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Is the Criminal Justice System Racist?

Heather MacDonald has this great article in the City Journal, persuasively debunking the myth that high black incarceration rates result from racial discrimination. She reviews the available empirical evidence, which finds no evidence of systemic racism. Instead, the studies show that a disproportionate number of African-Americans are in prison because they have committed a disproportionate number of serious crimes.

It is a tragedy that so many minorities are languishing in prison. But the "solution" that the Left often proposes of targeting racist cops or racist prosecutors is, as MacDonald demonstrates, wide of the mark. Instead, we need to look at the causes of higher rates of minority offending.

newshutz:
I think there is an argument to be made for elements of racism in incarceration rates. But it is not the racism of police and courts, but the racism of legislatures.

The drug war was originally sold with racist arguments.

Crack penalties are harsher than powder cocaine.

The establishment of black markets necessarily creates organized crime in poor and disenfranchised communities.
5.5.2008 8:50am
donaldk:
This is, and always has been, as evident as the nose on your face. The infuriating thing is that the journos, criminologists and law professors give little or no mind to the victims. Leave out the while victims. The principal victims are blacks who want to live innocent and productive lives.

It is part of the God damn American mindset. One can only grow nauseous with disgust.
5.5.2008 9:05am
vassil petrov (mail):
Instead, we need to look at the causes of higher rates of minority offending.
Minumum wage laws, lisencing of professions, poor public education.
5.5.2008 9:10am
Student:
A pretty good article. I appreciate links to thoughtful articles a lot more than I do the random thought of the hour.

Maybe people (cough, cough, newshutz) will actually read the article before they comment.

Thanks again for a great link.
5.5.2008 9:14am
John Neff:
The first step in the criminal justice process where there is data that can be studied is when the accused is arrested and booked into jail. The percentage of Black and Hispanics booked is smaller than the percentage of Blacks and Hispanics detained in jail for pretrial or noncompliance.

That means that release/detain decision at initial appearance has amplified the initial racial disparity. My conclusion is that criminal history, economic factors and the demeanor of the accused are more important factors than race in determining the outcome of a release/detain decision. That does not mean that race is not a factor.

Other factors are gender, age and educational attainment and I don't think sufficient attention has been paid to those factors.
5.5.2008 9:17am
Sigh:
Professor, how does a story that vaguely references certain statistics (without linking to any of the underlying data) supposed to convince anyone of anything, unless you're pre-disposed to accept the conclusion as true? I did notice the article seems to "debunk" the myth that police arrest black defendants more than white defendants by referencing a study that supposedly shows that blacks are arrested for certain types of violent crime at rates equal to what we would expect, given violent crime reporting rates. But as far as I can tell, the article doesn't discuss the charge most people make against racist arrest practices: arrests for drug crimes. (How many white college students, like dubya, use drugs, but never serve any jail time?) And the article never mentions a single contrary study, thus making it appear as though there are no studies supporting the idea that the system is racist. Does anyone really believe there is NO contrary data? It's preposterous. Perhaps this article's conclusion is right; that despite the massive amounts of evidence that there is at least some racism still in our society, the criminal justice system has somehow risen above that fact. But the article doesn't even try to make a serious intellectual case for its conclusion.

So, to save people some time, if you think our criminal justice system is not racist, read this article and send it out to all of your friends. You can even use silly terms like "The Left" to describe those who disagree with you. On the other hand, if you think the system is racist, this article isn't going to change your mind.
5.5.2008 9:23am
Casper the Friendly Guest:
Nary a word about the hugely disproportionate number of minorities sitting on death row for black on white murders. Perhaps she will be addressing that nagging issue in her next article?
5.5.2008 9:30am
Richard Nieporent (mail):
How many white college students, like dubya, use drugs, but never serve any jail time?

Sigh, you are misinformed. Bush used alcohol, not drugs. Bill Clinton (and Obama) admitted to using drugs. I suggest you get your gratuitous insults correct.
5.5.2008 9:38am
AntonK (mail):

"...we need to look at the causes of higher rates of minority offending."
Yes, and look no farther, in the grandest sense, than cultural enablers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (there are, of course many others, mostly in academia).
5.5.2008 9:40am
Bored HLS 3L:
Overall, I think the article is on point. The author makes the following statement:

"[T]hree white students hung two nooses from a schoolyard tree — a display that may or may not have been intended as a racial provocation."

I agree that the Jena 6 controversy was overblown and the noose may not have had anything to do with the eventual assault on the white kid, but in what America is hanging a noose on a tree not a racial provocation? Usually we tend to think that people intend the natural consequences of their actions.

Otherwise, like I said, I generally agree with the article.
5.5.2008 9:40am
AnonLawStudent:
Sigh:

It's a *print* magazine article. Does it contain the footnotes of an academic article? No. Does it contain sufficient source references to allow interested parties to track down the data. Yes. The references aren't "vague;" indeed, the citations are far better than most of the puff one finds on the subject. From a quick perusal, the sources Ms. MacDonald relies on are:

Sources:
Alfred Blumstein (1993)
Michael Tonry, "Malign Neglect" (1995)
Robert Sampson and Janet Lauritsen (1997)
Randall Kennedy, "Race, Crime, and the Law"
Bureau of Justice Statistics
5.5.2008 9:45am
newshutz:

Maybe people (cough, cough, newshutz) will actually read the article before they comment.


Yes, it would have been better for my comment to bypass the crack issue, because I do not have the time to address the 'argument' used in the article.

The article just runs down the usual lame excuses for crack penalties, and completely ignores that dealing with the drug problem within the legal systems only makes things worse. The harsher the penalties for use, the harder it is to actually deal with the problem.

I do not see where the article addresses the racist origin of the drug war itself, nor the inevitability that the bulk of the black market problems will be born by poor and disenfranchised.

The drug war causes violent crime, because it creates a black market, which empowers criminal organizations (i.e. gangs). This could be written off to unintended consequences, except for the racist arguments used to establish the drug laws in the first place.
5.5.2008 9:48am
FantasiaWHT:
The governor of Wisconsin recently empaneled some scholarly commission to look at how the state could fix the problem of the systemic racism in Wisconsin's justice system (note the assumption made in the question posed). The panel's surprising finding? There wasn't any systemic racism (although they did make several minor suggestions to improve overall fairness)
5.5.2008 10:01am
Happyshooter:
I get it. Law itself is racist because it is white. Down with racist concepts like property rights, outlawing criminal sexual conduct, and banning highly addictive drugs.

Because the law itself is white authored, we must strike it, and allow anyone who wants to come to my home and steal, or jack my car when they don't have enough change to ride the bus...

Murder as a concept comes from the Christian bible, and is thus evil. Strike the murder laws, and start killing at will in the streets.
5.5.2008 10:01am
Ken Arromdee:
in what America is hanging a noose on a tree not a racial provocation?

