Marquette Warrior: The Bizarro World of the Commission on Reducing Racial Disparities in the Wisconsin Justice System

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Bizarro World of the Commission on Reducing Racial Disparities in the Wisconsin Justice System

We should have known better.

Public hearings are usually a sham. So when the Governor’s Commission on Reducing Racial Disparities in the Wisconsin Justice System held a hearing in Milwaukee this afternoon, we weren’t expecting anything great.

But since we have just finished an article on the subject which will appear in the Fall issue of The Wisconsin Interest, we thought it worthwhile to go and, in effect, fire a shot across their bow.

The Commission, it seems, has an odd charge. They have been told by Governor Doyle to “(a.) Determine whether discrimination is built into the criminal justice system at each stage of the criminal justice continuum of arrest through parole; and (b.) Recommend strategies and solutions to reduce the racial disparity in the Wisconsin criminal justice system. . . .”

But the second task assumes a particular outcome of the first. Wisconsin should not want to reduce racial disparity if it’s not the result of racial discrimination. But among the black race hustlers and politically correct whites who are interested in this issue, racial bias is assumed. It’s the default position. Evidence is not needed.

A lot of the politicians at the hearing spoke in bland bromides. Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler told the Commission he had been “closely following your work that will determine whether racial discrimination is built into the Wisconsin criminal justice system.” He said of racial disparity that he “Feel[s] strongly about this issue. . . When one of us is discriminated against, all suffer” and “systems must administer justice fairly and impartially.” OK. Better bland than wrong.

Slightly less bland (but only slightly) was Ralph Hollman, Executive Director if the Urban League. Hollman praised Governor Doyle’s courage since it would be easy for him to “not acknowledge that the high rate of incarceration – black male incarceration particularly – is a serious problem.”

He continued: “Several areas need to be examined. Are African-Americans more likely to be involved in crime and violence?” He further noted that the stereotype of blacks as violent, when filtered through the media, sends to black youth the message that “this is what I’m expected to be.”

According to Hollman, “once in the justice system, African Americans feel that African Americans are more likely to be sentenced to prison, and when incarcerated, serve longer sentences.”

Getting the Juices Flowing

A couple of speakers got some juices flowing in the crowd. Doris Jude Porter -- the Aunt of Frank Jude, Jr., who was beaten by Milwaukee police officers, said people in the community “feel we are under siege for criminal justice racism” and “racism is like a monster – a predator.” And she added that “innocent people are sent to prison and families are broken up.”

The next speaker ratcheted up the rhetoric even further referring to the “hell-hole we call America.” She added “we are still being lynched in this country” and said that the system “place[s] black males in special education as a form of genocide getting them ready to go to prison.”

Just to make it clear where she was coming from, she added “Here we got Alderman McGee in jail. I’ve seen the injustice!” And “they got Michael McGee so chained up he can’t go to the bathroom.”

She didn’t seem to be looking to the Commission for help, however. She asserted “we don’t need nobody studying us.”

A whole parade of witnesses came to promote their pet programs (it was obvious that the group was on the side of Governor Doyle in the state budget battles), or their own volunteer activities.

“Y’all Pray for Me”

It got bizarre at times. A woman who identified herself as a former cocaine addict and prostitute told how she went to her pastor and asked what she could do. “I turned my life over to God,” she explained. She then asked the crowd “Y’all pray for me.”

We are delighted that she got the spiritual help she needed, but didn’t see her testimony as particularly relevant to the issue at hand.

A young man rattled off a rap poem about the importance of self-respect and achievement. We think he would have been a dandy motivational speaker at any inner city middle school.

Several speakers complained of how relatives of theirs had been victimized by the system. It’s possible -- just remotely possible -- that in some cases they had.

Our own talk resulted in the most supefyingly bizarre moment of the afternoon. We rattled off various analyses we have done, all of which show that the “disproportionate” incarceration of blacks in Wisconsin is the result of the fact that blacks disproportionately commit crimes.

In response, Spencer Coggs asked us “are you saying that blacks commit crimes at a greater rate than whites, as opposed to being stopped more often by police?”

We responded “yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”

Coggs then responded that “that’s not what the studies show.”

Too dumbfounded to produce a proper response (such as “you f**kin’ idiot!”) we just said “you’re wrong.” And further, “have you looked at data on victimization? Have you looked at those maps what show where crime happens most?” Coggs looked embarrassed, and dismissed us politely.

We got very sparse and scattered applause. We weren’t telling them what they wanted to hear.

There was one other speaker who asked that the interest of the victims be taken into account. Glenn Frankovis, a former Milwaukee cop who was actually promoted by Art Jones (one of the few whites, apparently), made a plea for the victims. Recounting his experience with ordinary Milwaukee citizens he said “these good people wanted the bad guys out of their neighborhood” and further that they were “tired of the drug dealing, shots being fired into the house.”

His final hope was that “this commission does not overlook these people . . . the true victims.”

But Commission will, of course.

It’s possible that the Commission will come out with a reasonable report. Plenty of commissions have had public hearings that were a sham, and members who were buffoons, and still produced decent reports (written, of course, by the staff).

Why Don’t Black Politicians Care About Victims of Crime?

A decent report won’t, however, change the fact that black politicians, including most of those on the Commission, seem far more concerned about black criminals than about black victims.

The reason is simple, almost jejune.

Black politicians prosper by mobilizing the black community against whites. Not necessarily all whites, but at least some “racist” whites. And if not against individual whites, then against a “racist system.”

For much of American history, this was sensible enough. All blacks did have a common interest in fighting a system that was racist, and whites most of whom were racist too.

But suppose the real conflict is between law abiding black people and black hoodlums?

How about some data?

In Milwaukee, where violent crime is concerned, three fourths of the victims of black criminals are themselves black.

Looking at the percentages another way, 97% of the black victims of violent crime were victimized by a black. (Data from the Milwaukee Police Department Incident Reports.)

So when you have black hoodlums on one side, and law-abiding black people on the other, what are you going to do?

Simple. Insist that the issue is still white racism, and that blacks need to unite to fight it. Caring about the victims muddles the message.

All this is why things like the beating of Frank Jude play into the hands of the race hustlers.

When is a new generation of black leaders going to rise up with an agenda in tune with new realities? Such leaders are long overdue, and the old con game continues to work well.

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