Friday, July 15, 2016

Pessimism Is Justified

We've all been bombarded recently with discussions of race in America and the deteriorating state of race relations. People of good will and honest intent have seen unfortunate behaviors on both sides.

For example, The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan quotes Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), an African-American, as having been stopped by the police seven times in one year as a U.S. Senator:
Was I speeding sometimes? Sure. But the vast majority of the time, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood. . . . I do not know many African-American men who do not have a very similar story to tell—no matter their profession, no matter their income, no matter their disposition in life. 
I am certain he is correct, for as we wrote a week ago:
Inevitably, police sometimes pay attention to people of color who are behaving themselves and it is, naturally enough, resented. 
On the other hand, to expect police to behave differently when the criminals they encounter are disproportionally black and Hispanic - not just slightly but strongly so - is unrealistic in the extreme.

So here's how it may work: young black men hear their elders describe what Senator Scott reports, namely that the system is likely to believe a priori they are criminals. Given that, they may as well be criminals as it pays better than their alternatives.

Meanwhile, the police seeing lots of minority crime are inclined to profile minority individuals as criminals. Each side's behavior reinforces the continuation of the cycle.

Each blames the other, neither accepts responsibility for its continuation, while both are responsible. I am pessimistic about our chances of breaking the cycle of mutual reinforcement.