Racial Profiling, Black Crime, and Criminal Justice

“Though prosecutors and judges may well make discriminatory judgments, such decisions do not account for more than a small fraction of the overrepresentation of blacks in prison.”  — James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein, Crime and Human Nature

Please Stop Helping Us - books13_1Once again (as I did here, here, and here), I would like to cite from Jason L. Riley’s very educational book, Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed. The combination of personal insights and statistical facts make what he has to say particularly worth taking note of. In this section, Riley begins by discussing how he was racially “profiled” in his youth:

“While attending the University at Buffalo, where I lived off campus, I was stopped regularly while driving through the main drag of a tony suburb on my way to morning classes…. Like so many other young black men, I was also followed in department stores, saw people cross the street as I approached, and watched women clutch their purses in elevators when they didn’t simply decide to ride a different one. It was a part of growing up…. Was I profiled based on negative stereotypes about young black men? Almost certainly. But then everyone profiles based on limited knowledge, including me.

In high school I worked as a stock boy in a supermarket. The people caught stealing were almost always black. As a result black shoppers got more scrutiny from everyone, including black workers. During college I worked the overnight shift at a gas station with a minimart. Again, the people I caught stealing were almost always black. So when people who looked like me entered the store my antenna went up. Similarly, when I see groups of young black men walking down the street at night I cross to the other side. When I see them on subways I switch cars. I am not judging them as individuals. Why take the risk? If I guess wrong my wife is a widow and my children are fatherless. So I make snap judgments with incomplete information.

My attitude and behavior are hardly unique, even among other blacks. Like white cabdrivers, black cabdrivers have been known to avoid picking up black males at night, something I also experienced firsthand upon moving to New York City after college. Black restaurant owners ask groups of young black diners to prepay for their meals, seat them away from the exit, or take other steps to make sure that the bill is settled. And the lady who is nervous about sharing an elevator with a black man might be black herself. Describing her numerous conversations about racial perceptions with other black women, former Spelman College president Johnetta Cole wrote, ‘One of the most painful admissions I hear is: I am afraid of my own people.’

o-LOS-ANGELES-POLICE-CAR-facebook-661x349Some individuals who avoid encounters with black youths may indeed be acting out of racism, but given that law-abiding blacks exhibit the exact same behavior it’s likely that most people are acting on probability…. My encounters with law enforcement growing up were certainly frustrating: I was getting hassled for the past behavior of other blacks. But that doesn’t necessarily make those encounters arbitrary or unreasonable. After all, perceptions of black criminality are based on the reality of high black crime rates. I say that as though it’s a given, and it is a given in the real world. But in the alternate universe of academia and the liberal mainstream media, there is still a raging debate over whether people’s fears of young black men have anything at all to do with the actual behavior of young black men.

Michelle Alexander, an associate professor of law at Ohio State University, has written an entire book, The New Jim Crow, that blames high black incarceration rates on racial discrimination. She posits that prisons are teeming with young black men due primarily to a war on drugs that was launched by the Reagan administration in the 1980s for the express purpose of resegregating society…. ‘What this book is intended to do is to stimulate a much-needed conversation about the role of the criminal justice system in creating and perpetrating racial hierarchy in the United States.’ Liberals love to have ‘conversations’ about these matters, and Alexander got her wish. The book was a best seller….

But the conversation that Alexander wants to have glosses over the fact that black men commit a hugely disproportionate number of crimes in the United States. The New Jim Crow is chock-full of data on the racial makeup of prisons, but you will search in vain for anything approaching a sustained discussion of black crime rates. To Alexander and those who share her view, the two are largely unrelated. Black incarceration rates, she wrote, result from ‘a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control.’ The author seems reluctant even to acknowledge that black people behind bars have done anything wrong…. ‘Hundreds of years ago, our nation put those considered less than human in shackles; less than one hundred years ago, we relegated them to the other side of town; today we put them in cages.’ Really?

When I say that someone is being treated like a criminal, I mean that person is being treated like he broke the law or otherwise did something wrong. (When I want to say someone is being treated as less than human, I say that person is being treated like an animal, not a criminal.) Her chattel slavery and Jim Crow analogies are similarly tortured and yet another effort to explain away stark racial differences in criminality. But unlike prisons, those institutions punished people for being black, not for misbehaving. (A slave who never broke the law remained a slave.) Yet Alexander insists that we blame police and prosecutors and drug laws and societal failures — anything except individual behavior — and even urges the reader to reject the notion of black free will. ‘The temptation is to insist that black men “choose” to be criminals,’ she wrote. ‘The myth of choice here is seductive, but it should be resisted.’ What Alexander and others who buy into her arguments are really asking us to resist are not myths but realities — namely, which groups are more likely to commit crimes and how such trends drive the negative racial stereotypes that are so prevalent among blacks and nonblacks alike.”

Question: If, God forbid, a black man were to commit a violent crime against Ms. Alexander or a loved one, would she be content to rail against poverty, unemployment, and an imperfect criminal justice system? Or, would she demand that the police find & arrest the SOB who chose to violate her rights, work with the prosecuting attorney to build a case against him, and expect the courts to sentence him to the fullest extent of the law?

SDT-racial-relations-08-2013-03-11“The black inmate population reflects black criminality, not a racist criminal justice system, which currently [i.e., at the time Riley wrote this, of course] is being run by one black man (Attorney General Holder) who reports to another (the president). Black crime rates are vastly higher than white crime rates. And it’s hard to see how wishing away this reality, inventing conspiracy theories to explain it, or calling those who point it out ‘racist’ will help improve the situation.

Perceptions of black criminality aren’t likely to change until black behavior changes. Rather than address that challenge, however, too many liberal policy makers change the subject. Instead of talking about black behavior, they want to talk about racism or poverty or unemployment or gun control. The poverty argument is especially weak. In the 1950s, when segregation was legal, overt racism was rampant, and black poverty was much higher than today, black crime rates were lower and blacks comprised a smaller percentage of the prison population. And then there is the experience of other groups who endured rampant poverty, racial discrimination, and high unemployment without becoming overrepresented in the criminal justice system….

Those who want to blame crime on a lack of jobs cannot explain why crime rates fell in many cities during the Great Depression, when unemployment was high, and spiked during the 1960s, when economic growth was strong and jobs were plentiful. Indeed, the labor-force participation rate of young black men actually fell in the 1980s and 1990s, two of the longest periods of sustained economic growth in U.S. history. Shouldn’t ghetto attitudes toward work at least be part of this discussion?”

I’ll stop there, but Riley goes on to discuss gun control and other related issues, citing many statistics that counter the claims of many Black “leaders”, academics, and other liberals.

Contrary to what some might assume, I don’t bring this stuff up because I’m a racist who likes to see Blacks fail. Rather, I see a segment of American society that has effectively shot themselves in the foot, and liberal/progressive policies have provided the metaphorical gun to do it, while continuing to blame others for their problems. The more people who recognize and acknowledge this, and the sooner they do, the sooner steps can be taken at all levels of government and in local communities to halt the harmful attitudes & practices and to institute policies that really will help Blacks in America to get past the victim-mentality, take advantage of opportunities, and truly succeed.


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