Black deaths at the hands of law enforcement are linked to historical lynchings: U.S. counties where lynchings were more prevalent from 1877 to 1950 have more officer-involved killings

by nyljaouadi1
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“A lynching is much more than just a murder. A murder may occur in private. A lynching is a public spectacle; it demands an audience… A lynching is a majority’s way of telling a minority population that the law cannot protect it.” — Aatish Taseer, British journalist

George Floyd’s death was more than just a murder, it was a modern-day lynching.

The agonizing similarity in the death of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, is that current and former police officers participated in their lynching. From 1877 to 1950, nearly 4,000 individuals were the victims of lynchings. Some have speculated that as many as 75% of historical lynchings “were perpetrated with the direct or indirect assistance of law enforcement personnel.” Despite drawing attention from large crowds, many perpetrators of historical lynchings were never charged with a crime —a fact seen in many modern-day officer involved shootings.

While historical lynchings peaked more than a century ago, these racist acts can be linked to officer-involved shootings today.

Using county-level data on historical lynchings and present-day officer involved shootings, Figure A shows that historical lynchings are positively associated with officer-involved shootings for Blacks. That is, counties that experienced a higher number of historical lynchings have larger shares of officer-involved shootings of Blacks in the last five years.

Historical lynchings and officer-involved shootings involving blacks

Year Number of lynchings % of officer-involved shootings involving blacks
2020 0 17.88
2020 1 20.87
2020 2 22.92
2020 3 40.08
2020 4 20.74
2020 5 29.92
2020 6 34.40
2020 7 41.94
2020 8 24.72
2020 9 46.67
2020 10 49.07
2020 11 50.00
2020 12 33.33
2020 13 44.44
2020 14 64.64
2020 16 0.00
2020 17 51.25
2020 18 28.58
2020 25 50.00


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