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The Cincinnati Enquirer posted a story about how often blacks are arrested compared to whites in Cincinnati areas. They provided this chart mapping the rate of black arrests versus white:

rates

Predictably, much of the comments on the Enquirer’s Facebook post were racist and most amounted to, “Well, if you didn’t do the crime!” What follows is most of my comments in that thread, recreated here, edited for clarity and cohesiveness.

Cincinnati isn’t much different than Ferguson (and rate-wise, in some cases, worse than Ferguson), the St. Louis County area, or most cities in the United States. Redlining, racist housing policies and the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow engineered black neighborhoods, didn’t allow for the accumulation of wealth that whites had and thus, creates the perfect storm of poverty and crime, which is then perpetuated by systemic racism, like police patrolling these areas more, profiling and so on, leading to mass incarceration, leading to more poverty and more crime and on we go.

Add in the long, storied history of associating young black men with criminal and well, again, here we are.

Add in the new studies which suggest that when white people become aware of the racial disparities in the criminal justice system, they actually push for stronger sentencing, not less. It’s really astounding.

Anyhow, it’s worth noting the following points:

  • All crime among all races is going down.
  • Blacks receive longer sentences for similar offenses.
  • Blacks have it harder after getting out of jail in terms of voting and employment.
  • Black students are disproportionately arrested and punished compared to white students.
  • Blacks, when they commit a crime, is a blight on all blackness, whereas when a white person commits a crime, it’s just that person committing a crime. This bears out in studies on the perception between crime and blackness, wherein whites think blacks commit more crimes than they actually do, for instance.
  • And none of this still addresses the problem and intersection of poverty, mass incarceration, the Drug War, racist policing, racist housing policies and history.

Now, people will cite the oft-claimed, red herring, “What about black-on-black crime?!” Well, what about white-on-white crime? The thing is, most crime is about opportunity and relation (proximity). Therefore, blacks commit most crimes on blacks and whites commit most crimes on whites.

Let’s flip it. Is it that blacks are committing more of the crimes or do the police prey on low-income, black neighborhoods more than low/middle-class white neighborhoods? Google the ACLU’s map of SWAT raids in Cincinnati and you’ll find that they do, in fact, target black neighborhoods more. Here’s that map:

Cincy

In short, people lack a basic understanding of why crime happens and how the police respond to it. They also lack an understanding of what systemic racism implies or entails for minorities. In their world, crime exists in a vacuum and there’s just a singular cause for why crime happens (Person A does Action B = crime). In the real world, crime is far more complex than that and I’ve already greatly detailed those factors.

The Ohio Justice and Policy Center helps put the above point about “individual” racists into perspective, especially taken with policing:

“Are there racist cops out there? Of course. But by and large, I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about,” said David Singleton, executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center in Cincinnati. “For the most part, we’re talking about good officers who want to do their jobs, but the focus is on African-American neighborhoods.”

I think the continued defensiveness from people that racial disparities could still be alive and well in 2014 America demonstrates how far we still have to go. They take it so personal. It has nothing to do with “you.” Yes, there are individual racists, but they bother me not in the aggregate. What bothers me is the systemic racism, the institutionalized racism that creates these disparities.

 

Color-blindness sounds nice and like a good position to take, but it’s just blinding oneself to the realities of the racial construct in society. The system does see race, we’d do well to see it, too, to end it.

 

 

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