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Creating a Better Future

The world is at an inflection point. We are in the midst of a global pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people in months and plunged the economies of most countries into freefall, putting over 40 million people out of work in Canada and the US in mere weeks. For nearly six months we have regularly discussed the local and global health, economic, geopolitical and human implications of the pandemic in this forum and in webinars we have hosted with global thought leaders. We also regularly highlight new ideas and solutions to overcome these extraordinary challenges.

With all of the anguish, anxiety and hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as a backdrop, we watched the video of Minneapolis police killing George Floyd and gasped in horror. As hard as it has been to digest the seemingly endless cycle of terrible pandemic news from around the world — and although this is one black person unjustly killed in a four hundred year American history of innumerable such horrors — this immediately felt different.

It wasn’t just the sickening callousness of that police officer snuffing out another human being’s life by driving his knee into George Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes. It was also the sheer casualness of the murder by police who knew they were being filmed and yet carried on with an apparent belief in their impunity.

The nearly two weeks of protests across the US and around the globe that continue to grow in number and size indicate that the rest of the country and world has finally woken up to the breadth of the indignities, injustice and deep racism black people and other people of colour face every minute of every day.

For those of us not subject to the constant, lifelong disease of racism, we simply have not done enough to acknowledge it, root it out and fix — or dismantle and replace — the systems that perpetuate and give succor to this disease. That must immediately change. We must do everything in our power to build a world that treats every person equally, honestly and with the respect, justice and opportunity we ALL deserve.

We have been asked: why does this matter for a venture capital firm? Quite simply because it is the right, moral thing to do and makes for a better, healthier world. Our vision at Radical is to help Create the future. But that future must be one that levels the playing field so that each person lives with dignity and equal opportunity.

There is no question that Canada suffers from many of the same issues resulting from racism (including vast disparities in how black and white people are treated by police as outlined in the article below). While it is not a panacea, Toronto is regularly cited as the most diverse city in the world, with over 50% of the population being immigrants. Highly diverse teams have made all three of the companies we have started (Milq, Layer 6 and Radical) immeasurably better. We have always believed diversity is an extraordinary strength and something to which every organization should aspire. But to achieve truly representative diversity, we must create a world where black children and other children of colour are given all of the opportunities necessary to pursue their dreams.

With our time, energy, relationships and money we, both as a team and individually, support many organizations that work to level the playing field. In the future we will begin to highlight some of these organizations to encourage their work and grow their support.

Yet we must do more. We will start by using this platform to share the ugly facts that illustrate why so many people are protesting.

At Radical Ventures, we understand the power of data. Data is the electrical current powering breakthroughs in artificial intelligence that will change how we do business, how we live and how we take care of one another, for the overall improvement of humankind.

But data also holds up a mirror to who we are, here and now. So, while we usually reserve this space for insights and analysis from the world of data-powered technology, this week we are sharing insights on what data tells us about racism and the challenges our society is facing collectively, in this moment. In doing so, we hope to shine a light on inequities so that we can easily recognize what is broken and begin the hard work of creating the same, better future for every child that each of us wants for our own children.

1)Minneapolis Police Use Force Against Black People at 7 Times the Rate of Whites (New York Times)

“About 20 percent of Minneapolis’s population of 430,000 is black. But when the police get physical — with kicks, neck holds, punches, shoves, takedowns, Mace, Tasers or other forms of muscle — nearly 60 percent of the time the person subject to that force is black. And that is according to the city’s own figures.”

2) A Multi-Level Bayesian Analysis of Racial Bias in Police Shootings at the County-Level in the United States (PLOS.org)

“…The results provide evidence of a significant bias in the killing of unarmed black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans, in that the probability of being {black, unarmed, and shot by police} is about 3.49 times the probability of being {white, unarmed, and shot by police} on average. Furthermore, the results of multi-level modeling show that there exists significant heterogeneity across counties in the extent of racial bias in police shootings, with some counties showing relative risk ratios of 20 to 1 or more. Finally, analysis of police shooting data as a function of county-level predictors suggests that racial bias in police shootings is most likely to emerge in police departments in larger metropolitan counties with low median incomes and a sizable portion of black residents, especially when there is high financial inequality in that county. There is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates), meaning that the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.”

