‘Independent thinker’ has been manipulated

To the editor:

There is much to disagree with in Michael Spahr’s letter to the editor in Saturday’s Sentinel. While he claims to be an independent thinker, most of what Mr. Spahr writes are the familiar conservative talking points that we might see in the president’s tweets, or watch on Fox News or hear from Rush Limbaugh.

His letter contains a stunning amount of victim shaming, scapegoating, dodgy statistics and flat out falsehoods. Out of all of these, let me reply to just one thing. Mr. Spahr says, “According to the numbers, a black man in America has a better chance of being struck by lightning than being killed by a white cop.”

Let’s look at that. Since 2015, the Washington Post has compiled a database of all fatal shootings by on-duty police officers in the United States. It contains a number of data points on each shooting, things like the gender, race, and age of the person shot, the state where the shooting happened and the date that it occured. Granted, the data is at the Washington Post, one of the media outlets distrusted by Mr. Spahr, but each entry includes sources, and the data is available for download and independent verification.

The National Weather Service maintains a database of Americans killed by lightning strikes. The data there includes the date, location of the strike, age and gender of the victim. The NWS does not record the ethnicity or race of the victim.

Here are the numbers. From 2015 through 2019, police in the US killed 5,309 people, of whom 1,149 were black men. It is interesting to note here that while black Americans comprise 13 percent of the population, they represent over 31 percent of the victims in the Post’s database.

During the same period of time, there were 125 lightning fatalities in the United States. Of those victims, 95 were male. Since we don’t know the race of the person killed, I’ll spot Mr. Spahr the whole total even though some of them might be white independent thinkers.

1,149 black men killed by police vs. 95 men killed by lightning. “According to the numbers,” I’d say that’s not even close.

So, please forgive me if I conclude that Mr. Spahr is as manipulated by the media that he consumes as he claims the rest of us are.

Dan Mertz



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