Some Googling brings this page up:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/1024/p09s01-coop.html

"An investigation by school officials, police, and an FBI agent revealed the true motivation behind the placing of two nooses in the tree the day after the assembly. According to the expulsion committee, the crudely constructed nooses were not aimed at black students. Instead, they were understood to be a prank by three white students aimed at their fellow white friends, members of the school rodeo team. (The students apparently got the idea from watching episodes of "Lonesome Dove.") The committee further concluded that the three young teens had no knowledge that nooses symbolize the terrible legacy of the lynchings of countless blacks in American history."

There you go.
5.5.2008 10:09am
Sigh:
Richard Nieporent, Dubya used coke. If you aren't persuaded by the evidence that he did, then feel free to insert Bill Clinton into my prior comment. And I don't consider it an "insult" to say someone used drugs.

AnonLawStudent, the fact that it's a print magazine article instead of an academic paper is part of my point. How many magazine articles are cited for statistical support in court briefs? Moreover, if you don't think simply mentioning an author and a year for a study is a "vague" reference, I suspect we attach different meanings to that word.

But like I said before, if you're predisposed to believe our criminal justice system is somehow above racism, this article will certainly be a keeper. If you're open minded and curious about this issue, however, the article isn't going to provide anything interesting.
5.5.2008 10:16am
peter:
I am always puzzled at how people overlook one very interesting point: nobody can be put in jail without a grand jury and a petite jury trial. In other words, those huge numbers of men in jail were sent there by joe public, not some faceless "law" or "society".
I spent over 3 weeks as part of a grand jury in new york city. Half the jury were black. (I am white). About half the cases were drug possession. I voted against every single one of them - not because I am a red diaper doper whatever (I have never used drugs in my life) but because it is evil to jail someone for such a stupid thing. I wouldn't object to a monetary fine, but jail is outrageous. Every single other member of the jury voted like sheep, and I watched the blacks bury their own people, even as they bemoaned America during the breaks.
Yet a little black girl, about 11 years old I think, who claimed to have been raped by her cousin was not granted the justice of a trial, as the black women in the jury were hostile to her.
The question should be asked: of all those minorities in jail, can't we assume their own people helped put them there??
5.5.2008 10:25am
rarango (mail):
The noose as racial code popped up after Jena, and then there were numerous copy cat noose episodes along with the usual weekly newsmagzines stories about "the noose." Anecdote warning: Growing up in the very racist American South in the 1940s and 1950s I don't recall the noose thing ever being used to intimidate. The Klan and other racists were much more obvious: they burnt a cross in your front yard to intimidate you.
5.5.2008 10:39am
BT:
In my reading of the article, she seems to down play the role of drugs in arrest rates overall and points to high rates of arrest for property crimes and violent crimes, as if neither had anything to do with the use of drugs, the persual of drugs or the persual of money or items to hock to buy drugs.

My guess would be (and it is strictly that) that the rate of these types of crimes would be greatly influenced by the number of people trying to feed their habits, and, therefore; drugs and drug policy would be central to any study of the problem at hand. My other guess would be that the rate of drug use in the poor black community would be quite high, higher than what would be found in a corresponding white community, and along with single parenthood, lousy education, etc., contribute greatly to the overall crime rate and incarceration rate of poor blacks.
5.5.2008 10:42am
Richard Nieporent (mail):
Sigh, for someone who is so concerned about references in the article you cavalierly state that Bush used Coke without any authoritative proof. I guess we should just accept it as true on your say so, right?
5.5.2008 10:46am
D.A.:
"Instead, the studies show that a disproportionate number of African-Americans are in prison because they have committed a disproportionate number of serious crimes."

And of course, this conclusion follows naturally from the numbers because we KNOW there couldn't possibly be racial bias in enforcement of the laws.

Could there?
5.5.2008 10:48am
Bored HLS 3L:
Ken,

Well apparently, there I go. Still a questions come to mind:

Is the following possible?


The committee further concluded that the three young teens had no knowledge that nooses symbolize the terrible legacy of the lynchings of countless blacks in American history.


I'll suppose that the story is true and that thus that basic American History is no longer taught in public schools. Even without liberal-PC notions of "racial parity" in the teaching of history, it would seem that something like slavery and Jim Crow should make its way into the curriculum. We can then assume that blacks at the school learned to be offended because their parents had taught them, as is true, that traditionally a noose hanging from a tree was intended as a threat to blacks. Fair enough, I suppose. Kids to stupid things all the time without thinking or knowing, that is what makes them kids. Nonetheless a poor showing by the public schools in Jena.

But alas, I digress.
5.5.2008 10:50am
lawschoolinmate (www):
I don't see how you can pretend to debunk the "racism myth" of the criminal justice system without also discussing surrounding environmental factors (also noted in an above post). Poor education, fewer jobs, greater police harassment/supervision (call it what you like), all policy choices that serve to create the criminals that we then lock up. We have juries that are fed on images of drug-addicted, weapon-toting blacks - how is that not going to affect them? We have judges and prosecutors worried about voters who are similarly fed - how does that not play into it?

She also blithely dismisses incarceration as a breeding ground for additional criminal activity, from which I can only assume that she's never been in or around a prison. The culture of prison gangs - which divide along blatant racial lines - serve to further alienate inmates from other racial groups and from general society as a whole.

I don't pretend to say anything that anyone hasn't heard before, but these are issues that I feel MacDonald dismisses.

On the other hand, I do agree with her that blaming everything on racism gets society as a whole exactly nowhere and that we need to be looking beyond racism if we are to actually decrease crime in our communities.
5.5.2008 11:04am
TruePath (mail) (www):
Commenting more thoroughly on most of this article will take more research but let me just point out one place where it, while not saying anything technically false, mischaracterizes the opposition and misleads the reader to make it's point.


The media love to target the federal crack penalties because crack defendants are likely to be black. In 2006, 81 percent of federal crack defendants were black, while only 27 percent of federal powder-cocaine defendants were. Since federal crack rules are more severe than those for powder, and crack offenders are disproportionately black, those rules must explain why so many blacks are in prison, the conventional wisdom holds.

But consider the actual number of crack sellers sentenced in federal court each year. In 2006, 5,619 were tried federally, 4,495 of them black. From 1996 to 2000, the federal courts sentenced more powder traffickers (23,743) than crack traffickers (23,121). It's going to take a lot more than 5,000 or so crack defendants a year to account for the 562,000 black prisoners in state and federal facilities at the end of 2006—or the 858,000 black prisoners in custody overall, if one includes the population of county and city jails. Nor do crack/powder disparities at the state level explain black incarceration rates: only 13 states distinguish between crack and powder sentences, and they employ much smaller sentence differentials.


