Atheist Jesus : 14/09/2017
The Left and Right Are Both Half Wrong About Race, Bias, and Crime
In July 2017, a police officer in Baltimore (https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/8/2/16086136/baltimore-police-evidence-planting ) was caught planting drugs in order to frame an innocent man for drug possession. Baltimore police wear body cameras, but the recordings are not always saved. The officer did not realize that, when he saved the footage from his body camera while “discovering” the drugs he had planted, it would also save the previous minute of footage of him planting the drugs. In 2013, New York police sent undercover informants to (http://www.businessinsider.com/police-informant-allegedly-plants-cocaine-in-mans-business-2013-7 ) plant crack cocaine in a black-owned smoke shop and were caught by the store’s surveillance system. In Alabama, (http://theweek.com/speedreads/591817/alabama-police-department-allegedly-planted-evidence-black-men-resulting-almost-1000-wrongful-convictions ) leaked police documents revealed that a narcotics task force had been planting drugs and weapons on hundreds of innocent black men from the mid-1990s until they were caught in 2015. These cases are part of the evidence for the claims of BLM and other left-wing groups that claim our criminal justice system is heavily biased against black people.
In Chicago, when four black teens kidnapped a white special needs man and tortured him, streaming the torture on Facebook, police originally (http://nypost.com/2017/01/05/cops-slammed-for-downplaying-black-teens-attack-on-white-special-needs-man/ ) downplayed the attack, saying “kids make stupid decisions”. The teens were eventually charged with a hate crime because the man was special needs, but not for anti-white racism, even though they said “fuck white people”, and used anti-white racial slurs many times during the live-streamed attack. In 2016, a Black Lives Matter protester who followed black separatist groups on social media shot and killed 5 police officers after (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_shooting_of_Dallas_police_officers#Motive ) stating he wanted to kill white people. While black on white crimes appears to be on the rise, black on black crime is still the most prevalent form of crime in the US. Such evidence is part of the case that many on the right make that blacks are not treated unfairly by our justice system and that they are more likely to be targeted by police because they are more likely to commit crimes and pose a danger to public safety.
There is some truth and some falsehood on both sides. It is true that certain areas of our criminal justice system can be proven to work in a racially biased manner. For example, while blacks are only (http://archive.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2013SummNatFindDetTables/NationalFindings/NSDUHresults2013.htm#2.7 ) about 15% more likely to use drugs than whites, the average black drug user is about 2.5-3 times as likely to get arrested for a drug crime as the average white drug user. Drug crimes are the single biggest category of arrests in the US, with more than a million drug arrests each year, so significant bias in drug crime enforcement has a huge impact on the black community as hundreds of thousands of blacks are thrown in jail for a victimless crime each year that many of them would not have been arrested for if they were white. This tears apart families, hurts children, and destroys communities – it should come as no surprise that the era of high drug arrest rates also saw the rise of black fatherlessness and single mother homes, where children are at a higher risk to commit violent crimes.
But while the differences in drug use are small compared to differences in drug arrest rates, that pattern doesn’t hold true for much of the rest of our criminal justice system. Blacks are far more likely than whites to get arrested for violent crimes, but this is because they’re more likely to get reported for committing them. According to (https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cvus06.pdf ) victim reports, almost a third of violent crimes are committed by blacks, who are only about 13% of the US population. In 2006, the average black person was more than twice as likely to commit rape or sexual assault, more than two and a half times as likely to commit aggravated assault, almost five and a half times as likely to commit a robbery, and over 8 times as likely to injure someone while attempting to commit robbery as the average white person. Blacks were also more likely to follow through on threats to commit crimes, while whites who threaten to commit crimes were less likely to follow through and actually commit the crime. It should also be noted that members of each race are more likely to report other members of their race for committing crimes; both whites and blacks reported that a solid majority of people who committed crimes against them were of the same race, though whites were slightly more likely to report a black assailant than blacks were to report a white assailant (even though the average black person likely encounters more whites than the number of blacks encountered by the average white person), so it’s unlikely that racial bias on the part of victims could skew these numbers much.
