Public Discourse on Race and Policing

Agreed. And scientists, doctors, etc. should be able to talk dispassionately about such facts without being accused of racism.

Similarly, it should be possible to talk about biology-based differences between men and women without being accused of sexism. (Psychologist Doreen Kimura, for example, noted that there were measurable differences in stages of brain development between males and females between infancy and adulthood, but that there was strong pressure to deny this, or not to talk about it, due to political correctness. The fear that someone might move from “male and female brains develop differently” to “males have essentially different brains from females” to “males are superior to females” got in the way of rational discussion of developmental biology.)

Somewhere around the late 1970s, society became infected with the intellectual vice of “political correctness,” which caused people to be afraid to state what appeared to be objective facts, because they feared being accused of having some racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. agenda. The result has been considerable self-muzzling regarding important subjects.

The irony is that this self-muzzling makes the problems worse. For it’s now the people who won’t self-muzzle – the people who actually hate people of darker skin, or hate homosexuals, or want women to occupy only submissive roles – that continue to be heard, whereas the more responsible people, who would carefully note differences while carefully avoiding drawing unwarranted conclusions (i.e., conclusions restricting civil rights), tend to clam up, for fear of being lumped (by the journalists and intelligentsia) with the actual racists, sexists, etc. So constructive conversation about thorny questions tends to be absent.

Agreed. It’s a postulate of democracy that has nothing to do with the details of human genetics. Indeed, the only “biology” you need to understand in order to grasp the doctrine of fundamental human rights is the ability to tell the difference between, say, an elephant (which does not have political rights) and a human being (who does). And that knowledge is available to everyone, with or without modern biological scientific training.

As long as everyone is acting in good faith, it should be possible. Where we hit problems is if someone biases their study or misreports data in order to support a racist/sexist bias they already held. Due to the charged nature of these discussions it really forces people to have their ducks in a row before they discuss their conclusions.

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Yes, I agree. The difficulty is that a number of people are very quick to assume that someone is acting in bad faith, if they see any statement made which, in their minds, might conceivably lead to a racist, sexist, etc. conclusion – even if the author or speaker under examination has not drawn any racist or sexist conclusion. There seems to be an army of politically correct policemen out there in the cultural and academic and political world, ready to seize upon any expression and pull the racism card, the sexism card, etc. It would help matters if this tendency to read dark agendas (into statements intended purely as summaries of research results) were publicly resisted, not just by people on the “right” but also by people on the “left.” (Of course, questioning the methods used in the research, questioning the quality of the data, questioning the reasoning, etc. are always fair game; but only where there is very strong evidence of political motivation should academics, writers, etc. be accused of racism or sexism. If this simple rule were followed – give the writer or speaker the benefit of the doubt, rather than assuming or alleging the worst about him or her – many discussions of social problems could be more constructive than they are today.)

It might be useful to take a hypothetical example, in order to bring the discussion down from generalities.

(We all agree, I hope, that some of the actions committed by white police officers toward black citizens are horrible and to be condemned. However, not everything done by white police officers (or by police officers more generally, since many of them are non-white) falls into the category of “racist,” and I offer the following example.)

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that in a large American city, 75% of the arrests made for robbery, burglary, drug trafficking, auto theft, etc. are of citizens who are black (or Afro-American, if one prefers). Now, suppose someone says that since the population (of this hypothetical city), is half white and half black, this disproportionate figure (75% black arrests vs. only 25% white arrests) proves that there is “systemic racism” in the police force. Let’s analyze this carefully, and see if it does.

Suppose that, upon careful study, it turns out that 75% of the crimes in question, in the particular city in question, are in fact committed by blacks. In that case, we would expect that, if the police force is operating in an even-handed manner, applying the same laws and procedures to all citizens regardless of color, more blacks than non-blacks would be arrested, and that the percentage of blacks arrested for said crimes would be somewhere in the vicinity of 75%. Not because the police don’t like blacks, but because of who is committing the crimes.