The crack powder disparity has long been cited as an egregious example of the differing treatment of blacks and whites by the law. The `conventional wisdom' (a great person to attribute a strawman argument to) has never claimed that this accounted for the difference between black and white imprisonment overall, a fact this article implicitly acknowledges by continuing past the point. In fact the idea that the crack/cocaine sentencing difference is the sole explanation for the black/white prison difference would fly directly in the face of the pervasive bias theory that this article also attributes to conventional wisdom.

Moreover, telling us the yearly numbers of people convicted for these offenses is almost totally useless in figuring out how they affect the ratio of prison inmates. For instance if the same number of crack and powder convictions happen each year but crack convictions yield ten times greater sentences on average then it can result in almost an order of magnitude difference in black and white incarceration rates for that chemical.


The press almost never mentions the federal methamphetamine-trafficking penalties, which are identical to those for crack: five grams of meth net you a mandatory minimum five-year sentence. In 2006, the 5,391 sentenced federal meth defendants (nearly as many as the crack defendants) were 54 percent white, 39 percent Hispanic, and 2 percent black. But no one calls the federal meth laws anti-Hispanic or anti-white.


This is totally unrelated. It might sound good at first glance and cause the sympathetic reader to feel vindicated but it doesn't have anything to do with the argument. The issue is that crack and cocaine are literally the same chemical but nonetheless treated much differently. Methamphetamine is a totally different chemical. Meth is significantly more powerful per gram than crack. One might very well smoke a half gram rock as a new crack user over the course of a couple hours but that would be a dangerously large amount of meth for a non-tolerant user. Moreover a meth high lasts many times longer than a crack high thus suggesting the two are anywhere equivalent by weight is horribly misleading. I mean why should we have expected two different drugs to be treated the same per gram anyway?
5.5.2008 11:08am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I suppose you can learn about lynching without making the connection of a noose as a threat to black people. After all, nooses were used to hang people of all sorts after trial.
Now the rodeo team connection.... Given the emotion, real and institutionalized, that this sort of thing engenders, are we sure ropes were nooses and not some kind of lariat knot? Does everybody know the difference? With a juicy case of racism in prospect, would the lariat knot be represented as a noose?

So we have stupid drug laws? Okay. Let's ask the following question: Excluding drug possession or use, how's the racial breakout of incarceratees? That's likely to be an embarrassing question, which is why the drug law schtick is dragged in at every opportunity?

I found out Sunday that where I grew up--then white, now "changing" --hat a gang of black kids severely beat a white kid in the last week. This has happened several times recently, but not about a dozen houses away from my home of those days. Didn't happen when I was a kid there. Nothing happened, nothing at all happened, when I was a kid there. Hubcaps remained unstolen. Very boring.

What are the stats for white on black violent crime and black on white violent crime. Is there a relationship between that and incarceration? (Yes.). Should there be? (Apparently not.)

Do we need to allow black citizens to be increasingly victimized in order to get some kind of preferred racial ratio in prison? (I believe people intend the likely consequences of their actions, so the answer to that is Yes.)
5.5.2008 11:09am
great unknown (mail):
D.A.: The conclusion follows naturally from the fact that the majority of murders and major property crimes are reported in minority neighborhoods, by minorities, and are perpetrated against minorities. Unless you postulate that non-minorities (perhaps white females - they're the current majority) - are sneaking undetected into minority neighborhoods to commit these crimes.
Check out the statistics on the leading cause of death among young Black males - gunshot wounds.
5.5.2008 11:16am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
great.
You missed the point about the leading cause of death among young black males. Bullets don't just appear out of nowhere. Although the viewers-with-alarm seem to think so.
What is the racial breakdown of the guys on the back end of the bullet?
That is not discussed.
5.5.2008 11:18am
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
Peter:
You're not completely right about the requirement of a grand jury and a petite jury to send someone to jail. If you are charged with a crime, you have a right to have both a grand jury and a petite jury determine whether you are guilty (I'm actually not 100% certain about the grand jury part, and whether it is the case in all states), but very few cases actually go to trial, most are plea bargained.

Even with these juries, there is still plenty of room for prejudice in the criminal justice system. First, if a crime is reported, the police have to decide how vigorously to investigate. Next, the police have to decide how they will investigate (are they just stopping every black guy in baggy jeans or are they going to actually be discriminant in who they consider a suspect). In many situations, the police have some leeway about whether to just give the person a warning or to actually arrest the person. Then, the prosecutor can both decide what to try and charge the person with and even decide not to charge the person at all. The prosecutor can also decide to offer you a plea bargain involving 10 hours of community service, or threaten to throw the book at you if you don't take the plea bargain. Then, there's the question of what sort of defense attorney you can hire, are you able to afford Alan Dershowitz or are you going to be one of 100 cases that some overworked and underexperienced public defender can take. Then you have a judge who is dealing with a number of gray areas of law that can go either way. Then you have the juries themselves, which can be made of people who may have prejudices.

This isn't to say that these prejudices always exist, or even that the prejudices are always against minorities (I once got questioned by a cop for being a white teenager wearing a hat and there are occasionally cases involving the "Great White Defendant" popularized by Tom Wolfe novels), but just because you have a right to a jury doesn't mean that there can't be racism inherent in the system.
5.5.2008 11:24am
John Neff:
We need to keep in mine that the vast amount of drug arrests are for possession and the vast amount of drug incarcerations (90%) are for drug trafficking. The drug preference depends on race/ethnicity and the sentencing policies (that vary from state to state) depend on the type and amount of drug.

States that have modified their drug laws have seen a change in the numbers and race/ethnicity composition of their prison population. In my view that is proof by demonstration that drug sentencing policies are important factors.

In Iowa drug trafficking is the most frequent charge for prison inmates for Blacks, Hispanics and Whites of both genders (20% to 30% of all charges depending on gender &R/E). We are seeing a change in the race/ethnicity composition of our prison population because of the reduction in the number of home-brew meth labs caused by restrictions on the sale of OTC meth ingredients. We expect the racial disparity to increase as a result of this change.

Where the type of drug is specified the distribution for incarcerated Iowa drug offenders is 58% meth, 21% marijuana, 17% cocaine and 4% other. No doubt the distribution is very different in more urban states.
5.5.2008 11:26am
clever and snarky guy (mail):
"are they just stopping every black guy in baggy jeans..."

That would probably be a good idea, since they tend to exalt the criminal lifestyle.

Same goes for gold teeth.
5.5.2008 11:47am
Archon (mail):
Wow, so it is as simple as more blacks are in jail because more blacks commit crime.

But instead of employing simple logic, we try to explain this by coming up with "covert" forces of racism, "racist" origins to drug policy, and using non-sensical socialist class based rhetoric.

