Rand Paul, Civil Rights and Juvenile Justice

Why do conservatives make bad arguments about their posture on civil rights? They have better arguments than weak historical claims about being on the right side of the Civil Rights Act about 60 years ago.

Here’s a hypothesis: making good arguments might confuse some white southern conservatives about where Republicans stand on civil rights, folks who would rather the party just, you know, not go there.

Sandy Springs city councilman Gabriel Sterling and I were going a few rounds on Jay Bookman’s piece on Sunday about the Rand Paul dustup at Howard University. I think it’s ludicrous to argue that Republicans are the party of civil rights while ignoring everything the party has done to court southern white racists fleeing the Democratic Party. Mine is a common argument. As Jon Stewart said, “you can’t just yadda yadda yadda the last 60 Republican years.”

Some conservatives seem immune to history by trying to keep this line of argument alive — that it’s really Republicans who are the defenders of civil rights. I asked Sterling to “name one”  Republican leader in office today that could credibly claim civil rights leadership. The dancing and evasion began.

After I raised the issue about how sentencing disparities disproportionately harm black defendants, Sterling presented Republican Rep. Wendell Willard’s  juvenile justice reform as a step in the right direction.

And I paused. 

Outcomes for young people in Georgia’s justice system suck, and they’re worse for black children. For example, the three-year recidivism rate among medium- and high-risk offenders is 57 percent for black youth but just 15 percent for whites, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

The state’s approach to juvenile crime — particularly violent crime — has been to lock up kids and when they commit crimes as adults, lock them up again, for longer. Juvie has become a gladiator factory here: ineffective, expensive and immensely harmful to the black community.

There’s clearly a civil rights and racial equality angle to reform.  The reform council working on HB 242 — the juvenile justice reform bill — focused on eliminating racial disparities in the system, said Steven Teske, chief judge of juvenile court in Clayton County. Teske has risen to national attention for his work on reform. And he noted Willard’s attention to the racial issue.

“Chairman Willard joined me on this chorus. … We obtained the racial data on our decisions and there is an unacceptably disproportionate rate of detention and commitments of kids of color. We squarely confronted that in our council meetings and we agreed it was unacceptable. This is why we agreed on multiple evidence based tools to include in the bill to significantly reduce this disparity. Do I consider HB 242 a civil rights bill? No doubt–I must because race was a major issue in our reform discussions and we adopted practices proven to reduce racial disparities.”

But while the working group focused on the racial issues, that’s not what they told the legislature. The bill was largely presented as a cost-saving mechanism — a way to cut $88 million by locking up fewer kids. Even Willard shied away from describing himself as a civil rights leader.

“I can’t put myself in the classification of a ‘civil rights leader,’ as we look at those who have gone before us,” he replied through Facebook. “I do see my efforts as addressing equal justice. This is a benchmark of the work put into HB 242, by me and, I believe, many others. All who come before the court can not expect anything less. It is the standard we must continue to strive for, though we fail, time and time again, to fully achieve.”

So … what to think.

The argument conservatives make about Republicans and the civil rights movement isn’t persuasive to their black audience, which has a well-informed view of recent political history on civil rights. At the risk of making gross generalizations, perhaps some white conservatives don’t think about race all that much – a luxury afforded to those facing comparatively less racial discrimination – but want a way to feel like they’re on the right side of the moral issue despite the modern racial split on politics. The whole Republicans-passed-the-Civil-Rights-Act bit gets them there.

Could this be, perhaps, why better arguments aren’t made? There certainly are better, if imperfect, recent examples of support for racial equality. (Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, the intent behind No Child Left Behind, Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal, the appointment of Tim Scott to the Senate, et cetera.) 

Locally, the actions of Governor Nathan Deal in the DeKalb County school board fiasco could be presented as affirming equal rights for black schoolchildren — setting aside the arguments of the semi-credible local chapter of the NAACP about voting rights. Wendell Willard’s juvenile court reform could be presented as civil rights legislation. And I have no doubt if either were Democrats, it would have been. But they’re not.

And I think that’s because Republican voters — that is, a particularly noxious flavor of some white southern conservative Republicans — aren’t prepared to view their elected leaders as protectors of civil rights and racial equality. Not all, of course. Not many, even. But enough for canny Republicans to deliberately avoid looking like leaders on the issue. I’ve seen the vitriol whenever a Republican appears to “pander” to minorities. It shows up in our Facebook feeds.


  1. Left Turn Only says:

    The take-over of Fulton County government by the North Fulton Whites, of which Willard is an influential participant, doesn’t help. Everyone knows how gerrymandering put delegation power in White hands, effectively marginalizing Black votes in their own county. It’s a cleaver evasion of the Voting Rights Act. The same with Jacobs’ efforts to hijack control of MARTA from the voters of the counties paying for it to a concentrated (White) voting population in the northern arc cities. The given rationalization is also transparent – that the county and MARTA are so “mismanaged” that “we” needed to take control. Ie, “they” aren’t competent. It just sounds so plantation. Democracy may be messy, and you may not like some of the inefficiencies, but, hey, it is supposed to be our system. So rock on, GOP. The demographics they are achangin’.

