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A Failure of Curiosity

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One of the most valuable qualities in scholarship is curiosity.  The start of discovering the truth about X is to wonder how X got to be the way it is.  It was thus troubling and, well, curious to see the following passage in Prof. David Cole's piece in the New Yorker celebrating Eric Holder's tenure as Attorney General:

[N]o aspect of American life has appeared more resistant to racial progress than the criminal-justice system. In the nineteen-fifties, when segregation was legal, African-Americans made up about thirty per cent of the prison population; today, they make up thirty-seven per cent, and that population has increased exponentially.

Prof. Cole is without doubt correct that the last 60 years have seen massive progress in treating African Americans with basic dignity, and affording them much more equitable economic opportunities.  That should, but apparently in Prof. Cole's mind does not, raise the following question:  Why, given such enormous progress, are African Americans a greater share of the prison population  --  which is to say, a greater share of the criminal population  -- now than they were when discrimination was rampant?  Put another way, the question is why, when bigotry has been in retreat for six decades, has criminality in relative terms spiked among blacks? 

The beginning of the answer, I would suggest, is that the "root cause" of criminal behavior (as liberals are fond of saying) does not lie in racial prejudice.  It lies in the attitudes spawned by a culture  -- increasingly and now markedly African American culture  --  that tolerates the biology of fatherhood while ignoring its social and moral responsibilities.


3 Comments

Are there any reliable statistics on what percent of African Americans (and Whites or Latinos for that matter) in prison were raised without a father?

paul --

I don't have the specific figures you seek, which would be very interesting if someone can find them, but I did find some related information that I have posted just now.

I'll hazard a guess, however: The share of imprisoned African Americans raised without a father is over 90%, and the share of whites is over 50%.

Fathers introduce discipline and rules, which are the foundations of a law-abiding life. Racial bigotry as an explanation for either (1) the increase in the prison population, or (2) the increase in the share of blacks in the prison population, would make sense only if there had been an increase in racial bigotry over time. In fact, as no sensible person disputes, the opposite has happened.

Bill,

As someone who saw it every day for ten years, I believe your "guess" is right on.

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