Sunday, October 1, 2017

Race, Criminal Justice and the NFL

Will the truth still set us free? Do the facts really matter? Our behavioral economists believe that most people are not persuaded by facts. At best, some are, but most aren't. Telling everyone that it is abnormal to be persuaded by facts undermines rational deliberation and a promotes zealotry.

In the matter of Colin Kaepernick and the kerfuffle between the Trump administration and the NFL, a few hardy souls have dared to present the facts. In the midst of the media frenzy about race and the NFL—the flames having been fanned by Trump—no one pays much attention to the facts.

As it happened, it is not a new story. The Obama administration did everything in its power to purvey a narrative about race relations. The narrative tended to blame black crime, especially black-on-black crime on white police officers. It smacks of what used to be called the Big Lie—say it often enough and people are likely to believe it. The narrative does not simply divert attention and shift the blame. It actively exonerates blacks who commit crimes… even when they commit crimes against other blacks.

We should mention, if only in passing, that the nation’s conversation about race keeps focused on crime, we are being induced to see blacks in terms of their relation to the criminal justice system. This does not promote racial comity.

Today, two fearless writers, Andrew Sullivan and Andrew McCarthy offer some facts about blacks and crime. If you have bought the narrative and are bemoaning the fact that eight years of Obama did not cleanse the national psyche of every last smidgen of racism, you are not going to find these facts persuasive. Forewarned is forearmed.

What does the Obama administration’s failure to eradicate racism tell us? For some it tells us that America is even more racist than they thought, thus that it needs a Maoist Cultural Revolution against white people. For others it says that the more we keep talking about race relations in terms of crime the more we are going to associate minority community members with crime.

Andrew Sullivan kicks it off with an assessment of how many blacks have been shot by police officers this year:

In the first six months of this year, for example, the [Washington] Post found a total of 27 fatal shootings of unarmed people, of which black men constituted seven. Yes, you read that right: seven. There are 22 million black men in America. If an African-American man is not armed, the chance that he will be killed by the police in any recent year is 0.00006 percent. If a black man is carrying a weapon, the chance is 0.00075. One is too many, but it seems to me important to get the scale of this right. Our perceptions are not reality.

As for relations between black citizens and the police, Sullivan unearthed a study performed by a Ph. D. student:

A Cornell Ph.D. student, Philippe Lemoine, has dug into exactly that: by examining the data from the Police-Public Contact Survey, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. This is testimony from black people themselves, not the police; it’s far less tainted than self-serving police records….

First off, are black men in America disproportionately likely to have contact with the police? Surprisingly, no. In the survey years that Lamoine looked at, 20.7 percent of white men say they interacted at least once with a cop, compared with 17.5 percent of black men. The data also separates out those with multiple encounters. According to Lemoine, black men (1.5 percent) are indeed more likely than whites (1.2 percent) to have more than three contacts with police per year — but it’s not a huge difference.

How often do encounters between black men and the policy involve force. Here, it depends on what we mean by force?

On the key measure of use of force by the cops, however, black men with at least one encounter with cops are more than twice as likely to report the use of force as whites (one percent versus 0.4 percent). That’s the nub of it. “Force,” by the way, includes a verbal threat of it, as well as restraining, or subduing. If you restrict it to physical violence, the data is worse: Of men who have had at least one encounter with the police in a given year, 0.9 percent of white men reported the use of violence, compared with 3.4 percent of black men. (For force likely to cause physical injury, i.e. extreme force, however, the ratio is actually better: 0.39 percent for white men compared with 0.46 percent of black men.)

From here we turn to Andrew McCarthy. A former federal prosecutor McCarthy understands the law better than nearly anyone else.

He first asks whether or not the First Amendment guarantees a right to free speech in the workplace. We recall that the football players who were protesting were wearing uniforms and were on a playing field...aka, a workplace. To that question McCarthy answers that they do not:

Furthermore, there is no First Amendment right to political speech in the workplace. Since the NFL is under no obligation to make its private platform a soapbox for promoting a false narrative — and particularly given that the NFL does not hesitate to suppress expression to which it objects — its decision to allow the exhibition of contempt for symbols of nationhood is a free choice, an implicit endorsement.

