But Is It True? Justices Johnson and Sanders on Black Crime
Dec 30th, 2011 by Unamused
You’re right in the middle of a fierce indictment of the mainstream media’s response to last June’s interracial black mob violence in Chicago (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), when some scoundrel (there’s always one, isn’t there) cries out, “That’s racist!” At once your mind is metaphorically assaulted by visions of being dragged into the street and literally assaulted by an angry mob, all of them chanting “beat the racist, beat him/her savagely!” Whatever can you do?
Employ a defensive race realist jiu-jitsu strike (yes, that’s a thing now):
I don’t know if it’s “racist” or not. I just want to know if it’s true.
Remember: always bring the conversation back to the facts — after all, they’re on your side — and away from the meaningless slogans of the so-called “anti-racists.”
Here’s an example.
In October 2010, at a meeting of the Washington state Supreme Court, Justices James Johnson and Richard Sanders remarked that blacks “are overrepresented in the prison population because they commit a disproportionate number of crimes,” and “disputed the view held by some that racial discrimination plays a significant role in the disparity” (Seattle Times).
Sanders later confirmed his remarks about imprisoned African Americans, saying “certain minority groups” are “disproportionally represented in prison because they have a crime problem.”
“That’s right,” he told The Seattle Times this week. “I think that’s obvious.”
Sounds like someone forgot that we’re not supposed to talk about race, except to say how awful slavery was, and that only white people did it, and how it must be to blame for everything that’s wrong with black people today — not that there is anything wrong with black people today. I mean, I like black people. A lot. They’re so well spoken, and — oh please don’t drag me into the street…
What happened next?
Some participants at the meeting were “stunned,” while others claimed “they were offended by the justices’ remarks, saying the comments showed a lack of knowledge and sensitivity” (Seattle Times).
Shirley Bondon, a manager from the state Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) who “oversees programs to remove barriers in the legal system” and happens to be black, was at the meeting to present “a report on improving the effectiveness of boards and commissions set up by the Supreme Court to ensure fair treatment in the courts for minorities and other groups.” She stated that she believed “there was racial ‘bias in the criminal-justice system, from the bottom up.'” In response to Johnson and Sanders’ remarks,
Bondon said she told Johnson that was unacceptable and that she didn’t believe that to be true.
In a written statement, Bondon “said she was stunned by Sanders’ remarks.”
“I know that people in all walks of life hold biases, but it was stunning to hear a Justice of the Supreme Court make these outrageous comments in my presence,” Bondon wrote.
Bondon said she took the “comments personally, as though he were saying that I and all African Americans had a predisposition for criminality and I was offended.”
Bondon said she remembered thinking that she didn’t need data or statistics to prove that she and other African Americans don’t have a predisposition for criminality.
“Just the idea that it was necessary to disprove the assertion was sickening,” Bondon said.
“What are these two guys doing on the State Supreme Court?” Asked James Kelly, CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, after reading the remarks (Seattle Times). He then called for “a special commission on racial disproportions in the criminal-justice system and to make recommendations on how to modernize the system and ensure equal justice before the law.”
“Clearly if two seated justices think there are more African Americans in jail only because they have a crime problem, then there’s a problem that goes to the top,” Kelly said.
Shortly after, the Seattle Times published an editorial entitled “Don’t re-elect Justice Richard Sanders for state Supreme Court,” withdrawing the editors’ previous endorsement of the candidate and claiming that the justices “inflamed racial tensions with their remarks.”
How disappointing these two legal minds were unable to offer more thoughtful, nuanced views about racial disparities in the criminal-justice system.
African Americans make up 4 percent of the state population and 20 percent of state prisoners. An impressive body of evidence [UP: none is cited] links the disproportionate numbers to drug-enforcement policies, poverty and racial biases throughout society.
Sanders and Johnson have worked in the judicial system long enough to be informed by these disparities and to know better. They missed by a wide mark an opportunity to lead a broader and smarter discussion.
Bottom line, Sanders and Johnson were insensitive, uninformed and way too casual about an important societal issue. Voters should reject Sanders and vote for Wiggins.
The consensus seems to be that Sanders and Johnson don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. But I feel compelled to ask one simple question:
Is it true?
Did the justices show a lack of knowledge? Are their views outrageous, unthoughtful, uninformed, insufficiently nuanced, and “way too casual”? Was Bondon right to take them personally? Did the justices claim that blacks have a “predisposition for criminality”? What does that phrase even mean? Are statistics unnecessary when discussing race and crime? If so, what constitutes the “impressive body of evidence” linking black overrepresentation in prisons to “racial biases throughout society”? How can we “know better,” and engage in “a broader and smarter discussion”? Or perhaps… could it be…
Do blacks commit a disproportionate number of crimes? If so, does this account for their overrepresentation in the prison population better than racial discrimination?
Answers starting later today.