Commentary: Uncovering the Race-Incarceration Effect

Mass Incarceration

The debate spawned by the recent officer involved killings in high profile cases in Missouri and New York has generated some interesting push-back discussions by those on the right about the overfocus on police issues and the underfocus of the media on black-on-black crime.

This is not a new refrain. In July of 2013, in the aftermath of another racially polarizing killing, Trayvon Martin, conservatives were pushing back: “49% of murder victims are black men. 93% of those are killed by other blacks. Media don’t care. Obama doesn’t care.”

However, as some have argued there is really no such thing as “black on black” crime. While it is true that most black victims (upwards of 94 percent) were killed by black offenders, about 86 percent of white victims were killed by white offenders. What does that mean? It means that we live in a society that remains segregated in living arrangements by race and people are generally killed by people in their proximity.

That means that if blacks are being robbed and killed by other blacks it is likely due to the fact that they live in the same neighborhood as other blacks.

Of course, just because there’s not a racial component to these killings does not mean that it is not a problem. However it is a separate problem than the ones that emerge when a white police officer shoots an unarmed black man.

Others push back to say that we need to deal with the problems of the black underclass, a point that I could not agree with more. However, I believe that problem is not what many people want it to be.

Yesterday we ran a column from Michelle Alexander, who has written a book based on the idea that mass incarceration has become a modern day Jim Crow situation for black people to be subjugated. We have argued in the past that the prison to poverty cycle is critical for understanding the problems that we face in our cities and urban environments today.

The current levels of mass incarceration act as a societal repression of African-American men, a large percentage of whom are “warehoused in prisons.” As Ms. Alexander argues, these young black men, once labeled as felons, become trapped in a second-class status that they find difficult to escape.

The problem is that we have a system that is basically a trap, where once people get into the system, they can’t get out, and it cycles to the next generation.

To expand on this thesis, a reader recently pointed me to the work of Northwestern University sociologist Devah Pager. Professor Pager has studied the impact of incarceration on the employment outcomes of black and white job seekers. While there are over two million individuals currently incarcerated, about half a million of those will be released each year, with 95 percent of them overall eventually being released.

One estimate places the number at 12 million for ex-felons in the US, roughly eight percent of the working age population. Not surprisingly, researchers have studied the employment probabilities and income expectations for individuals released from prison, and have found a strong and consistently negative impact.

In her 2003 article in the American Sociology Journal, Professor Pager finds that “ex-offenders are only one-half to one-third as likely as non-offenders to be considered by employers.”

Moreover, she finds “the effect of a criminal record appears more pronounced for blacks than it is for whites.” She writes, “While the ratio of callbacks for non-offenders relative to ex-offenders for whites is 2:1, this same ratio for blacks is nearly 3:1.37 The effect of a criminal record is thus 40% larger for blacks than for whites.”

Professor Pager observes, “This evidence is suggestive of the way in which associations between race and crime affect interpersonal evaluations. Employers, already reluctant to hire blacks, appear even more wary of blacks with proven criminal involvement. Despite the face that these testers were bright articulate college students with effective styles of self-presentation, the cursory review of entry-level applicants leaves little room for these qualities to be noticed. Instead, the employment barriers of minority status and criminal record are compounded, intensifying the stigma toward this group.”

While we have naturally been focused on the impact of mass incarceration on the future prospects for black males, the research of Professor Pager points to a potentially even more troubling possibility.

In a 2008 article in CNN, based on her research, she writes, “Is racial discrimination a thing of the past? Debates about the relevance of discrimination in today’s society have been difficult to resolve, in part because of the challenges in identifying, measuring, and documenting its presence or absence in all but extreme cases. Discrimination is rarely something that can be observed explicitly.”

To test these issues, she conducted a series of experiments that attempt to investigate potential employment discrimination. She “hired young men to pose as job applicants, assigning them resumes with equal levels of education and experience, and sending them to apply for real entry-level job openings all over the city.”

She notes, “Team members also alternated presenting information about a fictitious criminal record (a drug felony), which they ‘fessed up to’ on the application form. During nearly a year of fieldwork, teams of testers audited hundreds of employers, applying for a wide range of entry level jobs such as waiters, sales assistants, laborers, warehouse workers, couriers, and customer service representatives.”