    • pettifogger says:

      How would you respond to the same white voters, who feel Fulton County and Atlanta care only about Downtown Atlanta and areas below I-20? Can you really argue with the idea that Buckhead, Brookhaven, and other areas generating controversy were being underserved by local government? In all seriousness, what should the response be for millions in tax dollars going to waste in Vine City?

      • Left Turn Only says:

        I guess the people in rural counties could make the same argument about being ignored by the legislature (Hall County gets a lot more gravy than Lee County). They’d be happy to go back to the old county unit system. That would be at least as fair as bringing in ringer legislators to smother the majority of voters through gerrymandering.

        • pettifogger says:

          I don’t know a lot about the complaints of people in rural counties, but I can certainly envision your comment being accurate. I don’t like the idea of any areas being forced to prop up any other areas, only to be treated with hostility when they object to it.

    • George Chidi says:

      I take issue with the description of Fulton County as “their” own county, with reference to black voters. Blacks are a majority of the county, but Fulton is best described as multiethnic, in my opinion. I don’t particularly care for the idea of using racial dominance as a justification for policy — the extension of that thought returns society to pre-civil rights era nonsense.

      But, yeah — the county is gerrymandered all to hell.

      MARTA is … complicated. But management should flow from two places: who uses it and who pays for it. Folks outside of Fulton and DeKalb County do neither.

      • Andre says:

        I just have to correct something here.

        The Census Bureau says Fulton County is 47.5% white and 44.5% black.

        This statement, “Everyone knows how gerrymandering put delegation power in White hands, effectively marginalizing Black votes in their own county,” made by (ahem) “Left Turn Only” simply does not hold up when faced with facts.

        The facts, as disseminated by the United States Census Bureau, show Fulton County as a multiracial county, with whites being the largest racial group.

  2. pettifogger says:

    Some of this is correct, and some of it is political correctness. The below sounds harsher than it really is, primarily because it isn’t directed at the author, but at the themes that give rise to these types of discussions.

    Yes, the “ignoring realignment” theme of the GOP is a stupid idea. I cringe when I hear it. Nonetheless, there is no reason for the modern GOP to take ownership of what prior Republicans or Southern Democrats did. Of course, the whole “no individual has to account for the whole” only applies to non-conservative entities, generally. See David Sirota’s article in Salon.

    Writing like the above starts with a dubious premise and continues to build upon it. First, civil rights is not limited to racial equality. Democrats have a pretty shaky record on civil rights as of late (gun laws, speech issues, privacy, any and all personal autonomy), but for the moment we’re expected to ignore everything else and pretend civil rights means only the black-white issues as defined by those on the left. After all, Democrats can’t possibly expect Black Americans to care about anything that doesn’t implicate race, right? They don’t have an interest in any other issues, seems to be the message.

    Next, we’re told without much hesitation that Republicans are bad on civil rights. I know that perception is “real” in the black community, but the media will clearly never challenge that idea (absurdity). Thus, the perception, flawed as it may be, is left untouched by everyone but Republicans. I don’t expect liberals to help, but a journalistic community which both pushes its agenda and refuses to challenge the preconceived notions of minority consumers is troublesome.

    Now, backing away from a substantive position and viewing it from a political angle, it is a problem for the GOP and therefore it is our problem to fix. But how do we fix it? We fundamentally believe that a society in which half of the country financially carries the other is untenable. We fundamentally believe that it is not unreasonable to make people show ID to vote. We fundamentally believe, and in fact the entire nation knows, that entitlement reform is necessary to move the country forward. In keeping with the theme of racial equality, Republicans deal with their own “slanted playing field” in courting minority voters. Media infers, and liberals explicitly say, that we want entitlement reform because we despise minority groups that benefit from them. But it isn’t true.

    In sum, and sorry for the ranting, but it is really frustrating to hear people skim over 80% of this discussion and take as fact every argument up to “Rand Paul fails to Impress at Howard.” I suspect a lot of those Howard students have learned about deconstructionism, as it is at the heart of most academia, especially that which is racially-tinged. I simply propose that the same treatment is given to this subject.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      “We fundamentally believe that a society in which half of the country financially carries the other is untenable.”

      Because as we all know, personal federal income taxes, and only personal federal income taxes constitute what carries the country financially.

      • griftdrift says:


        petti, your “rant” would be more interesting if it wasn’t full of “lather, rinse, repeat” bromides.

        Want to reform the Republican party? Start by putting aside the philosophy of believing it’s always the other guy.

        • pettifogger says:

          You’re right. Accusing the GOP of racism is a new and insightful tactic I haven’t seen before. Thanks for the addition.

