(audience murmuring) - good evening and welcome to the marian miner cook athenaeum. my name is sarah sanbar and i'm one of the ath fellows here. in 2015, 346 black americans were killed by police officers. of those victims, less than one in three were suspected of a violent crime or allegedly armed. black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people.
and of the cases in which there were murder, 98% did not end with the officer being charged. the black lives matter movement has done much to publicize these shootings and raise awareness. remaining vocal in the face of strong opposition and backlash from groups who claim blue lives matter too, and so do all lives. in the midst of such polarizing rhetoric,
it becomes important for us to stop, step away, and ask ourselves, how did we get here? what does the past teach us about the nature of policing in black america? is the system broken or functioning as it was built? khalil gibran muhammad, a professor of history-- a professor of the history of race and public policy at harvard's kennedy school will join us tonight to help unpack some of the history and context
that created the system we had today. his academic work focuses on racial criminalization and the origins of the carceral state. he is the author of the condemnation of blackness: race, crime and the making of modern urban america. his articles and scholarship have appeared in many publications including the new york times, the new yorker, and the washington post. professor muhammad's talk is a part
of the race and law enforcement in america series. as always, i must remind you that audio and visual recording is strictly prohibited. please join me in welcoming professor kahlil muhammad. (audience applauding) - thank you very much sarah. and i want to think priya junar for her leadership here and for working really hard to make sure that i'd be here. she can tell you later that we went back and forth
for a long time. i had another job and i was in transition. where is priya? i don't see her. okay, yeah so, (chuckles) i was hoping you'd be smiling. precisely because it was hard to manage a schedule that has freed a lot more. there's a professor here, first name andrea. i'm really bad with names, but i want to acknowledge
that she identified me as someone to participate. thank you so much. i think this is a small community, so you know who she is. to all the students i spent time with today. to nick daily, who couldn't be with us this evening, i want to say that i've had a delightful time visiting this small slice of paradise. if i had known that this place existed in all of its south carolina--
south carolina--(audience laughs) south california glory. (chuckles) there's a little bit of south carolina around here. (audience laughs) with all of its south california glory and such a school and set of schools with incredibly high standards and rich traditions, i might have applied to come here.
in any case, today's lecture is long. i will try to wrap up in 45 minutes, as i was instructed. i think that's a good idea. but i will probably move quickly through some slides. they will be illustrative at times, so the point being an invitation for you to follow up. the lecture draws heavily from my first book, but i am in transition to writing a second book. so some of the themes that i'm wrestling with
and things that i didn't explore in the book but i see as connections, i will explore in the next book. so let's get started. in policing we trust: the logic and legacy of racial criminalization in american society. in memoriam. deborah danner. 1950 to 2016. let me begin with an argument. in our present, made by contemporary observer,
a columnist for the new york times, named charles blow, he writes, "it is not that the police harbor more racism than the rest of america, but rather that racism across society, including within our police departments and system of justice, has been erected in ways that disproportionately impact poor, minority communities." blow continues, "that it is acutely clear in these killings, "that police are simply instruments of the state
"and the state is the people who comprise it. "the police are articulating a campaign "of control and containment of populations "and that campaign has the implicit approval "of every citizen within their jurisdiction. "this is not a rogue officer problem. "this is a rogue society problem." "a system that has been erected to control and contain populations."
that is blow's argument. and he is not alone. many of you have read or heard of michelle alexander's the new jim crow, much celebrated and critiqued, where she argues that the war on drugs was a calculated set of policy responses against the legislative implications of the civil rights movement. it was a racial backlash, fueled by a southern strategy
to stoke fears of black crime and disorder moving from the south to the north and its suburbs. ta-nehisi coates has also written, in between the world and me, of an enduring pattern of destroying black bodies. "it is not abberational," he writes, "it is tradition." the question before us this evening, the questions, are threefold. are these contemporary writers correct?
is this a system built to do what it was intended? what is the evidence for and against? what are we as citizens to do about it? let me say from the beginning that there is no simple answer to any of these questions, especially the last one. empirical research, for example, as i will suggest, is not only incapable of solving this problem, it is indeed part of the problem.
i suspect, though, that there may be some here who are impatient with such questions. isn't it obvious, you may be thinking, as you recall that charles kinsey, shot by a police officer with an assault rifle while helping an autistic patient. kinsey lying flat on the ground, hands held high, was later told by the head of the local police benevolent association
that quote, "this wasn't a mistake in the sense "that the officer shot the wrong guy "or he thought that kinsey was the bad guy. "the movement of the white individual, that is, the patient, "made it look like the patient was going "to discharge a firearm into mr. kinsey. "and the officer discharged, trying to strike and stop "the white man and unfortunately he missed "the white male and shot mr. kinsey by accident,"
said john rivera, president of the dade county police benevolent association. now if you had a hard time following that statement. it's a hard statement to follow because it's nonsensical. (audience members chuckling) but since this is a school, proofs matter, and making the case is how democracy works. according to the great essayist and novelist and chronicler of america's racial scene, james baldwin,
he called us to a greater appreciation for the past and the responsibility for reconciling with it. he wrote, "the great force of history comes "from the fact that we carry it within us, "are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, "and history is literally present in all that we do." for most people, the historical starting point for this set of questions starts with the period after slavery.
the moment when jim crow was built, including everything from chain gains to convict leasing. white southerners generally believed that freed people, no longer under the scrutiny and surveillance of whites were inherently dangerous. some claiming they were reverting to their ancestral condition. one such writer, said this, "negroes... "seeing then that the negro does, indeed,
"belong to a lower and inferior order of beings, "why in the name of heaven, why, should we forever degrade "and disgrace both ourselves and our posterity by entering, "of our own volition, into more intimate relations with him? "may god, in his restraining mercy, forbid "that we should ever do this most foul and wicked thing?" wrote hinton rowan helper in 1868. a moment of tremendous peril and possibility, anxiety for a civil war-torn nation.
