There was a mass shooting in San Diego’s UTC area last night (news link). It’s an affluent area and the shooting took place at the pool and spa where a child was celebrating his birthday. I know this place – I’ve have friends living there, I’ve been at that pool with kids and have also celebrated a birthday party there. It’s on my way to work too. So yes, this hits home.
The shooter was a white male and he shot 4 black women, 2 black men and one Hispanic male. I’ve called this a hate crime but I’ve seen other folks wonder “Really? Why? How can you say that?”. Not calling out a hate crime is implicitly supporting it. But back to “How do you know?” … well, the shooter is dead, so we can’t ask him. But we can look at the data we have.
The ‘accidental’ odds – just 0.000005%
Here are San Diego’s latest demographics (2010) as well as the people involved in this incident.
As you can see, San Diego has very few black people and even fewer in affluent neighborhoods like UTC. I do wish it were more fair, but that’s a separate topic. Interestingly, San Diego also has a low (sub 50%) white population. The killer targeted not one, not two but 6 black people. The killer specifically attacked black people despite there being a ton of other people in the densely populated apartment community. In fact, the attacker verbally warned other people to flee (or else die like the rest).
Let’s put this in simple probabilities, to see what the odds are that this is just pure chance and NOT racially motivated. The terrorist shows up at the pool and starts picking his victims one by one. Assuming everything was just by pure chance:
P(pure chance) = P(1 black) AND P(1 black) AND P(1 black) AND P(1 black) AND P(1 black) AND P(1 black) AND P(1 Hispanic) AND P(1 white; our terrorist)
P(pure chance) = P(1 black) ^ 6 x P(1 Hispanic) x P(1 white)
P(pure chance) = (0.069 ^ 6) x 0.283 x 0.445 = 0.000005%
As you can see, it’s extremely unlikely that it’s NOT a hate crime. Every person’s life is valuable but purely from a numbers perspective, it’s the 6 black people that totally skew the numbers. Heck, even if we loosen up our math by a 1000 TIMES, we STILL get a probability of 99.995% that it IS a hate crime. Even with a leeway of a million fold, it’s 95% a hate crime. The only alternative to this is that the killer had a serious non-racial grudge with the victim(s) prior to this incident AND that the killer was a level-headed, non-racist.
The Racial Bias
Obviously, I didn’t do the Math when I first heard about this event. Anyone should know that specifically shooting 6 black people, in a city where you don’t have many black people to begin with, is a pattern. It’s really that simple. To deny this hunch, this pattern, is a likely indicator that you’ve got a (possibly subconscious) internal bias. Doesn’t confirm anyone to be a racist (or not) but on a much more subtle level, that bias may lead you to ‘explain away’ hate crimes. You certainly don’t want to yell hate crime anytime there is a conflict between people of differing ethnicities, but when you see a pattern, stand up for what is right.
I’d also like to add why I use the word ‘terrorist’. A mass shooter attacking people like this in an area that’s considered ‘safe’ (pool side, affluent area) by you, your friends, family and kids doesn’t disappear. The sense of terror lingers in the neighborhood, in people’s minds and in children’s hearts. RIP the dead victim.
EDIT: If anyone wants to refine the Math, please feel free to hit me up. I did this in between meetings, excuse any typos, errors and omissions …
EDIT2: Adding the photo I got on my way to work this morning (it’s on my commute). Also I’m hoping my math is wrong because I want to believe it’s not a hate crime 🙁
EDIT3: [From a social media concern on independence of events] The probabilities for geospatial presence of black people are dependent (more black people at a black event) but the probabilities for targeting and shooting black people among a mixed crowd should be independent if unbiased. Still to account for modelling errors, I first discounted the model by 1000 fold and then a million fold.