            • pettifogger says:

              I wasn’t referring to George, who wrote a strong (if wrong, in my opinion) article. I’m referring to your bootstrapping exercise wherein you think you’re making an argument by swinging by to tell me my arguments are tired. If you want to get into the discussion, go for it, happy to entertain your rebuttals.

              But your comment was an intellectual cop out, not an argument.

              • griftdrift says:

                Well lord knows I wouldn’t want to cop out! Maybe I should make a macro for these.

                “We fundamentally believe that a society in which half of the country financially carries the other is untenable”

                As pointed out by Dave, this is based on the fallacy that the only thing that pays for the countries freight is income tax. It ignores the many other revenue streams which fund the government and are paid by all (except for maybe senior citizens, have fun with that)

                To my bootstrapped point. You can’t be the party of we’re taxed too much already while simultaneously claiming half the country doesn’t pay enough tax, i.e. the other guy argument.

                “We fundamentally believe that it is not unreasonable to make people show ID to vote.”

                Depends on how it is implemented. When Georgia first proposed it, it was a drivers license which requires a fee. When it was pointed out that this would constitute a poll tax, we went back to the drawing board and eventually came up with something that’s “fair”.

                This does not belie the fact that it solves nothing. Voter fraud that would be prevented by voter id is virtually non-existent. It’s a karmic salve. And once again, because you have ID it doesn’t affect you, so what’s the big deal? i.e. the other guy argument.

                “We fundamentally believe, and in fact the entire nation knows, that entitlement reform is necessary to move the country forward.”

                Don’t disagree. Although I fail to see how this relates to the racial issue at hand. Maybe you can clarify. But once again, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say, I’m for entitlement reform but when the details start being hashed out, say keep your hands off mine. i.e. the other guy argument.

                “Media infers, and liberals explicitly say, that we want entitlement reform because we despise minority groups that benefit from them”

                I’ve long ago given up on attempting to convince people that the media is not a wholly owned subsidiary of the left. No amount of evidence will convince you otherwise. Seen it happen too many times. So cling to that one. Everyone does need at least one karmic bandaid.


                • Lea Thrace says:


                  I would have preferred that you ended with a resounding “BOOM” but selah works too.

                • pettifogger says:

                  I fail to see any contradiction in saying we’re overtaxed (meaning the Americans who pay a majority of income tax) and stating that a broader segment of people need to be taxed as well. Perhaps you can explain it, but I fail to see why that is a contradiction. The GOP isn’t anti-tax, it is anti-taxation to the extent the tax code is unfair. Now obviously we’ll disagree I’m sure regarding what fair may be defined as, but I’m not understanding how that is an attempt to have it “both ways.” It reminds me of the oft-repeated abortion and death control contradiction argument.

                  I think your remark that “you have ID it doesn’t affect you,” is interesting. I may be inclined to find some value in that line of reasoning if you said “you can afford an attorney so the lack of the public defender program doesn’t affect you” or “you have a car so the lack of public transportation doesn’t affect you.” You likely get my point. ID isn’t something available only to the privileged. It is required to work (theoretically). It is required to accomplish a number of tasks people of all races and classes do daily. Portraying it as some unsurmountable obstacle is both insulting to minorities and mind-numbingly obtuse to everyone.

                  Would/will ID laws curb fraud? I can’t answer that. As I stated, I think there are some legitimate concerns about fraud, and I think the laws are designed with a rational purpose in mind, and they’re certainly not facially discriminatory. I’d be willing to make a deal with the left that we’ll drop Voter ID requirements in exchange for not having to go another round on gun control. After all, if we’re talking about purposeful legislation with no real likelihood of curbing the targeted activity…

                  Entitlement reform is an example of a common Republican theme which has been labeled as off-putting to minorities. My point is only that it is central to our vision of government, and thus altering that for votes would be largely self-defeating.

                  Regarding media, I can understand why you would quit fighting that futile battle. The sheer numeric advantage of left-leaning media outlets and personalities makes your fight improbable. Now if you make the discussion about influence, the right obviously competes better, with large entities like Fox and the WSJ. The problem for us, however, is that the number of left-leaning sources creates a sense of legitimacy by reinforcing the opinions of each other. Two sources, even if large, will lose a credibility battle against 500 sources ranging in size.

                  Moreover, I don’t know how you can argue against political donation breakdowns, internal polling of media organizations, etc., which indicate that journalism has an inherent affinity toward your side of the spectrum. Journolist and the Weigel saga are not made up instances by conspiracy theorists on my side of the debate.

                  Lastly, you seem to make “the other guy” the theme of your reply, and I’m not sure why. I’m not sure if you’re stating that I am blaming the woes of the GOP on entities outside of the GOP, or if you’re making some more universal connection. As to the former, I readily acknowledge the GOP needs to make changes to help itself, they just aren’t the changes that will necessary move us to the middle so that the left can move further left. But there is no reason to avoid subjects relating to outside factors that impact the GOP in discussions like this. I have no interest in making excuses for the party’s position, I’m interested only in a legitimate view of the status quo of American politics. Natural, then, that I take the recommendations of our adversaries with a grain of salt when they tell us all of our problems are internal. Wouldn’t you do the same?