The differences between (https://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2006/data/table_43.html ) black and white arrest rates for violent crimes are much closer to the differences in the rates they commit crimes. For the same year the criminal victimization survey was done, the average black person was just over twice as likely to get arrested for rape or sexual assault, just over 3 times as likely to be arrested for aggravated assault, and between 7 and 8 times as likely to be arrested for robbery as the average white person. While there is some difference in arrest rates for aggravated assault and robbery, this may be partly due to blacks being more likely to injure their victims in robberies and being physically larger on average and likely to cause more harm in assaults, and in each case the proportional differences between arrest rates and the rates at which crimes were committed were far smaller than for drug crime violations. And, since most victims of black criminals were also black, most of those arrests were to protect black victims.
Unfortunately, the Bureau of Justice Statistics stopped publishing statistics on criminal offenders’ races from the victimization survey after 2006, and the academic community has done hardly any research on the subject since. The only people still looking into racial differences in criminality are far-right groups like (link: https://www.amren.com/archives/reports/the-color-of-crime-2016-revised-edition/ ) American Renaissance, whose research found that arrest rates even more closely matched victimization reports in 2013. The only crimes where blacks were significantly more likely to be arrested than reported were victimless crimes like drug offences and gambling and crimes where there are often no witnesses such as property theft, forgery, and homicide. Racial differences in robbery, assault, and violent sex offences were larger in 2013 than in 2006, as the crime rate fell faster among the white population than the black population of the US during the years in between. They also found that victims report Hispanic offenders for crimes at higher rates than whites but lower rates than blacks, while victims report Asians at similar rates to whites. While many will doubt the accuracy of these claims due to their source’s bias, they are based on a review of FBI crime data, and the lack of similar research by left-wing academics makes it hard to counter their claims.
Is it possible that our criminal justice system is both biased and not biased at the same time? The complicated answer is yes, depending on what type of crime you’re looking at. When it comes to crimes with a victim (not counting murder, where the victim is dead), police can only arrest someone if the victim identifies them as having committed a crime. Victims tend to pressure the police to arrest the right person, which limits how much a police officer’s racial bias can affect their arrest rates. But when it comes to victimless crimes like drug crimes, it’s very rare for a witness to actually report a victimless crime to the police and pressure them to arrest the perpetrator. Most arrests happen because the police perform random searches of people they suspect of committing crimes, which leaves plenty of room for the officers’ personal bias to affect their decisions of who to search and arrest. It’s also far easier to manufacture a fake victimless crime by planting evidence, as happened to the innocent men in Baltimore, New York, and Alabama who were framed by the police for drug crimes. Framing someone for a violent crime requires someone willing to play the victim (and often more evidence), making it far harder to set someone up and arrest them.
The difference in enforcement of victimless crimes and crimes with victims appears to affect sentencing decisions as well, as (https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/247227.pdf ) a study of sentencing disparity in New York found that blacks were more likely to be imprisoned and received longer sentences than whites for the same crimes, even after adjusting for many other factors, but the differences were much larger for drug crimes than for crimes against people and property. That same study found that Hispanics also faced harsher sentences than whites and that the disparities were bigger for drug crimes than for crimes against people and property, but not by as much as blacks. However, it also found that Asians received lighter sentences and more favorable treatment from the criminal justice system than whites.
The left’s white privilege/supremacy explanation for racial bias ignores the fact that Asians receive better treatment by our criminal justice system than whites, and that other non-white races don’t experience the same level of bias. A more likely explanation is that the level of bias against each race in our criminal justice system developed in response to their level of criminality. When there is a victim pressuring our criminal justice system to protect them, the justice system shows far less bias than when it is free to operate on its own. When bias does come into play, it tends to most strongly affect groups who are more likely to be criminal in the first place. Blacks face the harshest bias from police officers, prosecutors, and judges who see blacks commit violent crimes at higher rates every day, and then apply that bias in the enforcement of victimless crimes where they have more power to arrest, prosecute, and sentence people as they see fit. Hispanics face similar but lesser bias because the rates they commit crimes are between those of whites and blacks, while Asians do not face harmful racial bias because their behavior is similar to that of whites. Rather than racial bias being a result of white supremacists discriminating against all non-whites, it appears that bias in our criminal justice system is learned based on differences in behavior between each race (and it’s likely that cops and judges of many different races end up with similar racial biases).