Is the criminal justice system hopelessly prejudiced against blacks? McCarthy points out that the system is run by liberals and progressives—a useful point to underscore. And that it tends to try to exonerate blacks of crimes… the better to skew the statistics and to overcome any potential racism:

As for the justice system, it is run by elite graduates of America’s law schools, members of the most politically progressive (and activist) profession in the country. The thought that they would abide institutional racism in the system they control is laughable. As anyone who has practiced in that system can tell you, extraordinary efforts are made to avoid even the appearance of racism. Indeed, fact-pleading — agreement to a narrative of the offense that defies the evidence of the offense — has become a commonplace in order to avoid lawful sentencing enhancements . . . because the disparate-impact crowd insists that many severe sentences must be rooted in racism. Meanwhile, violent crime is ticking up again, as prison-inmate populations have fallen.

Then again, isn’t the higher black incarceration rate a function of racism? It would be if blacks were not committing a disproportionately greater number of crimes. It’s so obvious that we forget it.

McCarthy writes:

The higher incarceration rate of blacks (particularly, young black males) versus other groups is a straightforward function of their higher crime rate — which also explains why black populations are inordinately victimized by crime and need active police protection. Though just 13 percent of the population, African-Americans committed 52 percent of homicides between 1980 and 2008; they are responsible for well over 90 percent of the homicides committed against other black people. In 2015, nationwide, 258 black people were killed by police gunfire (the number of white people killed in police shootings was 494). By contrast, according to the Daily Wire’s Aaron Bandler, nearly 6,000 black people were killed by other black people.

He concludes:

We are supposed to ignore, as if it were not plain as day, that what the protesters are actually seeking — a racially skewed justice system, one that would endanger law-abiding black people by paralyzing the police — is the antithesis of what they claim to be seeking.


10 comments:

Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sam L. said...

It's good to see that Sullivan can do some good work when a uterus is not involved.

Jack Fisher said...

You don't want to look too carefully at the other half of the criminal justice system. That would be government prosecutors, who decide who to prosecute, what offenses to charge (i.e., whether death-penalty eligible or not), and what plea bargains to take.

at any time in this nation's history, including five minutes ago, would you rather be a white guy on trial for the alleged rape of a black woman, or a black man on trial for the alleged rape of a white woman?

just askin'.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: The narrative tended to blame black crime, especially black-on-black crime on white police officers. It smacks of what used to be called the Big Lie—say it often enough and people are likely to believe it. The narrative does not simply divert attention and shift the blame. It actively exonerates blacks who commit crimes… even when they commit crimes against other blacks.

This analysis is dishonest to me in all respects. Blacks don't need statistical lies or narratives to explain how bad many cops are. They have dozens of case-in-point videos that show how much cops value black lives or poor people lives anyway.

So I see how police misbehavior has to be carefully redirected to say minorities are the problem. Clearly poor people and minorities can often difficult, but equally clearly we're not picking the best and brightest to keep our streets safe.

If the standard of police behavior is being set by comparing them to criminals and murders, we've set the bar too low.

trigger warning said...

I blame Dr Seuss.

Ares: "clearly we're not picking the best and brightest to keep our streets safe."

Be a part of the solution, rather than sniping from the cheap seats. Apply today for a rewarding public service career and excellent benefits!

Jack Fisher said...

the news isn't half a day old and already f'up jokes about sniping.

trigger warning said...

snipe (v): to aim a carping or snide attack

And it was no "joke".

Jack Fisher said...

Man from 1979, when your issue of Newsweak gets to you, find out what happened in Las Vegas last night.

Ares Olympus said...

Trigger warning said... Be a part of the solution, rather than sniping from the cheap seats. Apply today for a rewarding public service career and excellent benefits!

Perhaps when they start a police force that doesn't need guns, in a country that doesn't defend lone wolf killers as a part of a a constitutional right for a well regulated militia, I'll consider joining the thin blue line.

Until then, I'm sure civilization is yet safer without my itchy trigger finger and lying eyes, or at least my conscience is safer.

Anonymous said...

I'm v v sad. We lost (latest research) upwards of 800K fine young men in the 1860s. Most unmarried, so 800K spinsters too.

Then noxious Jim Crow for a century+. South AND North.

I didn't see it in Grayslake - no blacks lived there. But Ma grew up in Chicago. "They should know their place!"

In the Army either. My best VN sergeant was black.

One of my best Admirals was Mack C. Gaston. They named a Georgia highway for him.

In Civil Service, no problem - until the aughts.

I dated black women. Had black workmate friends - white bastards envied my success, tried to get me fired.

A nice young black guy helps with my groceries. I have to Beg him to accept remuneration.

O golly. "The American Dilemma" sucks. -- Rich Lara