and an uncertain future about what it meant to incorporate four million formerly enslaved people into the body politic. what is so revealing of helper's prose, in this moment, is precisely that he was not an outlier. not a part of the lunatic fringe. in fact, much of the book that helper wrote was a compilation of the perspectives of american statesmen. people like daniel webster, henry clay,
other founding fathers who had spoken explicitly about the perceived and real inferiority of people of african descent. and yet, here the nation faced this ultimate reality that these people were now on an equal plane. hinton's title was revealing of precisely that level of anxiety. he wrote the negroes in negroland, this is the title of the book from which this quote comes,
the negroes in america and negroes generally. also the several races of white men considered as the involuntary and predestined supplanters of the black race. you see helper was part of an early civil rights backlash to the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments. indeed the very notion of moving past race of transcending racism, is as old as black freedom itself. there is nothing in his essence particularly unique
about the circumstances we find ourselves in, in this moment 50 years after the great civil rights era of the 1960s. just as was the backlash set in motion in the immediate aftermath of mass emancipation. a lot of this story, though, is familiar. the long shadow of jim crow descends. the criminal justice system in the south becomes an instrument of racial control
coercing black complicity with an exploited and brutal labor regime. black citizens face share cropping contracts or prison labor ones, a small elite escaped. but live the daily indignities of second-class citizenship. what is less familiar and more telling of how to weigh the arguments of charles blow, the new york times columnist, or michelle alexander. or even ta-nehisi coates
is what happened in the north, or even nationally to the question of black fitness for full citizenship. there is a myth, many scholars note, of southern exceptionalism in both our collective memory and in our historical writing. and there are many who would argue there is a method of sunbelt exceptionalism as well. until quite recently this set of myths
about the exceptional racism of the south blinded us to the complexities of what, indeed, was happening outside of the south. that system outside of the south, increasingly turned to the use of statistics and empiricism, more broadly, in the social scientists to make more efficient use of social resources to be smarter about managing society. i've met a lot of government and econ students here, so i apologize for any offense that i might offer
at this time about the limits of the disciplines in which you function.(audience laughing) but they are not panaceas for helping us know precisely what we should make of our collective experience or our humanity. they are tools. there was in fact an early big data revolution accompanying the industrial age. just as there is a new one accompanying
our age of information. this is what it sounded like back then. here is the voice of a harvard scientist. he was a natural scientist but he had a knack for translating science for popular audiences. not unlike so many today. you might have heard shankar vedantam on npr who is a journalist translating so much social psychology research
and other scientific studies. so shaler was himself a scientist, but he spent a lot of time writing for highbrow national magazines such as atlantic monthly, still in circulation today. here, we hear shaler writing science and the african problem in 1890 article, which was the first of several articles for decades to come describing what was
more broadly understood to be the negro problem. for schaler, who was a kentucky born. though liberal, he described himself as a friend of the negro. and he certainly considered himself, by the time he landed at harvard, a new england cosmopolitan, saw this as a kind of truth-telling exercise a kind of way to sift through the ideological muck and mire
of the former pro-slavery arguments of which he was steeped and reared in and the new discourse of civil rights and possibilities made possible by the end of the civil war. well there was no obvious resolution to those debates because as you heard from helper, the determination that now black people would revert to some primitive condition, no longer under the helpful gaze of white people,
schaler saw himself making an intervention. turning to empiricism for the purpose of helping us solve this problem. and so he says here, "statistics will lead the way "to a true understanding of black people's "true racial capacity." he was not alone. there were others like him. a man named richard mayo-smith,
writing in what was then an emerging academic journal, focused on statistical research, says, "statistics will put the united states "in a position to analyze to better advantage "than ever before the effect of race character "upon institutions and of races upon each other." now what you should note, if it's not obvious already, in these last two examples, is that there is essentially no history
of empirical research related to race in this country that doesn't turn on essentially a eugenic question about what races are actually capable of. and now, in other words, the very notion of tracking demographic data against racial categories is by definition a eugenic project. that was its founding. now we might try to escape it. we might think ourselves far more evolved
than these people back then. but, i think, part of the evidence for or against the claims of blow and others is for us to look at this more closely. so let's look more closely. at 1890 the us census reported that 30% of the prison population was black and that blacks were only 12% percent of the general population.
now this might on first glance not only seem familiar, but actually might make sense to us that of course we should know such a thing. that this is a useful thing to know. but in fact it's actually a construction. at no point prior to this moment, had anyone made such a claim that looking at the disproportionate presence of incarcerated bodies, black bodies in particular,
was a meaningful, useful social statistic that we could interpret as something that would help us make decisions to manage society, to make more efficient use of resources. that's what we economist do and that's what government often does. and so one contemporary of shaler's, a german immigrant and statistical maverick, call him the nate silver of the first big data age,
took shaler up on his offer. he pioneered for the first time, a way of seeing crime statistics as a measure of black fitness. in other words, rather than being bogged down in some tired old debates about whether black people's brains were bigger or smaller than euro-descended people's brains or whether there was something
in the color of their skin, the shape of their brow, the texture of their hair that revealed some essential element of racial inferiority, which was very much the state of racial science for much of the 19th century, shaler and richard mayo-smith, and now frederick hoffman, were calling for the use of demographic data as evidence of not what, not inferiority in the body, but inferiority in behavior.
and so, hence, the behavioral sciences really took off. another signpost of this moment, is the university of chicago establishes the first sociology department about 1892. columbia establishes its own. university of pennsylvania. and so, the professionalization of social work and sociology begins, splintering off from political economy,
which had been an older field of doing similar kinds of research. it's also important to say, that in the broader context of this moment, eugenics was a 19th-century invention for the purposes of understanding population growth and movement, and too many degrees, control in the european context. this was not just about black people in america
or africans in the world, but, indeed, a number of races that were deemed unworthy of full humanity all over the globe. more particularly in the united states, though, the convergence of mass emancipation, the industrial age, increasing immigration from eastern and southern europe, drove so many of these forces into the discovery of this new discipline as applied here. so what do people make of this?
