New York Times journalists Sharon LaFraniere and Andrew W. Lehren talked to community members, law enforcers, and pulled police records from all over the country to break down how the color of your skin dictates what will happen at a traffic stop into comparable statistics. The results are powerful.

The Disproportionate Risks of Driving While Black was posted by the New York Times yesterday. The authors profile Rufus and his brother Devin Scales who were beaten by police “for minor infractions that included expired plates and failing to hang a flag from a load of scrap metal in the pickup’s bed.” Even more accounts of insane escalation in minor police encounters with black drivers are described in detail.

But the heart of the Times report is a vast history of traffic stops and arrest data that they say show “officers pulled over black drivers for traffic violations at a rate far out of proportion with their share of the local driving population.”

In the four states that track the results of consent searches, officers were more likely to conduct them when the driver was black, even though they consistently found drugs, guns or other contraband more often if the driver was white. The same pattern held true with probable-cause searches in Illinois and North Carolina, the two states that carefully record them.

The Times is flat-out asserting that black people are being pulled over more often for “no discernible reason” and are met with police force even when they do not resist arrest. We’ve heard that so many times it’s a joke. But the Times’ graphs putting it under our noses in hard data really makes the wind out of the punchline.

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The data presented literally illustrates what Connecticut’s under secretary for criminal justice policy and planning told the paper; “Racial profiling is a very real phenomenon, and in some places it is much worse than others.”

The Disproportionate Risks of Driving While Black visualizes, articulates and attaches hard numbers to a major social issue that must be discussed. Make some time to read it.

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Image via Seluryar/Flickr


Contact the author at andrew@jalopnik.com.