New Cartoon on The Nib: “On The Thirteenth Amendment”

Originally published by The Nib.

prisons-13th-amendment

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67 Responses to New Cartoon on The Nib: “On The Thirteenth Amendment”

  1. 1
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    If you changed that language, almost nobody would get let out of prison today. The systematic imprisonment issue would be pretty much the same; the black/white balance would be pretty much the same. The main thing which would be affected would be the government ability to use sentences involving hard labor, and to use jail workforces.

    It’s an interesting issue. If we forbade the use of any prison labor anywhere for any purpose, paid or not, would it be an overall improvement for prisoners? Would they get shorter sentences and better conditions? Or would they just be giving up their (minor) benefits and their (minimal) training?

    It seems extremely clear that we should never punish any prisoner for declining to voluntarily work, unless they are explicitly sentenced to labor as a condition of their sentence. But it isn’t nearly as clear that we should generally forbid them to work. Or that we should impose out-of-prison standards like unionizing (seriously?) in our analysis.

    Here is an interesting Guardian article which discusses both sides.

  2. 2
    Humble Talent says:

    If we’re talking about the intent of the 13th amendment, you’ve almost certainly mischaracterised it. I have very serious doubts that the intent of the thirteenth amendment was to “perpetuate white supremacy” by “systematically imprisoning ‘millions’ of blacks.” And I think it takes a really unhealthy worldview to attribute that to the people who passed it.

    So I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you meant it to be a point about race relations and incarceration rates today. It’s a ham-fisted point, because the question “What stops whites from using the law to systematically imprisoning millions of blacks so that white supremacy is maintained forever?” is fairly simply answered in 2017: Equality under the law. This admittedly didn’t exist in 1865, and didn’t for a very long time after, but it does now.

    So I’m going to give you some more doubt and assume that you were trying to say that perhaps the short sightedness of the people who passed the thirteenth amendment led to the system that allows for systematic incarceration.

    If that’s a strawman, feel free to tell me so, but I think I’ve got it.

    What I’d like to know then… Is which systems? Point out to me the systems that are racist in language, intent or design, and we can fight racism together. Because I find these arguments ridiculous… “Systematic Racism” is meaningless, it describes pain without identifying cause. We’re attributing disparate outcomes to discrimination when we have no reason to think that the disparate outcomes are the result of racial discrimination except the disparate outcomes exist.

    Ben Shapiro took a swing at that once… Let me find the exact quote…

    “Because it has nothing to do with race and everything to do with culture. And when you have a culture that doesn’t [interrupted]

    You know what, explain to me, you explain to me why black kids aren’t graduating high school. Explain that one to me. Explain to me why black kids are shooting each other at rates significantly higher than whites are shooting each other. Explain to me why 13% of the population is responsible for 50% of the murder. Explain to me why the number of black kids in prison, not for innocent reasons, not for walking down the street and getting pulled into a prison is so high. Explain to me, if it has nothing to do with culture, explain to me why the single motherhood rate increased in the black community, jumped from 20% to 70% in the same course of time that the civil rights movement has made such tremendous strides. Is America more racist now than it was in 1960? And if it is, please explain how that happened.”

    Now… Ben was talking about income inequality, but I think there’s overlap… I also think he was too absolute… I don’t preclude the possibility of actual systems designed with racial outcomes… But I think that it’s… exceptionally immature to pretend that any racial outcome must be the result of pressures inflicted on the group in question by an outside group.

  3. 3
    JutGory says:

    I see two problems here:

    1) the cartoon omits relevant language. The Amendment reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime….” It is not just talking about slavery. It is also talking about involuntary servitude. Arguably, the sentence structure is ambiguous, with the exception only applying to involuntary servitude, but could also reasonably apply to the entire neither…nor construction that preceded the column. Regardless, taking out involuntary servitude does mischaracterise the Amendment to some extent.

    2) The involuntary servitude and crime connection is important. Being sentenced to hard labor pre-existed the Amendment. The Amendment had to say we are getting rid of slavery, but that does not mean that we are getting rid of hard labor as a sentence for a crime. It was not creating a new way to enslave people; it was making clear that it was not abolishing a standard practice.

    But, chain gangs are mostly a thing of the past now, though “jobs” are still available in jail.

    -Jut

  4. 4
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Slavery by Another Name

    After the end of the civil war, a lot of black people were enslaved in the south for breaking arbitrary laws.

  5. 5
    RonF says:

    If someone commits a crime and is thereby incarcerated, is it not unfair to ask me to submit part of the products of my labor to the State to support them but to not require the incarcerated person to labor to defray the costs of their support?

  6. 6
    Charles says:

    Senator Sumner argued at the time of the passage of the 13th amendment that the imprisonment clause should be removed because it would provide a loophole for the recreation of slavery. While the prison slavery system of the Redeemer governments and Jim Crow era would probably have been created and tolerated even without the imprisonment clause of the 13th amendment (the systematic use of lynching clearly had no legal figleaf, but was legally tolerated none the less), it is certainly the case that white Americans could not be trusted not to reinstitute slavery by other means (as the cartoon depicts). As a Canadian, there’s no particular reason you would know about the historical prison slavery system in the Southern US, but you could try being less arrogant in your ignorance. (Also, where are you getting your fake quotes that you falsely attribute to Amp and mischaracterize as his intended meaning for the cartoon?)

    explain to me why the single motherhood rate increased in the black community, jumped from 20% to 70% in the same course of time that the civil rights movement has made such tremendous strides.

    The single motherhood rate for black people increased because the number of children per married black couple dropped faster than the also falling rate of unmarried black couples having children. Meanwhile, of course, the rate of unmarried white couples having children has been rising steadily. Focusing on the percentage of black children who are born to unmarried parents might be relevant for some purpose, but it doesn’t serve the purpose Ben Shapiro wants it to. The percentage of black couples who have children while unmarried has been falling at the same time that the percentage of white couples who have children while unmarried has been rising. If having children out of wedlock is a sign of cultural problems, those are problems that are increasing among white people and decreasing among black people.

    Explain to me why 13% of the population is responsible for 50% of the murder.

    “Collective guilt for thee but not for me!” I hear you cry (okay, you are quoting Ben Shapiro, but you are letting him speak for you). Black people are not collectively responsible for the actions of the tiny minority of black people who commit murder. Speaking of unhealthy world views!

    The disproportionate murder rate among black people is probably primarily explained by the disproportionate exposure to lead among black people, caused by the forced segregation of black people in older, poorer quality housing stock (lead paint) and in neighborhoods that were located close to major highways (leaded gasoline). Oh look, there’s some systematic racism for you to go fight!

    Of course, the criminalization of black people (where black people are massively more likely to be stopped by police, arrested by police, charged by DAs, convicted by juries, and sentenced to prison by judges than white people in the same situation are- a drug addicted serial bank-robber who is white might serve less than a year in jail, the same is vastly less likely for one who is black) probably also plays a part in the murder rate, since incarceration leads to criminal associations and if your social network involves murder you are vastly more likely to be murdered. Disproportionate poverty also probably plays a role, as does extremely disproportionate residence in neighborhoods with very high poverty rates (a tiny percentage of white people live in neighborhoods with a 30% poverty rate, but a substantial minority of black people do).

    But I think that it’s… exceptionally immature to pretend that any racial outcome must be the result of pressures inflicted on the group in question by an outside group.

    What’s up with your weird use of elipses?

    I think it is far worse than immature to pretend that centuries of brutal oppression, continuing in lesser forms to the present day, have had no effect. White people in suburbs next door to where RonF lives were firebombing and beating black people who tried to buy houses and move to the suburbs during RonF’s lifetime, and nearly during mine! White people in Boston were rioting against school integration during my lifetime (and they stopped because they won)! Banks systematically targeted black people for predatory loans during the housing bubble (continuing a long history of banking abuse of black people), destroying a much greater percentage of black capital than of white capital when the bubble burst (and no, that wasn’t because of the FHA), etc, etc. All of those systematic actions by white people have their intended consequences.

  7. 7
    Humble Talent says:

    First off, are you the Charles I think you are?

    (Also, where are you getting your fake quotes that you falsely attribute to Amp and mischaracterize as his intended meaning for the cartoon?)

    All I quoted Amp as saying was “What stops whites from using the law to systematically imprisoning millions of blacks so that white supremacy is maintained forever?” And if you’re asking me where I got that…. Might I suggest that you… click on the comic… and see the… whole thing, perhaps? If you’re still having a hard time finding it, it’s in panel four. At the top. Am I being condescending as hell? Yes. Did you call me a liar? Yes. That’s how that works.

    The single motherhood rate for black people increased because the number of children per married black couple dropped faster than the also falling rate of unmarried black couples having children.

