Yet Another Scary Statistic™


Help us make sense of something: that much-discussed Pew poll that said black people were increasingly less likely to think racial discrimination played a part in the disparity in achievement between blacks and whites (or even between middle-class and poor blacks).

“A 53% majority of African Americans say that blacks who don’t get ahead are mainly responsible for their situation, while just three-in-ten say discrimination is mainly to blame. As recently as the mid-1990s, black opinion on this question tilted in the opposite direction.”

But a new study released yesterday by the Washington-based Justice Policy Institute, showed that black Americans are 10 times more likely to be imprisoned for illegal drug offenses than whites, even though both groups use and sell drugs with roughly equal frequency.

Reuters reports that the disparity can be attributed to a number of factors that hit blacks almost exclusively — federal mandatory minimum jail terms for drug crimes that equate possessing 5 grams of crack, more associated with blacks, with possessing 500 grams of cocaine, more associated with whites. Not to mention, when was the last time you saw or heard of police investigating drug use on college campuses or in suburban communities? It’s obvious that there’s more policing around open-air drug markets in inner-city neighborhoods.

In an Op-Ed piece published in the New York Times early last year, Harvard professor Orlando Patterson opined that “The tragedy unfolding in our inner cities is a time-slice of a deep historical process that runs far back through the cataracts and deluge of our racist past.” The reasons that blacks in America’s poorest communities tend not to stray far from the lowest rungs of the social and economic ladder, defy scholarly interpretation and require a new approach “toward understanding what makes young black men behave so self-destructively.”

According to the Pew study, African Americans see a widening gulf between the values of middle class and poor blacks, and nearly four-in-ten say that because of the diversity within their community, blacks can no longer be thought of as a single race.

If we’re to accept the attitudes reflected in these two studies — the Pew study, whose respondents said that blacks who do not get ahead are responsible for their situations — and the newest study, which shows that federal statutes and local policing efforts affect blacks disproportionately — aren’t we just blaming the victim, and then keeping him or her in deprivation?

  • Looks like Mitt’s in trouble. Minutes into last week’s Republican debate, co-sponsored by CNN and YouTube, Romney and Giuliani shared a lengthy, and heated, exchange on immigration — Romney accusing Giuliani of fostering a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants during his tenure as Mayor of New York City, and Giuliani accusing Romney of knowingly employing illegal immigrants at his home in Belmont, an affluent Boston suburb. Well, the Boston Globe reports that as of yesterday, Romney was still employing undocumented workers as landscapers, a year after the Globe broke the initial story.
  • Can Oprah save Wiley College? “The Great Debaters,” a film about a talented group of black college debaters at a HBCU in the Jim Crow South, opens on Christmas Day, and college officials at Wiley College, a struggling HBCU, hope all the attention will help save the school. Oprah is the film’s producer. Wiley is one of dozens of HBCUs that is facing declining enrollment and economic woes. Although the Hollywood version will have students compete against debaters from Harvard University, in real life, Wiley’s 1935 victory was over the University of Southern California.
  • Ellie Grunderson, outlier. Controversy over The Hoya’s coverage of a Jena 6 rally on Georgetown’s campus has thrust Ellie Gunderson, a white sophomore from suburban Detroit who also happens to be the president of the school’s NAACP chapter, into the spotlight.

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