Ovid (publius_ovidius) wrote,

Racism isn't black and white

synthcat sent me a link to a horribly racist editorial in the Portland Tribune. Basically, it states that the difficulties that blacks have are their own damned fault and until they learn to be good mommies and daddies they're never going to amount to anything.

Deep breath ...

What follows is my letter to the editor. Kendra James is a black woman who tried to drive away from a crime scene and was shot and killed by a white police officer.

I don't think the Kendra James issue is entirely black and white (no pun intended), but such simple-minded racist drivel as that editorial does people a disservice. Since the point of the article appeared to be that African-Americans live in a violent, crime-ridden society that they refuse to pull themselves out of (since they are voluntarily playing the victim role), I think it's fair to look at the evidence the author puts forward to support this.

I could write more, but for simplicity, I'll just focus on one bit of information from the author: "Blacks also are arrested for a third of America's drug violations". The author also states that blacks make up one eighth of the US population.

Actually, I'll go ahead and stipulate these facts. African-Americans comprise about 12% of the US population. Further, I suspect that the arrest rate is also correct. The last figures that I have handy are that African-Americans represent approximately 35% of all drug arrests (Gest, Ted. 1995. "A Shocking Look at Blacks and Crime." U.S. News and World Report. Oct. 16 1995.).

Wow! They're getting arrested at a rate almost 3 times that of white (European-American?) people. Unfortunately, the same article by Gest (and U.S. News and World Report is a very conservative publications), states that studies show that African-Americans only consume about 13% of the nations drugs. This implies that their arrest rate is disproportionately high.

Many state that the reason for this unfortunate statistic is that most arrests tend to happen in impoverished areas where crime is more visible (the dealer on the corner, for example) and, regrettably, more African-American.

Just for a moment, let's be incredibly generous and say this is true. No police officers have any racial bias and society has had no role in keeping African-Americans in an impoverished state. That still doesn't explain another embarrassing tidbit of information. Those African-Americans who represent 35% of the arrests for drug-related crimes also represent 55% of the convictions and 74% of the prison sentences. If justice were truly independent of such issues as race, financial status, charisma, etc., then explaining those statistics away seems difficult.

Now add to that the problem that approximately one out of every three African-American males in their twenties is in prison, in jail, on parole, or on probation.

Kendra James is sitting in her car, the cop doesn't want her going anywhere. She knows she's going to prison. While I don't have much sympathy for people who get injured or killed as a direct result of committing a crime, I have to admit that I can't act surprised that this happens or that African-American people are going to get upset. Simply ignoring the problem and hoping it goes away isn't the answer.
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