Data: Agent of Change or Perpetuating the Cycle?
By Tiffany Grant, PhD, CDE®
Data for Black Lives
Data can be a powerful tool for informing decisions and effecting change. But, what happens when data is used to create and perpetuate discriminatory practices? Taken directly from the Data for Black Lives website:
“History tells a different story, one in which data is too often wielded as an instrument of oppression, reinforcing inequality and perpetuating injustice. Redlining was a data-driven enterprise that resulted in the systematic exclusion of Black communities from key financial services. More recent trends like predictive policing, risk-based sentencing, and predatory lending are troubling variations on the same theme.”
Data for Black Lives is a movement of activists, organizers, and scientists committed to the mission of using data to create concrete and measurable change in the lives of Black people. The organization is comprised of 20,000 scientists and activists who endeavor to change the narrative and create racial justice by challenging discriminatory uses of data and algorithms across systems. The D4BL movement works to use data and technology as instruments to foster good in the Black community.
Fatal Force Washington Post Database (1)
Did you know that 1,112 people have been shot and killed by police in the past 12 months? The Washington Post has tracked 8,229 fatal police shootings since 2015, and the data are available here. Ongoing analysis by the Post has shown that police shoot and kill more than 1,000 people each year. In 2015, the post began to log data behind each shooting by an on duty police officer. The data tells striking and alarming stories.
- Black Americans are killed at a much higher rate than White Americans (black Americans are killed at twice rate of white Americans).
- Most victims are young (20-40 years old).
The database can be mined using several filters. The filters include:
- City and State
- Year of shooting
- Victims Name
- Year of Shooting
- Fleeing scene
- Armed vs unarmed
Why is this data significant? “The FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention log fatal shootings by police, but officials acknowledge that their data is incomplete. Since 2015, The Post has documented more than twice as many fatal shootings by police as recorded on average annually by these agencies. The Post’s database is updated regularly as fatal shootings are reported and as facts emerge about individual cases. The Post seeks to make the database as comprehensive as possible (1)”.
- Police shootings database 2015-2023: Search by race, age, department. Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/interactive/2022/police-shootings-database-2015-2022-search-by-race-age-department/.