Inside Opinion

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Tag: race


Tough conclusions about race and crime

State Supreme Court justices Richard Sanders and Jim Johnson sailed into a squall a couple weeks ago when they disputed claims that racism explains the disproportionate rate of black imprisonment. The remarks prompted the Seattle Times to withdraw its endorsement of Sanders’ re-election almost as fast as NPR fired Juan Williams.

We wound up editorializing that a single-minded focus on racism can obscure more concrete problems, such as poverty and lack of legal representation, that might have concrete solutions. Centuries of institutional racism – especially slavery and Jim Crow – may have created the problem, but remedies must be found in the here-and-now.

The most ferocious challenge to the racism-only paradigm I’ve run into comes from Heather MacDonald of the conservative Manhattan Institute, who published a statistically dense rebuttal in the Spring 2008 issue of City Journal. Some of her points:

• Criminals strongly tend to be fingered by victims of the same race.

• Multiple studies by liberal scholars have found that conviction rates are driven by actual crimes, not bias.

• The disparity in federal penalties for crack and cocaine possession, sometimes cited as a factor in disparate racial imprisonment rates, has an almost negligible effect. In any event, black leaders originally called for the crackdown on crack: “It takes shameless sleight of hand to turn an effort to protect blacks into a conspiracy against them.”
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Race becomes obligatory in Washington schools

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

In Washington, a schoolchild can be white, African American, Latino, Asian America, Native American, Pacific Islander and more than 50 permutations thereof.

What’s not permitted is apathy about race.

Schools have long tried to get parents to identify their children by race. That’s a good idea for several reasons. For example, there’s no way to see what’s happening with the “achievement gap” if blacks and Latino students can’t be compared with white and Asian-American children.

Now the state is pushing that generally good idea to the point of ridiculous absolutism.

Not all parents want to classify their kids racially, and not all of them care. Lots of kids show up at school without having been properly profiled by their moms or dads. The requisite forms could be filled out with boxes checked for “unknown,” “multiracial” or “declined to answer.”

Under a new policy, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is permitting no such ambiguity. A race must be assigned – and the people at school will have to do it if the parents won’t.
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