child abuse record out of 31 OECD countries and on average a child is killed here every five weeks. . .
That was written four years ago. How many more little names have been added to that roll of dishonour since then?
Between 1 January 2019 and 30 November 2019, 11 children and young people have died as a result of homicide in New Zealand.
The Homicide Report
Released 13 May 2019
- Every 8th homicide victim in New Zealand from 2004 to 31 March 2019 was a child
- More than two thirds of the victims were aged 2 or under
- Of the cases where the killer’s relationship to the victim was known, 27% were mothers, 24% were fathers, and 17% were de facto partners.
We don’t need to import indignation, there’s far too much here that ought to be raising anger and sorrow.
So why have the protests in the wake of Floyd’s death spread here?
Is it because it’s far easier to borrow another country’s ire than address the problems in our own?
Or is the murder just an excuse for protests that are really about thinly veiled anti-Americanism?