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CNN: Obama Says Racism Affects Criminal-Justice System

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Posted on July 23 2009 12:59 pm

Racism in the criminal-justice system is not a thing of the past, says Barack Obama, citing the recent arrest of black scholar Henry Louis Gates.

As part of CNN’s highly promoted “Black in America 2” investigation, reporter Soledad O’Brien interviewed Gates, who was arrested last Thursday at his Massachusetts home after an observer – who had watched the professor struggling to open the door of the house, and who had seen Gates’ driver forcefully push the door open – called police to report what appeared to be a possible attempted burglary. When Sgt. James Crowley, who is white, arrived at the scene to investigate, he did not recognize Gates and asked to see some identification. According to Crowley, Gates initially refused and then accused the officer of racism. Gates was subsequently arrested. Yesterday President Obama spoke out about the incident:

“I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us [in Gates’ position] would be pretty angry. Number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. And number three — what I think we know separate and apart from this incident — is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that’s just a fact.”

Obama’s casual assertion that racism continues to infest the criminal-justice system is nothing new for him. In an interview published last December in the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, Obama stated that one of his top priorities as president would be to eliminate racial discrimination in the justice system. This pledge was consistent with his oft-repeated campaign promise to “eliminate disparities in criminal sentencing,” and to put an end to “certain sentences”  that are “based less on the kind of crime you commit than on what you look like and where you come from.”

If the President is as brilliant and as well-informed as his disciples tell us he is, why, then, is he apparently ignorant of the very vital fact that for several decades, the most reputable criminal-justice research has consistently shown than the severity of offenders’ sentences depends most heavily on such factors as prior criminal records, the seriousness of the crimes in question, the offenders’ demeanor with police, whether weapons were used in the commission of the crimes, and whether the crimes were victim-instigated? Once these variables are factored into the equation, race, by and large, has been found to have no effect whatsoever on arrest rates, conviction rates, or sentencing patterns.

For a detailed exposition of this research, click here.

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