                  • griftdrift says:

                    Not enough time to burn all that straw. But the last line does pique my interest.

                    “Natural, then, that I take the recommendations of our adversaries with a grain of salt when they tell us all of our problems are internal”

                    Too often, you assume that those who make recommendations are adversaries.

                    • pettifogger says:

                      Ah, the non-existant strawman. And my arguments are tiresome?

                      Not often enough, re: the adversaries. But you knew that.

                    • griftdrift says:



                      I’m not going to go back and forth on your individual arguments. It’s been done.

                      But the larger points, since you seem intent on my responding in some sort of manner which I’ve yet to figure out.

                      The other guy syndrome is in my opinion currently ham stringing certain very vocal segments of the GOP base. It boils down to supporting policies because they will only affect the other guy. It’s easier for things to seem reasonable if you don’t feel their effects.

                      For example, voter id. It’s easy to assume that presenting ID is not a burden because we all seem to do it regularly. But it is self-evident that there is a segment of the population who get along whatever the reason without having an ID. And when this is brought up, instead of taking a reasonable look at the real world ( the conservative perspective in my viewpoint) and adjusting to reality, most just fall in to an argument of incredulity.

                      It’s about continuing to use the same fallacy that arguably cost Mitt Romney the election. Many people don’t pay income tax. There’s good reason for that. They’ve been exempted over time. For example, the plurality of those that don’t pay income tax are retired.

                      However they, and the students and the working poor and others that you lump into those who get away with contributing nothing, do pay sales tax. They do pay gas tax. Except for the seniors they do pay FICA. By perpetuating the myth that these groups of freeloaders, you deny them even being part of what makes this country great. It’s kind of hard to get someones vote after you do that.

                      It’s about setting divisions, in many cases artificial ones, instead of seeking areas of common ground. The first way is very satisfying because it feeds our own confirmation biases. But it’s the second that actually wins in politics and frankly, in life.

                      Now about the press and me. I’m not going down the tit-for-tat rabbit hole of this journalist did this or didn’t do that. It’s pointless. Those myths are absolutely ingrained in the DNA of some and nothing I say will change that. However, I’ll give you the words of Conor Friedersdorf:

                      “There is some liberal bias. It’s fine to call it out — but absurd to treat it as the very core of your worldview, the explanation for every ideological setback you suffer, or the main factor preventing a better society.”

                      As for me? If you think I’m on “that side of the spectrum” or the enemy of the Republicans or whatever I know, you already know, you have obviously not met me, ever talked to me or read anything I have ever written.

                      Including the last two days where I have defended Governor Deal from being tarred as a racist.

                      But taking the position that you know what someones knows before you even take the time to attempt to understand them is just the “other guy” problem in another facet, isn’t it?

    • George Chidi says:

      I think you make a fair point, when noting that civil rights isn’t necessarily restricted to issues of racial equality. And I’ve argued often that the issues that are important to black voters are issues that are (or should be) important to everyone. I should substitute the terms anti-discrimination policy or racial fairness more frequently.

      Of course nonwhite voters care about things other than racial equity. Half of the “racial” issues in this country can be better explained — and dealt with — by being described in economic terms. Immigration matters to a substantial portion of the black community. Middle-class black voters are more likely to make their voting decisions based on the same interests as any other middle class voter.

      A “modern” Republican Party doesn’t need to take ownership of old southern racism. But is it actually a modern Republican Party? I hear the assertion, but I don’t see the transition. There’s a substantial group of black voters who will simply — and understandably — refuse to align with a party that courts the remnants of southern white racism. Republican have no shot at these people until they squarely confront that legacy. That confrontation — the Sister Soljah moment in reverse — hasn’t happened yet. And the resistance to that confrontation appears stark.

      And I also agree with you, strongly, about the failings of my party on the broader questions of civil rights. As a civil libertarian, I take great issue with the CISPA/SOPA laws, the continued use of indefinite detention in terrorism cases, the unconstitutional use of wiretapping and eavesdropping, and our general weakness to confront our extra-constitutional activities in the wake of the War on Terror.

      But with regard to what might be more correctly described as issues of anti-discrimination law and racial fairness, Republicans have a very clear recent record. Opposition to the application of the Voting Rights Act. The enactment of voter ID laws that have the primary effect of suppressing Democratic turnout. The long lines at south Florida polling places. Any number of recent comments, e-mail forwards, racist Facebook posts and what not from Republican and conservative leaders around the country.

      It’s a long list — you can fill it as well as I. And it’s not cosmetic, “gotcha” stuff. For example, Rep. Austin Scott’s very first bill as an elected Congressman in 2011 was to abolish the office of Legal Services which assists plaintiffs in civil rights and equal employment lawsuits.

      This isn’t just a perception problem. It’s an actual policy problem.

