Systemic Racism? Sadly proven, but not irreversible.
That’s South Carolina Senator Tim Scott reflecting on his personal experiences with the police and how they have impacted his life. He’s not alone.
Maybe National Review contributing editor Andrew McCarthy forgot this moment when he asserted in his piece, “Systemic Racism? Make them prove it,” that anecdotes like Senator Scott’s don’t exist. Or that they don’t add to the broader portrayal of systemic racism in our criminal justice system. But the most likely argument is that McCarthy picks the facts that prove his point, and ignores the others.
Consider that law enforcement officials have recounted ways in which they personally demonstrated or witnessed racial bias when policing. Even U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr has conceded that some statistics suggest racial differences in how justice is served.
Digging deeper, even when controlling for factors that often explain large, surface level differences by race, research has unearthed evidence of racial bias in areas ranging from police use of nonlethal force and citations, to prosecutorial plea deals and judicial sentencing. And studies suggest that racial bias can influence how we respond to youth crime and criminal history as well.
According to McCarthy: “The best we can do is what we are trying to do: Operate our justice system, our educational institutions, our government, businesses, and society in a manner sufficiently sensitive to racism that concrete examples of it are few and far between.”
McCarthy is wrong on that point, too. The solution lies in recognizing that our country’s progress toward racial justice and equality does not require defunding police departments or abolishing them entirely, nor does it mean we should be blind to how racial bias is embedded in some of our systems of justice. Admitting a system is broken also does not necessitate demonizing those who work within it.
To have productive conversations around racial disparities and promote pragmatic solutions, conservatives and liberals must operate within a similar frame of reference and admit that racial bias exists within our criminal justice system—even if those working within it do not raise their hand and proclaim it publicly—and there’s plenty we can do to fix it.
Image credit: Aerial Mike