Front line police officers and prosecutors will tell you confidentially that there is a culture, in general, among blacks that they just don't respect the law as much as other groups. Hence, the end result is more black in prison.
5.5.2008 11:48am
Trevor Morrison (mail):
So, the fact that racial bias within the ranks of police and prosecutors is not the only, or the dominant, cause of racial disproportionality in our prison population means . . . what, exactly? That we should simply ignore such racial bias and decide not to "target[]" it? Of course not. A problem can be worth addressing even though it is not the leading cause of a related problem.

So I guess we're left to assume that Judge Cassell means only that we should not pin the entire problem of minorities' overrepresentation in prison on the racial bias of the police and prosecutors -- that is, that we should not "target[]" such racism to the exclusion of everything else. Fair enough. But which commmentators on "the Left" have ever actually proposed doing that? Surely no one serious. I think it's Judge Cassell's strawman cariacature of "the Left" that "misses the mark" here.
5.5.2008 11:49am
pete (mail) (www):
Not a single comment on the effect of having unwed parents in minority communities.

The only thing even close to it in the article is this <blockquote>
Incarceration increases the number of single-parent households. With adult males missing from their neighborhoods, boys will be more likely to get involved in crime, since they lack proper supervision. The net result: "Incarceration begets more incarceration [in] a vicious cycle."
</blockquote>

Right now only about 1/3 of blacks grow up in two parent families comapred to about 2/3 of the children in America in general. Of course there is a strong correlation between single parent families and poverty and (as the children, sespecially the males, grow up) crime.

I am still waiting for the study that addresses the sexist nature of the criminal justice system that puts a disporportionate number of males behind bars for almost every crime.
5.5.2008 11:51am
TruePath (mail) (www):
Whoa this article continues to get worse (emphasis mine):


Since the 1980s, the revisionist narrative continues, experts have determined that powder and crack show more pharmacological "similarities than differences," in the Times's words, and that crack is no more damaging to fetuses than alcohol. The belief that crack was an inner-city scourge was thus a racist illusion, and the sentencing structure to quell it a racist assault.


Once again we have a bit of truth rephrased in a misleading fashion. I particularly like how it manages to take the fact that crack and cocaine are the same chemical (you can go from one to the other with a little baking soda/vinegar) and disguise it in terms of complicated claims by experts that it dismisses as revisionist. Of course these two drugs have more pharmacological similarities than differences all that changes is the speed of absorption and if one is shooting it up rather than snorting you use powder cocaine (hitting you just as fast).

Actually what the evidence shows isn't that crack isn't any worse than alcohol, it goes way beyond that. If you go read what the scientists are saying they have trouble finding almost any long term syndrome as a result of crack exposure during pregnancy that isn't a result of concurrent alcohol use. While this my be counterintuitive to most people if you have seen the long term effects of massive alcohol abuse it might begin to make some sense.


Leave aside the irony of the press's now declaring smugly that the press exaggerated the ravages of crack. (The same New York Times that now sneers at "images—or perhaps anecdotes—about the evils of crack" ran searing photos of crack addicts in 1993 that included a woman kneeling before a crack dealer, unzipping his fly, a baby clinging to her back; such degraded prostitutes, known as "strawberries," were pervasive casualties of the epidemic.) The biggest problem with the revisionist narrative is its unreality. The assertion that concern about crack resulted from "unconscious racial aversion towards blacks" ignores a key fact: black leaders were the first to sound the alarm about the drug,


So? Sounding the alarm about the drug and demanding it be punished more than the same chemical in other forms are very different things. Moreover, noting that black politicians responded to the perceptions of the public about crack and demanded a clamp down is no more surprising or indicative than the fact that white ones did. But this piece isn't limited to just making bad arguments it goes for the truly low blow in picking a single picture about crack use that provokes strong reactions of outrage without any evidence of typicality.

Ultimately nothing this piece has put forward so far contradicts the central fact about drugs in general. Our reactions to drugs and how we demand they be treated is largely determined by our perception of who uses them. I mean can you honestly say with a straight face that white america's fear of blacks had nothing to do with the strength of the reaction to crack? Unfortunately blacks, whites and everyone else makes generalizations based on race and it's silly to deny this plays a role in our deciscions.


Race activists endlessly promote the claim that the draconian federal crack laws are sweeping up mere sad sacks with a little extra crack to spare. But anyone who fits that description is exempt from the federal sentencing scheme. Traffickers with only a modest criminal history who didn't injure others or have a gun when arrested can escape the mandatory federal sentences if they don't lie to the government about their offense (there is no requirement to rat out others). In 2006, only 15.4 percent of crack-cocaine defendants qualified for this safety-valve provision, compared with 48.4 percent of powder-cocaine offenders; in 2000, even fewer crack defendants qualified—12.6 percent. Crack sellers seldom merit the escape clause because their criminal histories tend to be much more severe than powder sellers' and because they're more likely to have or use weapons. The congressional distinction between crack and powder sellers, it turns out, had a firm grounding.


Just reading this paragraph should be enough to make one conclude the author is either incredibly biased, very stupid or both. The very claim being debated in this article is that blacks are more likely to get criminal records than whites for similar behavior. Thus the fact that crack dealers are more likely to have a criminal record than cocaine dealers could very well be nothing but a reflection of this very racial prejudice. Moreover, the fact that the crack dealer also had a gun, while likely to scare people into agreeing, doesn't undermine the claim that they were just a sad sack with a few extra rocks.

Ultimately it is true to some extent that black drug users and dealers are more likely to run into law enforcement trouble. Frankly white kids around campus do lots of drugs but never even get noticed by the police, partially because they look like 'good kids' to the police and the neighbors, partially because they conduct more business inside, and partially because they tend to have more resources. Once again not making a claim about racism but the idea that we can dismiss the crack/powder disparity based on this prior record issue is absurd.


Equally misleading is the criticism that few crack "kingpins" can be found in federal prison. This is not surprising, because "kingpins" in the traditional sense—heads of major drug-importing rings—don't exist in the crack world. Crack is not imported but cooked up locally. Its supply and distribution scheme is more horizontal than vertical, unlike that of powder cocaine and heroin. Federal crack enforcement wasn't about stopping the flow of illegal drugs into the country; it was about stopping urban violence. And that violence was coming from street dealers.


Now we have just gone off the deep end haven't we? Where are they suggesting it is cooked up from? This is a strong argument for raising cocaine penalties in response to the crack epidemic if the goal is to stop the drugs before they get to the street.


The rise of drug cases in the criminal-justice system has been dramatic, it's important to acknowledge. In 1979, drug offenders were 6.4 percent of the state prison population; in 2004, they were 20 percent. Even so, violent and property offenders continue to dominate the ranks: in 2004, 52 percent of state prisoners were serving time for violence and 21 percent for property crimes, for a combined total over three and a half times that of state drug offenders. In federal prisons, drug offenders went from 25 percent of all federal inmates in 1980 to 47.6 percent of all federal inmates in 2006. Drug-war opponents focus almost exclusively on federal, as opposed to state, prisons because the proportion of drug offenders is highest there. But the federal system held just 12.3 percent of the nation's prisoners in 2006.


