Comments: Pastoral Scene of the Gallant North

Interestingly, New Jersey never completely abolished slavery, but instead opted for gradual emancipation. So New Jersey entered the civil war as a slave state, with eighteeen slaves(mostly domestic servants) listed in the 1860 census. These were only freed by the 13th amendment in 1866.

Posted by sesquiculus at April 29, 2009 03:27 PM

RACISM IS THE POLITICS OF AMERICA AND BIGOTRY HER SOUL. Also its the one defining charteristic of OUR history.(just ask ANY Merican Injun)

Posted by Mike Meyer at April 29, 2009 03:55 PM

RACISM IS THE POLITICS OF AMERICA AND BIGOTRY HER SOUL. Also its the one defining charteristic of OUR history.(just ask ANY Merican Injun)

Posted by Mike Meyer at April 29, 2009 03:55 PM

Some of the background to this has been researched by James Loewen in his book "Sundown Towns", where he describes his findings that post-Reconstruction towns outside the South were far more likely to go to extreme measures to bar blacks than those in the South.

Posted by deang at April 29, 2009 05:39 PM

I live in Wisconsin, the state that won the un-coveted top place in Black Commentator's list of Ten Worst Places to Be Black.

Although I will admit that back when the list was compiled in 2005, you could be #1 with a black incarceration rate only 11.6 times the white incarceration rate.

Apparently, things have gotten worse since then, a change-for-the-worse that suprises no one here, I'm sure.

Posted by SteveB at April 29, 2009 11:23 PM

Given how much more violent crime blacks commit than whites, these statistics are unfortuately not very surprising.

This fact remains true whether one looks at arrest records or victim self-reports.

Posted by Seth at April 29, 2009 11:35 PM

Not to defend these numbers, but one would imagine them to mirror the numbers on poverty: I imagine that white New Jersey residents tend to be relatively more affluent than their black counterparts to a greater degree than is true in Alabama.

One would expect to see the same pattern in any diaspora of marginalized people. Poor blacks from the south settle in Northern cities, where they constitute a stark underclass in contrast to the middle-class white population previously settled there. In the rural south, however, these same poor blacks live among poor whites, and the economic contrast is not as great. I don't think this says very much about the /relative/ racism of the North and South (although of course racism is an overwhelming factor in both cases), just their economic and historical realities.

That being said, yes, it's tragic that in 2009 blacks in the North have not found the American Dream that was promised to them a long time ago. Nor have they found it in the South. Take a look at the "10 worst places" article linked above for a list of the places where the actual rate of black incarceration is highest; none of those states is in the Northeast. So all we're seeing is that the South is locking up lots of poor people, black and white, while the poor people being locked up in the North are overwhelmingly black, because the North has fewer poor whites to lock up.

Posted by Picador at April 30, 2009 09:47 AM

One must be a little careful here.

The argument that blacks are relatively poorer in the north and therefore more prone to criminality, and hence incarceration, is plausible. But it happens to be wrong. To understand the american penal system the first thing to look at is drugs: the no1. issue.

The vast majority of drug offenses are committed by whites; the vast majority of drug offenders in prison are black.

Racial disparity in the prison system in the north is primarily due to a specific set of urban laws targeting people of color: everybody knows about the crack vs powder issue (even Obama campaigned about it); but there are plenty of other racist statutes and practices that are less well known. Take for example the fact that school zone drug laws are based on radius and not density. Sounds innocent enough on the surface. But think about it for a minute and you'll see why it just happens that 96% of violators are people of color. Unintended consequences? Oh please... Most drug offenders are white but a black man is about 10 times more likely to be sentenced to prison for a drug law violation.

There's a debate going on in Princeton about moving the hospital across Route 1. "We'll move the hospital far away from the black community because this way the minorities in Trenton will be able to use it." (They'll hitchhike to it, I guess.) "We'll do it because we're humanitarian. And if blacks move out of Princeton as a resul of the subsequent multimillion-dollar home developments, oh geez, what a pity..." On the lib vs conservative track (which was the main point of my post), let's not forget that it's the great liberal Bill Clinton who engineered the most massive lockup of black people in the century.

And one day we can talk about the single biggest agent of racial segregation, also known as property taxes.

