Harvard Wrongly Attributed Police Killings to Racism

In a misleading email to alumni, the leadership of Harvard University implied, without evidence, that police killed three people out of racism. It cited the “killings of Adam Toledo,” “Daunte Wright” and “George Floyd” in railing against the “evil of racism” and police killings of people “by virtue of the color of their skin.” “The truth is that racism runs through the history of the United States and continues to have deadly effects on people of color in this country today,” read the April 19 email, sent by the president and deans of Harvard University.

The email pointed to no evidence that any of these killings occurred due to racism, not even the disgraceful and cruel killing of George Floyd. Nor have I uncovered any such evidence. If racism had been behind Floyd’s killing, the policeman who killed Floyd would have been charged with a racially-motivated offense under Minnesota’s hate-crimes law. But he was not, because there was no evidence that he had any racial motive for the killing.

Police killings are not usually due to racism. In 2020, only 27 of the 80 unarmed people killed by the police were black, according to the Mapping Police Violence database. More unarmed whites were killed than blacks. Moreover, a study by the black Harvard economist Roland Fryer found that racism is not a significant factor in police shootings.

Tony Timpa, a white man, was killed in a fashion similar to George Floyd — as black professors like John McWhorter have noted.

Timpa died after 13 minutes of being prevented by police from breathing properly. But while George Floyd’s family has received some justice (and a $27 million settlement), Timpa’s family has never received justice of any sort, even though legal scholars say police committed clear violations of Timpa’s constitutional rights.

As the black podcaster Kmele Foster notes, it is not “clear” that the Floyd case “was about race.”

Yet, colleges and school systems across the country have sent emails to parents claiming that George Floyd was murdered because of his race. Such emails have been received by many of my friends and college classmates. For example, Dr. Francisco Duran, the superintendent of the Arlington County Public Schools, sent an email on the evening of April 20 that claimed Floyd’s killing was an instance of “racism” that occurred due to “systemic racism.”

The superintendent’s email goes on to list various “resources” he wants parents to read. These “resources” contain sweeping indictments of the criminal justice system by left-wing advocacy groups.  Some cite the fact that blacks are arrested or incarcerated at higher rates than whites as a sign of racism, even though the Supreme Court says such racial bean-counting is not proof of racism, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics has found that higher black arrest rates for most violent crimes are due not to racism, but rather to the higher black crime rate.

Courts have rejected the claim that racial differences in arrest rates show racism, rather than racial differences in the crime rate, which is higher among blacks than whites, and higher among whites than Asians. In United States v. Armstrong, the Supreme Court noted that it’s wrong to assume “that people of all races commit all types of crimes” at the same rate, since that presumption is “contradicted by” reality.

A 2021 study by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics found that although blacks are arrested for serious nonfatal violent crimes at more than twice the rate of people in general, this is not due to racism. Instead, arrests are correctly “proportional” to the actual crime rate, and to the crimes actually reported to the police, which often are committed by black offenders. As it noted, in 2018, “White and black people were arrested proportionate to their involvement in serious nonfatal violent crime overall and proportionate to their involvement in serious nonfatal violent crime reported to police.” (See Allen J. Beck, Race and Ethnicity of Violent Crime Offenders and Arrestees, 2018).

The resources my school system’s superintendent encouraged parents to rely on are very one-sided. One notes that “Black Lives Matter is an activist movement which began as a hashtag (#BlackLivesMatter) when in July 2013, white civilian George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teenager killed in Florida.” It fails to note that Martin was bashing George Zimmerman’s head into the pavement before he was killed, contrary to the assumption a casual reader might get from reading the word “unarmed.” This description also fails to recognize that Zimmerman was a Hispanic, not a non-Hispanic “white,” which undercuts the suggestion that this episode was a sign of white racism.


Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Liberty Unyielding on April 26, 2021 and is crossposted here with permission.

