With each new outrageous example of police misconduct, the calls to do something about the culture of policing get justifiably louder, but one of the primary tools reform advocates push may be ineffective:
Diversifying police officers and leadership isn’t a silver bullet.
The latest example comes from Windsor, Virginia, where two police officers pepper sprayed and handcuffed a Black Hispanic army officer, Caron Nazario, after they pulled him over in December. Windsor is a small town near Hampton Roads, which has a significant military footprint.
The lead officer in the incident, Joe Gutierrez, was fired over the weekend after local officials reviewed video in the wake of a civil suit filed by Nazario.
George Floyd case
Having a minority officer on the scene in Nazario’s case didn’t change the outcome. That same reality is on display in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis. Of the three other officers facing charges related to the killing of George Floyd, two are minorities: Alexander Kueng is Black, and Tou Thao is Asian.
Hiring diverse officers obviously didn’t end the abusive police culture.
The fact that diversity isn’t a solution to hate isn’t limited to police abuse cases. Diversity is at the core of our national hate-crime statistics as tracked by the FBI. In 2019, the latest year for which the FBI has released statistics, 10% of hate crimes were committed by Hispanics, 24% were committed by Blacks, and nearly 7% were committed by groups with multiple ethnicities.
The FBI statistics are no aberration. “In New York City, where anti-Asian hate crime soared nearly nine-fold in 2020 over the year before, only two of the 20 people arrested last year in connection with these attacks were white, according to New York Police Department data analyzed by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. Eleven were African Americans, six were white Hispanics and one was a Black Hispanic,” reported Voice of America.
If we’re going to reform the police and defeat hate in America, Americans of all races and ethnicities are going to have to do better.
That, of course, does not absolve whites of a particular responsibility to change.
Back during 2016, the last year of the Obama administration, whites accounted for the plurality of hate crimes (46.3%) according to the FBI, but not a majority. That changed over the course of the Trump administration. White hate crimes jumped by more than six percentage points by 2019, to 52.5%. That trend is an embarrassment in a nation where we should be getting better.
Too much of the coverage of hate in America frames the issue in black and white terms — a hateful white majority against beleaguered and innocent minorities. That doesn’t match the complex reality. Hate is an American disease and all Americans are going to have to work together to defeat it.
David Mastio is Deputy Editorial Page Editor of USA TODAY. Follow him on Twitter @dmastio