Posted by Bernard Chazelle at April 30, 2009 12:11 PM

The argument is not that poor people are more prone to criminality.

The argument (as I see it) is that the poor are victimized by the law-enforcement system regardless of their race. And since poverty and race are highly correlated (especially in the North) the repression of the underclass is perceived (wrongly) as the repression of the blacks.

Now, there is no doubt that the correlation between poverty and race is a result of centuries of racism, but that's a different issue.

Posted by abb1 at April 30, 2009 12:37 PM

Oldie-but-goodie:

The law does not discriminate between rich and poor. A rich person sleeping under a bridge is breaking the law just is much as a poor person.

Posted by Save the Oocytes at April 30, 2009 12:46 PM

StO: the original (albeit translated) line is, I think, a bit more more biting:

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."

–Anatole France, 1894

Bernard: thanks for checking my sloppy assumptions. I'm not sure I understand your point about liberal vs. conservative, except to the extent that "liberal" northeast states aren't (suprise!) as liberal as they pretend to be. I read "Sundown Towns", too, but I didn't take its thesis to be that Northerners are more racist than Southerners -- just that the difference is not as stark as some smug northern "liberals" would like to believe.

Here's the question, I guess: if Alabama locks up 100 whites for Crime A, 100 blacks for crime A, and 500 blacks for crime B (where Crime B is a drug charge), is this really more egalitarian and humane than New Jersey locking up only 10 white people for Crime A, 10 black people for Crime A, but still 500 black people for Crime B? I really don't know the answer to that question.

Posted by Picador at April 30, 2009 01:45 PM

We're rednecks, we're rednecks, we don't know our ass from a hole in the ground...

Posted by Chris E. at April 30, 2009 01:45 PM

abb1: You bring up an important point. Indeed, I believe that, at the enforcement level, the poor are targeted preferentially by the justice system.
Poverty is the issue: not criminality. After all, if crime was the issue, prisons would be filled with white middle class people for drug violations. But the system goes after the poor. And the underclass is mostly nonwhite.

But the question is why: Why does a criminal system go, not after crime, but after class? The reason for this is race. The great quid pro quo of the 60s is that civil rights was sold in white churches as a trade: let's give them their rights so that they can be left to fight for themselves.
This has been established in numerous studies; in particular in "white flight" studies.

When people ask, Why are Americans so allergic to socialism, the answer we always hear is that Americans want freedom. Utter nonsense of course. Most European countries have more freedom than the US (in particular freedom of dissent). The real answer is that racial minorities in this country were offered this deal: you can have a constitutional contract or a social contract, but you can't have both.


Posted by Bernard Chazelle at April 30, 2009 01:59 PM

Pic: My point was not that northerners are more racist. It was that they think they are less racist: This kind of waspy hypocrisy never ceases to amuse me.

Posted by Bernard Chazelle at April 30, 2009 02:06 PM

"everybody knows about the crack vs powder issue (even Obama campaigned about it);"

And, to give credit where due, it seems like he is going to do something about it.

Posted by Chris E. at April 30, 2009 02:15 PM

You go out of your way to bring Ivy League schools into this and then don't even mention Rhode Island? I'm taking that personally. Not for Brown's sake (hell no), but for my state's.

I have nothing to add on anything else. You're damn right.

Posted by ethan at April 30, 2009 02:17 PM

Good point, Chris, and credit also due to Jim Webb.

Sorry for the oversight, Ethan. I hope Buddy Cianci doesn't read this blog or I may have to hire a bodyguard.

Posted by Bernard Chazelle at April 30, 2009 02:55 PM

I disagree that that the 'justice' system targets the race. Not in the last couple of decades anyway, since the Rodney King incident. I believe it targets precisely the underclass, not the race.

It's just my impression, but should be easy enough to test with statistics that have social status factored in. If there is no significant difference in incarceration rates for different races inside the same socio-economic group, then the correlation with race is coincidental.

Posted by abb1 at April 30, 2009 02:55 PM

Incarceration has long been used as a tool of social control. It has been esecially useful in restricting the numbers of eligible voters in minority communities, for instance. Demographics might influence the numbers. What is the comparative size of the black populations of Alabama and NJ? I'm too lazy to look it up...