Image: Joshua Santos, Public Domain

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader is a senior attorney at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

9 thoughts on “Harvard Wrongly Attributed Police Killings to Racism

  1. I am struck by the similarities between BLM of today and the KKK of a century ago.

    For those not familiar with the latter, the short version is that in a few short years it started from nothing in 1915 and quickly grew to having massive rallies and marches on DC — the old B&W movies of the latter are publicly available. It heavily influenced the 1924 Democratic Convention, often called the “Klanbake”, and while it’s candidate (William Gibbs McAdoo) didn’t get the nomination, it took a record 103 votes to nominate someone else — who was soundly defeated by Calvin Coolidge.

    This second incarnation of the Klan was primarily nativist and anti-Catholic, and it evaporated almost as quickly as it arose — in part because of scandals involving its leadership and in part because people came to realize what it really stood for and recoiled in horror.

    I believe that the same thing is going to happen to BLM — and for the same two reasons. In fact, I don’t think we’d even have a BLM to the extent we do were it not for the blanket exceptions that BLM had from lockdown mandates. In other words, BLM protests were the only permitted means for young people to associate with other young people — that “boy meets girl” stuff — and I firmly believe that a lot of their support will evaporate once the bars & beaches get reopened.

    The educrats — the educational bureaucrats — have placed their credibility on the line in support of BLM’s excesses and much like the Protestant ministers who did likewise for the Klan a century ago, there will be a price to pay when this is all over. After all, there are already people describing Harvard as “a venture capitol fund that teaches classes on the side” and taxing its endowment is going to look mighty attractive to voters worrying about the solvency of Social Security and Medicare….

  2. Facts, facts, facts! Don’t confuse me with facts!

    We know what we know because we know it. As every true Ethnic Gnostic can testify, WE — the select few — have been given, are naturally privy to — Truths that no one else can see, feel, hear, taste or touch. It’s a kind of, as Dr. Voddie Baucham might note, an ethnic gnostic dog whistle. Woof!

    So when we say a thing is racist it’s racist — because we said so. The fact that there is no evidence of bias or hatred or prejudice or ill-will directed specifically at the Other’s race is immaterial.

    If all you have is a hammer, then all you see are nails. So yes, for the single-tool-in-the-toolbox set, if a Black man is ever killed it’s because racism. (It couldn’t be anything else). I guess the 6436 Black men murdered by Black men in 2019 were all victims of racism

    Tim Constantine tells the following story, re: “I only have a Hammer,” Michelle.
    “On a recent episode of her podcast, Mrs. Obama recounted a story of taking her two daughters out for ice cream with a friend after a soccer game. When their turn came to place their order another customer tried to jump in front of them. Mrs. Obama spoke up and the would-be line cutter shamefully and silently moved back.

    I experienced a similar incident at the security line at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. … I was fourth in line with another half-dozen backed up behind me as we all waited for the person in the front of the line to move along. One woman at the rear of the line ignored us all and walked to the front. She apparently didn’t believe the societal concept of waiting your turn applied to her. Like Mrs. Obama, I spoke up. The woman was angry, but went back to her correct location in line.

    Two very similar incidents. We were both waiting in line. We both experienced a rude person trying to cut into our line. Mrs. Obama and I both spoke up and corrected the person. The only difference? Michelle is convinced the rude line-cutter, who was White, cut ahead of her and her daughters because the Obama family is Black. Further, she believes this ice cream line bandit represents, in Mrs. Obama’s words, “the white community.” She has no doubt this societal faux pas was racial in nature. Conversely the airport security line violator that I experienced was a Black woman. It never occurred to me that race had anything to do with it. I just thought she was impatient and rude. Ironically, the woman who attempted to jump the security line at DCA angrily told me to enjoy my “white privilege” because I asked her to wait in the same line as everyone else.”

    Sometimes, ‘a cigar is just a cigar’. Sometimes a line-cutter is just a rude line-cutter. Sometimes you didn’t get the job just because you weren’t qualified. And sometimes an individual is killed (like a Massage Parlor hostess who also is Asian) just because they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a sociopath is pulling the trigger.

