June 25, 2006

Is Facing Facts Racism?

In a previous post, I commented on the big play MSM gives to allegations of white-on-black crime, and the near-complete omission of racial information in crime stories where the perp is black, even though black-on-white and black-on-black crime are by far more common. (This sets aside the Tawana Brawley type incident, now apparently repeated in the case of the Duke lacrosse players, where the white-on-black crime is fabricated).

I made a snarky comment on the blog of one Marc Cooper, who is critical of Stalinism and half-baked conspiracy theories and is fairly thoughtful. Apparently another reader was moved to check out this blog and my professional site, came upon the "Sin of Omission" post and reached the following conclusion:
You're an ass and a racist one at that. The very idea that you would use the case of a homeless, emotionally disturbed man to make the case of your self-proclaimed belief of the "prevalence of violent crime in that racial group"” is beneath contempt.
To which I replied as follows:
It'’s off Marc'’s topic, but I didn'’t start it here.

"“The prevalence of imprisonment in 2001 was higher for
black males (16.6%) and Hispanic males (7.7%) than for white males (2.6%)
– black females (1.7%) and Hispanic females (0.7%) than white females (0.3%)

* * * *

“Lifetime chances of a person going to prison are higher for
– men (11.3%) than for women (1.8%)
– blacks (18.6%) and Hispanics (10%) than for whites (3.4%)

“Based on current rates of first incarceration, an estimated 32% of black males will enter State or Federal prison during their lifetime, compared to 17% of Hispanic males and 5.9% of white males.

Source: Department of Justice statistics.

I didn'’t make these pretty horrendous facts up. Whatever the explanation (culture, genetics, poverty, child abuse, drugs, selective enforcement, all of the above--–take your pick), as a society we ought to think about it. Then we might be able to do something about it.

In the mainstream press, though, it'’s largely a taboo subject, while the relatively rarer (and sometimes fabricated) white-on-black incidents get major play.
This reply elicited the following riposte:
Whatever the explanation (culture, genetics, poverty, child abuse, drugs, selective enforcement, all of the above--–take your pick), as a society we ought to think about it. Then we might be able to do something about it.

You'’re backpedaling here, but you're still a racist ass. The example you used was irrelevant and your implication is that blacks are more likely to commit violent crimes than whites.

I find it amazing that an attorney no less would be using the rates of incarceration for this argument instead of rates of conviction, guilty pleas, etc.

One need only look at the different penalties for crack cocaine possession and dealing versus cocaine possession and to consider the mandatory sentencing guidelines which removed discretion from judges to get anotheBAHclue.

I have a BA from a state school and you have a PhD in anthropology from Columbia amd JD from UCLA Law School and you couldn'’t consider anything other than race until you got called on your reactionary nonsense.

Pathetic - in a word.
I don't want to clutter up the comments on Cooper's Chomsky post with off-topic flame wars, but here's Exhibit A for a phenomenon that is all too common in left-wing responses to the right--the response to an unwelcome fact or argument is an accusation of bad intent ("racist") or bad character ("ass"). First, my original comment on Cooper's Chomsky post had nothing to do with the "Sin of Omission" post or with race. Hence, Randy Paul, the soccer fan who flamed me, dragged in a post from this blog on a totally different topic to call me a "racist," and thereby, presumably, negate my comments on Cooper's Chomsky post, which included Cooper's references to the descent into tinfoil hat moonbattery at Pacifica's LA station, KPFK.

So, Randy Paul dragged in the "racist" charge to discredit my character rather than to respond to what I had to say. "Ass" just means he doesn't like me. I can live with that.

In his second response, to my brief statistical note and my point that we should face facts in order to deal with them, rather than hurl invective and those who present them, RP adds a bit of content to his invective.

First, he points out that the perpetrator of the crime turned out to be deranged and homeless. He argues that my example was therefore ill-chosen.

However, the bulk of the "Omission" post referred to the article published before the arrest, when identifying information about the suspect might have been useful. Second, the point was not that race explained this particular crime, but that the press hypes alleged white-on-black offenses and doesn't even provide the facts about race when blacks offend against white, whether allegedly or demonstrably.

Second, RP questions my choice of statistics (incarceration rates) as opposed to "rates of conviction" and "guilty pleas." I did a quick and dirty Google search to confirm what I had read from many sources, and came up with the DOJ incarceration rate. Does RP think the results would be materially different if some other statistic were used? Perhaps blacks are sentenced to prison more than whites convicted of the same offenses. Perhaps they plead guilty more often than whites because they don't get decent legal representation as often as whites. I doubt different statistics would change the picture of much higher crime rates among blacks. But show me.

Third, RP points to harsher sentences for crack cocaine possession than for powder cocaine, presumably as an example of a law that is unfair and distorts these statistics. This point is reasonable, as is the counter-argument that crack is more dangerous and therefore merits higher penalties. (This is not the place to go into the "war on drugs").

Fourth, RP goes into an ad hominem excursus on my degrees and suggest that I see only race. I never claimed special credentials. And I never suggested a "race only" analysis of crime. I was commenting on a media phenomenon--inconsistent coverage of the racial aspect of crime.

"Racism" is a charged word. It has several meanings:

  1. Advocacy of discrimination or racial separation as public policy.

  2. Practicing racial discrimination in private life and business.

  3. The idea that there are differences in behavior and ability associated with membership in racial groups, especially if the association is claimed to be hereditary (so-called "scientific racism").

I plead not guilty to the first two. I am certainly less guilty of the second type of racism than those who would grant preferences to favored minorities in university admissions and hiring.

The third meaning of the term "racism" relates to claims that are subject to testing against evidence. Examples: Africans from certain parts of Kenya are statistically far more likely to be world-class long-distance runners than anyone else. On average, East Asians have higher IQ scores than Whites. US incarceration rates (and probably crime rates) among blacks are higher than among whites--to a shocking degree. The role of nature vs. nurture in these matters is not definitively known, but both probably play a part. These issues merit discussion, and there's nothing inherently wrong with taking the risk of defying political correctness in order to discuss them.

The skittishness of some about these issues is partly based on the fear that any confirmation of statistical differences in ability or behavior between races would be used to justify a revival of discriminatory laws and practices. This fear is reasonable, but is not a sufficient reason to condemn those who discuss the evidence. "Racism" in this sense should not be a term of invective. Its validity in any particular case depends on evidence.

There are facts about inequalities in wealth, education, health care. Some discuss these to offer explanations or to propose solutions. Others manipulate them to advocate totalitarian revolution. Should we denounce everyone who discusses facts about inequality as a Stalinist?

Truth, as they say, is an absolute defense.

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