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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

 
I'm so glad racism is dead

by digby

This is from the editorial board of The Daily Oklahoman:
Oklahoma's history undeniably includes shameful treatment of minorities, particularly during the first decades of statehood under Democratic Party rule. But those acts are now history, in every sense of the word.

Today, the state is led by a female governor. The House speaker is black and has American Indian heritage. The chief justice of the state Supreme Court is black. Oklahoma's economic growth is creating opportunity for all. Yet some insist that Oklahoma remains subtly hostile to minorities.

An issue brief by the Oklahoma Policy Institute declares Oklahomans have “inherited a legacy of discrimination that historically impeded economic opportunity for people of color and created a wealth deficit that persists today.”

The report notes blacks have lower income and savings than white Oklahomans. The group cites data showing blacks have higher rates for smoking, obesity, cancer, heart-disease mortality, incarceration and unemployment than whites, while having lower levels of educational achievement.

This isn't proof of discrimination. Instead, the data largely demonstrates the impact of personal choices. State policies don't force people to drop out of school, smoke or become obese. Cancer rates and heart problems often spring from tobacco use and the failure to exercise, not from societal discrimination.

The brief declares, “Hiring discrimination against ex-offenders is well-documented and widespread.” Again, no one forces an individual to commit a crime; business owners aren't eager to hire ex-cons of any color.

OK Policy proposes increasing the number of doctors, offering state matching funds for college savings accounts, emphasizing substance abuse treatment and prevention over incarceration, providing state incentives to hire unemployed workers, and job training. We support corrections reform and agree that Oklahoma needs more doctors. But these reforms would benefit Oklahomans of all races.

The problems OK Policy notes are real. But they're often the result of personal choices, not racism. And they're not limited to the black community.

See? It's all about choices. If you're dumb enough to choose parents of color, you're going to have to take responsibility for that.

I am going to assume that readers of this blog understand that systemic racial discrimination is a factor in any number of social problems. The data is quite conclusive.

But just in case, I'll pick up on just one little piece of evidence:
THE NUMBERS:

With only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. has 25% of the world’s prison population – that makes us the world’s largest jailer.

Since 1970, our prison population has risen 700%.

One in 99 adults are living behind bars in the U.S. This marks the highest rate of imprisonment in American history.

One in 31 adults are under some form of correctional control, counting prison, jail, parole and probation populations.



I suppose one might think that all that is just an accurate reflection of a bunch of "choices" made by people of color and that there's nothing remotely interesting about the fact that a country with a centuries long history of slavery and then apartheid would be incarcerating massive numbers of them.

Or this:
Sixth Circuit Judges Gilbert Merritt and Boyce Martin write:
The old 100-to-1 crack cocaine ratio has led to the mass incarceration of thousands of nonviolent prisoners under a law widely acknowledged as racially discriminatory. There were approximately 30,000 federal prisoners (about 15 percent of all federal prisoners) serving crack cocaine sentences in 2011. Thousands of these prisoners are incarcerated for life or for 20, 10, or 5 years under mandatory minimum crack cocaine sentences imposed prior to the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act. More than 80 percent of federal prisoners serving crack cocaine sentences are black. In fiscal year 2010, before the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act, almost 4,000 defendants, mainly black, received mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine. […]

The Fair Sentencing Act was a step forward, but it did not finish the job. The racial discrimination continues by virtue of a web of statutes, sentencing guidelines, and court cases that maintain the harsh provisions for those defendants sentenced before the Fair Sentencing Act. If we continue now with a construction of the statute that perpetuates the discrimination, there is no longer any defense that the discrimination is unintentional. The discriminatory nature of the old sentencing regime is so obvious that it cannot seriously be argued that race does not play a role in the failure to retroactively apply the Fair Sentencing Act. A “disparate impact” case now becomes an intentional subjugation or discriminatory purpose case. Like slavery and Jim Crow laws, the intentional maintenance of discriminatory sentences is a denial of equal protection.
The two-judge majority opinion also suggests the court would be inclined to strike down other deeply discriminatory and draconian sentencing laws for nonviolent drug offenders, which even the Congressional Research Service has flagged as a cause of the United States’ overwhelming prison population. 
It's a good thing that racism is dead or I might think there was some racial component to all that.

.

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