THE GOOD NEWS is that Al Sharpton’s “Redeem the Dream” march to end racial profiling was only a modest affair. Its numbers didn’t approach the Million Man March, and the roster of speakers was notable for its gaps. The bad news is that it was an event at all. For this was a march that showed just how far down the scale of rationality on race we have slid, as a nation, in this fourth decade of the civil rights crusade.
Sharpton’s event was held on August 26th at the Lincoln Memorial and was co-hosted by Martin Luther King III (just to make the connection). Its purpose was to commemorate the victory over government-enforced segregation in the South - and to claim, at the same time, that government racism was as big a problem as ever. One could hardly imagine a more embarrassing caricature of King’s triumph than this carnival of sham grievances (“Free Mumia!”) and double standards (white racists bad, black racists ok). Unlike Martin Luther King’s great march, which deliberately excluded the Nation of Islam, Sharpton’s platform embraced Farrakhan and other black promoters of racial hate. Speaker after speaker celebrated a totalitarian unity of the race - the NAACP and Farrakhan, the National Council of Negro Women and the “New Black Panthers.” There was even an “I Have A Black Dream” speech (in exactly those words), delivered by Malik Zulu Shabazz, the “Minister of Justice” of the new Panther Party whose national chairman is the raving anti-white, anti-Jew, anti-Catholic, anti-gay Khalid Muhammad. Zulu Shabazz’s “black dream” was that “for every casket and funeral in our community there should be a casket and funeral in the enemy’s community.”
Not only was there no reaction to thinly veiled incitements to race war, the message itself was not so different from the thematic slogan of the march: “No justice, no peace.” This is a threat of civil mayhem, which Sharpton has made his mantra (it flashes on his website, right above the photo of his booster, Bill Bradley www.nationalaction.net). A Farrakhan emissary named Ishmael Muhammad appeared at the podium to do a pale imitation of the master, who had sent his “Queen” to represent him. As boxing promoter Don King (introduced as “a philanthropist”) actually did sum it all up: “Only in America.”
Today this is the “civil rights” movement. The racial arsonists from the Nation of Islam, the Old and New Black Panthers, and Sharpton’s National Action Network were joined at the microphone by Kweisi Mfume, the president of the NAACP, Laura Murphy, the president of the ACLU, the national president of Blacks in Government (who told the crowd “privatization is nothing but a plan to eliminate a race from government”), the head of the Urban League, Hugh Price (who was clearly uncomfortable and spoke for less than two minutes), Representative John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and Andrew Cuomo, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. And, of course, there was Johnnie Cochran, who told the assembled: “Go and serve on a jury. Somebody who looks like you is on trial and needs you to serve on a jury for them.” Get it, whitey?
All in all, it was a disgraceful day.
Deplorable as the march was, however, it was not an insignificant event. Its principal theme, the injustice of racial profiling, has become the principal theme of the civil rights cause, extending up to the highest councils of state. On the eve of the event, Sharpton met with Attorney General Janet Reno and called for an executive order from the White House to block federal funding for cities that engage in a proven pattern of racial profiling. Al Gore has promised that if elected he will make sure that the first civil rights act of the new century will end racial profiling.
For the Sharptonites, the question of what might actually constitute racial profiling hardly exists. “Study on this issue should be over,” proclaimed Martin Luther King III to the crowd, “the facts are on the table.” Well, not exactly. What the facts tell us is anything but simple. Profiling, in general, is an indispensable tool of law enforcement, and essential in utilizing its scarce resources efficiently. While the civil rights left claims that profiling of African Americans is racist, not even Sharpton has yet accused the police of arbitrarily stopping elderly black women.
The reason young black males are stopped so frequently may be understood in the context of statistics that show that one in three is already a convicted felon, and although black males constitute only 6% of the population, they commit roughly 40% of the violent crimes (Uniform Crime Report for the United States, 1997, FBI). The fact that such profiling sometimes casts unfair suspicion on non-criminal young black males is certainly unfair. But it is not necessarily racism.