“The results of these studies were startling,” she writes. “Among those with no criminal record, white applicants were more than twice as likely to receive a callback relative to equally qualified black applicants. Even more troubling, whites with a felony conviction fared just as well, if not better, than a black applicant with a clean background.”

To reiterate, a white with a felony record fared just as well as a black applicant who had no criminal background. This research, which has been successfully replicated in subsequent studies, suggests that the problem of mass incarceration has a strong racial component to it.

White felons are not stigmatized in the same way as black felons.

But worse than that, racial prejudice seems to overwhelm other considerations.

As Professor Pager puts it, “Here, comparing the two job applicants side by side, we are confronted with a troubling reality: Being black in America today is just about the same as having a felony conviction in terms of one’s chances of finding a job.”

More troubling still, the “young black men posing as job applicants in this study were bright college kids, models of discipline and hard work; and yet, even in this best case scenario, these applicants were routinely overlooked simply on the basis of the color of their skin.”

Professor Pager believes that these results “suggest that black men must work at least twice as hard as equally qualified whites simply to overcome the stigma of their skin color.”

It comes back to this issue – if you want talk about the issues of the black underclass, conservatives start with issues like faith, breakup of the families, and drug dependency. The problem is that they see these problems uni-directionally – in other words they see lack of religious faith, the breakup of the families and drug dependency as a cause rather than an effect.

And it is a cycle – those factors do lead to additional criminality and mass incarceration but they have also been perpetuated by mass incarceration and lack of job prospects.

So let’s address the issues of the underclass, but let’s start with discrimination — because it still seems to be the dog that is wagging the tail.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Frankly

    The problem is that we have a system that is basically a trap, where once people get into the system, they can’t get out, and it cycles to the next generation.

    This is true no matter what race.  So don’t get trapped.

    I am familiar with Professor Pager’s study.  There are a few things wrong with it.  First, interviewing includes an assessment of interpersonal skills that are not usually captured on a resume.  In fact, the assessment of interpersonal skills can be more important that the academic credentials.  I know academics and public sector union people will dislike this… but it is absolutely the case in the private sector.  Top level companies even use personality tests to vet out candidates.  Note that even a chronically angry or crazy person can achieve a college degree!

    Also, a resume only gets an applicant’s foot in the door, and then the applicant has to perform to be attractive to the hiring manager.  Did all applicants go through similar training for how to interview?  No they did not.  And come to an interview with even a tiny chip on your shoulder and a good hiring manager will see it and be less attracted to you as a candidate.

    In other words, Professor Pager failed to control for things like black job candidate bias against white hiring managers and how that came come across in an interview.

    The second problem is that the study did not include people of other races as a control.  It is true that hiring managers both consciously and subconsciously hire people they connect with, and that cultural and behavior differences can end up being less attractive.  But this study was supposedly focused only on the difference between white and black job candidates.  What about Hispanic candidates and Asian candidates?  If we are playing the racial victim blame game we should know how other races with different economic outcomes fair by comparisons.  Otherwise we cannot make the claims that a single race is being singled out.

    I tend to believe there is a de minimis bias against black job when all things are equal (including interpersonal skills and interviewing skills).  And I attribute much (at least half) of that bias to the problem with the black brand.  From an economics perspective there are very few “accountable” hiring managers that will reject a candidate because of race knowing it would mean they would hire the less qualified candidate.  When I say “accountable” is means that the hiring manager has skin in the game for the level of success or failure for his/her span of control.  But again, “qualification” is both objective and subjective.

    The brand problem is one of risk assessment.  Is it racial bias for the woman to clutch her purse more tightly in the elevator when joined by one or more black youth, or is it justified risk assessment?  When running the statistics there is certainly a case for assessing greater risk.  Would a hiring manager assess higher risk that a black employee might claim racial bias when faced with job challenges and adversity… or maybe have a background concern about a lower bar of ethics and morality?   Again, the statistics back this type of risk assessment.

