Inductive Reasoning and Black People Hanging

Inductive Reasoning and Black People Hanging June 17, 2020

For those of you who don’t know, there has been some very dubious activity concerning two black men who were found hanged within ten days and 50 miles of each other. One was found near a homeless encampment in Victorville, the other across from Palmdale City Hall. Both were supposedly suicides.

But the circumstances raise more than just a few eyebrows. These terrible events appear to indicate darker forces at play.

Here’s what we know:

  • Only after locals and family have gathered momentum in their discord have they opened up to investigate, including now calling in the FBI.
  • No autopsies were carried out. Harsch’s was only carried out on Friday (12 days later) and Fuller’s is yet to take place. Details of Harsch’s death took 10 days to come out at all.
  • Harsch had blood on his shirt.
  • Why would you not do an autopsy of a black man hanging from a tree who has blood on his shirt?
  • One of the men was still wearing his backpack.
  • In Fuller’s incident, police said there were no outdoor cameras. According to a local journalist, there were four cameras pointing towards the tree. See Billy Jensen’s Twitter feed to see the remarkable argument he is having with the city over this. The police have used their own Twitter feed to ask about a lost dog rather than if local private businesses have any CCTV coverage.
  • The first incident didn’t initially make the news. Nothing at all. Think about that, in the present climate, it took 12 days to come out.  There wasn’t even any press at Fuller’s memorial service.
  • Which means that the second is highly unlikely to be a copycat of the first.
  • The men were hanging from trees. This is very similar deaths from lynchings.
  • Claims from the families say the deaths make no sense in light of no suicidal behaviour from the men.
  • There is a history of neo-Nazi activity and hate groups in the area.
  • “There have also been Justice Department actions over alleged discriminatory housing and policing practices in Palmdale and the neighboring city of Lancaster.” [source]
  • As an anecdote about Palmdale, Cenk Uygur of TYT ran for Congress in the area. At a public forum, the Muslim American community centre that they were speaking at was beset by right-wingers who shouted the whole meeting down with racial and bigoted slurs and suchlike (including against a black candidate). The police were called and simply stood by and took it very lightly, the chief police officer smiling at each interaction, declaring that if they didn’t like it, they’d have to just finish. The police claimed they couldn’t tell who was right and who was wrong (even in light of the slurs). The forum had to be disbanded and the right-wing extremists won. [source]
  • And it’s not the first time suspicions have been raised: “The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that Victorville and the surrounding county is home to  several anti-government and anti-immigration hate groups. In 2012, a man was found hanging from an electric wire in an incident police believed was a suicide.”  [source]

So, given all of this and no doubt more, what are we to make of it?

We need to look at prior probabilities and evidence to see what the likelihood of the hypothesis is. The claims that both of these events, without looking at the evidence, are a result of suicide is probably fairly low, given what we know about the likelihood of hanging publicly from a tree, as a black man.

But when you take into account the contexts, both societal and individual, and given what I have said above, the hypothesis that both of these are suicides is incredibly low.

Moreover, even if they were suicides, the lack of will to investigate them in any meaningful way to conclude that foul play was definitely not involved was itself an example of racial bias.

A simple Bayesian analysis (qua common-sense analysis) of the events should have certainly triggered an investigation, or at least merely an autopsy.

But no, nothing.

In other words, there is no way that the authorities concerned come out of this looking good.

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