(Note: the question whether blacks commit more crimes because they are poorer, because there are fewer job opportunities for them, etc. is worth asking, as it’s relevant to social policy, but the question here is narrower, i.e., whether the police are discriminating against black criminals and being less strict with white ones, when both commit the same crimes. That’s the only question I’m addressing here.)

Now, suppose someone were to argue that it’s reasonable that 75% of the people arrested for said crimes should be black, given that 75% of the people committing those crimes are black. I think the response to this argument would be predictable. A number of culturally influential voices would shout that this argument is “racist.” But is it? If it’s based purely on objective numbers – and for the sake of the example, we are assuming the numbers are correct for the hypothetical city – then it’s not an inherently racist argument.

The “racist” label in such cases doesn’t help matters. It makes it hard for people to call attention to important social facts. If, as in this hypothetical case, 75% of the crime in some city is committed by people of a particular color, it is important for everyone to know that. It might then be possible to get down to “root causes” of the crime, e.g., education and employment inequities in society which work against people of a particular color, inequities which policy might be able to address. But if we can’t even mention the simple facts about who is committing the crimes in a particular city, we can’t have a rational discussion about how to improve the social situation.

Over-quickness to pull the “race card” can thus be counterproductive.

And this applies to charges of sexism as well. If we aren’t permitted to note that more men than women choose engineering, while more women than men choose elementary school teaching, for fear of being called “sexist” for reporting such numbers, we can’t have a meaningful discussion about the roles of the sexes in contemporary society. Only if we have accurate facts can we discuss the meaning of those facts, and possible policy changes to alleviate any social injustices that may be uncovered.

Sensitivity to women, minorities, etc. is a good thing. But often “political correctness” gets in the way of calm, cool analysis, and intimidates researchers and citizens in general from frankly stating facts and problems that exist. One can be sensitive and concerned about social justice while still being very blunt about facts. To the extent that political correctness causes people to tiptoe around facts, and to be afraid to state facts for fear of being charged with some “ism”, it’s a counter-productive thing.

Let’s say it isn’t the case. Say, for instance, whites and blacks use drugs at about the same rate. However, people spending time in jail for possession of drugs are disproportionately black. What then?


Who in the world argues that everything that white police officers do is racist? That’s just nuts!

I’m surprised you would react strongly to what was clearly a prefatory remark, and not at all to the substance of my post.

Even regarding the prefatory remark, the word “everything” threw you off, and you read too much into it. The point is that charges of “systemic racism” are rampant in most modern Western societies, and “systemic” implies that not just one thing that institutions do, but many things, are racist. My point, of course, was that white police officers killing unarmed black suspects might well be motivated by racism, whereas merely arresting more black people than white people for certain crimes need not be motivated by racism at all – for reasons I explained.

Before we come to that, would you agree that in the scenario I sketched, it would not be racist on the part of the police force to arrest more people of one skin color than of another?

In such a case, I would investigate (a) practices of arrest; and (b) practices of sentencing, to see if in either case any racial bias was involved. And if I determined that racial bias was involved, I would institute policy changes in one or both of those areas. And if the policy changes would require the coordination of several parts of society, i.e., not just the police and courts, but educational institutions, unemployment subsidies, retraining programs, housing programs, drug withdrawal programs, etc., I would try to bring all the relevant people together to effect constructive social change.

What I wouldn’t do is simply look at the numbers you mentioned and instantly, without careful investigation into chains of causes, draw the conclusion of “systemic racism.”

It is possible you mean something different by systemic racism. When most of us use it, we are NOT discussing motivations, but (often) unintended effects.


No one says you can’t mention crime stats, but it’s important to put them in the proper context.

For example, it’s not uncommon for racists to cite crime stats (e.g. African Americans make up 13% of the US population, but they commit 50% of the homicides) in isolation. They throw out the stat, and when they’re called out for sounding pretty racist, they hold their hands up and say “I’m just talking about facts bro, facts aren’t racist.”

