NYT op-ed columnist Charles Blow explains:
Crime, Bias and Statistics SEPT. 7, 2014I don’t think Blow is trying to say the racial bias is on his side, although that would be a more accurate description of the debate that has been going on in Comments sections across the web since the anti-snitches pogrom in Ferguson: anti-white animus on one side versus statistics on the other.
Discussions of the relationship between blacks and the criminal justice system in this country too often grind to a halt as people slink down into their silos and arm themselves with their best rhetorical weapons — racial bias on one side and statistics in which minorities, particularly blacks, are overrepresented as criminals on the other.
What I find too often overlooked in this war of words is the intersection between the two positions, meaning the degree to which bias informs the statistics and vice versa.The Sentencing Project is an advocacy group for criminal defense attorneys.
The troubling association — in fact, overassociation — of blacks with criminality directly affects the way we think about both crime and blacks as a whole.
A damning report released by the Sentencing Project last week lays bare the bias and the interconnecting systemic structures that reinforce it and disproportionately affect African-Americans.
This is the kind of report that one really wants to publish in its totality, for its conclusion is such a powerful condemnation of the perversity of racial oppression. …Or when the media followed its policy of covering up the race of the perp.
This association of crime with blacks has been noted by others. Lisa Bloom, in her book “Suspicion Nation,” points out: “While whites can and do commit a great deal of minor and major crimes, the race as a whole is never tainted by those acts. But when blacks violate the law, all members of the race are considered suspect.”
She further says: “The standard assumption that criminals are black and blacks are criminals is so prevalent that in one study, 60 percent of viewers who viewed a crime story with no picture of the perpetrator falsely recalled seeing one, and of those, 70 percent believed he was African-American. When we think about crime, we ‘see black,’ even when it’s not present at all.”
As the Sentencing Project report makes clear, the entire government and media machinery is complicit in the distortion. …Conspiracy theory thinking is all over the respectable media, in discussions of crime, IQ testing, women in sports and science, and so forth and so on. It’s just not called conspiracy theorizing because we all know liberals are on the side of Science.
• “Many media outlets reinforce the public’s racial misconceptions about crime by presenting African-Americans and Latinos differently than whites — both quantitatively and qualitatively. Television news programs and newspapers overrepresent racial minorities as crime suspects and whites as crime victims.” …
The effects of these perceptions and policies have been absolutely devastating for society in general and black people in particular. According to the report:
… “Racial perceptions of crime, combined with other factors, have led to the disparate punishment of people of color. Although blacks and Latinos together comprise just 30 percent of the general population, they account for 58 percent of the prison population.”
There is no way in this country to discuss crime statistics without including in that discussion the myriad ways in which those statistics are informed and influenced by the systemic effects of racial distortion.
Individual behavior is not the only component of the numbers; bias is the other.
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