I am almost caught up on my backlog of Comments of the Day!
This one, by multiple COTDs author Humble Talent, is really two; I’m taking the liberty of combining his later explication with the original comment, as they follow as the night follows day. The topic is bias and double standards in the criminal justice system, and hold on to your hat.
Here is Humble Talent’s 2-for 1 Comment of the Day on the post, “The Most Unethical Sentencing Fallacy Of All: Lavinia Woodward Gets “The King’s Pass”:
You know, every now and again when I’m feeling adventurous, I go to a place I think will have a whole lot of people that don’t think like me and poke at their sacred cows. You meet all kinds of people, and recently, I was given probably one of the better answers to a gender/race issue from the other side yet.
The original fact pattern is that racial activists will cite disparate impact as a problem at every stage of an interaction with the legal system. Black people are more likely to be pulled over, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged, more likely to be convicted, and more likely to receive harsher sentences… All for the same stimulus. All of this, by the way, is true. It doesn’t account for the five-fold disparity between the black and white prison population on a per capita basis, but it is a thumb on the scale.
The juxtaposition is that the disparity between men and women in the justice system is about six times that of the racial disparity I just described. Men are more likely to be pulled over, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged, more likely to be convicted, and more likely to receive harsher sentences… All for the same stimulus. Sonja Starr wrote extensively on this, and despite some of her methodology being questioned, there’s general consensus that she was on to something.
So the question is that if someone is deeply concerned about inequality, that they are genuinely interested in justice for everyone, why wouldn’t you be just as, if not more concerned with the gender disparity, than the racial one?
The shitty answers deny the data: “Men aren’t a disenfranchised class.” Which is true if you look at life as an extension of Marxist class warfare, but if objectively false if you look specifically at the criminal justice system. The slightly less shitty answers at least admit the phenomenon is real, but pretend it’s being addressed already: “Most of the black people we’re talking about are men, so there’s an intersection here, and helping black people will help men.” (This is, by the way, a regular go-to for feminists resisting men’s rights groups “You don’t need to worry about that, we’re equality, we got you covered”.) The next level up is indifference —“I accept that it’s a problem, but I choose to spend my time over here, because I think other things, like race, are more important.” The best level response is something like: “Huh, I never thought of that, maybe I’ll incorporate that into my activism.”
Fine, fine, that last one is kinda pie in the sky. But I got the indifferent answer, and we talked for a while. At some point, a little bell went off in my head: In systems based on the English system, it is generally preferred, not good, but preferred that 100 guilty people go free than a single innocent person receive punishment, because there is no greater injustice. Following that logic, my expectation would be that we probably see the reasonable baseline in the black and male populations. That is that I think that generally, the people who are arrested, charged, and imprisoned generally committed the crimes that they are convicted of.
So are we looking at this from the right perspective? Are black people and men being railroaded through the system, or are white people and women being given a get-out-of-jail-free card? Now I get that the answer might not lie entirely on one side of that… But it’s an interesting question, and one that passes Kant: If we are aiming at equality, will that be a function of having a more lenient, or harsh system? Will more people go free, or will more people be incarcerated?
…[The question is asked]: “Suppose the statistical differences in both racial and gender rates of offense are because of actual differences in rates of commission.”
My answer…“All of this, by the way, is true. It doesn’t account for the five-fold disparity between the black and white prison population on a per capita basis, but it is a thumb on the scale.”
The fact that men and black people as a demographic punch above their proportional representation in crimes committed is going to be the lion’s share of why the prison populations aren’t represented. Obviously. But the fact still remains that it is well documented that all other things being equal, men and black people seem to get worse treatment than their white and female counterparts. The most blatant example I can think of is statutory rape. When a male teacher rapes a female student, they’re sent to jail, when a female teacher rapes a male student, not only do they not always lose their jobs, but in the case of pregnancy she’s owed child support.
My point here is that our perception on this issue has historically been “black people are oppressed”, I don’t think that’s true. Back to my rape example… That male teacher DID rape his female student, he SHOULD go to jail. Going to jail isn’t unfair, he isn’t being oppressed, the female rapist is privileged. And while that’s cold comfort and maybe a semantic point to the people calling for equality, I think it’s philosophically important, because I think the black advocates sees judiciary reform as a silver bullet to a lot of the problems within the black community, where in reality, if the justice system treated everyone the same, very little would probably change for the black community, the difference would probably be felt strongest among the white community who all of a sudden wasn’t let off with a warning, wasn’t granted the relatively sweet plea bargain, was denied bail or was denied parole.