Posted by Woody at April 30, 2009 07:33 PM

abb1: my (former) colleague Bruce Western has studied exactly the question you raised. The answer is the opposite of your impression.
At all economic levels, being black makes you more likely to go to prison.

Using education levels (since they're highly correlated to socio-economic status), he found that

1. Indeed, poverty is an excellent classifier: you're 5 times more likely to go to prison if you're a high school dropout

However, among high school dropouts,

1. Before Clinton, you were 4.5 times more likely to go to prison if you were black than if you were white.

2. After Clinton, this number rose from 4.5 to 4.8

So in fact not only race is the determining parameter if you remove the socio-economic variable, but things got worse, not better, after Rodney King. And things got even worse (thanks to Clinton) for the HS/GED and College strata.

So yes the justice system targets poverty. But that is a consequence of the fact that it targets race -- not the other way around.

Woody: Not to mention the 5 million disenfranchised voters, which means that 13 percent of black men can't vote.

Posted by Bernard Chazelle at April 30, 2009 07:46 PM

Bernard, I just read your reply to Pic. Racism is pretty much evenly distributed, geographically, in the hegemonic classes...Obama's election notwithstanding, the embedded racism of the culture generally is not significantly effected. The old "understandings" are almost all still in place...

Viewed "objectively," the parallelisms between the USofA and other repressive/authoritarian regimes, measured in incarceration statistics, are horrifying, would be utterly unacceptable by, unbelievable to the exceptionalist US consumer...

The US has more people under legal/penal supervision--in raw numbers and as a percent of population than any other nation in the world.

The vast majority of those are, of course, people of color (so called), the marginalized, the ones pissed off about it.

Always good to remember: non-alpha white males do not do well with, do not respond well to, competition from (alleged) inferiors...

Posted by Woody at April 30, 2009 07:49 PM

Nah, sorry, I'm still skeptical. High school graduate in inner-city ghetto is not an equal of a high school graduate in the suburbs, not in the sense of socio-economic power.

It would be interesting to take some small race-integrated neighborhood in, say, Flint Michigan and see what the stats look like there.

Posted by abb1 at May 1, 2009 03:35 AM

abb1, Bernard, I'm convinced you're both right, but I think of it as additive-- if you're white and poor you're less likely to be targeted by the cops and rejected for a job than if you're black and poor-- but both types(well, all types) of poor persons are at a disadvantage in this area.

But if you're black and not poor, you still are at a disadvantage, especially in dealing with law enforcement. I know it's only anecdotal, but consider what happened to Ryan Moats(an NFL player) and his family here in Dallas back in March.

Posted by Jonathan Versen at May 1, 2009 05:57 AM

I am fascinated by the abb1/Bernard question about class within race. Bernard's statistic on class is a signal but not right on point. Maryland, with a 25% african-american population, a suburban jurisdiction which is majority black (the only one in the country) a large wealthy and educated african-american population together with horrific poverty might be a place for some research. It's not that far from Princeton, either. A problem is Maryland's high wealth (like NJ and CT) and its extremely high % of government workers. This is a fascinating question, though I am far too lazy to do the research. I will merely wait for the results. Great post.

Posted by drip at May 1, 2009 08:08 AM

I am fascinated by the abb1/Bernard question about class within race. Bernard's statistic on class is a signal but not right on point. Maryland, with a 25% african-american population, a suburban jurisdiction which is majority black (the only one in the country) a large wealthy and educated african-american population together with horrific poverty might be a place for some research. It's not that far from Princeton, either. A problem is Maryland's high wealth (like NJ and CT) and its extremely high % of government workers. This is a fascinating question, though I am far too lazy to do the research. I will merely wait for the results. Great post.

Posted by drip at May 1, 2009 08:08 AM

Not too lazy to push post button twice though. Sorry.

Posted by drip at May 1, 2009 08:10 AM

But if you're black and not poor, you still are at a disadvantage, especially in dealing with law enforcement.

Right. But to me the question is: when, for example, they stop a black guy driving a Porsche (and I had a colleague who said he would be stopped several times every time he was driving in NH), is this a case of deliberate and systematic harassment of a person for being black - or is this a case of profiling, i.e.: someone who looks like he might be poor is driving an expensive car? And if the driver looked like white underclass - say, a biker type all covered with tattoos - would they be stopping him just as often?

