I have just finished working on an article about on a critique over the controversy over the militarization of our local police forces and the federal funding of said militarization in the context of the conduct of the local authorities in Ferguson, Missouri. One of the articles I cite in my piece is Senator Rand Paul’s recent article for Time.
I would like to take a moment to address a matter Paul addresses I didn’t discuss in the aforementioned article – race. Paul writes:
Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention. Our prisons are full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences for non-violent mistakes in their youth.
I wonder what Heather MacDonald of The Manhattan Institute might think about all that. In an article she wrote for City Journal back in 2008 she cited several different studies which concluded that racial patterns in offenses rather than racism or racial bias accounted for different sentencing outcomes. To the extent that blacks received lengthier sentences than whites was because of their previous criminal records as well as the nature of the offense in question. MacDonald also noted that blacks were less likely to be prosecuted for felonies and more likely to be acquitted if they were prosecuted.
This isn’t the first time Paul has played the race card. Last May, Paul said Republicans were “going crazy” over voter ID laws. After my blog post on this, Senator Paul’s office replied to my critique and I offered a rejoinder. I argued that it would be more appropriate for Paul to fight the demagoguery over voter ID laws by the likes of Vice-President Biden rather than feeding into it. Unfortunately, it seems he is doing more of the same here.
While I certainly think the Republican Party should do its best to attract black voters, I don’t think Rand Paul’s impersonation of Eric Holder is going to help the GOP’s cause. Nor do I think Paul is doing any favors for African-Americans by reinforcing the notion that this country is racist. A positive message is what is needed and Rand Paul isn’t delivering it.