    First and foremost: I noticed how you changed the goalposts from “single motherhood” to “born out of wedlock”. But let’s take a swing anyway.

    So the link you provided in that quote was to a previous Amp post, which had images from the National Center for Health Statistics National Vital Statistics Reports Volume 48 No. 16. The thing is that Amp’s images aren’t on that Stats Report. I’ll link the report:

    https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr48/nvs48_16.pdf

    The real image is on page 6, it’s very similar, except that it makes one distinction: Hispanic Black and Hispanic White. Somewhere around 1990 that report started treating Hispanic people as a separate ethnic group, and it started to skew the numbers to the point where you’re comparing apples to oranges. But fear not, dear reader, you can just scroll down the report to page 7 and look at figure 10, where it says very clearly that the percentage of children born to non-Hispanic black women who were born in America was… wait for it… 72%. Sure it says that the percentage born to non-Hispanic black women born outside America was 44%, but they’re a very small minority and the report is 19 years old. 10 years old at the time Amp cited it, these statistics have not improved by leaps and bounds.

    Focusing on the percentage of black children who are born to unmarried parents might be relevant for some purpose, but it doesn’t serve the purpose Ben Shapiro wants it to.

    I think it serves exactly the point Ben was making, but you’re trying very hard to pretend that it doesn’t exist. If 72% of black children are born to a single mother, it doesn’t matter particularly WHY that’s happening, the fact of the matter is that it IS happening, and that means that 72% of black children grow up in… a higher statistical probability of everything wrong with America. An ACE marker already checked off. In a place that’s probably less conductive to a good life than the alternative. Not in every case, obviously, but in a way that is significant. And this is one of those things that I don’t think you can connect the dots between action and racism.

    If having children out of wedlock is a sign of cultural problems, those are problems that are increasing among white people and decreasing among black people.

    Why is this a contest? If single motherhood rates are rising among white people, that’s a problem too. Single motherhood is… tough… that word is insufficient, but as far as I think I want to get into it because it’s irrelevant to this point. According to the same CDC stats survey, the percentage of children born to unwed non-Hispanic white mothers is 23%, even if that trend was rising alongside a decrease in the NHB population, you’re still looking at rates three times as high. It’s a problem.

    Black people are not collectively responsible for the actions of the tiny minority of black people who commit murder. Speaking of unhealthy world views!

    Look, you can’t have your cake and eat it too, if you want to say that the percentage of the black population as a whole is disproportionately incarcerated, then you’ve already treated them as a monolith, and saying that that same population is also disproportionately committing murders is using the standard that you have already laid out.

    “The disproportionate murder rate among black people is probably primarily explained by the disproportionate exposure to lead among black people,” […]Oh look, there’s some systematic racism for you to go fight!

    I have to admit when I first read that I wondered if it also turned frogs gay… But apparently there’s merit to the theory, I’m not sure the theory really does what you want it to though… lead paint was banned for sale in the late 70’s and America converted over to unleaded fuel in the early 70’s. Following that, I’m not sure that it still applies, and even if it did I’m not entirely sure which system you’re referring to. Is there still a prevalent amount of 70’s era housing with lead paint? I have it in my head that you’re probably more likely to get lead exposure by chewing on a toy made in China than you are living close to a highway or licking your walls…. But if that’s actually a thing, I could get behind doing something about it.

    What’s up with your weird use of elipses?

    It signifies a word that I struggled with. Either because I had a hard time finding a word that really encapsulated what I was trying to put out there (In these cases most of the words I end up using are imperfect compromises) or because I really wanted to say something rude and I will power’d myself back to something more reasonable. Read them like a person taking a breath and adjusting his glasses. Also, I’m weird.

  8. 8
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Nancy Lebovitz says:
    After the end of the civil war, a lot of black people were enslaved in the south for breaking arbitrary laws.

    Yes.

    Things were pretty different in the years immediately after the Civil War than they are today, though, so perhaps this is the mixup: Amp, are you trying to comment on current politics? Are you trying to write what amounts to a historical cartoon? Or something else?

  9. 9
    Charles S says:

    (I’m the same Charles as Charles S, if that is what you mean. Sorry for the confusion, one of my browsers autofills one way, the other autofills the other. If it has the “supercilious person in the purple shirt standing in front of a wall of text” icon, it is me, S or no S.)

    On failing to realize that you were quoting from the comic: Ha! Oops! I blame Amp for not including a transcript! Also, you weren’t actually quoting, you were paraphrasing, and the comic didn’t say that that was the purpose of the imprisonment clause in the 13th amendment! But yeah, Ooops! My bad. Sorry.

    On unwed parents or single motherhood:
    You, quoting Ben Shapiro, “Because it has nothing to do with race and everything to do with culture…. explain to me why the single motherhood rate increased in the black community”,

    Me: [paraphrased] Because that rate combines two separate things, and one of them decreased by a huge amount (birth rate for married black parents), and the other decreased by a smaller amount (birth rate for unmarried black parents), neither of which implies a failure of the black culture that Ben Shapiro is claiming exists. Sure, the rising proportion of black children who are born to unmarried parents may be an issue worth talking about, but it isn’t a sign of a cultural issue, unlike the rising rate of childbirth for unmarried white parents, which might be a cultural issue.

    You: “[I]t doesn’t matter particularly WHY that’s happening….”

    Me (right now): …. Well then, why did you quote someone asking for an explanation of why? Why are you trying to use it in an argument about whether systematic racism exists?

    Like I said, it may well matter, but it doesn’t do the work that Ben Shapiro is trying to make it do. As the brutality of systemic racism has declined, the rate of births to unmarried black parents has declined. That’s evidence for systemic racism having an effect that doesn’t vanish instantly the moment formal segregation ends, but does decrease over time. It is not evidence for a cultural issue that is getting worse since formal segregation ended (which is what “explain why …. 20% to 70%” clearly implies).

    [On the language thing, I’m using unmarried parents or unmarried couples because, with the exception of parthenogenesis (and sperm-bank IVF, I guess), everybody has two parents, and almost all of those parents coupled. I dislike the woman-blaming implicit in “single motherhood.” Also, as you just demonstrated, Ben Shapiro’s 70% matches the unmarried parents rate, not the mothers without partners rate. The children born to mothers without cohabitating partners (single motherhood) rate is much lower.]

    On lead: Even in the current day, young black children are much more likely to have dangerously high blood lead levels than white children of the same age. The rate was about 4-5 times as high for low-end dangerous concentrations, but closer to 10 times as likely for high-end dangerous concentrations, back in 1997-2001, which is what will matter for crime rates from 2019-2023. The rates were a little more disparate in 1991-1994, which is what is relevant to the last several years of crime rates, but that report lacks a table of the higher blood lead levels. The rates have become more even (still 2-3 times as likely) more recently, but current exposure will show up in the crime rate in 22 years, not tomorrow: 3 year olds commit a vanishingly small number of murders.

    Lead doesn’t just go away, so if you live next to a freeway that has been around since the phase out ended in 1995 (90% complete in 1986), then your soil is highly likely to be very heavily contaminated with lead. Also, since the violent crime rate has dropped enormously since the early 1990s, even older lead poisoned people (who were kids in the 1970s) now make up an unusually significant fraction of violent criminals (violent crime was historically almost entirely committed by people in the 19-25 range or so, but the after effects of the lead crime wave has shifted that) and the very high lead rates were also about 6 times as high for black children as for white children in the 1970s.

    For lead paint, there is plenty of old housing stock. People usually paint over old paint, so buildings older than 1950 that haven’t been heavily remodeled are likely to have lead paint (lead paint was less lead-rich after 1950 or so). In well maintained buildings, that lead is an inaccessible undercoat. In poorly maintained buildings, that lead is exposed as paint chips and dust.

    On collective blame:

    Look, you can’t have your cake and eat it too, if you want to say that the percentage of the black population as a whole is disproportionately incarcerated, then you’ve already treated them as a monolith, and saying that that same population is also disproportionately committing murders is using the standard that you have already laid out.

    I don’t have a problem with saying that black people have a higher murder rate. I have a problem with saying that black people are collectively responsible for the higher murder rate. A tiny percentage of black people commit murder, just like a tiny percentage of white people commit murder. 13% of the population (black people) are not responsible for 50% of the murders, even though 50% of murders are committed by people who belong to that 13%.

