United States Attorney General William Barr does not believe that systemic racism is a factor in the police shootings of unarmed Black men. “I do think that there appears to be a phenomenon in the country where African Americans feel that they’re treated, when they’re stopped by police, frequently as suspects before they are treated as citizens,” Barr said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday.
“I don’t think that that necessarily reflects some deep-seated racism in police departments or in most police officers.
“I think people operate very frequently according to stereotypes, and I think it takes extra precaution on the part of law enforcement to make sure we don’t reduce people to stereotypes, we treat them as individuals,” he said.
Barr does not also think there are “two justice systems” when asked why Jacob Blake was shot multiple times by the police in Kenosha but a 17-year-old white teenager accused of killing two protesters was arrested without incident.
“I think the narrative that the police are on some, you know, epidemic of shooting unarmed Black men is simply a false narrative and also the narrative that that’s based on race,” Barr said. “The fact of the matter is very rare for an unarmed African American to be shot by a white police officer.”
Barr’s comments have sparked anger among activists and Black people who, for months now, have been protesting the excessive police use of deadly force and racial discrimination in the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, among others.
What is more, studies do not support Barr’s claims. Data cited by the Washington Post in August 2019 found that Black Americans, who are just 13 percent of the U.S. population, account for 36 percent of unarmed police shooting victims.
Another study by Stanford University last year uncovered racial disparity in routine traffic stops. Researchers looked at data for nearly 100 million traffic stops from 2011 to 2017, carried out by 21 state patrol agencies, and found that Black drivers were about 20 percent more likely to be stopped by police than were white drivers.