Black Crime: Mythology or Reality?
Because people seem to need constant reminding:
THE REALITY OF RACIALLY DISPARATE YOUTH CRIME?For over a decade, the Justice Department has been working to reduce the racial disparity seen in juvenile arrests and juvenile imprisonment, a fact that underscores the existence of racially disparate arrests and sentences. African American youth arrest rates for drug violations, assaults and weapon offenses are higher than arrest rates for white youth—even though both report similar rates of delinquency.
While some have denounced the comments by former Education Secretary and Drug Czar William Bennett, they unfortunately believe his comments are based in fact. Those who believe that African American or Latino youth are more “criminal” than any other ethnic groups are simply wrong. The real facts tell us much more than stereotypes, or musings—both of which obscure the well-documented disparate treatment accorded African Americans compared to whites within the justice system. These comments on racially disparate crime also overlook the area of “corporate crime.”
African American Youth Are Treated Differently By the Juvenile Justice System
Drugs. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among youths aged 12 to 17, the rate of current illicit drug use was 11.1 % among whites, and 9.3% among African Americans. In a previous year, the same survey found that white youth aged 12 to17 are more than a third more likely to have sold drugs than African American youth. The Monitoring the Future Survey of high school seniors shows that white students annually use cocaine at 4.6 times the rate of African Americans students, use crack cocaine at 1.5 times the rate of African Americans students, and use heroin at the same rate of African Americans students, and that white youth report annual use of marijuana at a rate 46% higher than African American youth. However African American youth are arrested for drug offenses at about twice the rate (African American 314 per 100,000, white 175 per 100,000) times that of whites, and African American youth represent nearly half (48%) of all the youth incarcerated for a drug offense in the juvenile justice system.
Weapons. According to the Center on Disease Control’s annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey, in 2001 whites and African Americans reported similar rates of carrying a weapon (whites 17.9%, African Americans 15.2%), and similar rates of carrying a gun (whites 5.5%, and African Americans, 6.5%). African American youth represent 32% of all weapons arrests, and were arrested for weapons offenses at a rate twice that of whites (69 per 100,000, versus 30 per 100,000).
Assault. According to the Center on Disease Control’s annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey, African Americans report being in a physical fight at a similar rate (36.5%, versus 32.5% for whites), but were arrested for aggravated assault at a rate nearly three times that of whites (137 per 100,000, versus 48 per 100,000).
“The existence of much larger racial and ethnic differences in arrest rates than in self-reported violence is a matter of great concern. On the one hand, there is no reason to expect similar distributions, because these measures were designed to assess different aspects of violence. But if both measures are valid and reliable, the discrepancy suggests that the probability of being arrested for a violent offense varies with race/ethnicity.”—Youth Violent: A Report of the Surgeon General, January, 2001.