    We can all agree that these are all ugly racially-connected considerations, but we cannot solve them unless we open our eyes wide to all the possibilities.

    I have a final follow up study that I would like Professor Page to undertake.   She would basically repeat what she did in 2008 but add the following enhancements:

    – Include candidates of other races.

    – Record the races of the hiring managers and cross compare.

    – Train all candidates on how to interview.

    – Assess verbal language skills of the candidates.

    On this final point, I have an opinion for what I think one of the key issues impeding blacks in their job and career pursuits.  It is verbal language differences.   It is also very perplexing to me.  Why do blacks pick up a different urban dialect than do people of other races?  Remember the “Ebonics” debate?  I don’t know why, but my thinking is that this alone is one great potential solution to helping lift up the black underclass.  Basically enhance the schools’ effort to teach king’s English verbal skills to black children so these children have better opportunities to connect with hiring managers.

    1. Miwok

      Until interviews are completely unbiased with screens and voice disguisers, it may never be completely unbiased.

      Any business would be lucky to have a variety of races and languages, especially at something with public interaction. Much of the problem as I have experienced is the nepotism and rigged systems that happen long before an applicant makes it to the door.

      Years ago, some places (UC DAVIS) was ordered to hire more minorities and women. I used to go on “courtesy” interviews to make them look legit. I was told “it would be appreciated”. It never was, but I thought I understood quid pro quo.

      The felons and criminals still hang with their family and friends who may have been an influence, and are still there. I would ask the courts why they parole any criminal anywhere near their original home?

    2. TrueBlueDevil

      It still galls me when educated African Americans say “birf-day” or “axed”. These were similar items Bill Cosby noted before he committed hara-kiri.

      There are countless small items like this that parents, brothers, uncles, aunts, and family should teach. I was informally mentoring a shy Latino young man, and I really emphasized to him how to properly shake a hand, to look the person in the eye, smile, and to have a proper greeting (and goodbye). I then role-played with him a few times. Just a few tips like this, and when he went back to school, several of his teachers immediately noticed the changes.

      Frankly, do you know where these speech patterns, negative behaviors, and cultural behaviors come from? More specifically the socially unacceptable cultural patterns of the black underclass, do you know their origin?

      1. Frankly

        TBD – I do not know where the distinctive speech patterns come from other than a form of tribalism and black pop culture.  I will admit that it always a bit perplexing to me how I can often guess when a caller I have never met is black… when I cannot guess when a multi-generation American Asian caller is of Asian descent.   But I think it is a key argument against those that continue to demand that blacks are discriminated against only for their race.  Because I would put money on the fact that any white picking up that black urban dialect… even traces of it… would also face the same difficulty in the job market.  And this gets back to the point that it is a cultural problem we should be addressing.  What is black culture and why does it exist?  And what are the negative aspects of it that should be challenged and corrected?

        My belief is that once we control for the differences resulting from a distinctive black culture that is perceived as negative by society, we would find maybe 2% in true racial bias (the type where a black would lose to a white just because of his or her race).   But I would suspect that same 2% to go the other way… a white losing to a black just because of his / her race.   And so it goes.  In my thinking we are wasting time worrying about that 2% because it will always exist because people are tribal and like to associate with people of their tribe.  Unfortunately though the racial justice crusaders cannot stop focusing on this very de minimis problem… and look for every opportunity to inflate it as the defining problem.  They are wrong, but more importantly, they are moving the national debate away from what would be truly beneficial.   There are numerous examples of private “enterprise” schools that have had tremendous success educating a primarily black inner city student body to go on and be successful landing and excelling in employment.   The message is really simple… behave like is the standard for black urban culture and you will have a lot of problems in life.  Instead learn to behave like successful people behave and you will much more likely be successful.  It is the lesson that many immigrants immediately teach and preach their kids.  But our black communities are seemingly afflicted with so strong a victim mentality and a demand that they be accepted with their own unique sub-culture… and there is not any useful debate about how this just does not work.

        I guess what I am saying is that we need to work on black American assimilation into American culture.  Because it is not working trying to force American culture to accept integration of black culture.