Posted by abb1 at May 1, 2009 08:36 AM

Coincidentally, I was back in New Jersey a few days ago for a week and a half, visiting my elderly mother.

We were in a grocery store in Wickatunk, perhaps the whitest place in the universe. The sound system in the store played War's "The World Is A Ghetto." Pretty ironic, eh?

The next time I was in that store, a few days later, Barry White crooned his love to me.

Posted by Bob In Pacifica at May 1, 2009 11:21 AM

Bernard, you wrote: in fact not only race is the determining parameter if you remove the socio-economic variable, but things got worse, not better, after Rodney King. And things got even worse (thanks to Clinton) for the HS/GED and College strata.

I don't understand. Did Clinton make a change to laws that resulted in an increase in incarceration rates? Please explain.

Posted by Robert Nagle at May 1, 2009 11:57 AM

abb1, forgive me, but I suspect your horse in this race is favored because you want class to be the primary determinant of struggle. I think Bernard's done a pretty good job of disproving your argument, and common sense suggests that racism plays a strong role at all levels - the law, arrests, trial, sentencing and parole. White racism views "black" as synonymous with criminality, not "poor" as synonymous with criminality. I'm sure you've heard middle-class black people describing the experience of being followed around in department stores, etc., merely because they're black.

Robert Nagle: there were a number of important changes in drug-sentencing laws in the late 90s, but before that there was a sea-change in crime legislation in the passage of 1994's famous Crime Bill, which imposed much harsher sentences for a number of crimes (and also did really progressive things like eliminating inmate education). Arguably this bill was quite successful at reducing crime rates, but Clinton also oversaw a dramatic (and i mean DRAMATIC) increase in incarceration rates nationwide.

Posted by saurabh at May 1, 2009 12:58 PM

White racism does many bad things, but you need to demonstrate that white racism drives policies and practices.

This is not 1969, this is 2009. These days mayors, police commissioners, juries, many prosecutors and police officers in predominantly black cities where most of the arrests and convictions take place are black themselves. It's hard for me to believe that they're motivated by anti-black racism.

Posted by abb1 at May 1, 2009 01:37 PM

abb1,

(a) Why do you assume black people can't perpetuate anti-black racism? The victims of any form of oppression internalize it just as much as the oppressors do. (b) I'd disagree that "many" of the key people involved are black in any case. For example, in New York City, which saw a dramatic increase in drug-related (and other) incarceration rates in the late 90s, the key people involved were mostly white.

Drug use and conviction is particularly germane; it accounts for a substantial portion of differential sentencing and arrests, even though there's no evidence to indicate that drug use differs amongst whites and blacks (quite the opposite, in fact). If it's not racism driving this difference, what is it?

Posted by saurabh at May 1, 2009 08:56 PM

Well, I think what's driving it is social status. Like I said, it's certainly true that race is associated with social status, stereotypes are alive and strong.

But look, about a century ago pretty much the same stereotypes existed for ethnic Irish, Italians and Jews. Sacco and Vanzetti, for example, were convicted in a kangaroo court and executed, and it also happened in the North-East. Right?

What I am saying is that these hardships of blacks today are more like hardships of Italian-Americans in the 1920s - as opposed to pure hard-core racism. IOW, racism is not the driving force here.

Posted by abb1 at May 2, 2009 10:58 AM

CCR has come out with some very interesting data regarding "Racial Disparity in NYPD Stop and Frisks".
http://ccrjustice.org/ccr-reports%3A-racial-disparity-nypd-stop-and-frisks

May be after reading the information, the commenters and readers can judge for themselves regarding "State of Racism" where Law and Order agency is considered. Also, only a victim of racism knows if there is or there is not. For others, they have to depend on personal observations or scientific data available.

ps in the CCR data, arrest rate is rather misleading unless seen in terms of absolute numbers.

Posted by Rupa Shah at May 3, 2009 12:56 PM

Black people overwhelmingly support the war on drugs, which I find interesting.

Posted by Mark at May 4, 2009 01:36 PM