well frederick hoffman, the german immigrant, was the first person to put in national discourse, an interpretive frame. here's one example of that. he noted, in an 1896 book, his first and only major study of the race problem, of which he called or titled the book, race traits and tendencies of the american negro, says, "the city negro brought into direct competition
"with the white race has usually but one avenue "out of his dilemma--the road to prison "or to an early grave." now hoffman might have simply been making an observation. tracking premature death among african-americans in a time when there were clear higher rates of infant mortality, disease incidence, and even violence within the black community, as compared in the aggregate, to their white counterparts,
even of various immigrant and native-born stock. but there's a lot more to it than just meets the eye, in this potential empirical observation. indeed, part of what hoffman wanted us to see was that perhaps in this number and in this explanation of this number, was the inevitability of a doomed race. don't take my word for it, here's how he put it. he says, "i have given the statistics
"of the general progress of the race "in religion and education for the country at large," he's expanding his context, "and i have shown that in church and school "the number of attending members or pupils "is constantly increasing; "but in the statistics of crime and the data of illegitimacy "the proof is furnished that neither religion nor education "has influenced to an appreciable degree
"the moral progress of the race." now, a couple things to know here. one, he's expanded his scope, not just to include what was largely understood to be a gendered problem of crime, 90% of that thirty percent of people, essentially, they weren't exactly incarcerated because the prison system wasn't quite what it is, but they were convicts of one kind,
and many of them leased, was a male problem. but the data of illegitimacy is his nod to the problem of black women and their babies being born out of wedlock. now he's got other statistics here, although he doesn't give us numbers. he mentions number of attending members or pupils is constantly increasing. so translation here, just in case.
if you had dinner, you're a little sleepy, you might miss this point. he's essentially saying that pro-social institutions, the kinds of institutions that encourage monogamy and law-abidingness and education as an liberal intervention for upward mobility. education was a pretty tenuous affair at this moment. it had--compulsory education had only really gotten off the ground and especially in the south,
but essentially he's saying, the very institutions of uplift for these people have failed them. and, therefore, as their crime continues to rise, again, first person to make these associations, turns out, maybe nothing will help them. now we could stop there and maybe think maybe he had a point or that's ridiculous, but there's another thing you ought to know. and that is, that this is literally
one generation after slavery. people like w. e b. dubois, who was the first harvard-trained social scientist, who would go on to live another 95 years, is born in 1868, the same year that hinton rowan helper wrote his first book. it was precisely this first generation of african americans who had never been enslaved, who at least had the possibility of marking their lives by a fundamentally different experience.
and hoffman, however, saw that it was in that generation what white supremacists in the south called the new issue, that in fact proved the point of their inferiority. it's because these people, as a control group, who've never been enslaved, and, therefore, if you're liberal, degraded by slavery, if you're a slavery ideologue, or pro-slavery person, uplifted by slavery, well now you've got--you guys are all smart,
here with cmc, now you've got a control group. slavery had nothing to do with these people and if they're turning to crime, if schools don't work for them, if churches don't work for them, well then, what are we to do about these people? and so this literal set of statistical correlations, interpreted as causation, spread like wildfire. but i want you to note how it reached
all across the landscape. so one way in which it's expressed is, in the mouth of a man named james k. vardaman. he happened to be the governor of mississippi. in any textbook or monograph or historical treatment of the jim crow period, james k. vardaman is categorized as a negro-phobe, as an explicit white supremacist. there's no mistaking his position on the status and capacity of black people.
but there's something veiled in this moment that i think you have to appreciate. so even for somebody who really didn't need to mince words about what he thought about black people, he says here that, "to school the negro is "to increase his criminality," now that might make the head explode already, but let's just keep going. "official statistics do not lie
"and they tell us that the negroes "who can read and write are more criminal "than the illiterate. "in new england, where they are best educated, "they are four and a half times as criminals "in the black belt," which was for the south, "where they are most ignorant. "the more money for negro education, the more negro crime. "this is the unmistakable showing
"of the united states census." so, first of all, he's pointing out that there are higher rates of education in new england, versus the south. and there's higher rates of incarceration in the north as a function of population as compared to the south. and so, by definition, and this was not just his formulation,
this had been circulating in all sorts of magazines and newspapers and pamphlets of the time period. but you can see what's at stake here. what's at stake is, for anyone here who, and everyone's gone to college here, and maybe there are a few--not college, high school, here-- maybe there are a few students who were born elsewhere and came here, but essentially, this is before jim crow
really took fundamental root, but the very reason to desegregate education, say in the 1950s, is being established here on the basis of these empirical claims that official statistics do not lie. as a result of authoritative source like the us census, that it's a bad idea to educate black people because they turn into criminals. so if you ever want to wonder why so many people
could believe in divestment of black education, you have one intellectual and ideological pillar for understanding it. but the good news is that this didn't go unchallenged. and so, a man named kelly miller, who was a black sociologist at howard university, he was the first sociologist there. he was a mathematician who established sociology. remember, sociology was a new thing.
and he was one of the first to take up this question, as was w. e. b. dubois, who i've already mentioned. so he responds directly to this rumor. first he notes that, yes, black men are five times more likely in massachusetts to serve time than in mississippi. okay, so that's a fact. why it's a fact is a completely different set of questions. remember those brutal labor regimes
and those coercive criminal justice officials and all the ways in which african-americans after slavery did not actually have the full fruits of their labor. so all that messy political economy stuff that's going on, on the ground, actually helps to create statistical artifacts, realities, arrest statistics, prison statistics. so nevertheless, that couldn't possibly explain massachusetts.
so kelly miller also noted that was left out of this discussion is that white men were 10 times uh oh.(audience laughing) so, you know, we could go around the room and i could have you ask a lot of questions, but i got a lot of slides here a lot to say, so i'm going to keep it moving, but the short version of this is massachusetts was a much more mature,
overcrowded industrial state, and the problem of the industrial classes or the dangerous classes, that was the problem in the north, they built enough prisons and had enough police officers to keep track of the rabble-rousers. in the south they were enslaved until 1865. they didn't use prisons. they didn't need police in the way that the north did. and so consequently, the bureaucracy and machinery
of criminal justice in massachusetts meant you were far more likely to get caught and to be punished for whatever misdeed that you happen to commit. and so kelly miller went on to say, did education make northern whites criminals to? since, of course, the same rules applied. "or shall we foster," in his own words, "the bliss of ignorance only when
"it is found under a black skin?" so you begin to see how these early numbers are serving purposes that go way beyond what we might think is a kind of empirical fact that we've worked really hard to isolate and put in the world as a useful good thing. so fast forward to the present. today, or as the latest 2000, numbers down about 36% now. but in the 2000 us census, about 40%
of the prison population would be described as black and representing populations, general populations, about 13% . yeah we could have, we could think about that and say, man that looks pretty flat over a long period of time, especially a long period of time when so much has happened. so much racial progress. we killed jim crow. we had an explosion of black elected officials,
and the congressional black caucus, and the great migration opened up all sorts of possibilities. we killed the lynching era, so on and so forth. you could fill in the gaps all the way up until the election of president barack obama. but what i want to point out to you is, along that imagined progressive teleological curve, that that arc of history that we often evoke
in our grand political rhetoric, that always bends towards justice, the framework that frederick hoffman established is actually still with us. so here in the 2008 presidential race, senator john edwards says, "when you have young african-american men who are "completely convinced that they're either going to die "or go to prison and they see absolutely no hope
"in their lives, they don't see anything getting better." now of course he's adding more than just the observation of they're either going to die or go to prison, but he's basing it on the same information. so part of what we see in this history, is that we're stuck with the same framework. we've actually not escaped the same genealogical problem of why these numbers are important to us in the first place. we may actually be compelled to engage in a form
of intervention to help black people or we may be compelled to stand back and say there's nothing we can do for these people, they have to help themselves, and until they do so they're going to continue to die prematurely and they're going to continue to go to jail. okay, so what does this have to do with policing? well the really short version of what
this has to do with policing, is that we've doubled down on all these crime statistics. we've made them even more important to the kinds of micro and macro decisions we make about black people, and even white people, although the white part of the equation is a little more complicated to see, we'll come to it near the end. so this is compstat.