These generally aren’t people interested in good faith conversations about fixing social problems like crime (perhaps unless they involve explicitly racist policies or the formation of a white ethnostate), they’re dogwhistling to generate or perpetuate racist sentiments. Of course there are a lot of things to consider when interpeting these simple stats - socioeconomic context, the contribution of gang violence, police policies, etc. Racists tend not to mention any of this when throwing out their favourite statistics.

Facts aren’t racist, but the way they are interpreted or communicated can be. People who clearly present facts and statistics in a considered context, and who communicate in an obstensibly good-faith manner tend not to be accused of racism. It sounds to me as though you’re exaggerating the concern about “political correctness” getting in the way.


I think you’re missing a word there - I assume you meant to say “we are not discussing motivations…”

I would argue that even these kinds of scenarios based on “objective” numbers can be misleading. What if crime is getting reported more often when black citizens are involved? I actually think a lot of the problems on policing possibly have little to nothing to do with police but rather may be simple stereotypes that people have of black people.

If people are paying more attention to you, will you be caught for more crimes? Yes. Did you commit the crime? Yes. Does that necessarily mean you committed more crimes than your neighbor when someone wasn’t paying attention to him? No. So even “objective” facts or objective numbers can be multi-layered and misleading. Should society generally be concerned when the numbers are that disparate from parity? Yes. Doesn’t really matter what we call it as long as we call it a problem if it’s consistent and ongoing.


Just to clarify: Did you mean to put a “not” before “discussing”?

In any case, I understand that racist effects might happen without conscious racist intention. But in the hypothetical example I gave, there isn’t even a racist effect. For it to be a racist effect, there would have to be an unfair arrest rate for blacks, a rate which was the result of particular habits employed by the police force in deciding whom to arrest and not to arrest; but in the example, the black arrest rate was exactly what one would expect, if the police were neutrally applying the law (to arrest people who are stealing cars, burglarizing houses, etc.) without regard for the race of the people arrested. In the example, there is nothing in the law itself (i.e., don’t steal things) that necessitates that more black people than white people will violate it, and there is nothing in the standard behavior of the police force that engenders in black people an uncontrollable desire to steal cars or break into houses. So if more black people than white people do steal cars (in the hypothetical city), and as a result get charged more often for stealing cars, it’s not their blackness, but their freely chosen behavior, that generates the higher arrest rate, and the term “racism” (whether just plain old-fashioned racism or “systemic racism”) is entirely inaccurate as a descriptor of what’s happening).

On the other hand, I can see the case for an unintended but systemic racism in, say, the hiring policy of various organizations. An organization run largely by white people might, without any conscious hatred of blacks or any desire to shut blacks out, hire a disproportionately low number of blacks (relative to the number of qualified blacks applying), simply because, say, its standard interviewing procedures unwittingly tend to make white candidates seem stronger and black candidates seem weaker to the interviewers, whereas a different interviewing procedure might have the reverse effect. I agree that such unconscious and unintentional effects need to be brought to our consciousness and guarded against. And I think you perhaps have in mind such things when you use “systemic racism.” If so, we needn’t quarrel about the term, because I understand what you are getting at. I even admit that “systemic racism” (and “systemic sexism” etc.) can exist, and do exist in some settings.

But the original discussion here wasn’t limited to “systemic” racism; it was more generally about racism. My earlier remarks were merely registering the point that the charge of “racism” is quick to rise to many people’s lips these days (like the charge of “sexism” or “homophobia”), and this tendency is one of the major causes why thoughtful and intelligent people tend to steer away from discussing the subject of racism. It’s most uncomfortable trying to sincerely address a difficult issue when you know that in your listening audience there are scores of politically activist people weighing every syllable you utter, ready to pounce on you if you say anything that in their view indicates latent racist prejudices. That’s one key difference between modern intellectual life and past intellectual life. If one reads the great philosophical and theological and even political debates of the past, from the times of the Greeks to the present, nobody tried to win a debate by calling his opponent a racist or sexist etc. They simply addressed the substantive issues, without employing labels charged with negative auras. Our vocabulary of “isms” is a recent development, and it is having a bad effect on public discourse, because more and more people are afraid that even what strikes them as a very moderate thing to say will be represented as some odious “ism,” so they tend to self-censor or avoid certain topics altogether.

