That’s basically what NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the other day when he defended the inequalities in arrest rates of blacks and Latinos for minor crimes versus white people. According to Commissioner Bratton, minorities are arrested more because they are the ones committing more crimes. You can read the article here.
I could point out that his argument is a preposterous circular one. The reason more minorities are arrested is because the NYPD (and the colleagues across this country) keep arresting more minorities. It’s not that they’re committing more crime than white people. It’s that they are arrested more often than white people.
But it is in fact true that there is a lot of crime in poor neighborhoods, and at least with respect to black neighborhoods, the high crime rate has created a frenzy about “black on black crime”. Once again, victims of systemic oppression become the scapegoats for systemic discrimination and oppression. I’ve written about this before.
Lately, I’ve been reading some of Dr. King’s lesser known speeches and have been amazed at how relevant his speeches are even still today (which, considering it’s 50 plus years later, is beyond troubling). His speech at Western Michigan University in 1963 is particularly rich as it relates to black criminality.
“I read just the other day where someone in Mississippi said that God was a charter member of the White Citizens Council. These ideas still linger. But on the whole, the Biblical justifications have passed away. The arguments are now on more subtle sociological cultural grounds. The Negro is not culturally ready for integration, the argument goes, and if you integrate the schools and other facilities, you will pull the white race back a generation. And the Negro is a criminal, you see. These arguments go on ad infinatum. The people who set forth these arguments never go on to say that if there are lagging standards in the Negro community, and there certainly are, they lag because of segregation and discrimination. Criminal responses and other things like this are environmental and not racial. Economic deprivation, social isolation, ignorance, poverty
breed crime, whatever the racial group may be, and it is a tortuous logic to use the tragic results of segregation as an argument for the continuation of it. There is a need to go for the causal root, to grapple with the problem at that point and to get rid of the notion once and for all that there are superior and inferior races. There are too many things alive in our nation and in our world to disprove this notion that has existed all too long. Then we’re challenged after working in the realm of ideas, to move out into the arena of social action and to work passionately and unrelentingly to make racial justice a reality. In other words, there is great need to develop an action program in order to remove all of the vestiges of the old order.”