this is the famous visualization mapping software that essentially takes reported crimes and arrest activity and maps it onto a spatial reproduction of the urban community, which the police are policing. sorry for that. and it's meant to help anticipate and put resources where they're needed. remember managing society's resources is an efficient use of our capital.
and so here's michael bloomberg and ray kelly, the former mayor and former commissioner of new york city defending a com, not defending, at a compstat meeting, celebrating this incredible software, which has been responsible, in their position, for reducing a lot of crime, making america-- making new york city the safest city in america, but maybe at a cost. so here is a prison policy initiative.
a peter wagner original slide. i know that some of you heard him speak and here he is noting in 2010, comparative incarceration rates for men across white, latino, and black. it's obvious you've seen this before. so, it's really, really bad for black. a little bit less bad for hispanic. and comparatively not as bad for whites.
although, nominally, there are more people in prison or on to some form of correctional supervision in this country than at any point in this country's history and in world history in any place in the world. and by gender, women, black women, in particular's, disparities to white, towards white women are much greater than they are between black men and white men. so there's even more to say about the disparity problem.
but has this been a cause of alarm, collectively? and what's been driving this? part of the argument that bloomberg would say is what's been driving it is all the bad behavior of black people, all the crime that they've been committing. which, of course, he doesn't extend the argument to say because they're inferior in the way that helper would say,
but it's implied that something must be wrong with them if they keep committing all this crime. and so, he celebrates that the crime rate was rising up until nineteen 1991, began to fall under rudolph giuliani when broken windows, zero-tolerance policing went into effect. and as you can see from about 2002 to 2010 over the course of most of bloomberg and kelly's term,
it continues to fall which they take a lot of credit for. this is what it looked like in terms of stop-and-frisk. this was the aggressive policing program that bloomberg defended to his final days in office, had saved thousands of black people's lives because black lives matter in terms of the policing work that he and kelly did. and these numbers add up to about 4.4 million stops over a 12-year period.
less than 10% resulted in any summons or arrest. and 80% of those stopped were black or brown in a city that is still about 30% white. for black people, who are about 29% of the new york city population, they were 53% percent of those stops. so what do these stops look like? so even when they were bad stops. so two things.
one you're twice as likely to find contraband, a weapon or drugs on a white person, when they happen to be stopped, that very small part of the puzzle. and secondly, that most people who were stopped, this is what they were stopped for. so the new york civil liberties union reported this data and they noted, essentially, that the felony arrest remained flat.
so all of this activity, they didn't actually arrest people for felonies. and for misdemeanor offenses, hmm, that's pretty flat too. here's the stop-and-frisk activity and what did they get it with all of that activity? all these inferior people who are dangerous and violent. what they get for all that? they got a whole bunch of summonses of the 10-percent who they gave summons to.
and what did they give them summons for? drinking on the streets, disorderly conduct, public urination, bicycles on sidewalks. i suspect that much of the entire population of the five schools in this geographic region would have been incarcerated or arrested multiple times for these same activities. fair enough. and here you see the disproportionate activity
associated with all of this. so one has to believe, essentially, to make all of this legitimate, has to believe that these people, these latinos and blacks, have a special monopoly on this kind of behavior in order for this to not be a system intended to do what it's doing, or to be people who are inferior and deserve this kind of aggressive policing.
that's kind of the choice we're stuck with. so this is the evidence for, these are bloomberg's arguments in favor. so let's extend that point just a little bit further. so, in august of 2013, commissioner ray kelly was asked by david gregory, who is a former host of meet the press, now hosted by chuck todd, is stop-and-frisk racial profiling? now this was in the midst of a federal lawsuit named
floyd vs. new york, a class-action lawsuit based on claims that stop-and-frisk had been a form of systemic racial discrimination directed towards black and brown new yorkers. so ray kelly's asked this question and here's his response, "it doesn't mean that people are not doing anything wrong. "if you look at the statute," and this is the statutes that govern stops, they're called terry stops for reasonable suspicion.
he says, "it says reasonable suspicion that individuals may be about to commit a crime. "there's a preventative aspect to this. "people say innocent. "that is not the appropriate word. "this is the standard "law enforcement practice around america." now i could show you the youyube clip, but you can definitely find it.
david gregory, ray kelly. and you should hear it for yourself. i have not done any any magic here to quote him out of context. this is what he says. we ought to ask ourselves, well are these people, are these people somehow... first of all, these are just the small percentage of people
who actually were given summonses, nevermind the 90% who weren't. so you have to ask yourself, is this actually not an appropriate word for those people? that's the question before us. that's the question you have to answer for yourself in relationship to this policing moment and this crisis. it's also true that when we look for evidence of systemic bias, systemic protocols,
seems to me that ray kelly is telling us, you know sometimes you have to believe what people tell you, and he says this is standard law enforcement practice around america, so i guess we shouldn't be surprised at what's been playing out right before our eyes from new york city, to el cajon, california. he says something else that i think is interesting. and this is one of these moments as a historian
that your radar goes off and you say, i can't believe you just said that. so he goes on to say, "we think the reasonable criteria presented to us by the rand corporation," now i know in this audience, you all know what the rand corporation is, then he goes on to say, "an institution that has been in existence for a hundred years," now keep in mind, that he's not at an academic conference,
this is not a policy think-tank, he's not at cato or american enterprise or brookings institute, he's on national television on sunday morning talking to david gregory. he's quoting from the rand institution. he's talking--he's telling us it's a hundred years old. what i like about that is, this is a gesture towards authority. he wants us to respect this institution of which
he assumes most people don't know. but i think maybe we should be a little troubled about any institution from a hundred years ago that's been invested in empirical research as a... as a simple way of solving complex problems. and so he says that the rand corporation says to take a look at racial profiling to determine if it happened you should first look at the universe of people who are
the perpetrators identified by the victims of violent crime and in new york that universe comports to the racial makeup of the people being stopped. okay. that just means that because black people commit crimes against black people, you can't be racial profiling to in go and treat black people this way. but, of course, i'm pretty sure there's some free market folks in here, some libertarians.
