On the other hand, the basic premise of Black Lives Matter—that racist cops are killing unarmed black people—is false. There was a time when I believed it. I was one year younger than Trayvon Martin when he was killed in 2012, and like many black men, I felt like he could have been me. I was the same age as Michael Brown when he was killed in 2014, and like so many others, I shared the BLM hashtag on social media to express solidarity. By 2015, when the now-familiar list had grown to include Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, and Walter Scott, I began wearing a shirt with all their names on it. It became my favorite shirt. It seemed plain to me that these were not just tragedies, but racist tragedies. Any suggestion to the contrary struck me as at best, ignorant, and at worst, bigoted.
My opinion has slowly changed. I still believe that racism exists and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms; I still believe that, on average, police officers are quicker to rough up a black or Hispanic suspect; and I still believe that police misconduct happens far too often and routinely goes unpunished. But I no longer believe that the cops disproportionately kill unarmed black Americans.
Two things changed my mind: stories and data.