Every time there's a controversial police killing in the US, Angstlust and Schadenfreude combine into a moist throbbing supernova in the bowels of German journalists, and the only release is to ejaculate yet another think-piece onto the pages of some newspaper: The United States is self-immolating, a failed state, teetering on the brink of civil war.
And yet, every time, America somehow survives. This never stops the next prediction, of course. As the old joke about economists go, Germans have predicted 492 of the last zero collapses of American civilization. Whoops, I meant "civilization".
And America's going to survive this week as well!
A few numbers to put things into perspective:
In 2015, 258 black people were killed by US police, representing over 26% of deaths.For 2016, the trend seems similar. As of July 7, US police have shot dead 509 people this year, of whom 123 were black.Even counting only the deaths of black people who were unarmed, the results are staggering. A conservative count puts that death toll at 38, right in line with the average during Jim Crow.
These statistics are taken from an article which is intended to compare current numbers of blacks being killed by police to the number of lynchings back when racial segregation ('Jim Crow' laws) was the law of the land.
But what they also do is highlight a few facts which will be unknown to the average German. First, that the overwhelming majority of people shot dead by the police in the United States are not black. Second, the majority of black people killed by the police were armed.
Let's take the number 258 black people killed in the USA in 2015. The black population of the United is 42 million, more than half the entire population of Germany. Dividing 258 by 42 million yields a number so tiny it is expressed by scientific notation. The chance that a black person will be killed by the police in any given year is microscopic. Since the majority of the people killed by the police -- including black people -- are armed, the number of unarmed black people killed by police is even smaller.
It may still be too high, of course. Some of these police killings, no matter who the victim is, could be prevented by better training and equipment. Even confrontations with armed suspects should not have to end in death or serious injury. Many American police departments, like the Dallas police department, are changing policies to emphasize de-escalation, with some success.
But the image gleefully propagated by mainstream German media -- that black Americans can't leave their houses without fear of being gunned down by cops for no reason -- is false. And pace all those dull conformists in the German media, America's not going to melt down this time, either.
And one other thing, German journos -- you should know that Germany's quaint 19th-century laws on image protection make it illegal to broadcast videos excessive force by German cops. When it comes to police accountability and transparency, the US is light-years ahead of backward, insular Germany. Funny how German journalists never seem to notice this.