        1. Matt Williams

          TBD – I do not know where the distinctive speech patterns come from other than a form of tribalism and black pop culture.

          Do you know where the distinctive speech patterns of white pop culture come from?

        2. TrueBlueDevil

          Frankly, I agree with you that the actual cases of discrimination are small, but they should nevertheless be corrected or punished. But we should also not create boogeymen that don’t exist.

          I know a small business owner who has hired two African Americans over the years, and both have sued him. (They both lost.) The second individual was a complete nutcase and turned out to have 2 violent felonies on his record, but had his business relationship severed along with a white contemporary for the same exact unprofessional behavior which was witnessed and documented by a third party. The black individual sued him twice.

          I’ll follow up with a more provocative source for this black underclass culture / behavior.

        3. TrueBlueDevil

          Dr. Thomas Sowell of Stanford, an economic historian who has written over a dozen books, wrote a book titled “Black Rednecks and White Liberals”. Sowell argues, with thousands of references, that it is “black redneck culture” copied from “white redneck culture” that has inhibited success for many.

          And where did this redneck culture come from? Britons from Northern England which were lawless moved to the antebellum South, and as one reviewer wrote “carrying their anarchic, chaotic culture with them.” These individuals became slave masters, and taught their habits and culture.

          From Amazon / Reed Business Information: “…Hoover Institution Fellow Sowell, author of Ethnic America, argues that “internal” cultural habits of industriousness, thriftiness, family solidarity and reverence for education often play a greater role in the success of ethnic minorities than do civil-rights laws or majority prejudices. The title essay posits a “black redneck” culture inherited from the white redneck culture of the South and characterized by violent machismo, shiftlessness and disdain for schooling. White liberals, gangsta-rap aficionados and others who lionize its ghetto remnants as an authentic black identity, Sowell contends, have their history wrong and help perpetuate cultural pathologies that hold blacks back. Sowell also examines the cultural achievements of such “middleman minorities” as Jews and expatriate Chinese whose frequent persecution, he feels, represents an animus against capitalism. And he defends Western culture itself against charges that it was uniquely culpable for slavery; in fact, he contends, it was uniquely responsible for eradicating slavery. Many of Sowell’s arguments-that the 20th-century resegregation of Northern cities was a response to the uncouthness of black rednecks migrating from the South, or that segregated black schools often succeeded by suppressing redneckism with civilized New England puritanism-will arouse controversy, but these vigorously argued essays present a stimulating challenge to the conventional wisdom.”

          And from the Thomas Sowell website:

          “This explosive new book challenges many of the long-prevailing assumptions about blacks, about Jews, about Germans, about slavery, and about education. Plainly written, powerfully reasoned and backed with a startling array of documented facts, Black Rednecks and White Liberals takes on not only the trendy intellectuals of our times but also such historic interpreters of American life as Alexis de Tocqueville and Frederick Law Olmsted. 

          “In a series of long essays, this book presents an in-depth look at key beliefs behind many mistaken and dangerous actions, policies, and trends. It presents eye-opening insights into the historical development of the ghetto culture that is today wrongly seen as a unique black identity—a culture cheered on toward self-destruction by white liberals who consider themselves “friends” of blacks. An essay titled “The Real History of Slavery” presents a jolting re-examination of that tragic institution and the narrow and distorted way it is too often seen today.”

        4. TrueBlueDevil

          Robert Canning, it isn’t just “white” or “American” culture … it is western European culture, and really 21st Century, 1st world, educated culture. If an investor or retiree is going to hand over $10,000 or $100,000, they probably want someone who speaks proper English, and adheres to social norms.

      2. Matt Williams

        People say lots of things for effect. Do you ever say cazzo or shite or tebeda? I can guarantee you that when you do it galls someone. It galls a whole lot of someones.

        You can answer the question you asked Frankly very simply and easily by asking yourself what the provenance of your use of f**k and s**t is.

        1. Frankly

          Come on Matt.  There is not any distinct “white” speech pattern.   There are regional accents and speech patterns, but not anything common for the entire race.

          Do you remember the ebonics debate?

          I know there have been attempts to explain this is more sensitive terms.  Also there have been attempts to mainstream it.