and so, last i checked, our constitution, it recognizes individuals. that is the core principle of liberty in this country. and so what i do as an individual shouldn't reflect on what somebody else does, right? maybe not but that's essentially what's being challenged here in this assessment. so it can't be racial profiling if we're going in and profiling the black community
because the black community happens to have a crime problem. okay, now there's another way in which this is said. this is usually described in violence terms. so this is what giuliani, this is how he puts it. he says, "i find it very disappointing "when these black lives matter people "get all upset and angry about a shooting "that you're not discussing the fact that 93% of blacks
"in america are killed by other blacks. "i would like the attention paid to that." so again the problem of premature death becomes an index of a racial problem. this is what racial criminalization is. rather than a social problem of which individuals are both invested in and victimized by. that's the alternative. and maybe it seems like an abstraction,
so me pass through a couple more moments. this is an illustration from a race riot in atlanta in 1906. it's from a french journal, in part, because it shows the violence as it happened, whites attacking the black community in the midst of a controversial gubernatorial campaign between who could put the negro in his place more than the other person.
and resulted in a racial pogrom, an attack on the entire black community, as captured in this scene. fast forward a few months later in chicago. one of the most prominent anti-lynching activist. a black woman named ida b. wells, who'd left memphis, tennessee after she was run out of town for writing stories about the triple lynching of her friends because they ran a successful grocery store.
she ended up landing in chicago, where she set about establishing black woman's club work alongside of white woman's club work, both of whom work to improve both the conditions of poor people, black, immigrant, and white, as well as work together for suffrage for women, which is still 13 years down the line. she's at a fundraiser. and the topic of what happened in atlanta comes up
by a wealthy white woman named mary plumber. and this is what mary plumber says to ida b. wells about that event. she says, "i do not know what we can say "about this terrible affair, but there is one thing "i can say and that is to urge all of you "to drive the criminals out from among you. "have you forgotten that 10% of all the crimes committed "in chicago last year were by colored men,
"less than three percent of the population?" that sounds a lot like what rudolph giuliani is saying. it sounds essentially like black people can't make any claims on vigilante, read george zimmerman, or state violence, read tamir rice or sandra bland, as long as they commit crimes against each other. as long as they hurt each other, we really shouldn't be having a conversation about what white people did to them.
so that's pretty old too. it's actually not a new thing. and the linchpin of the argument, 93% in rudolph giuliani's articulation, here is 10%. it's statistical disproportion of criminality. somehow this notion that we can determine and decide the place and the humanity of black people based on crime statistics has had incredible sticking power okay, so you might be convinced by that by now.
and you might even be convinced that i'm sort of presentist reading of the past and that perhaps on while i get your point, maybe the evidence is selecteive and you know maybe, maybe there was nothing these people could do. i mean, sometimes people who apologized for slavery say that everybody did it and, therefore, how could anybody know not to do it. well it turns out that pretty much
as early as a the 16th century, there were many people who argued against slavery as a religious abomination. so there were plenty of ideas in circulation to say, you're on the wrong side of history. nevertheless, same was true here. turns out the frederick hoffman, the same demographer who first made sense of, in a national discussion, why we should care
about the disproportion of black man in prison, had this to say about white people. he said, "the study of statistics of suicide, madness, "and crime is one of the utmost importance to any society. "when such an increase has been proved to exist, "it is the duty of society to leave nothing undone "until the evil has been checked "or been brought under control. "the health of the people must come
"before the wealth of the people. "we must be far from truly civilized as long as "we permit to exist, or accept as inevitable, "conditions which year after year drive "an increasing army of unfortunates "to madness, crime, or suicide. "it is the struggle of the masses against the classes." crime statistics are symptomatic of class inequality? of having something to do with an industrial age
where society's resources are not distributed in an equitable or even in a sustainable way for people who are at the bottom of the economic distribution ladder? that's what it sounds like to me. maybe you need a minute to think a little bit more about it. so i'm gonna give you a couple more examples. so this comes from the work of frederic bushee. bushee was really just interested
in european immigrants in boston and all the crime and squalor and poverty that they experienced. and here he's writing about it, he says, "irish had the highest rates of petty crime, "and the italians top the list for major felonies." he says quote, "there is a moral degradation "among irish families as a result of drink, "which is not found among other nationalities."
he also said, "for quarrels, which are serious affairs, "for flashes of anger which mean a knife thrust, "one must go to the italian quarters." so we take hoffman's, sort of big-scale, aggregate statements looking at big data on premature death. he was actually one of the first demographers to look at the relationship of suicide to industrialization. he was essentially doing with emile durkheim had done
for europe, here in the united states. and so fredrick bushe wandered around in boston, looking at what's happening among whites, is describing what it looks like up close. he also--hoffman had this to say in conversation with bushee, "the irish and the italians show a percentage of arrest "decidedly above the average, yet small when compared "with out of the colored element."
and now you begin to see what the difference is. in relative terms, essentially black people have a special, special crime problem, which then disqualifies them from seeing their crime as symptomatic of class and industrialization. so the irish and italians, in the discourse and language of progressives who turned to the crime statistics that's symptomatic of economic inequality, were not to be disqualified
in the way that in hinton helper said. that god help us if we should ever actually give these people full freedom. they were indeed americans in process. don't you like that term? americans in process. they have the stuff to eventually be part of the body politic. another called them, a economist named william ripley,
also from harvard, called them "fellow passengers on our ship of state." the notion being that we've got to help these people. and so what did that help look like? here's an example from a social service agency, a settlement house in philadelphia. i love this image this image precisely because there's no black people there. it's a white woman.