This does not mean that racial bias in our criminal justice system is acceptable or a good thing. Even if the differences in criminality between each race are at least partly due to racial genetic differences (which is entirely possible, as many personality traits are affected by genes and there are significant differences in the distribution of many different kinds of genes between different racial groups), no race is entirely peaceful or entirely criminal, and it’s important that we punish people based on their individual actions while doing our best to avoid punishing innocent people for crimes committed by other people. Arresting people who harm others will mean arresting some races at higher rates than others, so we should not expect perfectly equal outcomes by race, but we also shouldn’t accept a justice system that goes out of its way to punish innocent people because they happen to belong to a race with more guilty people than another. Therefore, we should eliminate most victimless crime laws (especially the most abused type, drug laws) so our criminal justice system doesn’t have the power to harass, arrest, and even frame people because of their race.
It’s also important to remember that we live in an evolutionary universe. Even if one race or another have genetic traits that make them more likely to be criminal, we live in a universe where that can change (and our genetic makeup has changed substantially since the dawn of human civilization and will likely continue to change with each generation). How each population changes is shaped by its environment, which is why it’s important to create an environment where real criminals are punished and have a harder time surviving, while basically innocent people are not punished simply for belonging to the same group as criminals.
There is a perfect example of how racial bias from our criminal justice system can affect the way different groups develop in a way that affects the likelihood that they’ll commit crimes. Gun control laws are enforced more heavily on blacks than on whites (partly because Democrats in areas with large black populations push for them). Blacks are (link: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/07/15/the-demographics-and-politics-of-gun-owning-households/ ) half as likely to own guns as whites in the US, but, according to FBI arrest data, the average black gun owner is about 8 times as likely to be arrested for a gun control violation as the average white gun owner. Over 40% of whites own guns, and their greater ability to defend themselves from criminals makes it harder for criminals to survive in majority white communities. Black people who’ve been systematically disarmed by governments claiming to be acting in their best interest do not have the same ability to defend themselves from criminals, making it easier for criminals to survive in those communities than in whiter Republican-leaning communities where gun ownership is high and gun laws are lax and hardly enforced. If a higher percentage of blacks have criminal tendencies than whites, it is that much more important for the innocent, responsible, law-abiding members of their communities to be armed to defend themselves from the criminals in their midst. Empowering members of the black community to clean up their own streets and solve the problem of black on black crime themselves is not only a better strategy to remove criminals from the black community than relying on the police to do everything for them, it will also likely reduce racial animosity as the responsibility for cleaning up the black community and the power to do it will be in the hands of black people, rather than in the hands of a paternalistic and relatively whiter government.
The complicated nature of these issues is all the more reason why we need more open dialogue between the left and right. Neither the left or right has all the answers to these issues. The left is correct that there is bias in our criminal justice system, but too many people on the left assume that bias affects the entire system, when in reality it affects certain parts of the justice system heavily while having little to no effect in other areas. The right is correct that blacks are more likely to commit crimes than whites, but they like to ignore the bias that does exist, especially in drug arrests which skyrocketed under Reagan and have remained high since. Neither side has all the answers needed to solve the problem, as the left’s gun control policies create another victimless crime law the police can abuse against innocent blacks, while the right ignores the effect that higher arrest rates of young black men for victimless crimes has on black fatherlessness (even while many of them bring up the effect fatherlessness has on crime rates, which the feminist left hates to acknowledge). If we want to avoid the harmful extremes of each side, from the rise in anti-white violence by BLM sympathizers to the rise of the Alt-Right, we must be willing to acknowledge legitimate concerns and points on each side in the process of solving society’s problems.
Featured Image Credit: Alex Gallardo/Reuters