April 10, 2012
Even professional “black leader” Jesse Jackson makes a rational, probabilistic assessment when he encounters a black man on the street.
See this long, thoughtful 1999 article from the magazine of the impeccably liberal New York Times:
Blacks make up 12 percent of the population, but accounted for 58 percent of all carjackers between 1992 and 1996. (Whites accounted for 19 percent.) Victim surveys — and most victims of black criminals are black — indicate that blacks commit almost 50 percent of all robberies. Blacks and Hispanics are widely believed to be the blue-collar backbone of the country’s heroin- and cocaine-distribution networks. Black males between the ages of 14 and 24 make up 1.1 percent of the country’s population, yet commit more than 28 percent of its homicides. Reason, not racism, cops say, directs their attention.
Cops, white and black, know one other thing: they’re not the only ones who profile. Civilians profile all the time — when they buy a house, or pick a school district, or walk down the street. Even civil rights leaders profile. “There is nothing more painful for me at this stage in my life,” Jesse Jackson said several years ago, “than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery — and then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.” Jackson now says his quotation was “taken out of context.” The context, he said, is that violence is the inevitable byproduct of poor education and health care. But no amount of “context” matters when you fear that you are about to be mugged.
At a closed-door summit in Washington between police chiefs and black community leaders recently, the black chief of police of Charleston, S.C., Reuben Greenberg, argued that the problem facing black America is not racial profiling, but precisely the sort of black-on-black crime Jackson was talking about. “I told them that the greatest problem in the black community is the tolerance for high levels of criminality,” he recalled. “Fifty percent of homicide victims are African-Americans. I asked what this meant about the value of life in this community.”
The police chief in Los Angeles, Bernard Parks, who is black, argues that racial profiling is rooted in statistical reality, not racism. “It’s not the fault of the police when they stop minority males or put them in jail,” Parks told me. “It’s the fault of the minority males for committing the crime. In my mind it is not a great revelation that if officers are looking for criminal activity, they’re going to look at the kind of people who are listed on crime reports.”
The Jesse Jackson quote also appears in this 1996 article from U. S. News and World Report.
Illustration: Regular Division of the Plane III, M. C. Escher.