Correct. Thank you.

I agree. My hypothetical example was an attempt (obviously oversimplifying the complex social realities, to make a simple point) to illustrate “proper context.” Out of context, if, in a population that was half-white and half-black, 75% of those charged with theft, break-ins etc. were black, one might jump to the conclusion that police habits of arrest were consciously or unconsciously racist. But if context indicated (as in my hypothetical example) that in fact 75% of break-ins etc. were in fact committed by blacks, then the arrest rate would not warrant any inference that the police were acting in a racist way.

As for your (hypothetical, I presume) example, the same reasoning would apply. With your 50% number for actual commission of homicide, we would expect, on average, half of the arrests for homicide to be arrests of black people, regardless of the percentage of the overall population that was black. If the arrest rate of black people for homicide was significantly higher or lower than half of all arrests for homicide, one might wonder whether the police were unfairly disfavoring or favoring blacks in their arrest policies, but if the arrest rate roughly corresponded to the historical record (your hypothetical record of 50%), there would not be any immediate reason for suspicion.

Agreed. There are many things to consider. That’s why leaps to crude conclusions – whether the conclusion that blacks are somehow inherently more prone to criminal activity, or the conclusion that the police force is racist in its habits of arrest – are not warranted. Everything has to be sifted in more detail, and conclusions have to be framed with all due qualifications and caveats. I think that both racists and people who are quick to play the “racist” card jump to conclusions from raw numbers without due caution.

Remember our original subject here: Joshua wondered out loud why people found talking about race a difficult matter. Well, this is one of the reasons. If every fact, every statistic one brings up will immediately be met with: “You’re only bringing that fact or statistic up because you have racist motivation,” then people who aren’t racists, but are only trying to make sense of the social situation in good faith, are going to clam up, and avoid the topic of race altogether.

There is lots of room to disagree over what statistics mean, and what facts mean. I’m not pleading for simplistic conclusions from facts. I’m saying that the litany of “That’s racist, you’re racist, you’re probably racist” or “That’s sexist, you’re sexist, you’re probably sexist” in typical social discourse makes it less likely that there will be frank and constructive conversations about difficult issues.

A good rule is to assume the best motivations when someone says something, unless the person has given strong reason to think otherwise. So when people are discussing or debating race, or questions about women, or other hot-button issues, they need to be slow on the trigger with the charges of any “ism”; but anyone who has spent as much time as I have in the “arts” section of universities knows that many of the faculty in many departments – including sociology, psychology, women’s studies, labour studies, political science, etc. – have encouraged students to be quick on the trigger with such accusations. And those students, upon graduation, go on to become journalists, broadcasters, lawyers, judges, schoolteacher, professors, politicians, civil servants, etc. and take that “quick on the trigger” attitude into those professions. So we have, in addition to an extreme culture on the “right” (a culture which I don’t admire, by the way), an extreme culture on the “left,” and the result is polarization which makes the calm, intelligent discussion of social problems difficult.

I agree that all such things must be taken into account when interpreting numbers.

Agreed. But in my hypothetical example, we were considering a hypothetical town for which all that sifting had been done by careful historical study, and in which it had been established that 75% of crimes of a certain kind were committed by one particular group. (Not reported, suspected, etc. but actually committed.) In cases where there is actually a verified historical record that more crimes of type X are committed by persons of group B, then there is no warrant for inferring that a greater arrest rate of persons of group B is caused by racism; in such cases, the greater arrest rate for group B would follow naturally, from even-handed police practice.