      The point of my piece, though, is to note that even when Republicans get the policy right on an issue which I believe is inarguably and specifically beneficial to the black community, as Rep. Willard did with the juvenile justice bill, Republicans won’t claim it as an act of ethnic justice … because their base doesn’t like the idea of Republicans being particularly helpful to nonwhite voters.

      • pettifogger says:

        Thanks for the feedback. I don’t know that we resent the idea of helping nonwhite voters. I resent the idea of catering to any demographic for no grander purpose. Now, if eliminating mandatory minimums or other worthwhile ideas related to the justice system impact one group disproportionately, fine. I just don’t like the idea of scouring the country to find an issue to please people on the basis of wanting their vote.

        I also disagree that our recent record is clearly opposed to civil rights. The problem with opposition to the VRA is that it will be portrayed as opposition to voting rights. It isn’t. It doesn’t change anything other than removing the federal government’s outdated supervision of states they subjectively deem as likely to engage in prejudicial practices. Only when it comes to white southerners will this country allow such a broad swath of people to be treated with such collective contempt. This is not ignorance of history, I know that not too long ago people who look like me and lived where I live did horrible things. But the VRA at present is preemptive without basis, not responsive to anything in particular.

        With regard to Voter ID laws, I have little doubt that some of the purpose is to limit turnout for groups likely to be dissuaded from voting by the law. I think this is somewhat inversely analogous to the gamesmanship of the Rove strategy for gay marriage on ballots in 2004. But, I think any of us who are honest will admit that it is nearly impossible to get legitimate information regarding voter suppression and voting fraud.

        Do I think voting fraud gave Obama either election? I don’t. Do I believe dead people are casting ballots in Florida and inner city polling places are breaking a litany of rules in Philadelphia and not being pursued? I certainly do. My problem is that there are no watchdogs anymore, maybe there never were. Republicans rightly have no faith in the DOJ, and the media will largely neglect to report on stories that would favor a republican position. So even assuming that fraud may be at a de minimis level (which I am), how will I know if it increases?

        Further, I think there are basic problems with the idea that it is prejudicial to ask for ID at polling places. As we all know, there are a ton of subquestions and assumptions in that discussion that I think are problematic. I’ll leave those to another day.

        Finally, I think rational Democrats understand that turnout tactics of the right are not equivalent to pre-Civil Rights oppression of Black Americans. I would prefer all Democrats sit at home on election day, it really makes no difference to me if you’re a minority or not. I get no joy or racial bliss out of the idea that black people won’t vote. That isn’t to say that voter suppression may not be a vile tactic in its own right, but it isn’t necessary that we attach a racism stigma to everything that implicates race. Especially when the left is the group making assumptions about how particular groups will respond to such tactics.

  3. saltycracker says:

    George is all rested up and ready to engineer another train wreck between his racial bias and various responders racial bias. The Republicans and Democrats have made it clear that the equality our forefathers up to MLK had in mind have no place today, economically or socially…..and yes, the demographics are changing.

  4. Dave Bearse says:

    The right side of the Civil Rights Act 60 years ago?

    The GOP is so full of new policy and ideas that even last year ideas no longer apply, as evidenced by complaints that policy promoted by Jack Kingston only 13 months ago (a policy I’ll add that I tend to support) is ancient history.

  5. seenbetrdayz says:

    There is an old story about a boy who cried wolf. I don’t know if democrats have ever heard it.

    Anyway, the story goes that for time after time, there was this boy who would cry “wolf” just to see the excitement that could be generated among the community, even though there never was really any wolf. Every day, he would shout “wolf” and the townspeople would rush to his aid, even though there was no wolf to save him from. He always laughed, finding humor at the gullible nature of the townspeople to be duped again and again.

    But the townspeople grew weary of his antics. The more he cried “wolf,” the people who would respond became fewer in number, and eventually, no one came. Until one day, an actual wolf appeared, and the boy shouted, and no one came.

    Replace the noun “wolf” with “racism” in that story, and you have the behavior of the mainstream democratic party.

    Keep crying “racism,” and eventually, no one will listen. God forbid, we actually have a return of bona-fide neo-Nazi and KKK meetings counties across GA, because, well . . . you know what happened to the boy at the end of that story.

    Or maybe you don’t.

    • George Chidi says:

      The National Socialist Movement — what remains of the American Nazi Party — is holding its annual meeting and rally in three days. In Atlanta. With a rally at the state capitol scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

      • seenbetrdayz says:

        But see, I’d like to believe you but you’ve cried wolf so much . . . maybe you’re telling the truth, maybe you’re not . . . gets a bit hazy.

          • seenbetrdayz says:

            All I’m saying is that you’re wearing the race-card thin. Your articles are starting to be like watching re-runs of Chris Matthews MSNBC airings from 2010 to 2012.

            2 aces is a pair. 3 of a kind is a nice hand. 4 of a kind is a lucky fellow. But 5 aces makes a cheater. Don’t wear the race card out. That is all.