she lives in a poor neighborhood. she has a poor home. she does a poor category of work. she's a washerwoman. what do we know about poor people in the statistical aggregate? they have a lot more babies than rich people have. so she's got five kids it's not apparent that she's in a two-person household.
where's the daddy? and what happens when a single mother, living in a poor neighborhood, who doesn't make a lot of money has too many babies? they turn out to be bad kids. and so the two kids are fighting in the middle of street. and in a community like this, when you have bad kids, and a poor household and a single mother in a city,
we got a abusive police officer, goes along with it. so you know here's the abusive police officer carting away some guy. and, of course, let's not forget the liquor store off in the back. this is what the face of inner-city white crime, juvenile delinquency, and poverty looked like at precisely the moment where frederick bushee and hoffman are talking about the problem of these crime statistics.
so the question is, what do we do about it? well just like hoffman said, since it's a function of class inequality, they tell us what they want us do about it. and here they say, "how criminals are made. "so long as there are bad tenements, sweatshops, "brutal policeman, bad jails, child labor, "dishonest and grinding employers, "saloons and gambling dens,
"so long as boys are taught to fight, "allowed to carry firearms, "so long as fathers are indifferent deserters," first of all, we just have to stop. are you kidding me? little white boys used to carry guns and shoot at each other in our big cities? and white men maybe didn't take care of their kids? is that possible?
and we had higher crime statistics associated with these groups? i think that's what they're saying. "and mothers must maintain the family by the washboard-- "so long crime will continue. "what will you do to help this association to prevent it?" this is exactly what progressive era social work and sociology looks like on the ground in response to high rates of crime among
certain white impoverished immigrant groups. and so there is no direct correlation between statistical disproportion and criminal offense and a punitive policing response. unless of course you believe that black people have a special crime problem that ought to be treated with the heavy hand of the state. so what happened to bushee's italian and irish criminals? how about we ask the question a slightly different way?
how many italian americans committed armed robbery last quarter? anybody know? i'll pause for this one. how about irish-american burglars? can we know? no we cannot know. why can't we know? because we stopped counting them.
because of all this work, all of this way of seeing that crime is symptomatic of class inequality in the industrial age, in the first big data age, we decided that, "the second-generation appears "to approach the native-born of native parentage "in regard to the crimes of kinds of crime committed," said the great edwin sutherland, one of the first and most prestigious american criminologists in 1934. in other words, he said they're just like white people.
these foreign-born troublemakers, as they used to be, and so since they're just like white people, then they can't be criminals. because white people can't be criminals in american society in the aggregate. now if you don't believe me let's look at it a little more closely. so the uniform crime reports, by 1931 the fbi puts out an annual sample, initially,
of self-reported arrest data by local police agencies. and eventually, the data becomes authoritative and becomes, to this day, a source of tracking seasonal variations and annual variations in crimes, including index crimes, which are the most serious crimes from robbery, burglary, rape, homicide. and so what did that look like in terms of our racial conversation?
in the very first ones they noted, "it is believed that figures pertaining "to the number of negroes and foreign-born whites "who were arrested and fingerprinted "can most fairly be presented by showing them "in proportion to the number of such individuals "in the general population of the country." this is exactly what hoffman said a long time ago. essentially the statistical disproportion
of these groups attached to their general population numbers tells us something meaningful about their criminality. except by 1940, it turns out that this whole americans in process thing was actually taking hold. and it turns out, as the uniform crime reports decided in 1940, they'd no longer keep track of the foreign-born. it is significant to point out that the figures
for native whites includes the immediate descendants of foreign-born individuals. that's why we don't know how many irish americans committed burglary last year. because we absorb them into the category of whiteness, leading black people to fend for themselves in a kind of statistical ghetto. so coming back to hoffman, his full-on throttled use of crime statistics
had an absolute opposite intention. prison and arrest statistics from chicago, philadelphia, louisville, and charleston, this is meant to be national, and from states including new jersey and pennsylvania, which is kind of random, but that's all he could get at the time because this wasn't the uniform crime reports, this was 1896, "confirm the census data, and show without exception
"that the criminality of the negro exceeds "that of any other race of any numerical importance "in this country. "when the negro learns to respect life, "property, and chastity, until he learns "to believe in the value of "a personal morality operating in his daily life, "the criminal tendencies will increase." that's very different than having a conversation
about crime, suicide, and madness and the need to adjust our class relations to care about the health of the masses rather than the wealth of the masses. i mean i can't make this up. so this is the smoking gun for pointing out from the very beginning that the excessive criminality of black people is not a cause for extra help for those people,
but in fact an absolute rejection of any intervention on their behalf in the same way that all those social workers were getting busy on behalf of the irish. now fast-forward to the present. the department of justice investigated ferguson in the wake of the killing of michael brown, which the department of justice also said was a legitimate kill,
given michael browns aggressiveness that day. but in a separate study, they looked at the entire police system and the court system and of the many things they found, they said this, "city officials have frequently asserted "that the harsh and disparate," that is the statistical disproportion of arrest activity, "results of ferguson's law enforcement system do not," this is according to ferguson officials,
"indicate problems with police or court practices, "but instead reflect a pervasive lack "of personal responsibility among certain segments "of the community." again, i ask you, for or against? could we see those... that irresponsibility among personal segments as a reason to actually help them? or do we see it as a cause for arresting
as many people as possible so as to generate revenue for the community and get promotions according to law enforcement practices? that's essentially what happened in ferguson. so, this i'm gonna fly through and come to my conclusion. this is a very old problem. and history actually shows us, that we've been studying fergusons, in the plural, since at least the 1920s.
this is an image from the 1919 chicago race riot, which was another racial pogrom of whites attacking the black community. and in both cases, in atlanta and in chicago, separated by 13 years, blacks fought back. but the police were not concerned about protecting the innocent. they were pro--(jumbles words and chuckles), concerned about disarming black people.