    In terms of disparate arrest and incarceration rates and collective guilt vs. collective injustice, there is plenty of evidence demonstrating that individual black people are much more likely to be treated harshly at every single step of the system. If two teens go out and buy marijuana (for example), one white, one black, the black kid is more likely to be stopped and frisked, more likely to be arrested if they were stopped, more likely to be charged if they were arrested, more likely to be convicted if they were charged, and more likely to be sentenced to jail if they were convicted. The black kid was also more likely to be suspended or expelled if they cause a disruption in school all the way back to grade school, and more likely to have their childhood behavior treated as a crime. Additionally, heavy incarceration rates in a community are harmful to that community, so while none of us are automatically responsible for our second cousin or the kid down the street committing a crime, we are harmed by our second cousin or the kid down the street getting unfairly railroaded by the justice system.

    So, no, acknowledging collective injustice against a group is not equivalent to collectively blaming a group for the actions of a small minority of the group.

  10. 10
    Hume says:

    @Charles

    Of course, the criminalization of black people (where black people are massively more likely to be stopped by police, arrested by police, charged by DAs, convicted by juries, and sentenced to prison by judges than white people in the same situation are- a drug addicted serial bank-robber who is white might serve less than a year in jail, the same is vastly less likely for one who is black) probably also plays a part in the murder rate, since incarceration leads to criminal associations and if your social network involves murder you are vastly more likely to be murdered.

    Most likely, this is even more true on all these metrics for men than for black people. For example, professor Sonja Starr found that there was a 6 time greater disparity in sentences for the same crime for men vs women than black people vs white people. So you are far better off being a black woman than a white man in the justice system.

    So will you you acknowledge that there is collective injustice against men based on the same reasoning you use to argue that there is collective injustice against black people? And will you acknowledge that ‘toxic misandry’ most likely blames men for being criminalized in very much the same way that ‘black violent culture’ blames black people for being criminalized?

  11. 11
    RonF says:

    Charles @ 6:

    White people in suburbs next door to where RonF lives were firebombing and beating black people who tried to buy houses and move to the suburbs during RonF’s lifetime, ….

    Well, as these things go “next door to where RonF lives” is not accurate. But did that happen in Chicago suburbs during my lifetime? Yes. I was horrified to hear that it had happened, although I was not living in the Chicago area at the time. But then, moving to Chicago during my late teens exposed me to virulent yet casual racism that I had never seen or heard when I lived near Boston that in general horrified me.

    That exposure started as soon as I got to the Chicago area, too. When we moved into my new house in a Chicago suburb, one of the first things we did was to plug in the TV to see what channels were there and what was on them. Turned out that every channel had the same thing on – some place called “the West side” was burning down because someone named Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot and killed. That was my introduction to Chicago.

    White people in Boston were rioting against school integration during my lifetime (and they stopped because they won)!

    I was living in the city of Boston at the time. When the Boston Dept. of Education was taken to court it was found that in some cases it was actually bussing black kids past white schools near their homes to black ones farther away. Judge Garrity decided that Boston could on that basis damn well bus black kids to white schools. The biggest problems happened at the schools in Dorchester and South Boston (a.k.a. “Southie”) which were working-class white areas that it was not entirely safe for a black person to be walking through in the first place, especially after working hours. Noting that Judge Garrity lived in a wealthy suburb and wasn’t going to have kids anywhere near those schools there was a LOT of anger directed towards him. When those buses showed up there were protests of a pretty vicious character. I’m surprised no one got killed. Hell, I’m surprised Judge Garrity didn’t get killed.

  12. 12
    RonF says:

    I think the most relevant way to look at the effects of parental situations on children would be to compare the percentage of children who live in homes without a resident father and/or without a father who is employed and is supporting his family. My guess – and it’s purely a guess, I’d like to see the numbers – is that the percentage of black kids growing up without an employed father (or even just a male acting as a surrogate father) supporting the family resident in the home is much higher than in white households.

    Kids need their fathers. Hell, mothers need their kids’ fathers. Can a single mother without their child’s father (or a male acting as a father figure) living at home and helping to support both her and the children emotionally, physically and financially raise children properly? It’s possible, and it’s done, but it’s a lot harder on everyone and I figure it’s a lot less likely.

  13. 13
    Humble Talent says:

    Me (right now): …. Well then, why did you quote someone asking for an explanation of why? Why are you trying to use it in an argument about whether systematic racism exists?

    To be fair to me, the question actually was “Explain to me, if it has nothing to do with culture, explain to me why the single motherhood rate increased in the black community, jumped from 20% to 70% in the same course of time that the civil rights movement has made such tremendous strides.”

    Ben wasn’t asking what the cause was, specifically, he was asking whether the cause was cultural, or discriminatory in nature. If the answer is cultural… It’s not particularly important what part of culture, and if it’s discriminatory, it’s not particularly important what kind of discrimination, at least to the argument.

    Your answer was that the rate of children born to unwed mothers has not increased. Again, that switches the goalposts, and misreads the data. The report Amp cited doesn’t say what you think it does, and your answer doesn’t take into account single motherhood after birth. An absent but married father really isn’t a father, and the divorce rate is at an all-time high, just off the top of my head.

    As the brutality of systemic racism has declined, the rate of births to unmarried black parents has declined. […] [That] is not evidence for a cultural issue that is getting worse since formal segregation ended (which is what “explain why …. 20% to 70%” clearly implies).

    We’re still not talking about the same things. Let me ask you… Do you think Ben made his numbers up from whole cloth? Or do you accept that they came from somewhere, even if you disagree with the methodology, and that there is a rate which could loosely be described as “the single motherhood rate” that increased from 20% to 70% between 1960 and today?

    Also, as you just demonstrated, Ben Shapiro’s 70% matches the unmarried parents rate, not the mothers without partners rate. The children born to mothers without cohabitating partners (single motherhood) rate is much lower.

    I’m not going to say you’re wrong, but I’d love you to cite that. It goes against the grain of everything I’ve read, which is that even if you count unmarried but steadily cohabitating parents, the rate among black families is still significantly high and more than double the rate of their white counterparts.

    On lead… I’m willing to partially accept your premise, I’m at least not going to deny it, but I think there’s invariably going to be more to it than that, poverty trended with crime long before lead was a factor, and it does even in places that didn’t use lead in infrastructure. I just have no idea what can be gleaned from it. What action could be taken now? Or do we just resign ourselves to the fact that due to lead exposure, among other things, black Americans will for the next generation or two commit violent crime at a rate about 5 times greater than their proportion of the population would suggest they should?

    I don’t have a problem with saying that black people have a higher murder rate. I have a problem with saying that black people are collectively responsible for the higher murder rate. A tiny percentage of black people commit murder, just like a tiny percentage of white people commit murder. 13% of the population (black people) are not responsible for 50% of the murders, even though 50% of murders are committed by people who belong to that 13%.

    Right, but to bring this back to Amp’s cartoon, we’re talking about incarceration rates. If a demographic punches above its weight class in murder, it would follow logically that members of that demographic would punch above their weight class in prison population for murder. My argument isn’t that black people at large are responsible for murders, my argument is that the black people in jail for murder probably did the crime they’re serving time for.

    Look, we just got finished saying that black Americans commit violent crime at a rate of about 5 times that of their white counterparts… Well… The white incarceration rate is 450 per 100,000 and the black incarceration rate is 2,300 per 100,000. These numbers make a certain amount of sense. I’m not saying that the system is perfect, and I’m not saying that sentencing disparity is a myth or that arrest rates can’t be biased… But I am saying is that before someone starts citing disparate impact as evidence of systematic discrimination, they might be well served to ask themselves if there could be other mitigating factors.

    If two teens go out and buy marijuana (for example), one white, one black, the black kid is more likely to be stopped and frisked, more likely to be arrested if they were stopped, more likely to be charged if they were arrested, more likely to be convicted if they were charged, and more likely to be sentenced to jail if they were convicted.

    You’re right. Absolutely. I’d suggest that we should legalize marijuana to fix that, but even though I really do think we should, I realise that your point carries on to other areas of justice. I struggle with this, because I don’t know what to do about it. These biases are usually subliminal… And so if the problem is that when faced with a choice, biases might influence that choice, the answer would seem to be to remove that choice from law enforcement… Don’t stop at mandatory minimums, have mandatory sentences (preferably more reasonable ones than we do currently). The problem with that is that outside of sentencing, it gets harder to control… The things that would remove bias from the equation invariably would become so unwieldy that the system would cease to function. And let’s face it, anyone who’s ever been let off with a warning is probably grateful that the officer had a certain amount of leeway.

  14. 14
    Ampersand says:

    Hume:

    Actually, I’ve written about the Sonja Starr study before. And yes, definitely, it reflects injustice against men as a class.

    I’ve never heard the phrase “toxic misandry” before, and wonder if you meant “toxic masculinity?” If so, I’d say that it depends on context and usage. I’ve certainly seen people use the phrase “toxic masculinity” in ways that I thought were sexist and antimale; but I’m also a man who was greatly harmed by cultural notions of masculinity, and for me “toxic masculinity” is a necessary phrase for describing some important things in my life.

