Blacks make up nearly one-half of the state and federal prison population and are only about 12% of the population in the United States. This fact is offered by many, and especially by Obama, as proof that the U.S. Justice System in racist and that racism is the sole explanation for the disproportionate incarceration of blacks. But this fact proves no such thing, and probably doesn’t prove anything at all.
The actual number of crimes committed by blacks as a percentage of all crimes committed by all races comes closer to proving something of value, and even for that one must not simply count crimes but actual incarceration rates for similar crimes by all races.
The charge of racism is the first leg of a two-legged stool to argue that incarceration rates prove that American justice is cruel and unusual. The second leg is that America is incarcerating non-violent offenders at alarming rates. City Journal editor Brian Anderson told Powerline’s Scott Johnson that there is, “…a growing movement to reduce incarceration (which has partisans on the right as well as the left) traffics in myths. The biggest myth of all, frequently promoted by President Obama, is that America’s prisons and jails are filled with nonviolent drug users, kids who’ve just had a bad break or two. The reality is that prisons are dominated by thugs and serial thieves.”
The charge that droves of non-violent offenders are in prison isn’t true, but violence alone should not be the determining criteria anyway. The harm done to the victims of crime is a better criteria for determining just punishment. A crime of a huckster criminal who defrauds an elderly couple of their life savings may be said to be a non-violent crime, but it has done great harm to the victims and to society as a whole. Before I retired from full-time law practice I represented elderly people on a few occasions trying to salvation some small percentage of their lost estate from the perpetrator’s bankruptcy, and I saw first hand what it did to them. The damage might not have been physical but it was massively destructive to the future happiness and well being of the victims.
City Journal’s Heather MacDonald is America’s preeminent analyst of crime and punishment. She recently testified before Congress regarding the current ill advised proposal to give judges even more discretion in coddling criminals. The video of her testimony is here. She demolishes the racism myth in her current City Journal article, The Decriminalization Delusion:
A 2011 study of California and New York arrest data led by Pennsylvania State University criminologist Darrell Steffensmeier found that blacks commit homicide at 11 times the rate of whites and robbery at 12 times the rate of whites. Such disparities are repeated in city-level data. In New York City, blacks commit over 75 percent of all shootings, according to the victims of and witnesses to those shootings, though they are only 23 percent of the city’s population. They commit 70 percent of all robberies. Whites, by contrast, commit under 2 percent of all shootings and 4 percent of all robberies, though they are 34 percent of the city’s population. In the 75 largest county jurisdictions in 2009, blacks were 62 percent of robbery defendants, 61 percent of weapons offenders, 57 percent of murder defendants, and 50 percent of forgery cases, even though nationwide, blacks are 12 percent of the population. They dominated the drug-trafficking cases more than possession cases. Blacks made up 53 percent of all state trafficking defendants in 2009, whites made up 22 percent, and Hispanics 23 percent, whereas in possession prosecutions, blacks were 39 percent of defendants, whites 34 percent, and Hispanics 26 percent.
Charges of racism in criminal justice are peculiar when you realize that political correctness and liberal political views are common, in fact predominant, among the class of people making up the punishment phase, i.e., the courts. Only K-12 schools and universities rival the court system for the liberalism of the people running the place. Conservatives are the only racists in America, right?
The truth is that there is very little racism in America since whites had it shamed out of them back in the 1950s and 1960s. The worst thing that can happen to anyone these days is to be thought a racist, and those who truly are guilty of having racist tendencies lack the power to actually harm the objects of their racism. Right now black criminals pose a far greater danger to black people than white racists.
The charge of racism continues to pack a mighty punch making it a powerful political tool and for that reason the Left will never give it up until the day comes when false charges of racism elicit the same condemnation as racism itself.
See, Also: Heather MacDonald, The Myth of Criminal Justice Racism