The Police are Sexist, too

People are shocked to discover that the wealth of scientific research going back decades finds no evidence of racism in lethal officer-civilian encounters. So shocked, in fact, that many of them do not adjust their opinion in light of fact but keep repeating the myth (I can’t go a day without seeing the myth repeated in some hysterical meme or post). So shocked, in fact, that they are disenchanted with me for debunking the myth. Sorry. Not sorry. Debunking myths is what I do for a living.

Because it feels so counterintuitive in the face of antiracist hegemony, I have been explaining this to students in the following obvious way (and now I bring it to you):

Independent of race, males are overrepresented in police shootings compared to females. In 2020, men were more than 25 times more likely to be shot and killed than women. See attached chart. It’s quite a dramatic difference. Are we to conclude from this that police are therefore sexist? Of course not. No one would assume that police are biased towards men and therefore more likely to shoot and kill them. No one assumes this because it’s immediately obvious that males are overrepresented in serious crime, whereas females are underrepresented. And not by a little. By a lot. This has been true since we’ve kept records on sex and crime. And that has been a very long time (see the eighteenth century social physics of Belgian astronomer Adolphe Quételet).

Sex of Victims of Police Shooting, Multiple Years

Do I even need to explain this? Here we go, anyway: Male overrepresentation in serious crime relative to women and this overrepresentation causes men to interact with police more frequently than women and, as result, the risk of a lethal encounter with police officers is greater for men than women.

So why are people so shocked to learn that the same dynamics holds for lethal officer-civilian encounters in the domain of race? Ideology. We’re allowed to believe that men are generally more likely to engage in crime than women. Nobody is going to accuse you of sexism for saying that men are more likely than women to be shot and killed by the cops because men are more likely than women to be involved in crime. However, we are not supposed to know, and therefore to believe that black men are more likely to engage in crime than white men, both absolutely (murder and robbery) and relatively (aggravated assault, burglary, and theft/larceny). We have been indoctrinated to reflexively perceive the statistics of race and crime as “racist.” It’s not racist, of course (no facts are racist), but ideology reigns in this area. You are not supposed to apply the same objective standard to social facts, people.

You’re supposed to think in identitarian terms. The line is this: “cops are racist.” If you deny that, you’re a racist, too. The rational person asks not only why a myth like this is manufactured (hint: race craft and hustle) and how it is disseminated (clues: academics, activists, pundits, and reporters), but also why one risks being called a racist for telling the truth (to stifle opposition to lies and propaganda).

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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