  15. 15
    Ampersand says:

    BTW, everyone, I’m currently travelling and it’ll be mid-month before I return, so my time and access to do things like post here will be limited.

  16. 16
    Ampersand says:

    Don’t stop at mandatory minimums, have mandatory sentences (preferably more reasonable ones than we do currently).

    I wouldn’t be opposed to making the maximum sentences lower across the board. But I think the main problem is that prosecutors in the US have almost no accountability, and the little accountability they have – which is that they have to face voters – gives them strong incentives to charge too highly. Mandatory minimums (which should be done away with) have made the problem even worse, by taking power out of judge’s hands and putting it into prosecutors hands.

    Glenn Reynalds (aka instapundit) isn’t someone I agree with often, but he’s had some good thoughts on how to make it harder for prosecutors to abuse the system. One idea is to eliminate plea bargains. There’s a bit more about this here.

  17. 17
    Jake Squid says:

    But then, moving to Chicago during my late teens exposed me to virulent yet casual racism that I had never seen or heard when I lived near Boston that in general horrified me.

    When I first visited Boston sometime around 1983, I left feeling that I’d never been to a more segragated, racist city in my life. YMMV.

  18. 18
    lauren says:

    Kids need their fathers. Hell, mothers need their kids’ fathers. Can a single mother without their child’s father (or a male acting as a father figure) living at home and helping to support both her and the children emotionally, physically and financially raise children properly? It’s possible, and it’s done, but it’s a lot harder on everyone and I figure it’s a lot less likely

    That is a very heterocentric view. There are a lot of studies (which have been discussed here in the past, I tink) which clearly stated that the outcomes for children raised by two mothers are not generally worse than those of children raised by two opposite sex parents.

    Also, not all children need their fathers. Kids who have fathers who are aexually, physically or emotionally abusive – they are often much better of whout the father in the picture.Children who are not abused themselves, but have to watch their fathers abuse their other parent may very well be better of if their parents split up (and vice versa, if the mother is the one abusing the kids or other parent).

    Even if the parents arent abusive, simply unhappy in their relationship, seperating may be much better than forcing themselves to stay together “for the kids” (though in that case, both parents would ideally stay very involved in the childrens lives after the split)

    The idea that children are always better of with two parents is one that can be incredibly harmful, when it leads to people staying together who would be better of seperated.

  19. 19
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Ampersand says:
    May 5, 2017 at 10:51 am
    …prosecutors in the US have almost no accountability,

    Correct

    and the little accountability they have – which is that they have to face voters

    Actually, only a tiny portion of prosecutors, generally representing a handful of the top staff, are elected. The vast majority are appointed, or are hired directly. When people are dealing with a prosecutor, they generally are not dealing with an elected official, and they are quite possibly dealing with someone who predates the current elected folks.

    This makes matters worse. It’s hard enough to hold elected people accountable; it’s even harder to hold them accountable for staff; it’s almost impossible to hold them accountable for staff who they didn’t directly hire.

  20. 20
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Humble Talent says:
    …Look, we just got finished saying that black Americans commit violent crime at a rate of about 5 times that of their white counterparts… Well… The white incarceration rate is 450 per 100,000 and the black incarceration rate is 2,300 per 100,000.

    HT, I think you’re missing the point.

    Someone else said:
    If two teens go out and [commit violent crime], one white, one black, the black kid is more likely to be stopped and frisked, more likely to be arrested if they were stopped, more likely to be charged if they were arrested, more likely to be convicted if they were charged

    What the above example implies is that the five-fold rate increase is not necessarily accurate. If you’re XX% more likely to identify, arrest, and convict black people than you are white people, then you need to adjust for that when making claims about guilt.

    IOW, the convicted folks and prisoners are dependent, not independent. And you can’t use that info to disprove bias, because they both occur after any bias.

    Nobody knows what “XX%” is, of course; still, I don’t think anyone believes that the bias is so severe as to override the enormous 5:1 differential in outcomes (IOW, I think the black crime rate would exceed the white crime rate even after correcting for bias). Similarly, I don’t think any expert believes that the system is bias-free, or that bias is so small as to be irrelevant.

    As for eliminating bias, simple solutions will not work. Consider that we have spent immense resources and effort to try and eliminate the black/white test gap, and have been unable to do so–even though it is a social benefit and has an obvious social goal; even though we’re looking mostly at pre-K or K-age kids with a lot of controllable input differences; even though we have a standard and widely understood outcome measure; and even though people prefer kids over felons.

    Criminal system bias involves multiple tests in sequence, with multiple decisions, multiple parties, and significant differences in inputs. And it happens very late, after people are already acting like criminals. And you can’t always tell what to do in any particular case. It’s worth it to always strive to improve, and we do, but it sure as heck isn’t going to get solved by anything simple.

  21. 21
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’ve wondered if confessions should simply be eliminated from determination of guilt. It’s very easy to get a false confession.

    Thoughts about how that would work out?

  22. 22
    Kate says:

    Consider that we have spent immense resources and effort to try and eliminate the black/white test gap…

    We have not. Most states fund public schools based on local property taxes. Students in wealthy, predominantly white districts get far better schools than those in poor, predominantly minority districts.

    http://www.npr.org/2016/04/18/474256366/why-americas-schools-have-a-money-problem

  23. 23
    Mookie says:

    Can a single mother without their child’s father (or a male acting as a father figure) living at home and helping to support both her and the children emotionally, physically and financially raise children properly? It’s possible, and it’s done, but it’s a lot harder on everyone and I figure it’s a lot less likely

    Is there any reason you’re attributing the plight of single motherhood in the US to the absence of adult, male partners, rather than the secondary economic and social status of women, particularly poor women without regular access to contraception? Since single mothers exist and enforced sterility in a free, civilian population is legal, wouldn’t it be easier to systematically tackle the institutions that keep women from becoming financially independent? Single fathers fare significantly better than their female counterparts–higher income, more chance at co-habitation with another adult, and more likely to live above the poverty line–and this is despite their poor education. They’re also more likely to be white than single mothers.

  24. 24
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Nancy Lebovitz says:
    May 5, 2017 at 3:26 pm
    I’ve wondered if confessions should simply be eliminated from determination of guilt. It’s very easy to get a false confession.

    Thoughts about how that would work out?

    Poorly. Accurate confessions are a significant subset of “guilty people getting caught.”

    A more reasonable solution is to have all police/suspect encounters videotaped, so that counsel, courts, and juries can at least have evidence to hopefully distinguish between coerced and non-coerced confessions.

  25. 25
    Humble Talent says:

    G&W @ 20

    What the above example implies is that the five-fold rate increase is not necessarily accurate. If you’re XX% more likely to identify, arrest, and convict black people than you are white people, then you need to adjust for that when making claims about guilt.

    This is undoubtedly true, but I’m wondering whether the system tilts more towards imprisoning innocent black people or expressing lenience to guilty white people. Hume referenced the male/female sentencing gap, and I think that we have to ask the same question: Are we punishing innocent men, or expressing leniency to guilty women?

    I get that it won’t be a one way answer, but the American justice system, along with many others based on British law, is predicated on the idea that it is better, not necessarily good, but better for a hundred guilty people to be set free than for a single innocent person to be punished, because there is no greater injustice. Because of that, generally, I think we’re expressing lenience. It’s not a perfect system, and there are parts of it that lead to bad results, I agree with Amp and Glen Reynolds (a sentence I never thought I would type) on plea bargains, as a great example, but I think it generally functions as intended.

    And if I’m right… Is it better to show the same lenience to everyone, or is it better to enforce the same standards of justice for everyone?

  26. 26
    Humble Talent says:

    Mookie @ 23

    Single fathers fare significantly better than their female counterparts–higher income, more chance at co-habitation with another adult, and more likely to live above the poverty line–and this is despite their poor education. They’re also more likely to be white than single mothers.

    I don’t think a legitimate line can be drawn between a gendered difference in degrees of poverty among single parents until the courts stop biasing custody cases. In more than 80% of contested custody battles, custody is awarded to the mother. That means that in order for a father to actually gain custody of his children in a contested case, either he must be amazingly qualified, or she must be amazingly unqualified. In the face of that… I would be blown away if single fathers weren’t out performing their counterparts.

    Is there any reason you’re attributing the plight of single motherhood in the US to the absence of adult, male partners, rather than the secondary economic and social status of women, particularly poor women without regular access to contraception?

    I find the assertion that without contraception, women have no choice other than to make babies like a Pez dispenser novel from someone who talks about female empowerment and agency.