and so in the midst of a race riot, i mean just imagine, this is early 1934 germany and a group of nazi police officers are setting upon jews. and the other nazi come along and disarm the jews. there was no fairness in this situation. it was precisely intended to reinforce racial hierarchies even through the use of policing. but you don't have to take my word for it. so a report comes out of it,
called the negro in chicago in 1922, and here's what they discovered. criminal justice officials were more likely "to arrest negroes more freely than whites, "to book them more on serious charges, "to convict them more readily, "and to give them longer sentences." municipal court judge stated that he personally knew about certain police who were going to the negro clubs
and arresting negroes they found there, bringing them into court without any bit of evidence. these are white officials of the system testifying before this blue ribbon commission in 1922. okay maybe that was an exception. in philadelphia in 1924, a national urban league researcher comes along, she's using empirical research to reverse the problem. she's pointing out, just like all
of that stop-and-frisk data, that there's a tremendous disproportionate arrest activity among the black population. they are, in this instance, six times over-represented, four percent of philly's black population, of the black population, 25% of the rest, what were they arrested for? suspicious characters. she calls them needless arrests.
she gives a couple example. 10 people arrested, including four women for being at home. harry and moses picked up separately for being on the street for low-level vagrancy enforcement. the kind of thing where you're asked where you're going, show me some id. and her boss, the national research director looked at many, many other places and came to the same conclusion. police killings, we're having a conversation
about the fact that there's no data on police killings. but there were some early survey research and one study done in illinois 1926 and 27 and this is what it found. 30% of people killed by police were black, but they were only five percent of chicago's black population. they gave an example of a 16-year-old who'd been suspected of shoplifting.
when they showed up to arrest him at his home he was killed in a hail of 35 shots. this is a political cartoon from the philadelphia tribune. i love this evocation of a black taxpayer. you know, california kind of invented the discourse of taxpayers through its tax revoked of the fifties and sixties for the purposes of saying that we don't want to pay for undeserving people and, here, this philadelphia taxpayer's saying,
"i'm paying for the police to provide protection "because i'm a homeowner against these white people "who've shown up to remove me from my home." and what did the police say in this little box? they're not actually trying to arrest anybody who happens to be white, they should not have moved into this section. so this is the critique and commentary of the racial dynamics of policing.
another example, and this one i'm not gonna read because it's a lot here. this is the harlem riot report of 1935. comes to the same conclusions as this report, which occurs in 1968. so these bulleted points give direct primary language to this moment. but this is what they actually say. under the kerner commission, better treatment of citizens
to ensure proper individual conduct, more police protection of residents, independent citizen review boards, citizen input on new guidelines for aggressive patrol, develop community policing. can you believe this? develop community policing? i believe hillary clinton is running on a platform that says we should have community policing.
50 years later we're calling for the same solution. probably not going to get us where we like to get because as long as we believe this, somewhere in our heart of hearts, as rudolph giuliani said in responding to black lives matter, "it's because blacks commit murder eight times more "per capita than any other group in our society "and when i assign police officers "with commissioner bratton we did it based on statistics.
"we didn't do it based on race. "if there were a lot of murders in the community, "we put a lot of police officers there." well it's clear that when there are a lot of murders elsewhere, we had a lot more tools in our toolbox to deal with premature death. fbi director has similar approach. he wants to get more data about "those we arrest,
"those we confront for breaking the law "and jeopardizing public safety, "and those who confront us." so he's calling for more statistics because the "greatest challenge is "to grow drug-resistant and violent resistant kids." where is the economy in all of this? remember that long laundry list of how criminals are made? none of that is in this conversation.
there's nothing exogenous to these people, only what's inside of them. and so this is the latest, this come from september 30, 2016 science article, which is talking about now compstat 2.0, even more sophisticated algorithms and computers to keep track of all the activity going on in black and brown communities so our crimes by forecasters. this is heroic stuff.
in fact, i heard bratton give a talk at a conference where he described this as the equivalent of the tom cruise movie minority report where we're going to be able to predict where crime is happening. this is scary stuff folks. but let's not forget that we are right now in the midst of another use of data, more hotspot mapping, more visualization,
but the frame is totally different, this is a new york times visualization of the crisis of premature death and rural white america based on heroin and prescription drug use. and what you see is from 2003, the scene has gotten a lot hotter in terms of the numbers of people who are dying prematurely based on drug use and drug use is, by definition, this kind of drug use, is criminal activity.
we call it nowadays a public health crisis for reasons that i think has a lot to do with who this problem is affecting, but it is criminal activity. the drugs have to be sold and have to be bought. both illegal. but what does one of our major governors, happens to be my governor of my state, say? "addiction is an illness and it's something we can beat,"
chris christie said. "if we give people the tools and support they need "to overcome this disease and if we choose to free people "from the stigma of addiction and recognize this "as the public health challenge it truly is, "we can help people to reclaim their lives. "you can find the true measure of our compassion, "the investment we're making will change lives "and get more people into treatment earlier,
"instead of the emergency room or prison later. "it's the fiscally responsible thing to do "and it's the morally right thing to do." that's your people right now. what i mean by that, this is all of us. this is america 2016. and here's hoffman reminding us, this is the legacy of that voice, "we must be far from truly civilized
"as long as we permit to exist or accept as inevitable, "conditions which year after year, "drive an increasing army of unfortunates "it is a struggle of the masses against the classes." so let me close with where we began. this is a letter written by a woman named deborah danner who died a week ago. a letter she wrote, titled living with schizophrenia, on january 28th, 2012.
these are pages she wrote in an effort to call attention to what she was living with in a hope that her disease would not take the lives of others. she said, "schizophrenia happened to me, "when i was almost 30 years old, late in life. "and it has had a major impact on my life, "my career, and my relationships. "generally speaking those who don't suffer
"believe the worst of those of us who do. "we're treated with suspicion. "as liars who can't be trusted to control ourselves. "we're asked to accept less than our natural rights to life, "liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. "the saddest aspect of this sort "of marginalization of the mentally ill "is the fact that many remain untreated. "the incarcerated mentally ill,
"the homeless mentally ill, suffer terribly. "we are all aware of the all-too-frequent news stories "about the mentally ill who come up against law enforcement "instead of mental health professionals and end up dead. "we should all be aware that these circumstances "represent very serious problems that need addressing. "teaching law enforcement," she wrote four years ago, "how to deal with the mentally ill in crisis is so as to prevent another bumpers incident."
well this is the headline that accompanied deborah dander's murder by a police officer. a sergeant at new york police department just last week. when she refers to eleanor bumpers as an incident that she anticipated could happen to a mentally ill person, in her case, she was having a schizophrenic episode, her neighbors heard a commotion, they called the police. the police had been to her home times before in an effort to assist.
