Absent a truly candid conversation about the culture that emerged from slavery and segregation, [these problems] won’t be solved at all.I guess it’s a bit much to expect that a salaried correspondent at a major newsmagazine should know anything about intellectual history, but usage of the word “culture” in Klein’s sense dates only from the middle 20th century. Prior to that the corresponding concept was usually called “history.” Concerning which, see above.
Given the racial disparities in our criminal-justice system, it is impossible for African Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.What does this even mean? “Their government”? What, the federal government? Eric Holder’s Justice Department is “particularly targeting” blacks? Or perhaps Paul means the state government of Missouri. Here is the head of law enforcement in that state.And what are those disparities, Senator? If you factor in the huge differences in criminality between blacks and nonblacks, as noted by Joel Klein, are there any unexplained disparities left over?Paul is sounder on the militarization of the police (which, to be fair, is his main point).
Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.I’ll go some of the way with him there. Free people should always be wary of police power. Sir Robert Peel’s creation of London’s first police force met with strong opposition from the citizenry, who feared it might lead to a continental-style militarized state. The counter-argument was that in cases of extreme civil disorder, like the Gordon Riots of fifty years earlier, the army had had to be called out anyway.Sir Robert got his way after promising that his Metropolitan Police force would be unarmed. British police remain unarmed on normal duties, although public opinion increasingly favors arming them, and firearms are issued when necessary—on 190 occasions in the county of Derbyshire during 2011-12, to take a jurisdiction at random.What, after all, are civil authorities supposed to do in a case of mass public disorder, when buildings have been torched and normal life brought to a stop for days on end? It is possible to have order without liberty—ask a North Korean—but it is not possible to have liberty without order.There will always be some point at which the actual choice is between a militarized police and the actual military. While sympathetic to Senator Paul’s suspicion of state power, I’d like that point to be far up the civil-military scale.Among blacks there is much hypocrisy about policing. The lady who blogs at Those Who Can See posted a fine piece a few weeks ago under the title “Victimization Whack-A-Mole.”
One of the most fearful drug waves of the late 20th century became a rallying cry for harsh justice. Heather Mac Donald:But then:
“Black leaders were the first to sound the alarm about the drug, as Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy documents in Race, Crime, and the Law. Harlem congressman Charles Rangel initiated the federal response to the epidemic, warning the House of Representatives in March 1986 that crack had made cocaine ‘frightening[ly]’ accessible to youth … The bill that eventually passed, containing the crack/powder distinction [5 years minimum for 5 g. of crack], won majority support among black congressmen, none of whom, as Kennedy points out, objected to it as racist.” [Text in quotes from Is the criminal justice system racist? by Heather Mac Donald; City Journal, Spring 2008.]
This legislative effort has today been shoved down the memory hole, as another chance for victimization whack-a-mole presents itself: “The disparity in penalty triggers between crack and powder cocaine is one of the most notorious illustrations of racism in the criminal justice system … The National Conference of Black Lawyers helped to convene a national symposium in 1993 … The near unanimous consensus from those assembled was that the sentences for crack cocaine are … highly inequitable against African Americans and, thus, represent a racially discriminatory national drug policy.“The Coalition also sponsored a legislative briefing which culminated in Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) introducing a bill to eliminate the disparity and make the sentences of those convicted of crack cocaine offenses equivalent to the current sentences for powder cocaine.” [Text in quotes from Crack Cocaine Reform at the National Association of Black Lawyers website; January 23, 2014.]Another example of Victimization Whack-a-Mole showed up in the wake of the Ferguson riots. Blacks have of course been loud in denouncing the militarization of local police. And that’s odd, because just this June a big majority of the Congressional Black Caucus—including Ferguson’s own representative—voted against demilitarization of the police!Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s contribution to the Time symposium is titled: “The Coming Race War Won’t Be About Race.” Oh yeah?After a preliminary flourish of racial resentment that the Kent State shootings of 1970 got far more publicity than the Jackson State shootings ten days later, Abdul-Jabbar gets down to the old-time Old Left religion:
We have to address the situation not just as another act of systemic racism, but as what else it is: class warfare … This fist-shaking of everyone’s racial agenda distracts America from the larger issue that the targets of police overreaction are based less on skin color and more on an even worse Ebola-level affliction: being poor …You can almost hear the Woody Guthrie accompaniment.Lots of luck with that, Kareem, but thanks for the sixties nostalgia trip.