    There were stories out of Africa, back in the 80’s, where missionaries providing condoms to locals actually did more damage in spreading AIDS then they prevented, at least in the short term, because the locals had been told “using these will help prevent unwanted pregnancy and AIDS”, but were not told how to use them. So there were reports of people unrolling them over their bedposts, or hanging them from the ceiling.

    Believe it or not, coupling contraceptives and birth control, there is also education. We know how babies are made. And while living chaste might not be ideal, unwanted pregnancy and single parenthood are worse, and choices were made.

  27. 27
    Ampersand says:

    I’m very skeptical such stories were true, or if true were representative; it sounds like a racist “Africans are so stupid” urban myth. Africans, too, know how babies are made.

    Lots more to say, so little time. Will hopefully be back later.

  28. 28
    delurking says:

    “In more than 80% of contested custody battles, custody is awarded to the mother.”

    Humble Talent’s data is incorrect.

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs13524-014-0307-8

  29. 29
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Humble Talent says:
    May 8, 2017 at 8:06 am
    G&W @ 20

    What the above example implies is that the five-fold rate increase is not necessarily accurate. If you’re XX% more likely to identify, arrest, and convict black people than you are white people, then you need to adjust for that when making claims about guilt.

    This is undoubtedly true, but I’m wondering whether the system tilts more towards imprisoning innocent black people or expressing lenience to guilty white people. Hume referenced the male/female sentencing gap, and I think that we have to ask the same question: Are we punishing innocent men, or expressing leniency to guilty women?

    That is merely semantics. It may be true that anything stricter than X is “punishment” and anything less harsh is “leniency,” but where we set X is entirely arbitrary. You can accurately compare the relative strictness of two sentences, but if that is what you’re looking at, you muddy the waters if you inject words like “lenient.” Some folks might think we are too lenient (rapists), some might think we are too strict (drugs) but you can find relative race differences in both.

    And if I’m right… Is it better to show the same lenience to everyone, or is it better to enforce the same standards of justice for everyone?

    I don’t think you’re using “lenience” right here, because those things are pretty similar. I grok you’re trying to get at the issue of “using the same process for everyone even though it has different effects depending on their situation” versus “using personalized treatment for everyone even if it means that they get different processes based on their situation.” That’s an ongoing debate.

  30. 30
    Humble Talent says:

    I’m very skeptical such stories were true, or if true were representative; it sounds like a racist “Africans are so stupid” urban myth. Africans, too, know how babies are made.

    I had meant it to highlight how education was just as, or even more important than the contraceptive, and I stand by that. I remember hearing that story distinculy during a sex ed class… Although this was more than a decade ago now, and I can’t find corroborating material. I’ll abandon the anecdote, I don’t think it was particularly material, especially if we can all agree that education is important. We can all agree on that, right?

    “In more than 80% of contested custody battles, custody is awarded to the mother.”

    Humble Talent’s data is incorrect.

    Aged? Perhaps. But look at your own link, table 2. The trend went from 87% of the time custody went to the mother to 52%. That’s great right? Equality. Except no. Father’s custody went from 5% to 3%. What’s the difference? Shared custody. 44%. What is shared custody? If you look at the definition that report used, it’s a situation in which the child spends more than 25% of nights with the other parent, but is explicitly not equal, because there is another term for that. What does that mean? Weekend dads. 2/7 days is 28% of nights.

    Now I’m not going to say that’s a bad trend… It’s actually probably better for everyone involved. But I think there’s a fig leaf here… Most people would see 72% custody as simply being “custody, and sometimes you visit dad.”

  31. 31
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    delurking says:
    “In more than 80% of contested custody battles, custody is awarded to the mother.”
    Humble Talent’s data is incorrect.

    I was incredibly surprised by what this seemed to suggest. It was my experience, and the experience of almost all the divorce folks I know, that mothers retain a huge advantage in divorce proceedings. Was I wrong?

    No. Apparently Moms still have the advantage; here is the relevant chart from that link.. Which is to say: The 80% figure is wrong, but the general argument HT was making is unaffected.

    The “Mother has sole custody” rate has gone down a ton, from ~78% in 1988 to ~42% in 2008. But it is still over 40% for mothers, while fathers seem to get custody no more than 10% of the time. That 4:1 ratio is pretty steep.

    There is another 15% or so which is “unequal shared custody”. Given the other results, you can make your own guesses at to which inequality is more likely.

  32. 32
    delurking says:

    I humbly suggest that Humble Talent read the entire paper, rather than just cherry-picking one line of one table to bolster their argument.

  33. 33
    Humble Talent says:

    Why would you ask more of me than you did yourself?

    What I’ve said is all over that paper:

    The 2011 Current Population Survey-Child Support Supplement (CPS-CSS) does provide information on the number of custodial mothers and custodial fathers, based on where individuals say their children live, with 81.7 % of custodial parents being mothers and 18.3 % being fathers (Grall 2013). However, only a crude categorization of custody outcomes is possible with these data; some of these parents have sole custody, others have unequal shared custody, and others have equal custody. New research is needed.

    The CPS-CSS shows that the number of custodial fathers increased from 2.18 million in 1993 to 2.64 million in 2011; during this period, the number of custodial mothers also increased but at a slower rate (from 13.69 million to 14.44 million). As a result, the proportion of all custodial parents who are fathers increased during this period, from 16.0 % to 18.3 %.

    Following the earlier analysis, we distinguish a series of divisions between mother and father that range from: (1) mother–sole custody (more than 75 % of overnights with mother); (2) shared custody (including mother–primary shared custody, equal shared custody, and father–primary shared custody); and (3) father–sole custody (more than 75 % of overnights with father). For the basic descriptive analysis, we also differentiate equal shared from unequal shared custody and consider split custody (in which at least one child lives with the mother and at least one lives with the father), but there are too few cases with father primary shared custody or with split custody to use all six categories in the multivariate analysis.

    I humbly suggest that if you aren’t interested in reading your own citations, that you don’t. cite. them.

  34. 34
    Harlequin says:

    I can’t find good statistics on this right now, but I’ll note that a large majority of custody decisions are not contested, so Humble Talent’s first point at #26 is unlikely to be a dominant factor (and likewise, statistics about all custody arrangements cannot address it).

    I find the assertion that without contraception, women have no choice other than to make babies like a Pez dispenser novel from someone who talks about female empowerment and agency

    It is not an insult to women to point out that women who cannot access contraception do not have good choices when it comes to family planning. Nor is it insulting to mention reproductive coercion, which can be a large part of this. (Methods of contraception women control are, typically, more expensive than the ones men do.)

    Anyway, it’s interesting to me that a cartoon about how mostly white people discriminate against black people has resulted in a comment thread debating the choices of impoverished single mothers.

  35. 35
    Kate says:

    Believe it or not, coupling contraceptives and birth control, there is also education. We know how babies are made. And while living chaste might not be ideal, unwanted pregnancy and single parenthood are worse, and choices were made.

    Chasitity requires education too. It sure isn’t natural for most people. With or without education, chastity has a much lower success rate than any form of birth control. Most humans are sexual beings. Sexual partners and children are not luxury products to be enjoyed only by a priveledged few. In fact, families are an important foundation of our social structure. If society is structured in a way such that a significant percentage of people can never afford to marry and have children; and/or that heterosexual women must choose between abstaining from sex for most of their adult lives and having children they can’t afford to care for, that is a problem with our social structure, not the individual choices of those women.

  36. 36
    Kate says:

    Anyway, it’s interesting to me that a cartoon about how mostly white people discriminate against black people has resulted in a comment thread debating the choices of impoverished single mothers.

    Many of whom are teenage girls impregnated by adult men.

  37. 37
    Charles S says:

    Anyway, it’s interesting to me that a cartoon about how mostly white people discriminate against black people has resulted in a comment thread debating the choices of impoverished single mothers.

    Yup. Let’s ignore a century and a half of often brutal (including prison slavery) and literally poisonous racism related to the cartoon and instead focus on a fantasy of personal responsibility.

    HT:

    Point out to me the systems that are racist in language, intent or design, and we can fight racism together.

    HT, now that you have recognized the lasting effects of a racist system that is racist in language, intent and design (the housing and transportation policies that created ongoing disproportionate lead poisoning of black people), why do you now retreat to passivity?

    HT:

    I just have no idea what can be gleaned from it. What action could be taken now? Or do we just resign ourselves to the fact that due to lead exposure, among other things, black Americans will for the next generation or two commit violent crime at a rate about 5 times greater than their proportion of the population would suggest they should?

    What actions could be taken? Massive soil lead clean-ups and remediation, lead paint removal programs (to prevent future and ongoing poisoning), early childhood education programs and programs to reduce poverty (to decrease the effects of lead poisoning on young children), special education programs for lead-poisoned teenagers (to help lead poisoned people deal with poor impulse control), breaking the school to prison pipeline, there are lots of components and options. All of those programs already exist to some extent, but they are severely underfunded (and will be even more underfunded or abolished if the Republicans get their way).