Los Angeles police chief, Bernard Parks, who is both African American and a supporter of racial profiling (properly defined), offered the following example to a reporter for the New York Times Magazine: “We have an issue of violent crime against jewelry salespeople…. The predominant suspects are Colombians. We don’t find Mexican-Americans, or blacks or other immigrants. It’s a collection of several hundred Colombians who commit this crime. If you see six in a car in front of the Jewelry Mart, and they’re waiting and watching people with briefcases, should we play the percentages and follow them? It’s common sense.” Jesse Jackson, in a rare moment of candor, conceded the same truth: “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life,” he said in 1993, “than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start to think about robbery and then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”
It’s common sense, then, for police to include race along with other factors in creating a profile of possible perpetrators. It makes everyone -- and especially law-abiding citizens of high crime areas who are disproportionately black -- a lot safer. The courts have already ruled sensibly in these matters. “Large groups of our citizens should not be regarded by law enforcement officers as presumptively criminal based upon their race. [However], facts are not to be ignored simply because they are unpleasant.” In short, the court (in this case the Eighth Circuit in U.S. v. Weaver) ruled that the Constitution does not prohibit police from routinely taking race into account, as long as race is only one of several factors considered and it is not done for the purposes of harassment.
But common sense is the last guide of high-minded “progressives.” On June 4th, the ACLU ran a full-page accusatory ad about racial profiling on the inside cover of the NY Times Sunday Magazine. The ad, which cost approximately $80,000, featured headshots of Martin Luther King and psychotic killer Charles Manson. Its headline read: “THE MAN ON THE LEFT [Martin Luther King] Is 75 Times More Likely To Be Stopped By The Police While Driving Than THE MAN ON THE RIGHT [Charles Manson]. The reason: “police stop drivers based on their skin color rather than for the way they are driving.” In a special ACLU report, “Driving While Black” (1999), the same false claim is made: “no person of color is safe from this treatment [racial profiling and traffic stops] anywhere, regardless of their obedience to the law, their age, the type of car they drive, or their station in life.” No evidence is adduced in the report or in the ad to show that elderly black women are the routine targets of police stops, or to explain why black police officers would go along with such a practice.
But the “explanatory” text of the ACLU ad reveals just how far an organization of “civil liberties” lawyers is prepared to go in manipulating falsehoods (every claim the ad makes is a lie) to hoodwink Americans into believing that racism is rampant among police departments and on the nation’s highways. The only evidence actually offered by the ad for its claim about the nation’s law enforcement is this: “For example, in Florida, 80% of those stopped and searched were black and Hispanic while they constituted only 5% of all drivers.” That is, in fact, all the ACLU has to offer to justify its racially inflammatory ad, which is written so as to implicate not just Florida, but all law enforcement agencies in America. (Is it possible that The New York Times would have printed such malicious propaganda if its implicit message were that black or Hispanic police officers were racist?)
In fact, the ad is 100% wrong (literally) even about the driving statistic. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 11% of Florida’s drivers are Hispanic or black, or twice as many as the ad claims. (Even that is not quite accurate because Florida authorities count Mexicans and Cubans as “white.”) But the really important error - assuming it is only an error - is to overlook the fact that 85% of the convicted drug dealers in Florida - likely targets of road stops in a state where drugs are a major trade -- are Hispanic or black. (Statistics provided by the Florida Department of Corrections’ 1997-1998 Annual Report.) While black males constitute only 6% of Florida’s population they commit 50% of the serious crimes. Sad statistics like these - call them the crime census -- ought to be the factual and defensible basis of the state’s law enforcement policies. In other words, the state ought to be focusing its prevention efforts on the individuals who commit crimes and the communities most likely to be their victims.
Unhappily, it is not. Under the pressures of political correctness (i.e., to avoid legal harassment from groups like the ACLU), Florida’s Highway Patrol has taken steps to keep its law enforcement policies politically correct and, therefore, as much as possible within the racial and ethnic parameters of the population census, rather than the criminal census. According to its own statistics in June of this year, 17% of traffic stops were of Hispanics, whereas Hispanics constitute 12% of the population; 19% of the stops were of blacks, whereas blacks constitute 14% of the population. The percentages for the preceding six months were similar. (www.fhp.state.fl.us/html/min_emp.html)
Of course the ACLU can’t be bothered with yet another question: How many traffic stops conducted by Florida officers were made by officers who were themselves Hispanic or black? Since 20% of the Florida Highway Patrol is black or Hispanic, the answer would seem to be crucial to any attempt to demonstrate racial prejudice on the basis of statistics. But in the Orwellian world of the American left, such questions do not even exist.