            • George Chidi says:

              You may be right, SBD. I’ve lead with this stuff because it’s been top-of-mind with the recent political news. But it’s not what really animates me. I’m substantially more interested in what kind of corporate graft the state’s going to give away to get that tire plant located here. The slots bill that passed last month smells very, very bad. I don’t know who the hell the Democrats are going to run against either the Republican nominee for the Senate or against Nathan Deal. And my own lovely county, DeKalb has … issues. One commissioner openly called another a straight-up liar in a public forum yesterday. I’m looking at a police corruption thing right now.

        • Harry says:

          Maybe the black panthers would show up, the potheads pass some blunts, and the National Socialists and panthers chill out and find some common ground.

  6. Jackster says:

    You wrote: “perhaps some white conservatives don’t think about race all that much – a luxury afforded to those facing comparatively less racial discrimination” <b<Damn skippy. But it’s also because I’m a “young” fella who doesn’t want to over extend my cred with non whites.

    To look at the numbers in aggregate, there is clearly institutional racism in play; I think politicians and leaders are unable to successfully peel off a few layers (issues) without committing to eating (reforming) the entire onion.

    Therefore, I for one don’t view my elected officials as : 1) Leaders of my community 2) Civil rights enthusiasts or 3) Racist.

    It’s difficult to engage on any level with these topics with some modicum of patience, flexibility on vocabulary, and a basic familiarity with 2Pac’s body of work. (I’m serious on that last one – there is an amazing topic to find common ground on this subject)

  7. Three Jack says:

    Why are more minorities locked up? Could it be that more crimes are committed by minorities (I know, racially biased public education system is the root cause)? And when minorities face trial, they generally face judge and jury made up mostly of the same minority so let’s also blame conservatives.

    To end this travesty, you want to base jail sentences on balanced statistics instead of actual law breaking and subsequent trial verdicts decided by a jury of peers? Juvenile justice begins at home, society cannot be expected to replace this basic responsibility of parenthood.

    Broken families encouraged by the nanny state redistribution of wealth is the problem and it was not put upon us by conservatives. Getting this point across to minorities and other folks who have surrendered individual responsibility to the state will be quite a challenge since these unfortunate souls have become generationally dependent on handouts.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      You’ll have no argument from me about your statement that some groups commit more crimes than others. I also oppose jail sentences based on “balanced statistics” as I think you intend it, i.e. the jail population reflecting the general population.

      Balanced statistics are indeed an issue though. Enforcement, sentencing and jail are often disproportional—in reverse—with minorities subject to greater enforcement, longer sentences, and more likely to have to serve time, than others similarly situated.

    • George Chidi says:

      I say this whenever the question of crime arises, whether we’re talking about the Newtown shootings or the Boston bombing or some horrible street crime in Atlanta making the rounds, just so that people have the right frame of mind when thinking about stuff.

      Crime is down, people. Way down. There are exceptions — a nasty street gang war in Chicago, identity fraud, intellectual property and trade secret theft — but in general we’re safer today than we have been in 40 years. Even here. The homicide and violent crime rate in Atlanta is half of what it was 10 years ago. It’s even been dropping during the recession, which has basically never happened before.

    • Rick Day says:

      Blacks represent less than 20% of the population. Of those, 10% admit to illegal drug use. 40% of whites admit that as well.

      Yet over 60% of all convicts are from the black community. It’s not because they are shiftless ni**ers, dude as you seem to allege. This is a racist institution built by you “tough on crime” conservatives.

      Have you not been paying to attention to our lessons on ending Prohibition? The drug war is an institution designed to keep the black community from thriving by denying the ability to create nuclear families and a strong economic competition to the whites in charge.

      You can’t be that uninformed….ergo, you must be a….

  8. Joshua Morris says:

    Since we got a clear presentation of George’s side of the story, I would like to hear Gabriel’s side. I would also like to hear a concise definition of the phrase, “civil rights leadership”.

    Conservatives believe in individual responsibility, which is a foreign term to those who are often presented to me as “civil rights leaders”. Most everyone in this world gets an unfair shake in some realm or another, and often this has nothing to do with skin color or gender. It is long past time we allow individuals to be accountable for their individual choices/actions and quit trying to blame bad behavior on problems with society. Passing blame only perpetuates our society’s ills.

    • Jackster says:

      Josh – most “civil rights leaders” believe in individual responsibility – it’s called, “getting paid” and/or providing for their families. Pretty sure that’s a common value, just like the notion that laws and punishments should be equally enforced and the government be minimally invasive.

  9. sockpuppet says:

    Criminals belong in jail. All of these excuses to keep black criminals out of jail i.e. gun control, decriminalizing drugs etc. But let them loose on the streets and the black community descends into an even bigger chaos than it was during the drugs/crack/gang wars of the 80s and 90s before 3 strikes laws cleaned it up. And the biggest victims will be law-abiding blacks, who will not only be victims of violent crimes and theft and have drug dealers proliferate, but will see even worse school performance and depressed real estate values. Blacks with the means and moxie will move away from the dsyfunction into the exurbs and private schools, except that they will be associated with the chaos that they are trying to get away from and will meet with the sort of resistance not seen since the busing riots of the 1970s.