    Find the part of that that interests you most and get involved. Let us know how it goes.

    As you said, “we can fight racism together.”

  38. 38
    Jane Doh says:

    With regards to overpolicing and criminalization of black people doing ordinary things white people freely do without issues, there is a great recent article from the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/03/identity-theft-racial-justice

    The article is by a white woman who shares a name and birthday with a black woman, both living in NY, and describes how computers intertwined their identities along with the resulting outcomes. In one thread of the article, the white woman talks about getting entangled in legal problems via her “shared” identity, and eventually comes to realize that her namesake became a petty criminal through overpolicing without doing anything too dramatically different than she might do. It is a fascinating read that threads together problems of computer databases, identification in the modern age, and social injustice.

  39. 39
    delurking says:

    Again, Humble Talent is cherry-picking from the source. The situation is much more interesting and much more complex than they are pretending it is, and has much more to do with wealth and with the parent’s situation in life than it does with gender.

    Even the table they cherry-picked from made that clear — but the article itself, which deserves to be read in full, is an interesting one, and should be read by anyone who is actually interested in what has been happening with child custody over the past few decades.

  40. 40
    RonF says:

    Kate @ 33:
    “… that heterosexual women must choose between abstaining from sex for most of their adult lives and having children they can’t afford to care for, …”

    While perhaps not an entirely inclusive list, it seems to me that the actual main choices are:

    1) Be celibate
    2) Use birth control if you are single and cannot afford to raise a child on your own while taking the small but finite risk that it will fail and accepting the obligation to raise the child
    3) Use birth control if you as a married couple cannot afford to raise your children or simply do not wish to do so while taking the small but finite risk that it will fail and accepting the obligation to raise the child
    4) Have children with a partner in whom you have confidence is both willing and able to help raise your children (marriage gives you extra leverage in case that person changes their mind)
    5) Have children without such a partner and abandon your responsibilities for ensuring the child has sufficient emotional, physical and financial support and expecting someone else or some institution (e.g., the State) to provide it instead.

    Prior to my marriage my partners and I chose alternative 2. Once I was married my wife and I chose alternative 3 for about 7 years. Then we rolled with alternative 4, which wound up with 2 kids who both got engineering degrees and are living on their own.

    My viewpoint is that it is not at all unreasonable for society to put a whole lot of constraints on people who choose alternative 5, nor is it outrageous to expect people to adopt alternative 1.

    “that is a problem with our social structure, not the individual choices of those women.”

    No. None of these alternatives just happen. They all depend on the individual choices of the people involved. Alternative 5 very often is what locks young women into poverty, and avoiding it through choosing the others is very often what enables them to get out of it. It is highly desirable that people do not choose alternative 5. It’s a very good idea for society to expect people to select other alternatives and to condemn the last choice. When a significant number of people choose that last choice society itself suffers. Experience shows that the people involved should not expect good outcomes for either themselves or their children.

  41. 41
    RonF says:

    And yes – I know that there’s an alternative ending to choices 2, 3 and 5 that results in no child being born. Damned if I’ll list it, though. It’s worse than any of the other choices.

  42. 42
    Kate says:

    Way to ignore the context Ron. I was specifically referring the HT’s BS assertions @26, about birth control not working, which I quoted in part @33.

    I’m nearly 50, have been married to a man for over 20 years and have only one child. But, please talk to me like I’m stupid some more.

  43. 43
    Kate says:

    No. None of these alternatives just happen. They all depend on the individual coices of the people involved.

    Having sex and making babies is the path of least resistance for most of humanity. For most people, abstaining from sex requires a lot of self control. And, for heterosexual people who do have sex, babies usually will “just happen” unless active measures are taken to prevent them. It’s not just a choice, it is the easiest choice.
    To get better results, society must actively promote better choices. Just “expecting” it is not enough. For most of our existence, we’ve used sticks – shaming and starving may reduce out of wedlock births – the Magdelane laundries in Ireland may have “worked” in this respect. But, on the whole, stress and shame do not cause people to make better choices. To the contrary, hunger, and financial worries lead people to make worse decisions. Morover, these traditional methods are cruel, and inhumane. Judging from countries where birth control is difficult to obtain and abortion is illegal, it also leads to higher abortion rates, even when the procedure is illegal. I don’t think the end of a slightly lower out of wedlock birth rate justifies those means.
    Most heterosexual women WANT to be in stable relationships with male partners. Those who aren’t generally aren’t because there are significant obstacles to them achieving that goal. Coercive means essentially punish them further for not being able to fulfill one of their dreams, or worse, force them to stay in damaging abusive relationships.
    Real investments in education, healthcare, and nutrition have proven to lead to substantially lower child poverty rates in almost every other developed nation in the world. I think that the Scandanavian countries should be our model. What country would you use as your model?

  44. 44
    desipis says:

    Harlequin:

    Anyway, it’s interesting to me that a cartoon about how mostly white people discriminate against black people has resulted in a comment thread debating the choices of impoverished single mothers.

    It’s almost as if the topic of the US prison system is complex and can’t be boiled down to just “it’s all whitey’s fault”.

  45. 45
    Harlequin says:

    It’s almost as if the topic of the US prison system is complex and can’t be boiled down to just “it’s all whitey’s fault”.

    Indeed it is complex! But racism is a huge part of it. It’s almost as if I was complaining about the tendency of some people* to boil it down to much less important factors than race, and then to pick only certain kinds of people to blame for those factors, and then to bring it up when we’re having a discussion about the racism part…

    *literally “a subset of people”, I’m not calling out anybody here in particular

  46. 46
    desipis says:

    But racism is a huge part of it.

    This assertion would seem to go to the crux of the disagreement though. Do you have evidence that quantifies the portion of the disparity in incarceration rates caused by direct racial discrimination, as distinct from the portion caused by differences in behaviour, culture, environment, circumstances, etc? Or is your assertion based on your subjective perspective?

  47. 47
    RonF says:

    Kate @ 43:

    To get better results, society must actively promote better choices. Just “expecting” it is not enough.

    Society generally has actively promoted better choices – except for the last few decades, when more “progressive” concepts have gained ascendancy.

    For most of our existence, we’ve used sticks – shaming and starving may reduce out of wedlock births – the Magdelane laundries in Ireland may have “worked” in this respect. But, on the whole, stress and shame do not cause people to make better choices.

    Really? Then why, as changing social mores and the advent of the welfare state have removed most of the shame and some of the stress of having children out of wedlock, have out of wedlock births skyrocketed?

    To the contrary, hunger, and financial worries lead people to make worse decisions. Morover, these traditional methods are cruel, and inhumane.

    Shaming people who have children out of wedlock may be cruel. But it seems to me necessary, and I do not view it as inhumane. It is entirely appropriate for someone to feel shameful and experience the condemnation of others when they do something wrong. God knows its happened to me. It wasn’t fun, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t right, and it formed a good teaching point for others.

    I’m all for better education on these matters. But I would say that education would include covering not only the biological issues but the financial issues as well. I would also have that education stress the immorality of bringing a child into the world before you and your partner have sufficient resources to raise it, of expecting other people to pay for it, and of how such payments will never make up for an actual two-parent family.

  48. 48
    Jake Squid says:

    Shaming people who have children out of wedlock may be cruel. But it seems to me necessary, and I do not view it as inhumane. It is entirely appropriate for someone to feel shameful and experience the condemnation of others when they do something wrong.

    A problem with this, of course, is that historically, bastards were stigmatized. That is, children who had no say in the decision suffered the consequences. This, to me, is inhumane.

  49. 49
    Kate says:

    Really? Then why, as changing social mores and the advent of the welfare state have removed most of the shame and some of the stress of having children out of wedlock, have out of wedlock births skyrocketed?

    There are a lot of issues going on. That’s why I was addressing children being raised in poverty, which is unambiguously a problem, rather than the out of wedlock birth rate, which I see as a mixed issue.
    • More couples are living together and having children without getting married – I don’t see that as a problem.
    • As discussed up thread, a lot of the change in the percentage of births that are out of wedlock is attributable to married women having fewer children, particularly in the African American community. The birthrate among unmarried women is declining, just not as fast as the birthrate among married women.
    • Fewer teens are getting married. If we are swapping married seventeen year olds having children for unmarried twenty-five year olds, I see that as a good thing overall.
    • Before, women who became pregnant out of wedlock were often not choosing marriage or adoption – they were being forced into them against their will, with very damaging psychological consequences. I’m not o.k. with that.