One should note that the drug reformers argue (correctly) that much other crime is a result of draconian drug enforcement. You create a neighborhood where many many people go to prison, send someone to prison themselves and even if they had only been non-violent before they are more likely to become desperate and violent.
5.5.2008 11:53am
Paul Cassell (mail):
Trevor Morrison writes:

So I guess we're left to assume that Judge Cassell means only that we should not pin the entire problem of minorities' overrepresentation in prison on the racial bias of the police and prosecutors -- that is, that we should not "target[]" such racism to the exclusion of everything else. Fair enough. But which commmentators on "the Left" have ever actually proposed doing that? Surely no one serious. I think it's Judge Cassell's strawman cariacature of "the Left" that "misses the mark" here.

****

My concern comes from being in the legal academy, where law professors seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on racist cops and racist proseuctors and very little on single parent families, minimum wage laws, and a culture that seemingly celebrates violence. Given that time is limited, focusing energy on one subject implicity precludes working on another.
5.5.2008 11:57am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
When my kids were in high school, our athletic conference was primarily suburban. But there was one school which was sort of like the worst of the inner-city plunked on the city border.
What with various away games during several years, in several sports, we encountered three Parents' Nights. Pathetic. The fans from our school were literally--I do not mean figuratively--groaning by the time they were one-third of the way through the football team. Maybe three kids had two parents. The basketball team, with twelve kids, had none with two parents.

This was the school where visting football teams escorted their cheerleaders off and on the field in a sloppy version of the old anti-cavalry formation called hollow square.
5.5.2008 12:05pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
Ohh and of course this argument is mischarachterized too.


But a final, even more audacious, argument maintains that incarceration itself, not criminals, causes crime in black neighborhoods. Because blacks have the highest prison rate, this argument holds, incarceration constitutes an unjust and disproportionate burden on them.
....
A few questions present themselves. How many convicts were living in a stable relationship with the mother (or one of the mothers) of their children before being sent upstate? (Forget even asking about their marriage rate.) What kind of positive guidance do men who are committing enough crimes to end up in prison, rather than on probation (an exceedingly high threshold), provide to young people? Further, if Fagan is right that keeping criminals out of prison and on the streets preserves a community's social capital, inner cities should have thrived during the 1960s and early 1970s, when prison resources contracted sharply. In fact, New York's poorest neighborhoods—the subject of Fagan's analysis—turned around only in the 1990s, when the prison population reached its zenith.


While the broader theory that prisons cause more crime is much more reasonable than this article suggests it does seem true that recent data contradicts this to some extent. However, once again this attacks only one potential argument ignoring the idea that it is particularly drug crimes, crimes that don't intrinsically harm anyone but the user, which create more crimes.


This popular "social ecological" analysis of incarceration, as Fagan and other criminologists call it, treats prison like an outbreak of infectious disease that takes over certain communities, felling people on a seemingly random basis. "As the risks of going to jail or prison grow over time for persons living in those areas, their prospects for marriage or earning a living and family-sustaining wage diminish as the incarceration rates around them rise," Fagan says. This analysis elides the role of individual will. Fagan and others assume that once one lives in a high-incarceration—that is, high-crime—area, one can do little to avoid prison. But even in the most frayed urban communities, plenty of people choose to avoid the "Life." Far from facing diminished marriage prospects, an upstanding, reliable young man in the inner city would be regarded as a valuable catch.


To respond to this point ask yourself how many of your friends (or if you are a baby boomer ask your kids) have done illegal drugs (e, weed, took some adderall from a friend etc..). Given the extremely high percentage of americans who use illegal drugs it is fair to say that being jailed for mere possession really isn't about individual choice so much as bad luck.

Ultimately this entire article tries to prove that the blacks aren't being unfairly treated in the criminal justice system by using those very statistics. An impossible task. While I'm skeptical of the more extreme claims and think that much of the 'racial bias' is the result of correlations rather than direct opinions on race this article dismisses the worries far too quickly and glibly.

----

Yes we should use prisons for real crimes but anytime we have a crime that we send some people to jail for but shrug when we find out a presidential candidate committed it something is wrong. Whether you want to call it racist or not it is clear that our mishandling of the problem of drug abuse harms blacks disproportionately (and the poor in general). Racism issues aren't why we should reform the system (the fact it's broken and causes more crime than effective and cheaper treatment programs) is why but let's not pretend the police, courts or society doesn't treat Hollywood stars with drug problems differently than poor black kids.
5.5.2008 12:07pm
ejo:
that school athletic experience is better than what sometimes happens in Illinois (chicago area) where you have to have a heavy police presence and security for athletic events due to the violence that erupts between rival schools (often but not always gang related). I would also note that, if one waived a magic wand to eliminate police/prosecutorial racism, the effect on violence in the black community would be "0". If one could point to data indicating black run communities had miraculous drops in the crime rate based on who was leading those communities, one could argue otherwise-any takers?
5.5.2008 12:11pm
ejo:
it is also easier to decry racism than actually speak frankly about the deficits of the community. why, to actually do so is itself racist.
5.5.2008 12:32pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Yeah, ejo. There's Detroit. No, forget it.
5.5.2008 12:33pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Reasons why the black crime rate is high: Like everyone else, black people need good jobs that pay good wages. Black folks worked hard on the plantations, and migrated northwards to get good factory jobs. The good factory jobs moved to Asia, and the plantations switched to machinery. In the inner-city, you can either work for chump change, or capitalize on the widespread despair by supplying drugs.

Upwards mobility is possible but difficult. The best jobs the hardworking, intelligent parents of Michelle Obama could get were secretary and water plant operator -- a reward to her father for being a loyal footsoldier in Daley's army. The best schools in the Chicago Public system barely reach the standard set by the neighborhood schools in Hillary Rodham's Park Ridge. Despite that, Michelle became a lawyer for Sidley and Austin, after graduating from Princeton (cum laude) and Harvard Law School. In her life, Michelle went from her parents' apartment in a bungalow's attic, to a house fit for the two-physician couple who sold to the Obamas.
5.5.2008 1:02pm
Zed:
I think we're ignoring the real insidious disparity in prison demographics, which is that there are far more males in prison. Ergo, the prison system and society are sexist.

