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

Saturday, October 13, 2007

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

Our previous run-in with Governor Doyle’s Commission on Reducing Racial Disparities in the Wisconsin Justice System quickly turned into something that Franz Kafka might write about.

This past week, we had three different encounters with commission members, all in public settings, and Kafka, were he still around, would probably have picked up some good material.

1. Wisconsin Public Radio

The first was Tuesday morning on Joy Cardin’s show on Wisconsin Public Radio. We were there, of course, to discuss our recent article on racial disparity in incarceration in Wisconsin, and Cardin led off the show with an audio clip from Spencer Coggs, Chair of the Commission.

According to Coggs:
There is no social scientist other than McAdams, that I know of that thinks that incarcerating large numbers of anybody of any particular race is a good thing. It almost seems that it’s code talk for some inherent quality of whites being more law abiding than blacks.
Gil Halsted, who did the interview with Coggs, added that Coggs said that the Commission will focus on the “underlying causes” of inner city crime and the high rate of black incarceration.

Of course, the theory of “code” is a way of calling somebody a racist, notwithstanding that they have said nothing racist. Indeed, even if they have said something that’s absolutely true, that doesn’t help. It’s racist because it runs contrary to the interests of the race hustlers who use the term.

2. Marquette Law School Reception for Wayne S. McKenzie

Late Tuesday afternoon, Marquette’s Law School hosted a reception for Wayne S. McKenzie, a program director at the Vera Institute. McKenzie was in town to share the findings of a study of race and prosecutorial discretion in the office of the Milwaukee County District Attorney. Milwaukee DA John Chisholm, a member of the Commission, was also present.

But here, he was the victim rather than the perpetrator of race card insanity.

McKenzie was running late, and Chisholm engaged in a conversation with several “community activists” who were present, explaining the study.

The activists didn’t seem to feel that any study was necessary. So far as they were concerned, the system is racist, and no study is needed to show that. Chisholm asked “don’t we want some evidence?” That resulted in looks from the activists ranging from discomfort through incredulity to hostility.

He then asked them whether they had looked at what neighborhoods were most afflicted by crime – the obvious import being that black neighborhoods are the most crime-ridden. The activists weren’t placated.

3. Vera Results Presented

Then on Wednesday morning, we were present when McKenzie presented his findings.

Before the main event, State Representative Tamara Grigsby was introduced and spoke. She started by saying “let’s put this in perspective. I represent about 60,000 people, mostly poor and black,” and added “I see a system that is not working for people like me.”

And further: “We incarcerate more juveniles of color than any other state in the nation.”

She explained that she approached the Governor two years ago, after a report came out that showed that Wisconsin is the worse state in the nation in terms of living conditions for blacks.

Then, in the most bizarre moment of the morning, she announced she was “calling out Professor McAdams!”

(We were thinking “do we have to go out and fight her? If so, we’ll be at a huge disadvantage since momma taught us never to hit a girl.”)

She went on the deny that black people commit more crime than white people.

But then she added that even if it is true that blacks commit more crime, it’s still a problem. It’s “crippling” to the community if one in three fathers is in prison.

Massive Denial Among Black Activists

It’s absolutely stunning to hear black politicians and activists deny that blacks commit more crimes than whites. Not only is the truth obvious in crime statistics, nobody knows it better than the constituents of Coggs and Grigsby!

The fact that black politicians would deny reality is the result of their having been coddled, patronized and pandered to by whites. A lot of moderate and conservative whites are scared of being called racist if they tell the truth about racial matters, and a lot of white liberals who know better can’t bring themselves to give up the ideological advantage that playing the race card brings.

But massive denial is not a recipe for making anything better. How much better if a lot of people were willing to say to people like Coggs and Grigsby “get your head out of your ass and let’s talk seriously about the problem.”

The Race Card Fallback Position

In spite of this stubborn refusal to talk honestly, one senses that the race hustlers are having to concede a bit and accept the fact (even if they won’t forthrightly admit it) that the vast majority of racial disparity in incarceration is the result of black people committing more crimes.

Coggs admission to Halsted that the Commission would be looking into the “underlying causes” of black crime, and Grigsby’s claim that there is still a problem even if incarceration is the result of racial differences in committing crimes both show this.

So does the following statement by Pamela Oliver, a sociologist who is a consultant to the Commission.
Roughly half of the presentations the Commission has heard and roughly half of the Commissioners have an orientation that is primarily focused on reducing crimes committed by Black people. That is, they have raised concerns about funding for education, about programs to strengthen families and reintegrate fathers into communities, about jobs programs and job discrimination, about bringing people to God, etc. In short, a lot of the people on the Commission think this is a terrible crisis that should be addressed by dealing with underlying problems of crime.
This is far better than pretending that the whole problem is the result of racist cops, prosecutors and judges.

But the problem is that it’s still phrased, to a large extent, in the language of racial aggrievement. At least some members of the Commission, when they look for the “underlying causes,” are going to say it’s not just a racist criminal justice system, it’s the whole racist American society.

It would be hasty, however, to assume that the race hustlers will write the Commission’s final report. The most closely analogous case is the Wisconsin Sentencing Commission, which quite prudently refused to overstate the case for racial discrimination.

This in spite of pressure from people like State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), Sentencing Commission member, who, complained to the Journal-Sentinel that the “the report’s message was too muted.” And further:
“These disparities exist,” Taylor told a reporter. “I think the commission should have come out and said that more as a matter of fact, more forcefully.

“They exist. Now, what are we going to do about it?”
The Sentencing Commission, however, prudently refused to draw strong conclusions from data that had massive limitations.

So the Racial Disparity Commission may come up with a fairly sensible report. But if that happens, it will be because the moderate and prudent people on the commission have prevailed over the race hustlers.


Via Badger Blogger, the fact that Alderman Joe Davis, Sr. has issued a press release demanding a Summit to Address Violence in the African American Community. The money quote:
“It is no longer acceptable that statistically, homicides in the City of Milwaukee are overwhelmingly committed by and perpetrated on African American members of our community.”
He calls for black leaders to “sit down and address this issue and develop workable solutions for the short and long term.” That’s easier said than done. But then it’s impossible if you won’t admit what the problem is.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's rare, but I'm speechless.

STANDING OVATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2:53 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

is all of this drivel just to say that crime is the blacks' fault? how does that help the situation? or were you trying to make a point somewhere and i missed it?

10:31 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

John McAdams, it sounds to me like you want to blame the black people's crimes on their blackness, and the white people's on their whiteness. I think your philosophy is flawed.

if blacks commit more crime because the racist system disadvantages them and it turns out that white people have all the privileges, then we should implement programs that strengthen black areas so blacks are rewarded for lawful behavior, and tax white areas, like the suburbs and Waukesha, to do it.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually we've been doing that since JFK died, it's a called taxation. (the Great Society) It hasn't worked. Where have you been the last 40 years?
You've noted that we should "strengthen black area's".
How so? Wouldn't that be profiling? Also, why would we punish Waukesha for being lawful all this time??
Could you get back to me on these issues?

8:38 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

no, john, profiling is the inclusion of racial characteristics in determining whether a person is considered likely to commit a particular type of crime. last i checked, lawful behavior is not a type of crime. and when did i say anything about punishing waukesha? i believe i said tax, which is what you are lawfully obligated to pay when you belong to a society that has a government. my thought is that society could tax rich areas, like waukesha, to pay for programs to strengthen poor areas, like much of milwaukee, such as better education programs, better job infrastructure, and better public transit and other services.

4:29 AM  

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