    Bad things happened to people long before the word racism was even invented. They will continue to happen to billions of us long after the ugly word itself vanishes into a well-deserved usage limbo.

    The question will be: if you can’t blame Big R for what you got, didn’t get, or didn’t do, who or what will then wear that “Blame Me” Hat?

  3. I have to say though that I have little use for the likes of George Zimmerman. He may have been getting his head smacked by Trayvon Martin. But this may have been after George Zimmerman stalked him, looking for a confrontation. Maybe George Zimmerman deserved a good beating, I don’t know. George Zimmerman was and is a lowlife. He should never have come in contact with Trayvon Martin. This case is a bad poster for white vigilantism and the notion that there is little or no racism left in the society.

    1. No one is saying there is little to no racism left in the country at the individual racist level. Racism, as a particular kind of human hatred, will exist as long as humans find reasons to hate. But Systemic Racism which twists our laws, our institutions, our hiring and firing, the way banks make loans, or stadiums sell tickets — THAT kind of racism vanished decades and decades ago (several generations back).

      As for the majority opinion, I’d refer you to the work done by the University of Illinois, (Institute of Public and Government Affairs) which reports that “One of the most substantial changes in white racial attitudes has been the movement from very substantial opposition to the principle of racial equality to one of almost universal support….” Saying, “What is revealing is that many of the survey questions that tap attitudes toward the principle of equality are no longer included on major national surveys.” Why? Because “they have become essentially universally accepted by whites and therefore not deemed as worth asking on surveys.”

      So even given the fact of human hatred and some of that hatred being race-based…there really is very little racism left in American society as a whole.

      1. Tell that to Trayvon’s survivors. Tell that to all the white people who are upset about George Floyd and the others. But telling them is not working. If the case of Trayvon Martin is is the case for the idea that we are in a post-racial world, it is not going to work.

    2. Please give me a citation for the law that says that you can assault and batter another human being because the person is a “lowlife” and “deserved a good beating.”

      The principles upon which this country was founded are the exact opposite — that our lives, liberty, & property are gifts from God and only God can arbitrarily take them away from us. You seek a return to France from before the French Revolution where noblemen drove recklessly through the streets of Paris, running over and killing peasants who didn’t get out of their way, and then billing their survivors for repairs to their carriages.

      And by your standards, George Floyd should never have come in contact with Derek Chauvin — and wouldn’t have had he not (a) passed a counterfeit bill while (b) high as a kite on (c) illegal drugs.

      1. Philistine, stop putting words in my mouth. You don’t know why (lowlife) George Zimmerman was beaten. Neither do I. Was it because he was stalking Trayvon Martin? Did he pull a gun on him? You and I don’t know. In any case, (lowlife) George was not a cop and shouldn’t have been playing like one. Whatever happened, maybe he brought it on himself.

  4. I commend Hans Bader for writing about the Tony Timpa case, which appears to me to be far more wretched even than the sad case of George Floyd. Tony Timpa was a (white) mentally ill guy who tried to get help from the police. They ended up killing him, all the while laughing about it. There may be more to the story, but what I recall is almost inconceivably evil. google it, you will find it.

    1. I agree, and do not forget Justine Ruszczyk, the White woman who was shot, for no apparent reason, by Black Minneapolis Officer Mohammed Noor. It took diplomatic pressure from the Australian government (she was an Australian citizen) to even bring Noor to trial, and he was only charged with third degree murder.

      Yea, struggling with a druggie resisting arrest is worse than shooting someone…

      And then there is the case of Philando Castile, who was also Black. He was a licensed gun owner who advised the officer that he was armed, and got fatally shot for his trouble. I fail to understand why there aren’t any protests over that — or that the officer was acquitted.

      I really don’t think that BLM is really about Black Lives Mattering….

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