          Plim-plizzle, my nizzle, don’ foget bouts tha six-fo, chuch, dawg up in da hood, chilly my grilly. fo sho.

          But learn to talk this way and you will have one hell of a time convincing someone to hire you.  Even if you just pick up pieces of it, it won’t help you in job prospecting unless you are doing it with people having the same tendency.

          There are some southern dialects that are as troublesome.  Like some Appalachian mountain folk.  But again, that is regional, not racial.


        2. TrueBlueDevil

          Matt wrote: “Do you ever say cazzo or shite or tebeda?”

          I don’t even know what the first or last mean. No, I don’t typically use terms like this, but sometimes I will use slang as part of male bonding or fun. But I don’t say things like “where you stay at” or “I axed my Mom”.

          I’ll add a recruiter once sought me out for a job, and pitched me to a company. Everything was handled on the phone, and this is before the Internet. I decided to meet this yuppie speaking recruiter in person. There I met an African American gentleman with jeans and cowboy boots. He was quite the sight.

          He was a good recruiter, and Frankly reminds me that a lot of business happens over the phone where people never even meet, so race isn’t an issue! I once reviewed a long resume, and saw at the end that the applicant for a high level position had an African American fraternity listed. I said nothing. He was hired based on his resume, contacts, experience, and telephone interviews for a six figure job without ever meeting anyone in person. Only on a final meet and greet at an airport did they learn his ethnicity. Like the recruiter, he spoke standard English.

      3. Tia Will


        It still galls me when educated African Americans say “birf-day” or “axed”.

        I wonder if it might “gall” you because you are under the impression that your way of pronunciation is the “correct” way, and the real question that you are asking is “why can’t they just speak my way ?”

        This piece might put the use of the pronunciation “axe” in a slightly different perspective for you.

        Since Chaucer was using the “axe” form of the word “question” I sincerely doubt that it is an expression of pop black culture and I find it quite interesting that without bothering to so much as Google the origin, it would seem that some are willing to consider it disparagingly just because it is predominantly used by a minority group of our population today.

        1. Miwok

          Lots of people have speech impediments that are not addressed, and that is why many of these “words” get into the vocabulary. Schools used to have teachers trained to recognize this and recommend more work for students, but that sadly is not the case any more.

        2. TrueBlueDevil

          It is not “my way”, it is proper English which doesn’t take a BA in English to figure out. “Where you be stayin”, “I be finnin to go to the sto”, and other so-called Ebonics aren’t the sign of education, discipline, or even caring. What was the recent radio ad, “People judge you by the words you use.”

          This seems to be the typical liberal slippery slope of not wanting to judge anything, everything is fair game, there are no standards. Parallel to or tied to multiculturalism? I dunno, too late. To follow your train of thought, I guess it should theoretically be OK for my doctor to come out wearing his pants down his behind, blue boxers showing, baseball hat sideways, “Four Loco” tattooed across his forehead and cheetos in his smile. Theoretically.

          People judge us by the way we speak and act, especially the all-powerful non-verbal cues. I’ve had liberals tell me that “you have white privilege”, and I once replied “I have polite privilege”. I’ve gone to the store in sweats or jeans when working on a home project covered in sweat, dirt, sawdust. I’ll get odd looks, typically from white women. But when I show politeness, a smile, show common courtesy, say “please” and “thank you”, I can immediately sense that people perceive me in a different way.

          My diction and language isn’t perfect (its pretty good), but I also don’t butcher the language in half a minute.

          Educated African Americans already know and accept this, speaking what is sometimes derided as “the King’s English”, and then “code switching” to informal English / slang on occasion when they meet up with friends or family.

          BTW, there were a large group of African American leaders who went to school before the current PC brainwashing who on top of there standard mastery of subject matter, also studied Greek, Latin, and other classics. Think about the advantage a medical student would have who knew Latin and Greek!

  2. TrueBlueDevil

    Buffoons, criminals, and thugs are going to social media, discussing how they will kill more police officers on New Years Eve in New York.

    Police officers have received dozens of arrests, and the police are effectively issuing a work stoppage as minor citations are down 90%. Arrests for all crimes are down over 60%. The extremist Liberals should be very happy.