You know, half the population consists of women, but half the people arrested for violent crime aren’t women. And no one, noting that the overwhelming number of people charged with violent crime are male, suggests that police practice in arresting so many males is “sexist”, discriminating against males, and showing a bias of the police in favor of women. Everyone accepts, as a matter of common sense, that if historically speaking most of the violent crimes are committed by men, then most of the people arrested for violent crime will be men. The idea that police should change their arrest practices so that, every time a violent crime is committed, they arrest as suspects 50% men and 50% women, to be “fair” or “non-sexist”, would be regarded by everyone as idiotic. There is simply no reason why the arrest numbers should correspond with the percentage of the population made up by any particular group. Arrests (whether of black or white people, or any other people) should be made only where there is due grounds for suspicion, and if the arrest numbers for particular crimes correspond with well-established historical data on who tends to commit such crimes in a particular community, there is no reason to automatically jump to the conclusion of racism. It’s the mechanical reasoning based on some notion that everything must correspond to percentage of the population that I’m rejecting. The argument that any deviation from percentage of the population implies racism is a logically flawed argument.

I agree. That is why I have said several times that, in communities where a particular group is committing more crimes than other groups, calling police arrest practices that reflect that difference “racist” is in most cases of no use. We have to get to the bottom of the problem: why are members of that group committing crimes of a certain kind more than members of other groups? Is it because more of them are poor, unemployed, from single-parent families, etc.? If social factors are among the causes of crime, let’s get at those social factors and try to improve the social situation. If we can improve the social situation to the point where no more members of one group are stealing, selling drugs, etc. than members of any other group, so that the historical trend changes, then police arrest patterns will follow that trend. Claiming or hinting that police arrest practices are “racist” – in cases such as I provided in my example – is focusing on symptoms rather than causes. The goal is to remove the cause, so that the symptoms go away. If everyone could agree that unemployment, poverty, a huge number of fatherless families in city cores, etc. are problems that need addressing, we could reduce the disparities between different groups by intelligent policy changes, rather than by shouting about who is or who is not allegedly racist.

I would argue that this may be impossible to actually do; so we have to consider reported and suspected crime, or arrests.

I agree; we should not accuse, but assume the best motivations. This is Matthew 7:4-5. We live in a very judgmental age - everyone else is evil, but we/I are/am not. I am prone to this sin. But at the same time, I really appreciate what @swamidass has said: Racism is common, and forgivable.

I grieve that in the church, we cannot confess this sin, or are unwilling to often. Why? It is not worse or better than any other sin. We should hate sin and want to root it out. We should be able to do this easily when we live by grace. But we don’t really live by grace as we should. So what I’m saying is, as Christians, we should not assume we aren’t racist or think the best of ourselves. We should actually assume the opposite: we are miserable sinners who are often prone not recognize evil or the worth of other human beings.

No, I will absolutely disagree with this, and I think this is where white people are well-intentioned but don’t realize our sin here. I’m being a little crass in my summary of what you’re saying, but to prove the point - “Yes! Let’s go “fix” black people. Let’s figure out their social problems and get them off drugs. Let’s go make them more like US.”

The point of my scenario several comments ago was that white people were calling the police more often with crimes related to black people. Who needed to actually change in that scenario? The white people! They needed to be more consistent. Until I asked a black friend this year, I had no idea how much white people drove policies that were the symptom of the social problems in the last century. So no, black people are not always the cause of social problems and white people’s actions always the symptom. (This is obviously too simplistic a statement in our country anyway, with a diverse backgrounds). White people can and often are the CAUSE of those social problems also. THIS I would guess is what most activists want all Americans to understand and what I’m trying to say. We ALL have to be willing to jump in and consider where whites did and we do do stuff wrong, because the social problems have to do with all of us. That doesn’t mean we blame ourselves for all of the problems either. Individual responsibility exists. Hopefully what I’m trying to say is coming through - yes, people are too quick to cry racism, but as Christians, we shouldn’t care if this happens to us personally and should encourage others to also adopt the same attitiude. We’ve been forgiven, and should be willing to say - you know what? I need to listen to you because I might be holding on to a sin that is grievous to God and I was ignorant of.


