In recent weeks, everywhere I look I see pieces written by people about the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Some of the pieces support Brown, others attack Brown, all of them make explicit or implicit claims about what the incident means for America’s soul. All of them seem to take as a given that this incident tells us something we didn’t already know. The truth is that like any individual death (regardless of whether it was murder or an accident), Michael Brown’s does not tell us what the general trends are in America. All it can serve to do is highlight an issue. To understand what’s really going on, we have to look at that issue in a wider statistical context, and this piece seeks to provide that context.