A couple of weeks ago, Tim Scott, one of two blacks in the Senate and that chamber's only black Republican, shared with his colleagues some of his own racially tinged experiences with cops, trying to explain how the special scrutiny that black men tend to receive from the police breeds anger, resentment, and mistrust. "I do not know many African-American men who do not have a very similar story to tell," Scott said. In my latest Forbes column, I discuss recent research that reinforces such anecdotal evidence, finding large and robust racial disparities in the way police treat pedestrians and motorists:
The Democratic National Convention has provided a forum for Black Lives Matter activists, and in his speech on Wednesday night President Obama said "we've got to work with police and protesters until laws and practices are changed."
At the Republican National Convention last week, by contrast, the party's presidential nominee came down firmly on the side of "law and order" (a phrase he used three times), repeatedly decried violence against the police, and said nothing about violence by the police. That stance, which Donald Trump consciously copied from Richard Nixon, was consistent with the billionaire bully's authoritarian tendencies but also with a Republican tradition of blindly defending police against criticism.
Even conservatives who are generally skeptical of "big government" and rarely reluctant to criticize its representatives tend to make an exception for public employees who wear uniforms and carry guns. That soft spot for armed agents of the state is not just philosophically inconsistent; it is empirically unjustified, as two recent studies of police behavior show. While one of the studies casts doubt on the claim that cops are quicker to shoot blacks than whites, they both confirm that encounters with police are racially skewed in ways that are hard to justify—a troubling pattern that is closely correlated with the war on drugs.