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Crime and Racism

Researching and sharing statistics on how People of Colour are treated, compared to white people, by the police and the courts, doesn't come close to the sort of action that is needed. Intellectualising racism and simply disseminating uncomfortable truths is a small part of the solution but, ultimately, policy needs to change. People need to change. Otherwise these facts are not going to change anytime soon. The truth is, I cannot even try to imagine what it must be like be like to be black and pulled over by the police. The extra trepidation, the anticipation of injustice, the whole inevitability of it all.



In contrast, I think I have been pulled over once and it was almost an amiable experience. I had a broken headlamp, and I was speeding, but the police officer politely told me to slow down, and off I went. I'm not saying that if I was black it would have been different but statistics suggest that there would have been an increased chance of further action. And even if there was no further action, I probably would have been much more anxious. This is how People of Colour often feel. And, given the statistics below, it is unsurprising.


Some Statistics

UK

  • Hate crimes in 2019/20 have increased by 8%. From 2012-20, hate crime has consistently risen year-on-year. Racial hate crime accounted for 76,070 hate crimes out of the 105,090 recorded (compared with 15,935 of recorded hate crime on sexual orientation, for instance).

  • Young black males in London were 19x more likely to be stopped and searched. Study also found that they were 28x more likely to be stopped on suspicion of carrying weapons than the general population. In spite of the increase in stop and searches, success rates had fallen: 28% success in 2018 compared to 22% between March & Sept in 2020.

  • Black people were over 3 times as likely to be arrested as White people.

  • BAME backgrounds receive longer custodial sentences partly because of a higher rate of 'not guilty' pleas stemming from the lack of trust in the legal system.

  • 15% of the UK population are BAME, compared with 27% prison population that's BAME or with the 23% of people arrested.

  • HM inspectorate of prisons found that 51% of people in youth prisons are BAME.


US

  • Black people are 50% more likely than white people to be wrongfully convicted.

  • Once convicted, black people receive 13% longer sentences for the same crime than white people.

  • Black people are 5 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched.

  • Blacks 2.5x more likely than whites to fall victim to police brutality in their lifetimes.

  • Black drivers are 30% more likely to be pulled over by police.

  • 13% of nation's population is black despite contributing to 40% of its prison population.

Aside from the disturbingly prevalent institutional racism from police, the courts are apparently just as guilty. Indeed, the algorithms used by the courts are often discriminatory. One such algorithm used by UK courts, COMPAS, predicts criminal activity. The problem with this is that it uses the current data, obtained from our unequal society, to make predictions, thereby encouraging a self-fulfilling prophecy. As Hannah Fry says in her book on algorithms, Hello World, it is unhelpful when the mirror is reflecting a present reality that only exists because of centuries of bias". She goes on to say that "Perhaps we should tweak the algorithms a little to reflect the society we're aiming for, rather the one we live in". If we don't, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.


There is certainly more to learn and expose here. Our unconscious biases, the innately discriminatory algorithms that are used to make predictions, and the intersectional problem of class, all feed into causes of a racist system. The ubiquity and variety of racism, along with its complex origins across different sectors is what makes it such a different virus to eradicate.


But if policy change is one of the ultimate solutions to racism, then law and order seems like a perfectly justifiable area to prioritise.

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