    Blacks have the most to benefit from criminals being put in jail where they belong. That people feel that letting criminals go free to sell drugs, steal, join/lead gangs, knife and mug people in black alleys, and oh yeah father illegitimate children to continue the cycle anew is worse than naievete and wishful thinking, but an all out assault on the interests of the law-abiding, productive members of the black community, especially the black working class and working poor who won’t have the means to move out to Cherokee and Forsyth when criminality makes the affordable housing areas Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton unliveable, not to mention won’t be able to afford private schools.

    • Rick Day says:

      You forgot “listening to rap” in your diatribe.

      I’ll need to see your “Black Leaders” membership card, indicating you now speak and represent these people.

      Otherwise, every other sentence screams “allow me to stereotype about people I know nothing of”.

      • sockpuppet says:

        And what color are you Rick Day? You most certainly are not black. Stop pretending as if your progressive politics means that you understand black people or black issues. I bet you haven’t spent one night in a working class black neighborhood, let alone a public housing project. Listening to rap music? Please. You know perfectly well that I challenged Harry on his singling out rap music from the rest of Hollywood. And I am not stereotyping people. Stereotyping people would be if I said “all blacks are criminals or are criminally inclined.” Sorry Rick. I specifically delineated between criminals and law abiding blacks, and yes it is in the interests of the black community not to have an influx of people who have no respect for the law invading their neighborhoods.

        You only support this because you think that it makes you cool and progressive. You have no interest in how it actually affects the black community because you don’t have to live there. So, because criminals refuse to obey the law, we change the law. Right. See where that gets you. You can change the law to keep criminals out of jail, but they’re still criminals who are prone to anti-social, sociopathic, destructive behavior. It is no accident that the economic advances that many black communities made during the Clinton administration coincided with 3 strikes laws. It is just that black leaders – and white progressives like you – won’t admit the correlation. It wasn’t just the economy. The economy was very good during the Reagan era too. The difference is that during the Reagan economic boom, there were very severe violent crime problems in the black community. But during the Clinton community, 3 strikes laws and other tough policing and sentencing measures helped make these former “murder capitals” liveable. It is why Harlem in New York City is now seeing businesses (and high income white professionals) move into areas where they would have been too afraid to be in after dark – and in many cases during broad daylight.

        People, drug laws weren’t passed as a plot to incarcerate black males. They were passed because drugs are harmful, addictive and in many cases deadly, and – surprise – we have a tendency to make things that are harmful without providing any other redeeming or useful purpose (making drugs different from guns and automobiles) illegal. The whole “racist war on drugs” thing is relatively new, and it cropped up as an excuse to explain and justify high black incarceration rates (the same with gun control where the guns get blamed instead of the criminals using them). So, now you get called a racist for opposing gun control and decriminalizing drugs with no one even bothering to actually look at the history. History like it was John Conyers and the Congressional Black Caucus who demanded some of the toughest drug laws to be enacted during the Reagan administration because of allegations that the racist government wasn’t doing enough to protect black communities from drugs and crime. That’s right, less than 25 years ago the very people calling Republicans racist for not wanting to end the war on drugs called Republicans racist for not fighting the war on drugs in the black community as zealously as they were in the white one. Honestly, the main goal isn’t the policy to begin with, but to be able to come up with ways to call Republicans racist (see Better Georgia and Nathan Deal).

        And that is why it is never going to stop. You can decriminalize drugs, have gun control and progressives will just move to another issue to use to call Republicans racist.

  10. Rick Day says:

    George: do you think that perhaps if this black reality stuff is shoved in their face enough, they will have to come around and admit their biases?

    And if they do, think they are man enough to change to something at least…tolerable?

    • sockpuppet says:

      Oh please. America achieved massive social change, going from Jim Crow to electing a black president – in barely a generation, and did it without the sort of significant economic, political, and even violent upheaval that has come with such drastic change in plenty of other countries. You want change? That was Obama winning Indiana, which was the midwestern stronghold of the KKK, in 2008, and a bunch of other places like Jesse Helms’ North Carolina. It is just that folks keep moving the bar, and that bar keeps getting moved because of a ton of negative outcomes in the black community that cannot be attributed to the negative actions of white people. George, you know who coined the term “black on black crime”? Ebony Magazine. Go tell me that John H. Johnson (whose magazine was far more informative, analytical and classy before his daughters took over the operation) was opposed to the black community. And not that I should have had to say this to begin with: most black people aren’t criminals. The problem is the need to protect law abiding blacks from the ones that are. Drug decriminalization and gun control do not accomplish this. Locking up those who refuse to obey our drug laws and commit gun crimes – meaning that they will certainly commit other crimes and destructive behavior also – does.

