Thursday's HOT MIC

Thursday's HOT MIC

In New York City, "racism" is apparently now the all-purpose explanation for any racial disparities in crime statistics.

Elected officials and advocates are particularly disturbed that 86 percent of people arrested for marijuana offenses are black and Latino, though these communities represent only 51.4 percent of the city’s population. Council Member Donovan Richards of Queens, chair of the public-safety committee, describes this as a “huge disparity.” Rory Lancman, chair of the courts committee and also of Queens, decries the “grotesque disparities that exist between marijuana enforcement of people of color and white people.” Andy Cohen from the Bronx calls NYPD marijuana enforcement “discriminatory in intent and certainly in effect.” Inez Barron from Brooklyn condemns the NYPD and says that “people in power don’t understand the systemic embedded practices of racism.”

There is a disparity between the city’s demographics and the subset of people arrested for smoking marijuana in public. When examining the commission of other crimes across the city in terms of race, though, one finds similar, if not wider, racial disparities. Based on victim reports, 84.7 percent of rape suspects in 2016 were black or Latino—almost the same percentage of people arrested for marijuana-related misdemeanors. Robbery suspects were 93.4 percent black and Latino. The distribution of misdemeanor-assault suspects, felony-assault suspects, and murder suspects is similar. Shooting suspects are 97.6 percent black and Latino. Considering these figures, it seems unlikely that NYPD racism is a primary cause of marijuana arrests.

Nonetheless, the Left is wedded to this world-view, that everyone is exactly the same and therefore should behave in ways commensurate with their percentage of the total population. But if everyone's the same, why does the Left single some people out by color in the first place?

Merely citing statistical disparity in arrest rates for smoking marijuana does not prove racism on the part of the NYPD—especially when that same disparity exists, sometimes in higher proportion, across the spectrum of crime. Elected officials should worry less about which minority group will receive the first post-legalization marijuana business licenses and focus more on minimizing social dysfunction in their communities.