Race & Crime

Charles Blow has a thoughtful commentary in the New York Times that begins:

One thing the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Mo., has sent back to the surface is just how difficult it is to have cross-racial discussions about crime and punishment in this country. That is largely because, perceptually and experientially, we live in vastly different worlds, worlds in which phrases like “bad choices,” “personal responsibility” and “tailspin of culture” must battle for primacy with “structural inequity,” “systemic bias” and “culture of oppression.”

Let’s begin to unpack this by pointing to what the data say about our distortions of perception when it comes to crime.

A September report by the Sentencing Project found that “white Americans overestimate the proportion of crime committed by people of color, and associate people of color with criminality.” For some crimes, the overestimation was “by 20-30 percent.”

This is particularly significant in light of the fact that Americans overestimate the presence of crime in general. As a Gallup report pointed out recently: “For more than a decade, Gallup has found the majority of Americans believing crime is up, although actual crime statistics have largely shown the crime rate continuing to come down from the highs in the 1990s and earlier.”

 

The full piece can be found here.

 

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