Archive for Saturday, May 20, 2006

Black responsibility is a two-way street

May 20, 2006


Thank you, but I don't need a lecture on personal responsibility.

Many of you apparently felt otherwise after reading my recent column on the use of the justice system as a cudgel against black children.

The column dealt with the mistreatment of more than 100 juveniles, most of them black, who were left in a flooded New Orleans detention center for up to five days without food and water after Hurricane Katrina. It was also about the death of Martin Lee Anderson, an unresisting 14-year-old black kid who was hit, choked and restrained by up to nine guards in a Panama City, Fla., "boot camp."

The abuse and the disproportionate number of black kids who wind up in those places was, I said, a legacy of the nation's historic tendency to use its justice system to control a population it finds frightening and inconvenient.

In response, a woman named Charlene demanded to know, "When is the black community going to take responsibility for themselves?" An individual named Don wrote, "Why are they in jail? Because most young blacks are thugs, dope dealers and car thieves in my experience." A fellow named Jay wrote that, "AA women need to stop having children out of wedlock. ... Raise a child in a home with a mother and father and you will see the stats for crime go way down." Some people, using statistics freshly pulled from their backsides, sought to "prove" black kids commit pretty much all the crime in the country.

And one individual said Martin Lee Anderson's guards "did us all a favor."

As I said, some people find the existence of black children inconvenient.

You want to talk responsibility? I'm fine with that. Much of what ails black America lies squarely within its power to fix; I've been saying that in this space for many years.

But the fact is, the need for greater personal responsibility, important as it is, does not of itself account for all the dysfunctions that beset the black community.

Of course, many white folks don't want to go there. And it never fails to amaze me how airily they absolve themselves and this nation of the charge of racism, how readily they look past, look through, flat-out ignore, anything that says otherwise. Indeed, it's telling that of all the dissenters preaching personal responsibility, not a single one refuted or "even addressed" the statistics in the column suggesting that racial animus plays a role in the disproportionate number of black people behind bars.

I repeat: "And Justice For Some," a 2000 study co-sponsored by the Justice Department, found that a black drug defendant is 48 times more likely to be jailed than a white one with the same record.

There's more. According to "The Real War on Crime: The Report of the National Criminal Justice Commission," blacks account for 13 percent of all regular drug users, but 35 percent of those arrested, 55 percent of those convicted, and 74 percent of those imprisoned for drug possession. A 2004 Miami Herald report found that a judicial procedure that allows a defendant's record to be wiped clean of a felony offense is given freely to white drug dealers, rapists and child molesters. But to blacks? Not so much. And this remains true, "even when adjusted for socio-economic factors."

Beg pardon, but "personal responsibility" does not explain those disparities. And it's vexing that so many Caucasians find it so hard to get their lips around the word that does.

But then, that would require of them more than the easy ability to wag a finger at the failures of others. It would require a willingness to own their own failures and to face truths that do not flatter self-image - something some white Americans clearly lack the intestinal fortitude to do. So you'll forgive me if I find it hard to take seriously all this pious advice to blacks.

Responsibility is a two-way street.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald.


xenophonschild 11 years, 10 months ago

Maybe white males and young black males just aren't made to co-exist in our society.

Berserk 11 years, 10 months ago

This argument grows tiring, you cannot possibly put a statistic on what percentage of drug dealer are of what race. It is impossible, try citing your sources, go to and look up crime statistics before you start spouting.

I will not argue that growing up in a desolate neighborhood forces many kids into lives of crime, responsibility is a two way street, the only thing we can do for these kids is get them out of these nieghborhoods, and increase education funding for schools in such places.

When all you have to look up to as a kid in your neighborhood is they cool 'cats' down the street with the chromed out 'caddie' and the nice clothes, you follow thier path to get the things you covet i.e. drug dealing.

When kids in nice neighborhoods look up to the guy down the street with the really big beautiful house and the BMW, and know that he is a financial consultant or whatever, they follow that guys path through college and into the high paying job.

It has alot to do with role models and what is important to you as a person, also what examples are set forth through education and role models.

Nice argument, lacks sources, why don't you stop being offended. I am racist, everyone is, to a certain degree.

Ask anyone who says they are not racist if they want thier wife or daughter to drive alone at night near... lets say 39th and prospect... kcmo?

Godot 11 years, 10 months ago

Pitts' rants are tiresome. No matter the topic, I can predict what his response will be: white people conspire to repress black people.

I want to know how he knows that the people who sent him those emails are white. What if they were hispanic, or asian or, "gasp," middleastern?

Message to Pitts: white people are less united than your black brethren. Read this blog and get a clue.

The rhinoceros in this living room that we all refuse to acknowledge is the fact that Pitts is the racist.

Confrontation 11 years, 10 months ago

It is just disgusting that most people still want their race to be the most powerful. Very few people really want equality in anything. People just can't see past skin color. If they could really think about the ignorance involved in judging a person based on color, then maybe they could wake up and get a life. A lot of whites hate to see a black, hispanic, or asian person get a decent job. It's as if being white somehow means that no other race deserves anything. White people have nothing to be proud of, since their history has been about killing and dominating anything in their path. Racism from any color to any other color, for any reason, doesn't make sense. I don't want to be judged by black people based on the idiotic behaviors of some white people. I don't judge hispanics for the idiotic behaviors of some hispanics. The only hope I can see is that the younger generation is showing more tolerance of other people. Maybe we can take a real step forward once the baby boomers retire to their graves.

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