What Are the Real Stats on Black vs. White Violence and Police Shootings?

A viral photo on Facebook claims to break down the ethnicities of murder victims and murderers:

The photo has been viewed nearly 5 million times since it was first shared on July 6. While the image states that the data is pulled from Wikipedia, it does not provide any further information that makes it possible to track down the source of the statistics. However, the FBI reports crime statistics annually, and data from the most recent year (2018) contradicts the numbers in the picture.

In 2018, the FBI estimates there were about 16,200 homicides in the United States. Data on these murders is very limited, however. For example, not every murder is solved—38.4 percent went unsolved in 2017, and the number of individuals involved in every murder is not known. Likewise, the race of the perpetrators is not known in every homicide case. The FBI does report, though, that in cases of a single victim and single offender the race of both the murder victim and murderer are known in 6,570 cases. Of those, 3,315 victims were white, with 2,677 of those killings (80.8 percent) being carried out by another white individual and 514 (15.5 percent) being carried out by a black individual. The remaining 124 white victims were killed by perpetrators of other races.* There were 2,925 black victims of murder in 2018, of whom 234 were killed by a white individual (8 percent) and 2,600 were killed by a black individual (88.9 percent). Again, the remainder were carried out by perpetrators of a different race. 

The Washington Post maintains a database of fatal police shootings, which includes information about the victims. In 2018, the Post reports 880 such killings took place. (That number is likely low and the database is frequently updated when more cases come to light.) Of those 880 deaths, 454 of the victims were white and 228 were black. Presumably, the viral photo is suggesting that police shootings represent 3 percent and 1 percent of total killings of white and black people respectively. While it isn’t clear if the FBI statistics include police shootings, even adding those numbers to those reported by the FBI, the numbers don’t support the claims in the viral photo. In that case, police shootings represent the deaths of 12 percent of white victims and 7.2 percent of black victims.

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Comments (75)
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  • The real question is whether the meme is generally correct, or whether it is totally wrong. The percentages may be wrong, but are they way out of whack, or only partially?

  • That’s good information. However, the power of the meme is that it’s easily digestible. It would be more effective if you’d created your own graphic to which we could compare theirs. The usefulness of the Fact Check is not just to give your readership a better understanding of the facts but also to provide us with information that we can use in confronting misleading information. If you create a graphic that we can share then we can also promote The Dispatch as an alternate source of information that is more credible than what others are using.

    1. Ditto.

      1. I was hoping for that, too, but then The Dispatch would be creating something that could be taken out of context and misused and I am sure they don't want to headache.

  • I would argue that the FBI data doesn't really contradict the picture because the way that the data are presented in the picture is so vague as to be essentially meaningless.

  • Ive never seen that meme before but it seems to be blatant troll. The numbers dont add up to 100 and coming from "wikipedia". I wish people wouldnt share stuff that is so obviously wrong.

  • The numbers making the rounds on the Internet are quite insidious, implying that the black minority is out there killing off the white majority. It makes more sense that murders of whites are committed much more more by whites, given our tendencies to associate by color, and the greater number of whites. 81% of murders being black on white is racist propaganda. Popular stuff on the old internet.

  • So, it’s been awhile since I looked at the stats since the Obama administration, but 13% of the populations does hit around 50% of the homicide in the black community. It means the numbers have not shifted much in the past 10 years or so in terms of demographics of white, black, and Latino communities.

    Also, gun violence has been on a downward trend overall even with the mass shootings before the pandemic. These numbers seem to hold onto that narrative.


    And here’s PEW research since the 90ties.


    Even with the massive influx of gun buying huh.

    Thanks for the breakdown Alex Dent, as always.

    1. Unfortunately, this statistic may refer to gang violence, which is different in my opinion. Gangsters have been killing gangsters for over a hundred years. Doesn't make it right, but it seems like a different problem.

      1. Actually this is a good point. They should be separate,(Not sure why so many data centers put it together) but gang violence is it's own can of worms in communities.

        Good point.

      2. Agree. Race is sometimes a factor and sometimes not. Gang on gang violence if at all possible should be removed from the equation of overall violence and I would bet the results would be much more proportional to each ethnicity's segment of the entire population. I realize there is gang on gang violence that has, for lack of a better term, collateral damage in which kids are killed by bullets aimed at rival gangs.

        And drug turf violence probably belongs in the gang on gang category too.

  • If there are any statisticians out there help me out here. Can we put some numbers to threat levels?

    If a white person sees another person how does their likelihood of being killed by that person vary depending on if that person is black, white, or a police officer?

    What if a black person sees someone, how will their risk change based whether it is a black person a white person or a police officer based on the statistics?

    I also wonder how gender plays into this, if at all, based both on the victim and killer side of the ledger.

    1. 1st if all, I think a high percentage are domestic violence. Another cause is gang violence. Then there are murders committed while another crime is being committed. Example, if you were a drug dealer you could possibly have a better chance of murdered than lets say an accountant (unless you work for the mob)

  • This tracks with the data I've seen over the years. Keep in mind that most homicides are crimes of passion, so it's not surprising that you see a lot of white-on-white and black-on-black; that reflects I think to a large degree people's living arrangements

  • Fact Check is normally pretty reliable, but I question the breakdown of the white murder statistics. Subtracting murders of whites by whites and of whites by blacks from the total given of 3315, the balance is 124 by my count, not the 578 shown in the posting. It doesn't detract from the point, which I believe is well taken and the assessment is accurate but, as we've all found out to our sorrow, those in pursuit of support for a narrative will grasp at any available straw to avoid changing their minds. If I've missed something, please let me know.

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