and this time she was wielding a bat, which is, you know, in the case of alfred olango, when you're having a psychotic break you might do anything. but she clearly posed no harm to a group of well-armed, trained men, including sergeant, who upon facing a 66-year old elderly woman with a bat, shot her twice and killed her. when she talked about ellen bumpers, she talked about this woman from 1984,
who was shot by two shotgun blasts by a new york city police officer who came to her home along with several others to evict her from her home because she was poor and needed to go. with all of our predictive capabilities, with all of our algorithms, with all of our empirical data, we seem not to be able to predict that unless we see the full humanity of black people,
unless we see their poverty is a symptom of an unequal society that we live in, all of this is incredibly predictable even in the mind and the pen of a schizophrenic woman who could see her own fate play out right before her very eyes. thank you very much. - [sarah] we will now have time for questions. if you have a question please raise your hand
and seth or i will come to you with a microphone. i actually have a question. what would you say is one of the most common misconceptions that you hear repeated throughout the presidential campaign about crime, particularly as it relates to the black community. - well, so i don't know how much you guys watch tv, but of course the, what i call playing the violence card. i wrote an op-ed in the new york times
in the wake of trayvon martin's killing that essentially said that anytime we're having a conversation about state violence or the acquittal of racial violence in the case of zimmerman acquittal, the conversation automatically turns to all the violence that black people commit against each other. so that's one misconception that somehow that justifies that people should be afraid of black people
and should have the right in their fear to kill them. that's a misconception. and that's what this lecture has largely been about. the other misconception, of course, is that trump has made it an explicit part of his policy agenda to nationalize stop-and-frisk, a kind of new and improved version. and there have been debates among people representing his campaign
who are arguing that it wasn't ruled unconstitutional, which is actually, it wasn't ruled unconstitutional in its full application, parts of it were ruled unconstitutional. so that he's going to save black people from the hellish cities that they live in by making stop-and-frisk truly a federal policy is, of course, another form of miseducation. i'd also say that the clinton campaign is very soft
on its history and policy vision of addressing what by now, i certainly believe, is a systemic problem by talking about community policing. community policing usually amounts to calling upon community stakeholders to hold regular meetings with law enforcement brass to report to them who are the bad people in the community that they ought to keep an eye on. that's what community policing has been.
some of this is morphed into more police officers doing street patrols versus, or bicycle patrols, versus drive-bys, which has been the dominant form over the past 20 years. but real community policing would take seriously all of those reports that i flashed by, and the recommendations that have been coming forth since the 1920s that ultimately police officers have to police the community based on
how the community wants to be policed. that the standard of what is fair and just should come from within the community, after all, much of white america's experience with policing is mitigated by the political accountability of white citizens of those communities. why is it that you can be an armed rancher in the west and literally take on the federal government and not end up dead?
because in part your political currency in that moment is legitimated by your peers who see maybe that you've gone too far but that you have a legitimate beef with the federal government, as in cliven bundy or his son, ammon bundy. so we have innumerable examples of what policing looks like when police officers are actually taking their cues from the communities in which they serve. they do not take their cues from the black community.
they take their cues from managerial elites who come up with sophisticated systems in order to drive down crime at the great expense of civil liberties and, of course, all of the accumulated trauma that comes with the microaggressions and, of course, the absolute death that occurs in cases like this. - [man] thank you for your talk. - yep.
- [man] so i don't know if you've seen the campaign zero, the ten proposals they put out that are mostly kind of rooted in data as a way to find solutions rather than analyze the problem. and i'm wondering whether you think that's an appropriate statistical analysis and also just with all this history, like is there any reason to have like hope or a belief that things can change,
if there are certain things we do in our society. - i think we've had way too much hope. yeah, honestly. i think we've been living in a hole bubble for a long time and i mean that partly as a kind of veiled reference to president obama in the way in which he governed. i think he played overplayed aspiration. he kept insisting that we were not a divided nation
and obviously we got more and more divided. i'm not blaming him for dividing us, but i do wonder if the millennial response to even hillary clinton and the defection from the democratic party to some vision of bernie sanders as something other than the democratic party is an absolute indicator of the empty tank of hope and aspiration that president obama governed under. every generation has tried to imagine
that their circumstances were better than the one before. that they were kinder, gentler, friendlier to black people than people had been before. and in many ways when michelle alexander calls this the new jim crow or her subtitle is, mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness, she's calling us to the attention that we actually, in our self-proclaimed righteousness, that we've moved past all of that
that we don't need to have these conversations about reparations and racial reconciliation, we've actually done more harm, or arguably as much harm, than we've done in any generation past. so no, i'm not really interested in lofty aspirational rhetoric. you know i'd like to think that none of us want our oncologist to essentially say, ah, you're fine i'll see you in six months.
when there's that little blip of a dot on your body, you want the oncologist to essentially say, hey i think we see something we want to do further tests. and when diseases show up that have unknown origins, we want our pathologist to actually dissect cadavers and study the course of those diseases in hopes that we might anticipate and solve them the next time. so we have a virus, an infection in our body politic, and it has been with us for a long time.
so we need to deal with it. and yes it's depressing. there's no way around it. but you know the truth is that depression is not distributed evenly. so what may be uncomfortable and a downer for most people is a reality every day for the communities that face these kinds of policing practices, even when there is some evidence
and it's incredibly tenuous, about policing. the question would be would you rather take your chance in a community where you can pretty much discern, as is true, most gun play in black communities is deliberate and directed. occasionally, with great tragedy, a child is hit in the crossfire. so essentially people in these communities don't in fact live in hell,
although they certainly want their communities to be safe, they actually get up and go to work every day, they send their kids off to school, and the vast majority don't participate in violent crime and the vast majority live long healthy lives. in the same way that in the midst of the jim crow era, there were lynchings, thousands of lynchings, there were thousands of forms of acts of terrorism that didn't result in death,
and the vast majority of black people got up and went to work everyday. and survived. in both cases neither make it right. and in this, case our police are not on the right side of this issue. so it's not, it's not a happy story but so much in our society isn't a happy story. so i say, see this as an opportunity to deal with it.
- [sara] unfortunately that's all the time we have left for questions. please join me in thanking khalil gibran muhammad.