What, the reason is because males commit more crimes? Well, um, that's only because sexist society passes laws that disproportionately target male crimes. Let's get rid of the laws against mugging and carjacking so that we can make society appear more fair.
5.5.2008 1:15pm
Connecticut Lawyer (mail):
I don't know anything about the current pharmacological research on crack and powder cocaine. I am old enough, however, to remember vividly when crack burst on the scene and in particular I recall that it was black politicians who demanded draconian sentences for crack because, they said, it was destroying their communities. Maybe they were wrong, maybe crack isn't so bad after all, but let's not pretend now that the disparate sentences for crack and powder cocaine were some white conspiracy to keep blacks imprisoned.
5.5.2008 1:36pm
ejo:
wow, do you mean MO actually had two parents who were working jobs that had nothing to do with drug dealing or some other nefarious activity. might that be a lesson or is it also racism to point it out-did she only become a member of the underclass at the Ivy League?
5.5.2008 1:38pm
cjwynes (mail):
Poor urban youths' problem is not that the public schools are all that bad, nor that they need more money or smaller class sizes or whatever other stuff the NEA is begging for these days. The kids' problem is that they have no desire to attend school and therefore the dropout rate is astonishingly high. In my days as a public defender, I always asked about HS education, and 99% of my clients were HS dropouts, so I figure dropping out bears a very strong correlation to criminal behaviour.

Also, welfare and a culture that glorifies sexual promiscuity has destroyed poor families. Some kid getting raised by a single mother with 5 kids from 5 different fathers, who never really cared all that much about being a parent in the first place but just wanted to make sure she got a big enough check from the government that she'd never have to work a day in her life... well no wonder that kid is completely unmotivated and falls into drug dealing, petty theft, and so forth.
5.5.2008 1:43pm
ejo:
I remember a recent article in the Sun Times after a post school murder of one "student" by another. It detailed how a dozen squad cars had to be assigned to the school when it lets out due to the violent gang presence. It also noted how the mother of one had 4 children and the mother of the other had 8, no husband/father in the picture and both of them "good" kids despite their rap sheets. Please tell me about the racism of the criminal justice system again? how about the silence of black politicians (like Obama) who could care less about the schools as long as the pols controlling have a D after their names?
5.5.2008 2:04pm
anonthu:
Heather MacDonald's older article about "profiling" by patrolmen on the NJ turnpike is a must-read:

link
5.5.2008 2:17pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Question for you fashion sociologists out there, is it true that the "baggy clothes without belts showing underwear" look comes from the sharp look of prison garb?

If that is true, what does it tell us about who the wearer of such fashion idealizes?

Also, from reading these comments, it seems to me that an analysis controlling for drug offenses (taking them out) is in order.
5.5.2008 2:21pm
innocentman (mail):
Jim,
I'm not an expert, but I've heard from several people that the "baggy clothes" look comes from prison fashion. In prisons they take your belt away, so that you don't use it as a weapon or to commit suicide. So your pants tend to sag down. Young blacks who emulate this on the street are "owning the insult."
Although I've heard this alot, it still might be an urban legend.
5.5.2008 2:50pm
donaldk:
TruePath: keep it short and you'll keep more readers.
5.5.2008 3:29pm
Trevor Morrison (mail):
Professor/Judge Cassell writes:

My concern comes from being in the legal academy, where law professors seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on racist cops and racist proseuctors and very little on single parent families, minimum wage laws, and a culture that seemingly celebrates violence. Given that time is limited, focusing energy on one subject implicity precludes working on another.

Two points:

1. If any part of the academy is guilty of neglecting those other issues, I'm not sure it's the "Left." E.g., it's my sense (though I'm certainly no expert in the area, and I could definitely be wrong) that the academic "Left" is more likely than the academic "Right" to spend time arguing for higher minimum wage laws. So here again, I think it is quite "wide of the mark" to single out the "Left" for blame.

2. More significantly (at least to my mind), there may be very good reasons why the legal academy (whether on the Left, Right, or Middle) spends more time on the problem of institutional racial bias than on the inadequacy of minimum wage laws, or the need to better support single parent families, or the general problem of violence in our culture. The reason, simply, is that racial bias by police and prosecutors presents an obviously legal issue. Purposeful race discrimination by the government is unconstitutional, and in some circumstances violates other statutory or regulatory rules as well. In contrast, it's far from obvious that, e.g., the (in)adequacy of a particular minimum wage presents any kind of constitutional or other legal issue. (Or does Professor Cassell mean to agree with those on the fairly extreme "Left" who think otherwise?) Ditto the other issues to which Professor Cassell points. Each is an important issue of policy, to be sure. But what particular expertise do legal academics have with respect to those issues? (I don't deny that those issues have any legal bearing at all, but they seem to me less dominated by legal considerations than the problem of purposeful race discrimination by government actors.) To fault legal scholars for focusing on the issues that are most within their institutional expertise strikes me as quite egregiously "wide of the mark."
5.5.2008 3:31pm
quasimodo (mail):

The best jobs the hardworking, intelligent parents of Michelle Obama could get were secretary and water plant operator


... which means exactly nothing. Lower paying jobs are often filled by highly intelligent people who for various reasons will not or cannot get a better job. One of the most intelligent people I have ever met was a black woman working as a receptionist. She went to some Ivy league school on a full ride but - decided to quit after a couple of years. Everybody loved her, she could do anything you asked her but was more interested in gossip and clowning around with friends. I've known people of obviously less intelligence rise to high levels in hostile environments. One of the most intelligent people I know today is the son of people whose jobs are equivalent those of Mrs' O's parents. He's white. Don't be so silly as to assume you know the reason for their supposedly poor career performance.

Jobs gong overseas? America's percentage of the world's manufacturing output is increasing.

Re: Crack. It has always been reported to be much more widely available and sold and used in the black community. Is this not true? Perhaps if we did not have tough crack penalties we would be racist. I seem to remember the rhyming reverends demanding something be done about crack years ago - should we blame them? If you look to the government for a solution to your problems, chances are you'll be disappointed.

Re: Crack kingpins. It makes perfect sense that there are no "crack kingpins" only "cocaine kingpins." The crack dealer does a "little poor man's chemistry" on the raw materials provided by the cocaine kingpin's minions. (making real free base cocaine is too dangerous) Crack kingpin = cocaine kingpin. They are the same people. It's Not hard to understand.
5.5.2008 3:46pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

Lower paying jobs are often filled by highly intelligent people who for various reasons will not or cannot get a better job.

The Robinsons were hard working and ambitious -- you can see it in their expectations for their kids. It was hard for them to climb the ladder when several rungs were missing.

There are always a few neurotics who think they can't handle the responsibility commensurate with many jobs, and simply do not try to get them. But most people try a job first, and then decide it's not for them.


America's percentage of the world's manufacturing output is increasing.

Really? I wonder what we're producing; nothing that ordinary people can buy. Armaments perhaps? I used to look for Made in America every time I shopped till it just became impossible.
5.5.2008 4:00pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Reasons why the black crime rate is high: Like everyone else, black people need good jobs that pay good wages. Black folks worked hard on the plantations, and migrated northwards to get good factory jobs. The good factory jobs moved to Asia, and the plantations switched to machinery. In the inner-city, you can either work for chump change, or capitalize on the widespread despair by supplying drugs.
This of course totally ignores the adverse effects of single, uneducated, parent households, and the sky high drop out rate. Not surprisingly, even if there were good factory jobs available, someone without a HS degree wouldn't get them.