This lack of concern for fact was dramatized by a tragic incident that took place in a Dearborn shopping mall, two months before the “Redeem the Dream” march. A young black girl was arrested for stealing a $4 bracelet from Lord & Taylor. Her stepfather, angered by the arrest, assaulted a security guard. During a scuffle with the five guards who rushed to the scene, the father was choked to death. Al Sharpton then appeared with 5,000 protestors in tow, chanting “No Justice, No Peace.” The protestors sliced up Lord & Taylor credit cards to demonstrate their outrage against the capitalist racists whom they held responsible for the “hate crime.” Michigan Representative John Conyers -- possibly the next chair of the House Judiciary Committee -- demanded Justice Department intervention, declaring: “It’s not just a matter of driving while black. It’s a matter of shopping while black, living while black.” The only problem was that four of the five security guards were also black, including Dennis Richardson, the guard eventually charged with manslaughter. (NYT 7/7/2000. Detroit News 7/7/2000)
When facts like these make no difference, it is a sure sign that we are in the presence of an ideological force, disconnected from reality. In the months leading up to the march, a rolling thunder campaign of the politically correct blanketed the country with consciousness-raising propaganda about alleged racial injustice. The effort was powered by a series of partisan “studies,” issuing from America’s politicized universities and leftwing think tanks, abetted by a left-friendly press. “Racial Disparities Pervasive in Juvenile Justice,” The New York Times headlined a story about one of these studies in its April 26th edition. (4/26/2000); “Justice is Not Color Blind, Studies Find,” a May issue of the Los Angeles Times agreed. The sub-header informed Times readers “researchers say blacks, browns receive tougher treatment from legal system.” (5/22/2000). The Washington Post reported additional racism in society’s efforts to assert discipline: “Study Finds Racial Disparity in ‘Zero Tolerance’ Enforcement.” (Reprinted, Los Angeles Times 7/5/2000). A June edition of the Los Angeles Times followed these reports with even more evidence: “Study By Human Rights Watch Finds African Americans Make Up 62% Of Imprisoned Narcotic Offenders, Despite Accounting for 13% of U.S. Population.” (Los Angeles Times 6/8/2000).
A common feature of each of these reports rendered every one of them specious. This was the absence of any statistics regarding the actual crimes committed. It is true for example, that more cocaine customers - and thus “offenders” -- are white, but more blacks are in jail for cocaine “offenses." But unless the nature of these offenses is described, any claims about punishments being “disparate” are meaningless. It was liberal lawmakers (supported by the congressional black caucus) who formed the consensus that removed the penalties and lifted the pressures on drug consumption, while increasing both on violent and organized drug traffic. The reason was that liberals deemed consuming offenders harmful only to themselves while the trafficking offenders were harmful to others. Right or wrong, it was a distinction with a difference. Conservatives went along. But now it has become apparent that the violent and career criminal felons who conduct the drug business are mainly black and brown. That is a problem, but it is not a problem created by racist justice.
Professional drug dealers are often also involved in criminal gangs, which terrorize whole communities - another reason why black and brown criminals fill the nation’s jails. There are an estimated 31,000 gangs in the United States that have a combined membership that approaches one million. Eighty percent of these gang members are Hispanic and black. Seventy percent of the violent juvenile defendants in criminal courts are black males; 60% of the juvenile murder defendants in criminal court are black males; 72% of the rape defendants, 78% of the robbery defendants, 61% of the assault defendants and 65% of defendants charged with other types of violent crime are also black males. (Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1999 National Report, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention). These facts amply account for the disparity in prison statistics, rather than race.
The false images cooked up by the left and so casually promoted by the working press, moreover, have tragic consequences for the very communities they purport to defend. Only 79% of juveniles convicted of violent crimes are actually sent to prison. The reason for this is decorously explained in the already cited government report “Under the ‘disproportionate minority confinement’ requirement in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, states must determine whether the proportion of minorities in confinement exceeds their proportion in the population. If such over-representation is found, states must demonstrate efforts to reduce it…” And the “racist” state governments do so, these days, by releasing convicted violent criminals back to the streets where they will be free to commit even more mayhem.
