Here are some facts.

Though blacks are only about 13% of the US population, they represent over 40% of the jail and prison population in the United States. A recent study – based on current trends – estimated that one in three black males will spend time in prison during their lifetime.  Based on this information, what could you conclude?

a.) The American criminal justice system is intentionally and systematically racist.

b.) Black men commit more crimes than white men.

If you are progressive, you probably gave response (a). You interpret the statistics above as evidence of racial bias.  If you are conservative, you probably gave response (b).  You believe the explanation for these statistics is in the behavior of black men and not in the racial bias in the system.  Ironically, neither (a) nor (b) are facts.  They are both opinions based on facts.   It is difficult to sort out racial bias from individual behavior.  It is not difficult to determine if black men commit more crimes than white men.

Here is a fact.

Black men are six times more likely to be arrested for a drug offense. Based on this information, what could you conclude?

a.) The American criminal justice system is intentionally and systematically racist.

b.) Black men commit more drug offenses than white men.

If you are progressive, you probably chose (a) and if you’re conservative, you probably chose (b). Again, both are opinions and not facts.  Being arrested for a crime and committing a crime are not the same.  Arrests only indicate whether a person was caught in or accused of a crime.  They tell us nothing about the overall behavior of a group of people.  If you are not arrested when in the possession of drugs, this does not mean you didn’t commit a crime.  It means you didn’t get caught.

Here is a fact.

Black men (11%) are not significantly more likely to use illicit drugs than white men (10%). Based on this information, we would conclude that blacks and whites should be arrested, convicted and incarcerated for drug offenses at approximately the same rates.  However, we know that black men are six times more likely to be arrested for a drug offense.  Something is deeply wrong and the problem isn’t the behavior of black men.

Here are some more facts.

Black men are three times more likely to be pulled over by the police for an investigatory stop. They are five times as likely to be searched.  Based on this information, if illicit drug use is equally common with black men and white men, it stands to reason that stopping more black men than white men would result in more arrests of black men.  Black men do not commit more drug offenses.  We have simply created a system that catches them at a much higher rate.  What is true with drugs is also true with other crimes.  One of the privileges of being white in America is a much greater opportunity to get away with a crime.

Here are some more facts.

Blacks are more likely to accept a guilty plea for a lighter sentence. They are less likely to ask for a jury trial.  They are less likely to post bail or to hire their own legal counsel.  If they ask for a jury trial, they have only about a 50% chance of having a single black person on their jury.  If they face an all-white jury, they are 16% more likely to be found guilty.  If convicted, they are given sentences that are about 20% lengthier than their white counterparts.  Based on this information, what could you conclude?

a.) Black people, though they are not statistically more prone to criminal behavior, are targeted by police, pressured by white prosecutors, allowed to languish in jail, poorly represented, forced to put their fates in the hands of people who are racially bias and given harsher sentences.

b.) Black men commit more crimes than white men.

While these are both opinions, they are not equally credible. The first is supported by nearly all the facts and the second ignores them.  The first opinion suggests you are a fair and open-minded person willing to adjust your opinions based on evidence.  The second opinion suggests you are ignorant and racist.

Those are the facts.

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