CNN evening show host (and New York gubernatorial sibling) Chris Cuomo launched into a bit of a diatribe on Friday night wherein he appeared to encapsulate all of the woes of the United States into an abbreviated list, complaining that we are unable to “come together as we the people” to make the world a better place. While a bit frenetic and scattershot in listing off our various societal ills, I’ll give him credit for at least trying to strike a positive, hopeful tone. Sadly, he struck a bit of a sour note in the middle of his monologue, however, when he approached questions of police shootings and police reform.
First, he listed off the names of some recently deceased Black or Hispanic suspects, mocking the voices of people who come up with excuses as to why the police failed to take them into custody without employing lethal force. Then he addressed the question of when such shootings would end. The answer, at least according to Cuomo, was when “your kids” are being shot, referring to white people. That, in the host’s opinion, is when some magical renaissance would take place. (New York Post)
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo said gun laws and police reform will happen when “white people’s kids start getting killed.” …
“Shootings, gun laws, access to weapons. Oh, I know when they’ll change,” said the anchor. “[When] your kids start getting killed. White people’s kids start getting killed.”
Cuomo at one point in the monologue attempted to affect the hypothetical accent of a confused white parent, asking: “What’s going on with these police? Maybe we shouldn’t even have police,” he said, before directly addressing the whiteness of his audience:
I couldn’t find an embeddable copy of the segment for you, but you can watch the full clip at Mediaite. (And if you’re interested in this story, I suggest you do. The excerpts in the linked article really don’t convey the whole story.)
Aside from the poor marketing value of mocking the huge segment of his audience that Cuomo tacitly admits is white, he clearly decided to launch into a lecture that was based on common misperceptions rather than hard data. Let’s start with the idea that things would change if “white people’s kids start getting killed.” For quite a few years now, the FBI and the DOJ have actually been compiling data on police shootings broken down by the race of the suspect. The numbers tell a consistent tale. Police officers in the United States routinely shoot and kill more white people than any other racial group, frequently at rates at least twice as numerous as Black suspects. Granted, Black suspects are still more likely to be killed in this fashion on a per capita basis calculated by their percentage of the overall population, but the totals tell a story.
For example, in 2020, police shot and killed 457 white suspects as compared to 241 Black and 169 Hispanic suspects. That’s literally more than both of those minority categories combined. In 2017 the difference was even more stark. 457 white suspects were shot and killed, compared to 223 Black and 179 Hispanic suspects. (That’s literally more than twice as many white than Black.) So while the numbers may remain disproportionate based on the Black percentage of the population, it’s inaccurate to claim that the cops “aren’t shooting white kids.”
The second half of the phrase “white kids” deserves some attention as well. How many “kids” are being shot and killed by the police? In 2020 there were a total of 13 suspects under the age of 18 who were killed in police shootings. And that figure includes suspects age 16 and 17, by which point many young people have unfortunately run up extensive records of “law enforcement involvement.” Further details are hard to come by since their records are generally sealed. 2018 and 2019 saw similar figures, with 15 and 14 suspects in that age group respectively being killed. There was a bit of a spike in 2017 when 28 died. By far the most common age group to die during police shootings was the 30-44-year-old suspects.
The other obvious question involves how some of these suspects wound up dying during encounters with the police. That’s another area where Cuomo mocks his audience for even raising the question. Once again doing his best “stereotypical white person” accent, the host says, “That George Floyd. Did you hear about him? That Daunte Wright. Did you hear about him? That 13-year-old kid named Adam. You know he was a gang banger.”
Does Chris Cuomo honestly believe that there is no value in context or relevant information going into an investigation of a police shooting? While the death of a child is always a tragedy by definition, there was a lot more to the story of the shooting of Adam Toledo than the headlines portrayed. He only drew the attention of the police because of a ShotSpotter alarm indicating gunfire on the streets in the middle of the night. Toledo was out and about with a 21-year-old gang member wearing red gloves that tested positive for gunshot residue. And even CNN was forced to admit that less than one second elapsed between the moment he finally dropped his handgun and the police officer firing the shot. Could the shooting have been avoided? Possibly, but that’s something to be determined during the ongoing investigation. The point is, Adam Toledo wasn’t out playing hopscotch with his schoolmates when some rogue cops showed up to suddenly gun him down. Cuomo’s criticism of society acts as if it’s the audience’s fault for suggesting otherwise.
There are obviously bad police shootings from time to time and even some actual rogue cops perpetrating serious crimes. (Look no further than Michael Slager for proof.) But Chris Cuomo is yet another media talking head who pretends he’s trying to solve problems while doing little more than dumping gasoline on the fire of generalized hatred of the police and efforts to reform, defund, or abolish them. This is not a productive way to approach the issue.