Back in the fantasy world of the racial demagogues, however, when it comes to the Juvenile Justice System, “the disparity in treatment is staggering.” Proponents of the racial profiling myth have even come up with a theory that blames the justice system itself for criminality among black youth. In a recent op-ed column called “The Juvenile Injustice System Disgraces The Rule of Law,” Jesse Jackson wrote:
The disparity begins before the kids get into trouble. Too many of these children are raised against the odds…. Their mothers work, but they have no day care or Head Start. They go to school hungry…. Zero tolerance puts some on the street. Racial profiling targets those who are on the street. And the system of juvenile injustice kicks in, making it harder for them to complete their education, to get jobs, to become decent husbands and fathers. Juvenile injustice tags youngsters for life….” (Los Angeles Times, 4/28/2000)
If only life were so simple. To begin with, 70% percent of inner city black youngsters are born out of wedlock, which is one disgraceful disparity impacting these issues that Jackson chooses to overlook. It is a well-known sociological fact that statistics for fathers absent from the home correlate closely with youth violence and criminality. In the second place, mothers of youthful criminals in the inner city probably do not work (isn’t that the point of William Julius Wilson’s celebrated explanation for the very existence of the underclass, When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor?). In fact, a high percentage of the mothers of youthful criminals, are probably abusive parents and on drugs. Moreover, far from being immediately “tagged,” delinquent youth are generally arrested twenty or thirty times for crimes they commit before they are ever sent to juvenile hall. One could go on ad infinitum, in attempting to impose reality checks on racial mythologies, but what’s the point when you are dealing with ideologues whose enemy is “the white power structure,” rather than the criminal element that actually preys on the law-abiding members of minority communities who inhabits the inner city?
The idea that black youth are the targets of a racist system that is indifferent to their fate is a monstrous libel against the professionals in the criminal justice system, white, black and brown who work against impossible odds to keep these youngsters on the right side of the law. Of 1.5 million cases of juvenile delinquency and crime processed in 1994, for example, only 55% resulted in legal action. Of these, only 1.4 percent - the very hardest cases - were handled in criminal court. (Juvenile Offenders and Victims, op cit.) These statistics reflect the scarcity of resources for law enforcement and the enormously tolerant view of the system itself, which in metropolitan areas where these crimes are concentrated is largely administered by “progressives” and liberals who share many of Jackson’s political prejudices if not his delusional views.
Large metropolitan law enforcement agencies are now multi-ethnic and multi-gendered rather than simply white and male (the much-despised Los Angeles Police Department, for one prime example, is a 53% minority force). But in the rhetoric of ideologues like Sharpton and Jackson, “white supremacy” is always the demon that oppresses (otherwise cui bono?). Neither man has stopped short of even inventing racist crimes by whites, in order to sustain their lucrative hatreds. The Tawana Brawley incident (which would have terminally discredited a public figure other than Sharpton) is well known. More recently, however, Jesse Jackson launched his own campaign of intemperate racial accusation, in an effort to transform a tragic suicide in Mississippi into a white “hate crime.”
On June 16, a 17-year-old black teenager named Raynard Johnson was found hanging from a tree in his front yard in Mississippi. According to the coroner’s report, he had no marks on his body, no broken bones, no wounds, no bruises, and “he was not beaten up.” His death was ruled a suicide. There are 3,700 such youth suicides every year in America. In the words of Surgeon General David Satcher, “more teenagers and young adults [die] from suicide than cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke and lung disease combined.” But, like many parents, Raynard Johnson’s could not accept their tragedy. In their denial, they claimed their son had been “lynched.” The evidence they offered for their suspicion was that they didn’t recognize the belt he had used to hang himself, thought they heard dogs barking before he died and felt that because their son was an honor student who seemed happy, he would not have taken his own life. Most ominously, he had been dating a white girl.