Much of the rest of the country is moving towards a college degree as being the requirement for a decent job, and, indeed, even that is becoming such a commodity that many college grads are working at jobs they are over qualified at. So, how can you expect a HS dropout to compete?

Some how though, the fact that unskilled labor has moved offshore where other unskilled hands can do it much more cheaply is supposed to be the reason for black poverty and crime.

Upwards mobility is possible but difficult. The best jobs the hardworking, intelligent parents of Michelle Obama could get were secretary and water plant operator -- a reward to her father for being a loyal footsoldier in Daley's army. The best schools in the Chicago Public system barely reach the standard set by the neighborhood schools in Hillary Rodham's Park Ridge. Despite that, Michelle became a lawyer for Sidley and Austin, after graduating from Princeton (cum laude) and Harvard Law School. In her life, Michelle went from her parents' apartment in a bungalow's attic, to a house fit for the two-physician couple who sold to the Obamas.
Not surprisingly though, Mrs. Obama seems to have had the most important ingredient for success in our society - a two parent nuclear family.
5.5.2008 4:01pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Trevor Morrison,

1. If any part of the academy is guilty of neglecting those other issues, I'm not sure it's the "Left." E.g., it's my sense (though I'm certainly no expert in the area, and I could definitely be wrong) that the academic "Left" is more likely than the academic "Right" to spend time arguing for higher minimum wage laws. So here again, I think it is quite "wide of the mark" to single out the "Left" for blame.

Hmmm. I could be wrong, but I had assumed that Cassell's point wasn't that the minimum wage ought to be higher; quite the contrary. Certainly I've seen it argued that one reason inner-city unemployment is so pervasive is that there exist people whose labor isn't worth the legal minimum wage to any legitimate employer.
5.5.2008 4:02pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

The kids' problem is that they have no desire to attend school and therefore the dropout rate is astonishingly high.

If kids raised on a bread-and-water diet failed to thrive, would you have blamed them for eating insufficient bread?

Innercity schools suck. The one Michelle went to is rated a "3" on the greatschools website. The one Hillary went to is rated a "10".
5.5.2008 4:04pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

This of course totally ignores the adverse effects of single, uneducated, parent households, and the sky high drop out rate. Not surprisingly, even if there were good factory jobs available, someone without a HS degree wouldn't get them.

one reason inner-city unemployment is so pervasive is that there exist people whose labor isn't worth the legal minimum wage to any legitimate employer.

Chicken or egg. How can a man support a family on a subminimum or even minimum wage? Inner-city kids would be better off if we adopted the German apprenticeship system where kids learn by doing four days a week, and do booklearning one day a week. Right now the utility of a hs diploma is near zero.
5.5.2008 4:10pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Sigh, for someone who is so concerned about references in the article you cavalierly state that Bush used Coke without any authoritative proof.

I don't have authoritative proof that Bush used cocaine. I do know, however, that there were reports that he did, and he was very careful not to deny it. He denied using any drugs after 1975, but said he didn't want to admit what he might have done before that because he didn't want to be a bad example for his kids.

So what you have is reports from people who claim he did use cocaine, and a refusal by Bush to deny it (when a truthful denial would have been in his interest).

My hunch is that Bush used all sorts of drugs years ago. He was a rich playboy and he hadn't figured out what to do with his life yet. Indeed, one thing I admire him for is that he straightened out his life (apparently thanks to Laura). But conservatives and Bush-supporters shouldn't pretend that he wasn't a serious addict, and that it is likely (though I will concede not certain) based on his refusals to deny usage that it went well beyond alcohol.
5.5.2008 4:19pm
twipperwill (mail):
A couple of deep thoughts from Tony:
1) If kids raised on a bread-and-water diet failed to thrive, would you have blamed them for eating insufficient bread?
2) How can a man support a family on a subminimum or even minimum wage?

D'ya think maybe the answer is not to have kids at all until you can afford them? And maybe the sick warped hip-hop culture has something to do with the problem, by encouraging uneducated jobless adolescents who don't know how to study (and don't want to "act white") to sleep around and then desert their kids?

It must be Whitey's fault. It's the Man.
5.5.2008 4:29pm
ejo:
users tend not to go to prison, a simple fact that clashes with the disparity issue. for a user to go to prison, he/she will usually accumulate lots of arrests and a few convictions for the mayhem involved in that use. GW wouldn't have gone to prison, just the same as 20 dime bag arrests of black men will get tossed out at the prelim stage in branch court today in Chicago as the amounts are just too small to funnel into a felony courtroom. You can win more drug cases by accident in Chicago based on that simple fact. On another issue covered above, why are law professors supposedly limited in their analysis only to the "legal" issues covering the racism of cops and prosecutors. Are they excluded from issues of morality and plain common sense? after all, there have been quite a few posts concerning the age of consent-should they stay away from that as it is a matter of legislative prerogative?
5.5.2008 4:55pm
bjr26:
TruePath, I think you've done an excellent job analyzing the myriad ways in which this article fails to present a convincing argument regarding incarceration rates. You should aggregate your comments on a blog -- perhaps even ask to guest blog somewhere -- and post them as a full-blown "fisking" of MacDonald's article (I'm stealing the that term from Andrew Sullivan, not sure what it's origin is).
5.5.2008 5:33pm
Carolina:
Truepath,

Regarding the crack/powder issue, you raise some interesting points, but I think you miss the bigger picture the article was illustrating.

The article was not about whether the crack/powder cocaine federal sentencing disparity is wise or good policy. The article was about whether or not the criminal justice system is systematically racist.

It does appear that the crack penalties were the result of a silly panic. But that doesn't disprove the thesis of the article, which is simply this disparity is not proof of racism.

The article makes some very interesting points, like noting the majority of the black caucus voted FOR the enhanced crack penalties. I understand you have some nits to pick with her language; but do you even disagree with the thesis of the article? If you do believe the crack enhancements to sentencing are evidence of/a result of racism, what is your evidence?
5.5.2008 5:47pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I see most folks declined the invitation to discuss the issue sans the sub-issue of crack vs. powder.
Must be a reason for that.
5.5.2008 5:54pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
I am afraid, RIchard, that it gets us into territory which is very painful for some to address.

It appears, though that a number of prominent African Americans with very different positions on the left-right political/economic spectrum are coming to the conclusion that there some cultural features of the African American community which are, to put it tactfully, not constructive. Compare, for example, the prescriptions of Juan Williams, Bill Cosby and Thomas Sowell, none of whom could be properly characterized as Uncle Toms.
5.5.2008 6:34pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

maybe the answer is not to have kids at all until you can afford them?