Yes, it’s crass, and it’s not even close to what I’m saying. It has nothing to do with making black people more like white people. Nor was I suggesting that “white people” as such would be making the relevant social changes. I was saying that society as a whole – which includes white and yellow and red and brown and black etc. people – needs to make changes when particular groups are experiencing greater than average amounts of unemployment, poverty, broken family situations, etc. This has nothing to do with “whiteness.”

If it helps, imagine a country where the population is predominantly black, but divided into different religions, and one religious group is much poorer and has much less education and fewer job opportunities. Maybe the black Christians are doing much better than the black Muslims, for example, and this is creating all kinds of tensions and problems. The point is that you don’t want a permanent underclass which sees no way out of unemployment and poverty and dysfunctional family and social life. You want everyone in a given society to have opportunities for employment, health, happy family life, and so on. This is not an aspiration for “white” people only, but for everyone.

Note that your response, by implicitly accusing me of “white-centrism,” is an example of the very thing I’ve been protesting – the jumping to conclusions about the racism (conscious or unconscious) of the person one is talking to. If people would listen what other people were saying, instead of reading into their words things they never said, discussions about race (and everything else) would be more constructive. But the “hermeneutic of suspicion” which has been taught to several generations of “educated” people now, especially in the arts subjects (political science, sociology, psychology, philosophy, literary criticism, women’s studies, etc.) has caused people to stop even trying to get straight what people are saying, and to invent all kinds of bad motivations that people are supposedly harboring.

Which I never said or implied, so I don’t know why you are saying this. And in any case, I was giving a hypothetical scenario to illustrate a point about the way people draw conclusions illogically from data; I was not actually making any claim about what percentage of crimes are committed by black people in any particular jurisdiction.

I disagree. It’s not improper for a Christian to object to false charges made against him or her. Being Christian doesn’t mean you have to be doormat.

My point was a very simple one: if a police force arrests 100 people per year for theft, and 75 of them are black, it does not logically follow that the police force is racist, consciously or unconsciously, or “systemically.” It might well be the case that in that particular community more blacks than white commit theft, and that the number of arrests of blacks is justified by that fact. And if that is the case, then social discussion focusing on the “racism” of the police force is not only unjust to the police force, but is socially useless: pointing fingers at the police and calling them racists for arresting more blacks than whites won’t do a blessed thing to get at the root problems which are leading to greater black crime.

I don’t think I can make myself clearer by further exposition, so I’ll leave it at that.

Point taken, you didn’t.

I didn’t see you respond to my main point regarding your hypothetical. If so, aybe I didn’t make it clear enough. I’ll try again. My main point was that your hypothetical doesn’t exist in the real world - it is impossible to know the actual crime rate, just like it’s impossible for you to know what sins I have that I don’t outwardly commit in front of you or tell you about. So some may find your hypothetical itself to be insensitive. I was trying to explain the ways in which it doesn’t bear out and could be a stat that shows prejudice in the population that bleeds over into police activity instead. I agree that the police are easy to point to. What I was trying to explain was that from the very little I’ve read and had explained to me (I have a lot more learning to do) policing and crime for black people especially are never divorced in their minds from their family’s or community’s history (if applicable) of slavery, fleeing southern oppression, facing segregation, housing discrimination, unnecessary policing, and unjust sentencing in their communities for the last 150 years. So stats are not simple; they come with histories.

The same thing goes with your Christian / Muslim scenario. Those cases don’t arrive out if thin air. They would have histories why one group has become an underclass that’s defined in large part by religion.