This was enough for Jesse Jackson, who hopped a plane to Mississippi to announce, “some man or men did this evil,” and to lead a thousand marchers chanting “Stop the lynching now; stop killing our children.” Sharpton, of course, joined in. Attorney General Reno met with Jackson and the Johnson family. The FBI entered the case, along with the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other righteous protestors eager to poor oil on the flames of racial paranoia. But when the investigation was concluded it was clear that there had been no lynching. Investigators discovered that Raynard’s white girlfriend had recently broken up with him, a plausible catalyst of his depression.
Still, all wasn’t lost for the Jackson vigilantes. Chances are that millions of Americans have forgotten the actual circumstances of Raynard Jackson’s death and remember only the lynch charges. Author Michael Fumento did a Lexis search that turned up 170 media mentions with the terms “Raynard Johnson” and “lynch,” a large proportion covering the agitations of Jackson himself. (Michael Fumento, “The Racism-Industry Lynch Mob,” National Review 7/21/2000). The function of these efforts, after all, is not to seek justice (in which case Jackson would never have gone to Mississippi in the first place) but to keep alive the myths that allow this kind of racial hucksterism to flourish.
Any person not in the grips of a racial ideology can plainly see that racist profiling does not in fact characterize the institutions of the American polity. But it does define the agenda of the political left. What is the “civil rights” cause, as articulated by the left, but race profiling after all? It is the civil rights left that demands racial boxes in the U.S. census. It is the civil rights left that defends racial preferences in admissions policies and government job contracts. It is the civil rights left that requires political positions and judicial appointments to conform to a quota system based on skin color. It is the civil rights left that agitates for a race-conscious (as opposed to a color-blind) system of government and laws, reversing the entire meaning of the civil rights struggles of the 1960s which were fought specifically to outlaw such systems in the segregated South. And it is the conservative opponents of race profiling, led by University of California regent Ward Connerly who have spear-headed the campaign to end current legal discrimination by government bodies and restore a single standard based on an individual merit and achievement, not ethnicity and skin color.
Racial profiling in the name of racial justice has its own catalogue of victims both black and white. Every inner city youngster killed by a black criminal who has been released from jail because of the “disproportionate minority confinement” requirement, is a victim of Jesse Jackson and the progressive race profilers. Every law enforcement officer (black and white) unjustly targeted for suspicion is a victim of left-wing racism. And every false seed of doubt sown in minority communities about the fairness of law enforcement bears a bitter fruit in increased power for the predators who terrorize those communities and fill the lives of their inhabitants with fear.
Just two months before Jesse Jackson descended on Mississippi to accuse unnamed and unknown whites of lynching Raynard Jackson, an eight-year-old boy named Kevin Shifflett was attacked by a black racist in Alexandria, Virginia, a suburb of the nation’s capital. The racist attacker was a 29-year-old parole violator, who had been previously incarcerated for a hammer attack on an unarmed white male, whom he did not know, and whom he referred to only as “whitey.” This time, the attacker used a knife to slash the throat of eight-year-old Kevin. According to an eyewitness, the attacker shouted a racial epithet at the third-grader as he went in for the kill. Later, police found a note in the suspect’s hotel room: “Kill them raceess [sic] white kidd’s [sic…”
For three months, the Virginia authorities concealed the racial identity of the suspect, as well as the fact that it might have been a racial attack. Eventually, The Washington Post did run a couple of stories describing how police had withheld the facts and how they had found the note in the suspect’s apartment. But the rest of the media ignored the case. Could it possibly be that the authorities (and the press) were silent for three months because the killer was black and his eight-year-old victim was white? That is indeed the kind of racial profiling that Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, the NAACP, the ACLU and other members of their vanguard have imposed on our moral discourse.
If Kevin had been black and his attacker white, consider the national media coverage that would have attended this case. Moral edicts and blanket charges would have been hurled from the Capitol rotunda at an anguished national audience; a presidential press conference would have devoted itself to extravagant mea culpas denouncing the outrage. As it is, there is not one person in a thousand reading this column who even knew until now that this event took place.
Before Americans give further credence to racial arsonists, they may want to ponder these facts and the awful implications of the silence that still engulfs an eight-year old Virginian, who happened to be white, and who was brutally slaughtered for the color of his skin.