THE BLOG
09/12/2014 12:28 pm ET Updated Nov 12, 2014

Blacks and Whites Aren't Having the Same Conversation on Race

ASSOCIATED PRESS

In the wake of the Michael Brown shooting and the subsequent protests, it has become clear that America needs a frank discussion about race.

Of course, since the racial tension makes for good television, the issue here isn't keeping the conversation going -- it's getting the two sides of this coin to have the same conversation.

On one side of this discussion are those who are holding up the shooting of Michael Brown as an example of the racial inequality in this country and in the justice system in particular. To them, the death of Michael Brown is just another instance of cops treating black people differently than white people.

Protesting in Ferguson are rallying against a system that saw blacks make up 93 percent of the 521 arrests in Ferguson, Missouri, last year while whites comprised only 6.9 percent. Additionally, 92 percent of the vehicle searches were that of black individuals while the few whites who were stopped and searched actually had higher rates of contraband possession.

They are protesting a system where white youth are more likely to use drugs, yet black youth are twice as likely to be arrested for drug use.

They are protesting a system in which black youth were twice as likely to be arrested on weapons charges and three times as likely to be arrested for assault, despite reporting similar rates of fights and weapon possession as their white counterparts.

They are protesting a system where, at the peak of New York City's stop-and-frisk program, blacks made up 54 percent of those stopped while whites accounted for only 9 percent.

They are protesting a system that results in blacks representing 37 percent of drug arrests, while only 14 percent of black people were drug users.

They are protesting a system in which blacks convicted of a crime receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than their white counterparts. Those longer sentences and higher arrest rates lead to blacks accounting for 56 percent of those in prison for drug offenses.

On the other side of this discussion are those who see racism as a hoax to be disproved. To them, the protests and media attention prove that anyone who doesn't agree with them is a racist racebaiter, who attempts to make everything about race in order to profit from the fallacy of racism.

They comment that instead of showing up to Ferguson, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson should be in Chicago fixing the real problem of "black-on-black crime."

They say this even though both men and the president are already addressing the situation in Chicago. Even though black-on-black crime occurs at nearly the same rate as white-on-white crime. Even though data show that socioeconomic status, not skin color, is the most prominent factor in crime and murder rates.

They comment, like Bill O'Reilly did, that we should be waiting "for all the facts to come out." Even though in the same breath O'Reilly managed to report complete speculation that "we also hear today that Officer Wilson has an orbital blow out fracture of his eye socket," which turned out to be false. Even though O'Reilly tried to set a Fox News-friendly narrative that cops killing citizens is rare while ignoring that blacks comprised an inordinately high 32 percent of those shot and killed. Even though O'Reilly's employer made a video of a person who may or may not have been a witness to the shooting a core part of their coverage.

But perhaps the best example of how far apart the two sides are on this topic is when they comment that the killing of a white kid (Dillon Taylor) by a black cop deserves the same response and coverage.

If those protesting in Ferguson were simply protesting the death of an unarmed teen by a cop to show that cops are too quick to shoot and kill, this would be a reasonable talking point. But the reality is that Brown's death represents the systemic racism present in the justice system, while Taylor is just a prop for people who have convinced themselves their fake "white oppression" meme is the biggest problem this country faces.

If people like O'Reilly are furious about the coverage of Michael Brown's death and the protests that followed, one can only imagine they would be beside themselves if they were forced to endure the litany of inequality, injustice, and indignity the black community deals with on a daily basis.

In the end, if these people want to put an end to this perceived reporting double standard, they can easily fix the issue. All they have to do is acknowledge that the deck is in fact stack against blacks in the U.S. and quit enabling the deniers of this reality.

As soon as that happens, the conversation can turn to how to rectify this issue instead of how these events are covered.

Previously published in the Detroit News.