  50. 50
    Harlequin says:

    Do you have evidence that quantifies the portion of the disparity in incarceration rates caused by direct racial discrimination, as distinct from the portion caused by differences in behaviour, culture, environment, circumstances, etc?

    If you’re really interested in this topic (and didn’t ask this question as a “gotcha” because you assumed I wouldn’t have such evidence), there are plenty of resources online where you could learn about it. The Sentencing Project has a lot of reports on this: racial and ethnic disparity in state prisons, for example, or (more directly related to this cartoon) the connection between racial perceptions of crime and support for more punitive law enforcement policies. A (pdf) article that’s a bit too long for me to be able to read right now, on the effect of drug policy on incarceration, has this astonishing tidbit:

    African Americans serve almost as much time in federal prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7
    months), largely due to racially disparate sentencing laws such as the
    100-to-1 crack-powder cocaine disparity

    If, like me, you’re rather short on time, and would prefer something shorter to read, there’s a nice overview at Slate that touches on some of the many places racial bias appears to impact the criminal justice system (not all those examples control for external factors, but many do).

  51. 51
    desipis says:

    Harlequin, I’ve looked over the links you’ve provided, and the data within (much of which I’ve already seen) fails to be sufficient to answer the question I asked: what portion of the disparity is caused by direct discrimination? There’s plenty of data indicating racial correlations throughout the criminal justice system, but the data isn’t up to the task of identifying the portion of the impact caused by direct discrimination.

    Thus I see your assessment that “racism is a huge part of it” as based on subjective interpretation, and not objective data.

  52. 52
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    desipis says:
    May 11, 2017 at 3:52 am
    Harlequin, I’ve looked over the links you’ve provided, and the data within (much of which I’ve already seen) fails to be sufficient to answer the question I asked: what portion of the disparity is caused by direct discrimination? There’s plenty of data indicating racial correlations throughout the criminal justice system, but the data isn’t up to the task of identifying the portion of the impact caused by direct discrimination.

    Correct. Nobody knows precisely. Some or even most of the variance in outcomes may be the fault of other things than the criminal justice system. But the outcomes are very visible there.

    As to whether it’s “racism” or “race-based,” the real question is whether “racism” means discrimination, or whether “racism” means a neutral procedure that fails to compensate for perceived past discrimination. It is best to be specific.

    For example: Say that black kids are more likely to be exposed to lead; are more likely to have a poor education; are less likely to get good medical care and nutrition; and are scoring very high on a ton of measures which often correlate with criminality. Let’s imagine that as a result of these conditions, they are four times as likely to be criminals.

    Is society racist if that difference exists? Yes, probably, at least in my view.

    Is the criminal justice racist if it convicts black kids without regard for their background? That one is less clear. Certainly it is possible for the system to produce huge disparities without any direct discrimination, given the huge input differences.

    The reason that people focus on the CJ system is that, unlike society at large, fairness and justice are inherent requirements of the CJ system itself.

  53. 53
    Kate says:

    Desipis – it seems to me that you’re asking for a degree of precision only obtainable through controlled experiments. I’ve linked to experiments related to employment here on many occasions experiments (eg. sending out resumes that are identical with the exception of ethinic markers; and blind auditions for symphonies). Such studies generally do show that direct racial discriminaion is a significant problem in employment. I don’t see any reason to believe that the criminal justice system would be immune to such bias.

  54. 54
    Harlequin says:

    desipis, you started with:

    It’s almost as if the topic of the US prison system is complex and can’t be boiled down to just “it’s all whitey’s fault”.

    and then later asked for:

    Do you have evidence that quantifies the portion of the disparity in incarceration rates caused by direct racial discrimination, as distinct from the portion caused by differences in behaviour, culture, environment, circumstances, etc?

    The reason I responded the way I did is that I gave you the benefit of the doubt that you were serious about treating this as a complex matter, despite the wording you used. Yes: for example, part of the reason that so many more black people are arrested for drug crimes, even though the rates of many of those crimes are the same or greater for white people, is that black people have more interactions with police. That also, partially, is because of racism. It seems hypocritical to me to use a call to complexity to reduce the amount of difference you attribute to racism, then to refuse to consider complexity that increases the impact of racism. Asking for “direct racial discrimination” and ignoring the ways that culture, environment, and circumstances are affected by (sometimes direct) racial discrimination is to exclude many of the ways that discrimination occurs.

    I’ll note that I said “large” and not a specific number precisely because this is hard to measure exactly.

    All that being said, I’m not sure how in-depth you read the sources I linked, but they show exactly what you asked for (not solely that, but they do include it). For example, chart 8 of the Slate piece, which breaks down what portion of disparities in parole revocations can or cannot be explained by differences in non-race demographics, criminal history and crime severity (which together should be far more powerful at predicting future criminal behavior than any population-level differences between racial groups: they’re diagnostics of the individual person’s behavior, not diagnostics of the behavior of millions of people with large intra-group variation). In the report on state prisons, the sections “Drivers of disparity” and “Causes of disparity” include this kind of information–some with exact quantities, some without, though I assume the numbers exist in the works cited which I didn’t check. For example (all of these have citations in the original document):

    Alfred Blumstein’s work in this area examined racial differences in arrests and, after comparing these to prison demographics, determined that approximately 80% of prison disparity among state prisoners in 1979 was explained by differential offending by race, leaving 20% unexplained.

    Cassia Spohn’s analysis of 40 states’ sentencing processes finds that, though crime seriousness and prior record are key determinants at sentencing, the non-legal factors of race and ethnicity also influence sentencing decisions.

    Jeffrey Fagan’s work in this area found that police officers’ selection of who to stop in New York City’s high-profile policing program was dictated more by racial composition of the neighborhood than by actual crime in the area.

  55. 55
    desipis says:

    Kate, that lack of precision is largely my point though.It means there is significant uncertainty about which factors have a major impact and which factors have minor or insignificant impact. Which is basically the point I was making in my comment #44.

    Sure, you can form an opinion that direct discrimination is the most important factor, and there’s some evidence to support that. But there’s also evidence to support the opinion that circumstance and culture are the more important factors. Trying to dismiss the later opinions out of hand on the basis that the evidence clearly indicates otherwise is little more than a vapid rhetorical move.

  56. 56
    desipis says:

    Harlequin, did you read this bit from that (chart 8) study:

    Data on some key factors likely related to revocations were not available for analysis. The most important missing information pertained to details regarding violation behavior. In Dallas County, we had data on whether a probation violation was detected; in New York City, we had information on rearrest and whether an individual had a court hearing for a violation filed by the DOP. In no site was the data sufficiently populated regarding violation type, including whether violations were related to new crimes or technical violations of probation conditions. This is a very substantial limitation, as the type of violation is strongly related to the likelihood of revocation.

    That doesn’t even cover the problem with assuming that “unexplained” can be simply attributed to “racism”.

    There’s similar weakness in the drug analysis. It’s stated that black people and white people use drugs at the same rate, yet the data that underlies that assumption classifies people who use drugs once a month and people who use drugs daily into the same “drug user” group. There’s no data (that I’ve seen) that can accurately indicate whether black people are more (or less) likely to be regular drug users who are often in possession of drugs and hence more at risk of arrest for drug offences. There would need to be a far more comprehensive study of patterns of drug use and possession between races to be able to draw any meaningful conclusions.

  57. 57
    Kate says:

    Sure, you can form an opinion that direct discrimination is the most important factor, and there’s some evidence to support that. But there’s also evidence to support the opinion that circumstance and culture are the more important factors. Trying to dismiss the later opinions out of hand on the basis that the evidence clearly indicates otherwise is little more than a vapid rhetorical move.

    I don’t see anyone here dismissing other reasons for the disparity. Liberals generally push very hard for more funding education in the African American community, for example. We’ve also spoken of the issue of higher levels of lead exposure in minority communities as another pressing concern in this very thread. You’re the only one suggesting that we ignore one issue that is clearly a contriubuting factor to disparate incarceration rates.

  58. 58
    Harlequin says:

    desipis: I did not read it in detail; as I said, I’ve been a bit limited on time.

    We have discussed two possible hypotheses in this conversation. The real answer may be either, both, or some other thing.
    – Black people in the US are uniquely badly behaved, explaining all of their extra involvement in the criminal justice system. (I’ll leave aside for now the question of how much of the stuff that happens before criminal justice involvement is due to racism, although that’s part of this story, too; it’s just a different question than discrimination within the criminal justice system itself, as g&w points out. But assume when I talk about “uniquely badly behaved”, I’m including explanations relating to differentials in circumstance and not intrinsic to people based on race.)
    – The people in the criminal justice system are prejudiced against black people.

