Systemic Racism & Policing

This is the disturbing reality: Black people are disproportionately killed by police

Movement Advancement Project
4 min readJun 4, 2020


The public health threat of COVID-19 has shown us now, more than ever, the importance of mutual aid and community care. As part of our commitment to speed equality and opportunity for all, MAP will be publishing a series of posts that advance the conversation around vulnerable communities who may be particularly at risk to the effects of the virus and the economic downturn. In the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic that affects us all, this series will shed light on the particular challenges facing all of our communities, as well as resources from partners and allied organizations to support you through the pandemic.

While the United States is still battling COVID-19, the country also faces the ongoing epidemic of racism and violence targeting Black Americans, including at the hands of police. Last week, MAP joined a statement signed by more than 300 LGBTQ organizations making an explicit commitment to embrace anti-racism and end white supremacy, not as necessary corollaries to our mission, but as integral to the objective of full equality for LGBTQ people.

This is the disturbing reality: Black people are disproportionately killed by police.

According to Mapping Police Violence, police officers killed 1,099 people in 2019, with Black people accounting for 24% of those killed — despite making up only 13% of the U.S. population. At the end of the day, Black Americans are three times as likely than white Americans to be shot and killed by the police.

Source: Mapping Police Violence, 2020

This weekend and into this week, thousands of people in cities across the country protested the recent death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer held a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes. This comes shortly after national outrage erupted over the death of Ahmaud Arbery, who was gunned down by a former police officer while jogging in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot while asleep in her bed after police entered her Kentucky home unannounced.

These are just a few of the many Black people — Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, and too many others — which together demonstrate a systemic problem of police violence against Black people in the United States.

Among Black people in the United States experiencing police violence are Black LGBTQ people. Anti-LGBTQ violence is an ongoing problem, both before the pandemic and through today. In fact, recurrent violence against transgender people — which includes 52 reported murders of transgender or gender non-conforming people in the past two years — has even led the American Medical Association to call it an epidemic.

Not surprisingly, this violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, especially Black transgender women, who often also struggle with access to employment, housing, healthcare, and more. Last month, Nina Pop, a Black transgender woman in Missouri, was violently murdered in her apartment. Just last week, Tony McDade, a Black transgender man from Tallahassee, was shot and killed by police, resulting in a chorus of demands for an investigation. According to the Human Rights Campaign, Tony McDade is the 12th transgender or gender nonconforming person to be violently killed in 2020.

Source: MAP, Unjust: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails LGBT People of Color, 2016

For Black people, including Black LGBTQ people, experiences with law enforcement, with the justice system, in jails and prison facilities, and when rebuilding their lives with a criminal record are inextricably linked with racism and anti-LGBTQ discrimination. As we know from our previous post on incarcerated people, both people of color and LGBTQ people are overrepresented in the criminal justice system.

June marks Pride Month, a time to celebrate the resilience and courage of LGBTQ people. This year, in celebrating and commemorating Pride, it’s important to honor Black and LGBTQ people who lost their lives to violence, especially at the hands of police. But honoring those lives requires more than words: it requires joining together and fighting to change the systems, laws, policies and attitudes in order to make it clear that #BlackLivesMatter.

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Movement Advancement Project

MAP is an independent, nonprofit think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and communications that help speed equality and opportunity for all.