Nobody would ever have kids if they waited till they felt they could afford them.
5.5.2008 6:39pm
ejo:
inner city kids and apprenticeship systems? if you aren't going to school, what would compel you to attend an apprenticeship program? if you have never been taught any differently, why would this change anything, as good as it sounds in theory. you can just as easily have reverends telling you that you are too right brained or left brained to participate in these programs. as to fatherhood and any wage category, you have to actually be present to make the effort. It seems as though lots of black people are able to do so-but you can't hold any sort of job if you are more interested in committing crimes or are incapable of showing up. Apparently, MO's parents managed to do it, not that it seems to have made her grateful for her upbringing.
5.5.2008 6:46pm
pireader (mail):
Professor Cassell wrote-- "[L]aw professors seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on racist cops and racist proseuctors and very little on single parent families, minimum wage laws, and a culture that seemingly celebrates violence.

Must take exception to your focus on the minimum wage. Just look at the numbers:

The US has 267,000 people paid at the Federal minimum wage. (Others are paid less, but they fall outside the law.) Reasonable estimates are that the recent near-doubling of the minimum wage could reduce employment in the affected jobs by 5-10%. So perhaps 25,000 jobs were lost.

Frankly, 25 thousand missing jobs just doesn't cut it as a material explanation for 560 thousand African-American prisoners.
5.5.2008 6:58pm
LM (mail):
Bored HLS 3L,

Is the following possible?

The committee further concluded that the three young teens had no knowledge that nooses symbolize the terrible legacy of the lynchings of countless blacks in American history.

When almost 25% of high school students recently surveyed could not identify Adolf Hitler, and almost half could not guess, within 50 years, when the Civil War was fought, I'm sorry to say, yes, it's possible.
5.5.2008 8:17pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

So what you have is reports from people who claim he did use cocaine,


Which people? Give us their names.
5.5.2008 9:23pm
LM (mail):
Thorley,

The problem with your questions and challenges is that this isn't a criminal trial with all the attendant Constitutional standards and burdens. The standard here is the straight face test, and denying the overwhelming likelihood that Bush used cocaine or other drugs in addition to marijuana and alcohol fails it. How do you account for his selective admissions, denials and refusals to answer? The clear implication of all of it is that he used other drugs. I suppose it's possible there are some people who honestly dispute this, but none of the conservatives I know make that argument in private. Anyone inclined to defend Bush will nod approvingly at your challenges, but I doubt anyone on either side is persuaded by them.
5.5.2008 9:55pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
"But conservatives and Bush-supporters shouldn't pretend that he wasn't a serious addict...."

How serious could his (hypothetical) addiction have been, given that he has just been through seven very stressful years without any indication of a relapse? All President Bush admits to is that he used to drink too much. Anything else is purest speculation.

As to Michelle Obama's school being a 3 compared to Hillary's 10, it doesn't seem to have held her back from getting her Ivy League degrees and now pulling down over $300K per year. Which in turn, sadly, doesn't prevent her from wondering when she is going to get hers.

And the problem of crime in the black community is not helped if people like J. Wright continue to tell black people that the American dream is not for the likes of them.
5.5.2008 10:28pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
J. Rhoads.
The worthies you mention can't be considered Uncle Toms. That doesn't mean they aren't called Uncle Toms.
I recall somebody listing them, and McWhorter and Steele, in support of a position and being told they are blacks who hate blacks.
There's no winning with a different opinion.

On the other hand, nobody believes such accusations, anyway. All they do is shut down the instant conversation. They change no minds. Or, I suppose, they harden the opinions of those who see a problem in the black community. Short (very) term gain, long term loss.
5.5.2008 11:23pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Sorry LM but goal-post moving isn't going to work.

Dilan Esper made the claim that there are "reports from people who claim [George W. Bush] did use cocaine." I'm calling him on it.

Give us the names of anyone who has gone on the record saying that they saw Bush use cocaine.
5.6.2008 12:22am
Tony Tutins (mail):

if you aren't going to school, what would compel you to attend an apprenticeship program?

The prospect of a decent job at the end of it, instead of a diploma that means nothing to anyone.

As to Michelle Obama's school being a 3 compared to Hillary's 10, it doesn't seem to have held her back from getting her Ivy League degrees and now pulling down over $300K per year.

So what you're saying is if you're able to overcome a handicap it was never there in the first place? I should have paid more attention in philosophy class. Handicaps are only handicaps if you don't succeed, I guess.
5.6.2008 2:18am
Tony Tutins (mail):

Is the following possible?

The committee further concluded that the three young teens had no knowledge that nooses symbolize the terrible legacy of the lynchings of countless blacks in American history.

Some of us think of Clint Eastwood when we see nooses hanging from a tree.
5.6.2008 2:23am
Libertarian1 (mail):
Tony: Nobody would ever have kids if they waited till they felt they could afford them.



Tony for the second time in a week you wrote of your personal experiences and then generalized them to the entire population.

We waited 5 1/2 years until I finished my internship, residency and started earning a physicians' salary. We also waited until we didn't need my wife to work so she could stay home and raise the children.

Previously in the voter ID discussion you said everyone at the polls knew you so why would you need an ID? When I lived in Republican suburban wealthy NJ and had held an elected office, yes indeed I was known and no one asked me for an ID. I now live in Manhattan. I literally vote in the building in which I live. In the 15 years I have voted here (a) there was never anyone who had any idea who I was (b) the politically appointed staff (who are of a different race than I am) was changed each election (c) anyone could have said there were me and no one there would have known the difference (d) I know for a fact of a man dead for 18 years still on the voting books and who still gets jury notices. I don't have the desire to break the law and vote in his place but it would be very simple.
5.6.2008 2:28am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Tony Tutins,

The prospect of a decent job? Isn't that the sort of thing Rev. Wright and his ilk preached against? It's "middleclassedness", and it's being exploited by The Man.

It would also mean the student becomes independent of the poverty pimps and the race hustlers. That would never do.
5.6.2008 11:21am
wfjag:

TruePath: keep it short and you'll keep more readers.


Truthpath -- not all of the readers have short attention spans. A well reasoned analysis is more valuable than a glib, snarky comment or superficial sophistry.

FYI: I disagree with your conclusions. You assume that


However, once again this attacks only one potential argument ignoring the idea that it is particularly drug crimes, crimes that don't intrinsically harm anyone but the user, which create more crimes.


Being the child of a substance abuser -- alcohol and barbiturates mainly -- my personal experience is that there is a great deal of harm to persons other than the user. I am, however, willing to consider other points of view since, unlike some commentators, I don't think that my personal experiences and opinions necessarily are the only basis on which public policy can be made. So, I welcome a well reasoned point of view that I disagree with, because that forces me to think.
5.6.2008 1:02pm