    What’s the evidence?
    – Studies on cognitive biases in general and prejudice in particular tend to show that all humans make these kinds of errors. Errors made about black men tend to include things like judging people more criminal, violent, or intimidating; physically larger; and older than white men of the same age and physical size. These errors have also been shown to be made by criminal justice professionals in particular.
    – People who attempt to explain disparities can explain some of the difference, but not all of it. This is usually “some tens of percent can be explained by known factors, some tens of percent cannot.”
    Reports of racial bias from people directly observing law enforcement.
    At least one of the people responsible for the drug war believes it was intended as a political tool against black people (and hippies).
    – Black people do commit more of certain classes of crimes than white people do, according to the best evidence. So certainly not all of the discrepancy is direct racism by the criminal justice system itself. And I could cite a number of other places that differing circumstances make a difference here, such as ability to pay bail and afford a private attorney, increased likelihood of a prior conviction based on the same increased policing that makes a single arrest more likely, etc.

    Now, the studies all have uncertainty associated with them. And the models that attempt to control for factors other than race are necessarily incomplete. But incomplete information is not zero information. There is not, as far as I have seen, anybody who has tried to control for various non-race factors who has found that it more than explains the disparity and implies a bias against white people, for example. But if we had both a sufficient model and zero or near-zero true bias, some of the results would show that.

    So the weight of the evidence, currently, is that racism is a contributor to the problem. You may judge that the evidence is not strong, but it is not absent. To come down firmly on the side that says racism is not a problem, you have to have a strong prior belief that racism is unlikely to be the explanation. Or, in other words, to say “you haven’t proved it’s racism”, when the other option we’ve been discussing here is that black people are uniquely badly behaved, is to say that your subjective perspective is that black people are uniquely badly behaved, and you require strong evidence to prove it’s something else.

    (I do, to be clear, have a prior belief that racism plays a big role. But I don’t think that’s required to come to that conclusion based on the evidence.)

    Anyway, I’ll probably be moving on from thos conversation now, but I did want to end by pointing out that this fairly narrow discussion misses a place that racism could play a big role (but which would be very hard to prove one way or another). This takes our current legal code as a given (except, perhaps, for drug laws). But the decisions we make about what kinds of crimes deserve what kinds of punishments also, I would guess, involves a lot of subjective judgments about the kinds of people who commit certain kinds of crimes. We don’t have to treat drug possession with jail time at all, even if it’s illegal. We also don’t have to give passes to the many, many white collar criminals who have never done a day of jail time. And I’m not saying they should! I’m just saying, that’s a decision we’ve made, as a society, that’s very hard to disentangle from the kinds of people who commit white-collar crime and (publicly visible) drug crime.

  59. 59
    Harlequin says:

    (And I guess, to be clear, when I said “huge” in the comment you originally responded to, I was including the impact of non-criminal justice racism on outcomes in the criminal justice system. Since you wanted to discuss only racism within the system itself, I think that’s a smaller effect, though still important and non-negligible.)

  60. 60
    Humble Talent says:

    Anyway, it’s interesting to me that a cartoon about how mostly white people discriminate against black people has resulted in a comment thread debating the choices of impoverished single mothers.

    Amazingly interesting. Especially how we got there. I’ll respond to whatever people decide to want to talk about. I spent an amazing amount of time researching lead, of all things, which was interesting, but I’m not sure entirely pertinent.

    From the snide tone of the comment and follow ups to it, I get the impression that you think that I guided the conversation there. I’d suggest you read the original comment I made, all the way back at 2. My point on “Single motherhood” was literally a line in a quote that represented one of seven points to illustrate the difference between discriminatory and cultural causes for inequality, and was a whopping 18 words out of about 500.

    It’s not my fault if when the commentors here, upon hearing something that might be construed as vaguely anti-female immediately ride up on their white horses and go into full protection mode. Charles at least gave lip service (and more, thanks Charles) to the rest of my arguements. If you are so concerned that the conversation has been derailed, how about you go back to my comments and address literally ANYTHING else from them.

  61. 61
    Ampersand says:

    From the snide tone of the comment and follow ups to it, I get the impression that you think that I guided the conversation there.

    It’s easier to respond to the “impression” and to the allegedly “snide tone” (in fact, H’s comment was perfectly polite in tone) than to the arguments that Harlequin actually wrote. But it would be a better discussion if you tried responding to what H actually wrote, rather than a straw-man “impression.”

    Later on, Harlequin wrote this:

    But racism is a huge part of it. It’s almost as if I was complaining about the tendency of some people* to boil it down to much less important factors than race, and then to pick only certain kinds of people to blame for those factors, and then to bring it up when we’re having a discussion about the racism part…

    *literally “a subset of people”, I’m not calling out anybody here in particular

    That’s the closest Harlequin ever came to arguing what you claim, but it’s really not the same.

  62. 62
    Humble Talent says:

    What’s your assertion? That Harlequin politely complained that the conversation was derailed by “a subset of people”*, while simultaneously contributing to the derailment? I mean… Really. My point was that if you have a problem with the conversation being derailed, then maybe you should look deep down, or even facially as to how and why it was derailed.

    Heck, maybe I’m wrong, and the people who got really hung up on single motherhood weren’t white knighting for women, maybe they’re just really uncomfortable having two sided conversations about other racial issues. Maybe it’s something entirely different, I don’t know, I’m not in your heads.

    My point is that I didn’t take it there, I was along for the ride, and now you’re getting hung up on TONE? How desperate are you to not talk about this? I mean, if I’m wrong… You could always reply materially to what I said, as opposed to how I said it.

    *”A subset of people” I took to be aimed at me, because depite the protestation that it wasn’t aimed at individuals, how else does that reconcile against this conversation, where the derailment happened, and I was involved. Unless he was talking about the “subset of people” he belongs to.

  63. 63
    Ampersand says:

    My point was, it would be better if you’d respond to what Harlequin actually wrote, rather than to a strawman “impression.”

    Heck, maybe I’m wrong, and the people who got really hung up on single motherhood weren’t white knighting for women, maybe they’re just really uncomfortable having two sided conversations about other racial issues.

    When replying to others on this thread blog, please just address other people’s arguments, rather than making speculations about what you imagine their motivations are.

    Both these requests are being made as a moderator. If you disagree with them, you’re free to go away and start your own blog. But if you want to continue posting on this thread, then please respect these two requests.

    If you want to respond to this moderation comment, please take it to an open thread, rather than responding on this thread. Thanks.

  64. 64
    Humble Talent says:

    So just so we’re all clear…. On the tone of what I said, you object to my perception of his remark as ‘snide’, but you have absolutely nothing to say on the veracity of my actual claim, which was that he complained, in response to me, about a problem (derailment) that I did not actually cause, and that he in his comment actively contributed to?

  65. 65
    Ampersand says:

    I wrote, making it clear that I was speaking as a moderator, “If you want to respond to this moderation comment, please take it to an open thread, rather than responding on this thread. Thanks.”

    You responded on this thread anyway. You’ve made it clear by your actions that, intentionally or not, you ARE doing everything you can to derail derailing this thread. Furthermore, you are refusing to respect moderation requests.

    You are now banned from all further participation on this thread, HT. Please don’t post on this thread again. Thanks.

    [Edited to increase accuracy.]

  66. 66
    Ledasmom says:

    And yes – I know that there’s an alternative ending to choices 2, 3 and 5 that results in no child being born. Damned if I’ll list it, though. It’s worse than any of the other choices.

    I do not want to run through the standard arguments on the subject again, so I hope to tie it in to the greater discusison:
    What I noticed most about being pregnant at thirty-two versus being pregnant at twenty-eight – a difference of only four years – was how much more exhausting the later pregnancy was. There were of course other variables – time of year, having a young child to care for and so forth – but just being older can make the process physically more difficult. The body doesn’t work as well in general. And it was then that I knew that a third child was not going to happen; we had not planned on one anyway, but it was then that I decided that, in the case of accidental pregnancy, abortion was going to be my solution. I am happy that it is not one I have had to use, as of yet.
    In your post 40, RonF, I am uncertain as to how your single mother is supposed to raise a child she, as you specify, cannot afford to raise. If you disallow my preferred option, you are creating single motherhood where none needed to exist, and, importantly, where the mother in question did not want it to exist.
    We do seem to have trouble in the U.S. in treating human sexuality neutrally rather than as an issue of morality, and therefore in making pragmatic policies involving it. I wish this weren’t so; it gets in the way so very much.

  67. 67
    Kate says:

    I’d like to support Ledasmom’s comment @66. Being pregnant in my early 30’s is what turned me 100% pro-choice. Carrying a pregnacy to term can be very dangerous, especially for people who are older and/or have underlying health conditions. It is not a risk people should be forced to take.

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