The flood of recent high-profile police shooting of Black men overshadows another alarming problem: White civilians shooting Black men without facing criminal consequences.
According to the Marshall Project, the criminal justice system disproportionately categorizes one in six of these killings as “justifiable,” a rate that’s higher than any other racial combinations.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization used FBI data and examined 400,000 civilian homicides between 1980 and 2014.
Overall, law enforcement classifies fewer than 2 percent of homicides committed by civilians as justifiable. That number skyrockets to 17 percent of cases involving a White person killing a Black man—more than eight times as often as other racial combinations, the report stated.
In many of these cases, killers avoid incarceration by claiming self-defense. Laws differ from state to state. However, a common element to self-defense is fearing for one’s life—even if that perception is irrational and based on a stereotype, legal experts told the Marshall Project.
Fear of Black men apparently explains much of the disparity.
Melba Pearson, a former president of the National Black Prosecutors Association, told the outlet that personal perception impacts how the criminal justice system views these cases—from police investigators to prosecutors and juries.
“The reality is every human being comes to the table with biases. That’s human nature,” she said, adding that implicit bias can affect anyone, even fair-minded prosecutors.