No, but that’s not what I’m suggesting exactly. What I was trying to say is I’d encourage especially white American Christians to listen in this case even when people “throw” out the word “racism,” and it seems like an obvious false charge: The country has a history that affects our culture yet today. IMO it’s very difficult to differentiate how we think from an American culture that has a history of terrible racism through slavery and segregation to the degree that we can somehow be sure we ourselves don’t have racist or prejudiced tendencies in ignorance only a few decades later and a generation or two removed from what we now condemn. I mean this in the same way that we can pray for God to cleanse us from hidden faults. And why wouldn’t we want to listen at first rather than being defensive so that by our example there is no doubt we absolutely care about the image of God in everyone and are excited about the diversity we will see in heaven? These are verses I encourage myself to consider as often as I remember to:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.


Is that a conclusion that people tend to jump to? I’ve never seen anyone accuse the police of racism based solely of the observation of arrest rates disproportionate to the population.

My example refers to the arrest rate, which is obviously not the same as the actual number of murders committed. It is likely inflating the real rate due to factors like over-policing of black communities etc, but I don’t think anyone in academia would suggest that these inflations account for the entire disparity. Black Americans really do commit more violent crime than white Americans (as population-level averages, of course). However, here are pretty good reasons for this, and we have no reason to conclude that some kind of genetic predisposition to violence is among them.

There’s a lot more to systemic racism in the police than simply arrest rates, I hope you would agree. Even if a police force is arresting different groups perfectly in line with the proportion of crime committed by each group, there’s plenty of other ways they can be racist.

My issue is that I don’t see much of that happening. Of course, there are probably a few examples out there on the fringe, but as a systemic problem? I just don’t see it. It’s usually pretty easy to tell if someone is bringing up a race-related issue because they’re a racist or if they’re genuinely curious or have good intentions. There are probably improvements that can be made to the Left’s approach to discourse about race, but to suggest that universities are encouraging/indoctrinating students to be on a hair trigger to shout “racist” or “sexist” at anyone for so much mentioning the subjects seems overblown.

Your example was hypothetical. Once again, I don’t think people generally go around accusing the police of racist policies based simply on the observation of disproportionate arrest rates compared to the population. More often, it’s based on things like disproportionate violence commited against black suspects than white suspects, disproportionate arrests for specific crimes that are not disproportionately committed by black people, etc. These aren’t necessarily intentional, they’re systemic.

I think a bigger problem is that a lot of people hear the term “systemic racism” and get defensive. If you’re a police officer and someone says “you’re part of a systemically racist system”, you are likely to get defensive in the same way as you might if they said “you’re a racist”. This problem is exacerbated by right-wing media constantly conflating accusations of systemic issues with intentional racist/sexism/etc.

This is a good point, and I don’t think you adequately responded to it @Eddie.
To try and expand on it, I’ll say that the goal isn’t simply to find solutions for the societal problems that disproportionately affect the black population, it’s also to recognise the actions that led to those problems in the first place. It just so happens that a lot of the problems are the results of an explicitly racist past and systems that are still systemically racist to varying degrees today. Recognising those actions is a major step towards resolving their conseqeunces, and it’s not about blaming “white people”.


Sherriff Joe Arpaio from Arizona was straight up convicted of racial profiling, and unsurprisingly pardoned by Trump. Their policy was to question people who “looked like illegal immigrants” which obviously targets hispanics.

Drug arrests have also been another sticking point, with black disproportionately convicted of simple possession even though drug use is about the same in all populations. There were also laws that treated communities differently, such as much stronger laws against crack cocaine compared to powdered cocaine with crack being much more common in black neighborhoods and carrying a much higher penalty than the powdered cocaine popular in white populations.


Whenever there is uneven application of laws, uneven application that benefits or harms certain groups, that uneven application is rightly challenged. And wherever the laws themselves are unnecessarily biased in a certain direction, such laws are rightly challenged.