      And as for the “it is due to poverty and racism” angle … go look at the statistics, George. There was less crime, drug use, etc. in the black community in the 40s and 50s when there was a lot more racism, poverty, and oh yes when gun ownership rates were much higher. That is not a racist argument George. It’s the opposite, because stating that black crime and drug rates were much lower just a few decades ago proves that the problem is not some black inclination or tendency towards lawlessness. And that is precisely why locking up the percentage of blacks (and whites, Hispanics, Asians, Martians, Kryptonians) that are lawless is in the interests of those that are law abiding.

      • seenbetrdayz says:

        I’d have to disagree on the drug laws gateway effect. Give someone a bag of weed and a basement to smoke in and you’ve created something about as harmful as a butterfly. Though, also about as productive (maybe less), but still . . .

        The prohibition is what leads to an increase in violent crime. The government has learned very little since the noble experiment. At least back then, they had the decency to amend the Constitution to enact alcohol prohibition. Nowadays they just appoint a couple of bureaucrats to ‘oversee’ the DEA and the states have no say in it. Before prohibition, we had a bunch of drunks getting sh*tfaced in bars and stumbling out into traffic, bad enough I suppose. After prohibition, we had drive-bys in Model-Ts and Al Capones, enough to drive decent people to rally for the rights of the town drunk.

        I believe it was Seattle, or Portland, or some other northwestern city that basically said, “hell, we can’t afford to tie up our court system with petty possession charges.” In Colorado, you can grow six plants for personal use. But let me piss of a lot of democrats here by reminding you whose administration is cracking down on medical marijuana at the moment. Hint: GWB left office in 2009, so sorry, that isn’t the right answer. Let’s just say that the FDA feels rather threatened that someone with cancer might be growing their own pain meds.

        Furthermore, locking non-violent drug offenders in prisons with hardened rapists/muggers/killers doesn’t exactly surround them with the sort of role-models you’d want for someone you suspect might be at-risk for developing anti-social behaviors, even if the gateway drug theory is correct.

  11. George Chidi says:

    There’s so much wrong with this, and I don’t have time to debate it with him. Someone do something about this line, “without the sort of significant economic, political, and even violent upheaval that has come with such drastic change in plenty of other countries,” please.

  12. Absolutely excellent article which I will post on my blog O’Dell Report.
    Windell Willard should also get credit for the myriad of other conservative humanitarian things he has worked so hard on – for example, asset forfeiture.
    As you may recall, this is the circumstance inwhich assets (such as a car or cash) are taken in an effort to deconstruct criminal infrastructure- drug money taken etc.
    In Georgia, there are some significant problems with asset forfeiture. I-95 corridor being the biggest area of vulnerability for “hey you look poor enough to not have a bank account and vulneralbe enough not to fight back if I take your cash for our new cop cars” translation: Mexican highway robbery-literally.
    Willard fought hard for “the least of these” but the bill was defeated by the Georgia Sherriffs Association.
    For those who want to witness racial political strategy at its best, read the Galloway’s very well written article in today’s ajc. Regardless of whether you like Ralph Reed or not, you gotta admit-he is brilliant.

  13. I’d like to share an anecdote regarding enforcement of drug laws. When I was at the AJC, in following up on the 2006 shooting of 91-year-old Kathryn Johnston, we obtained copies of every request by the APD drug squad for a search warrant over several years. We were trying to assess the validity and diligence of the investigations that led to those requests, given that key facts justifying the need for the Johnston warrant appeared to have been fabricated.

    We wrote a few stories based on the warrant requests, but here’s one that we never wrote: 99+ percent of the detectives’ affidavits submitted to obtain those warrants identified the suspected dealer as black. The vast majority were for addresses within a mile or two of each other in southwest Atlanta. The only place where those cops were looking for drug dealers was in poor black communities. It was as if Atlanta had no white drug dealers, and Buckhead and Midtown had no drug problem — a notion that seems preposterous to me. (I might add that some of those cops were shaking down property owners in those same neighborhoods and needed to be close by to pick up their cash and respond to trouble when needed.)

    We didn’t pursue the story because the APD drug squad had been suspended and the department had stopped seeking search warrants for drug raids until they could tighten up oversight of the process. I bring it up now simply to point out that arrest statistics only tell a part of the story of how we wage the War on Drugs.

    • George Chidi says:


      I can hear the counter-argument coming over the hill. The drug squad wasn’t fighting drug crime so much as the concomitant violent crime. Black drug dealers shoot at one another with greater frequency than white drug dealers, and it’s the shootouts that make the news and drive down property values. I can imagine an Atlanta mayor’s orders to the police chief: We have lots of shootings here. Stop them.

      Never mind that the aggressive enforcement of drug crime laws in these neighborhoods looks like selective enforcement based on race, driving down respect for the law and empowering the very dealers in the community as a result.

      This conversation requires more time than I can devote to it right now. It’s … complex.

Comments are closed.