3) Black drivers get pulled over by police less at night when their race is obscured by ‘veil of darkness,’ Stanford study finds (Stanford News)

“After analyzing 95 million traffic stop records, filed by officers with 21 state patrol agencies and 35 municipal police forces from 2011 to 2018, researchers concluded that “police stops and search decisions suffer from persistent racial bias.”

4) Machine Bias: There’s software used across the country to predict future criminals. And it’s biased against blacks (ProPublica)

“In 2014, then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder warned that risk scores might be injecting bias into the courts. He called for the U.S. Sentencing Commission to study their use. ‘Although these measures were crafted with the best of intentions, I am concerned that they inadvertently undermine our efforts to ensure individualized and equal justice,’ he said, adding, ‘they may exacerbate unwarranted and unjust disparities that are already far too common in our criminal justice system and in our society.’

The sentencing commission did not, however, launch a study of risk scores.”

5) Canada has race-based police violence too. We just don’t know how much (They Tyee)

“In this country, there is no official national record of the number of people killed during encounters with police. Police departments do not routinely release detailed statistics about use of force incidents. When they do, it’s not collected based on race, ethnicity or other critical factors.

Where there could be information that would help identify and eliminate racism in law enforcement, there is only a void. Available statistics are the product of individual reports and studies by researchers, rights organizations and journalists. And they suggest that Black, Indigenous and other racialized people are also at much greater risk in Canada.

The CBC set out to compile a database of every person who died or was killed during a police intervention from 2000 to the end of 2017. Researchers gathered information on race and ethnicity from a variety of sources and found Black and Indigenous people were severely overrepresented.

In Winnipeg, for example, Indigenous people made up about 10.6 per cent of the city’s population in that period. But more than 60 per cent of the people who died in police encounters were Indigenous. (In April, Winnipeg police officers shot and killed three Indigenous people in10 days.)

In Toronto, Black people accounted for 37 per cent of victims. They make up slightly more than eight per cent of the population.

Other reports have shown similar patterns. In November 2019, the Globe and Mail reported that between 2007 and 2017 more than one-third of people shot to death by the RCMP were Indigenous. Indigenous people make up less than five per cent of the population.

And according to a study by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Black Torontonians are 20 times more likely to be shot by police than the city’s white residents.”

6) The color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons (The Sentencing Project)

“Key Findings:

  • African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 5.1 times the imprisonment of whites. In five states (Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wisconsin), the disparity is more than 10 to 1.
  • In twelve states, more than half of the prison population is black: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Maryland, whose prison population is 72% African American, tops the nation.
  • In eleven states, at least 1 in 20 adult black males is in prison.
  • In Oklahoma, the state with the highest overall black incarceration rate, 1 in 15 black males ages 18 and older is in prison.
  • States exhibit substantial variation in the range of racial disparity, from a black/white ratio of 12.2:1 in New Jersey to 2.4:1 in Hawaii.”

7) Divergent Paths: Structural Change, Economic Rank, and the Evolution of Black-White Earnings Differences, 1940–2014 (National Bureau of Economic Research)

“A large gap in the relative earnings of black and white men has been a stubbornly persistent feature of the US labor market since the end of slavery […] While the entire economy has experienced a marked increase in earnings inequality, this increase has been even more dramatic for black men, with those at the top making gains within the earnings distribution, and those at the bottom badly affected by mass incarceration and declining labor market options for the less-skilled. In fact, when the number of men with zero earnings is taken into account, the Gini index of earnings inequality among black men in the United States is 63.4 in our 2014 sample. While it is difficult to make exact international comparisons based on earnings, this is as high as the level of income inequality in the most unequal countries in the world.”

8) @Samswey (Twitter) — For those who are interested in research-based solutions to stop police violence, here’s what you need to know — based on the facts and data. A thread.

Radical Commentary: One of the most thoughtful pieces of analysis to re-emerge over the past week is from data scientist Samuel Sinyangwe whose thread exploring the data and facts behind police violence offers a number of insights around policy measures that may help reduce police shootings. Of note, data suggests that non-police alternatives to 911 responses and the demilitarization of police departments may lead to fewer incidents of violence. This presentation to the Portland City Council offers another succinct summary of Sinyangwe’s research.

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