Visualizing police violence and racial inequality in America

The United States seems to have reached another tipping point in terms of police violence and racial injustice. Americans are fighting, and dying, for change. Yet the injustice and violence aren’t abating—and the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating inequities, with people of color more likely than white Americans to suffer both physically and economically.

At Leff, we believe in the power of words to break down complex topics and shed light on important realities and ideas. But we also recognize that carefully crafted graphics can sometimes go where words alone cannot. Below are some of the most compelling charts, interactives, and infographics we found that highlight the starkness of racial inequality and police violence in the United States.

Police violence

“Mapping police violence”
This interactive page is extremely powerful. The informative charts offer key statistics from 2013 to 2019, such as how likely people of different races are to be killed by police. According to this site, there were only 27 days in 2019 where police didn’t kill someone. Readers can also search by police department and state, by year, and see the victims’ race, and whether they were armed, among other details.

“Citizens Police Data Project”
The Citizens Police Data Project compiles data about police misconduct in Chicago. The interactive is easy to navigate and lets the reader choose neighborhoods and police districts and see individual officers with complaints, as well as the number of allegations of misconduct and disciplines in a given area.

“Which police departments lead the nation in police homicides?”
This infographic catalogues the number of killings associated with each of the 100 largest police departments in the United States. This visual packs in a lot of information—even distinguishing between all homicides, Black homicides, and overall averages—but it is easy to read and well organized.

Inequality

“The race gap”
This well-done interactive addresses the race gap in health care, food security, education, the justice system, and wealth. It pairs graphics with prose to drive home the points and visualize the racial disparities in, for instance, maternal and infant mortality.

“26 simple charts to show friends and family who aren’t convinced racism is still a problem in America”
Business Insider compiles 26 charts that show racial inequality in America in areas such as employment, wealth, education, home ownership, and health care. The straightforward line, bar, and column charts make them easy to read—and, thus, particularly effective.

“The racial wealth gap in America: Asset types held by race”
This infographic shows net worth and income levels across racial groups. It also breaks down the percentage of Black, Hispanic and Latino, and white households that hold different kinds of assets. We love how the designers illustrated each asset using 100 square boxes—making the differences across races visually striking, especially in home ownership and retirement accounts.

“Race, discipline, and safety at U.S. public schools”
This is an eye-opening article about US schools (based on a longer report) that highlights the school-to-prison pipeline. The research reveals that in the 2015–16 school year, students missed 11 million days of school because of suspension. Interactive maps break down these missed days by county and race, revealing a wide disparity between white students and students of color. The report also finds that the student-to-counselor ratio for this school year was 444 to 1, giving counselors a caseload that is 78 percent higher than what professionals recommend.

“The Exhibit of American Negroes”
W.E.B. DuBois created this exhibit for the 1900 Paris Exposition to visualize the experience of Black people in America and shed light on institutional racism. The exhibit features photographs and 58 hand-drawn charts. These artistic visuals were ahead of their time—both in content and design—and feel like modernist paintings. The infographics are well thought out and beautifully rendered, and the insights are, unfortunately, still relevant today.

Delilah Zak

The principal visualization artist at Leff, Delilah works collaboratively with the team to conceptualize and create all manner of graphic content, from public reports to management articles to standalone infographics and beyond.

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