WASHINGTON -- Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) on Sunday criticized what he described as lopsided coverage of the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, calling on the media to stop focusing on racially disproportionate police forces and pay more attention to black people killing one another.
"I find it very disappointing that you're not discussing the fact that 93 percent of blacks in America are killed by other blacks. We're talking about the exception here," Giuliani said on NBC's "Meet The Press," referring to the Aug. 9 killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, in Ferguson by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. Brown's death, which sparked extended and widely covered protests, has become a symbol for racial tensions in the United States.
Giuliani's comments, which were a response to a question from host Chuck Todd about the racial makeup of police departments, prompted an outraged reaction from fellow panelist Michael Eric Dyson, a professor of sociology at Georgetown University.
"First of all, most black people who commit crimes against other black people go to jail," said Dyson. "Number two, they are not sworn by the police department as an agent of the state to uphold the law. So in both cases, that's a false equivalency that the mayor has drawn. ... Black people who kill black people go to jail. White people who are policemen who kill black people do not go to jail."
"It's hardly insignificant," Giuliani interjected. "It is the reason for the heavy police presence in the black community."
Dyson and Giuliani's exchange continued back and forth, with the former mayor finally asking, "So why don't you cut it down [black-on-black crime] so so many white police officers don't have to be in black areas?"
"White police officers won't be there if you weren't killing each other 70 percent of the time," Giuliani added.
"This is a defense mechanism of white supremacy at work in your mind, sir," Dyson replied.
ProPublica recently found that "young black men are 21 times as likely as their white peers to be killed by police," according to data collected between 2010 and 2012.
And this tension isn't anything new. In 1967, a panel convened by President Lyndon Johnson after the race riots in Newark and Detroit characterized the relationship between police and minority communities as "abrasive."
"To pursue our present course will involve the continuing polarization of the American community and, ultimately, the destruction of basic democratic values," the panel concluded.
The racial disparity between police forces and communities at large remains significant. According to The New York Times, "[i]n hundreds of police departments across the country, the percentage of whites on the force is more than 30 percentage points higher than in the communities they serve, according to an analysis of a government survey of police departments."
Giuliani said on "Meet The Press" that as mayor, he had tried to make sure the racial makeup of New York City's police force was proportional to that of the general population.
Despite what Giuliani's comments may have implied, black-on-black crime is not a hidden, under-covered epidemic that's unique to the black community. As Matt Yglesias has pointed out at Vox, 83 percent of white murder victims in 2011 were killed by fellow white people.
Ferguson continues to await word on whether a grand jury will indict Wilson for shooting Brown. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) has already, controversially, declared a state of emergency in anticipation of possible violence after the verdict. Many people believe it is unlikely that Wilson will be charged, given that it's rare for police officers to be arrested for on-the-job killings.
Giuliani said he didn't want to question Nixon's decision, but added, "What I would've done -- and I've had three situations similar to this -- I would've had a state of emergency, but I would've kept it quiet."
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