    1. Frankly

      This is the “pulling out” that I suggested.  That is the how we address all things that liberals and race-baiters are demanding.

      But it is always the consequences that mess up the worldview of these people.  Those damn consequences!  If only we could somehow get rid of the damn consequences, it would prove that my liberal and race-baiting ideas are righteous!!!

        1. Frankly

          Absolutely not.  But then I don’t support political malfeasance that puts employees lives in danger.  And the latter trumps the former.  Sometimes extreme measures are required to combat danger caused by ideology and destructive politicking.  I know you agree with this point since you have gone on record supporting civil disobedience to make a point and take a stand.

          Personally, I think law enforcement as a whole is suffering the consequences of their own greed.  They have been glad handled by Democrat politicians loading them up with job pay and benefits.  The police basically made friends with the devil… and now the devil is back demanding payment from them.  Will they learn?  Probably not.  But at least they can poke the devil a few times educating the ignorant public what the consequences will be for them not doing the job of law enforcement.

          1. Don Shor

            I know you agree with this point since you have gone on record supporting civil disobedience to make a point and take a stand.


          2. Don Shor

            If they don’t like working in New York City, they can move. If they don’t like being police officers, they can change jobs.
            By the way, your answer to my simple question

            Do you support public employees engaging in a work stoppage?

            was basically: no, but yes, because of liberals, and you do too.

          1. Don Shor

            Not that I recall, no. I don’t actually even remember what they were protesting, specifically or in general. I wasn’t real impressed with the Occupy movement.

        2. Frankly

          was basically: no, but yes, because of liberals, and you do too.

          not really

          it was “no, except when employees are subjected to unnecessary additional risks of material harm or death by the actions of politicians.”  I would think you would agree with that.

  3. TrueBlueDevil

    Buffoons, criminals, and thugs are going to social media, discussing how they will kill more police officers on New Years Eve in New York.

    Police officers have received dozens of threats, and the police are effectively issuing a work stoppage as minor citations are down 94%. Arrests for all crimes are down over 66%. The extremist Liberals should be very happy.

    Officer deaths are also up in 2014. 50 police officers have been killed, and 126 total deaths of various law enforcement personnel.

    “In all, the report found that 126 federal, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty in 2014. That’s a 24 percent jump from last year’s 102 on-duty deaths. Shootings were the leading cause of officer deaths in 2014 followed by traffic-related fatalities, at 49.

    “The sharp increase in gun-related deaths among officers followed a dramatic dip in 2013, when the figure fell to levels not seen since the 19th century. This year’s uptick comes amid increased tension between police and the public following the high-profile deaths of unarmed black men by white police officers, including Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.”

    The number of ambush attacks is up 300%, to 15. Some wonder if this is the result of Al Sharpton, Eric Holder, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama leading the wave of recent high-profile shootings.

  4. TrueBlueDevil

    There are a lot of tails wagging this dog, but I’ve yet to see convincing proof that there is one tail, especially with minimal evidence.

    Here is a new “root cause”.

    “According to the Department of Justice, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” The stats back up this claim: 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, and over 70 percent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level, according to”

    And now a connection to California.

    Article: California study finds truancy in elementary schools highest among black students

    “SAN DIEGO – “African-American elementary students in California were chronically truant at nearly four times the rate of all students during the last school year, according to a state report released Friday.

    “The report by the California Attorney General’s office is the first time the data has been broken down according to race and income levels. Officials say such data is needed to address the problem.”

    “…The absences were highest at the kindergarten and first-grade levels when children learn to read, according to experts.

    “The study found 37 percent of black elementary students sampled were truant, more than any other subgroup including homeless students, and about 15 percentage points higher than the rate for all students.”

    ” “…Because the state is not collecting this critical information, the attendance crisis among African-American children has largely remained hidden,” the report states. ”

    “…Research has found students who are truant starting at a young age are more likely to drop out. Dropouts cost the state more than $46 billion dollars each year, including more than $1 billion in juvenile crime costs alone.”

    So a liberally run state with an education system run by liberals didn’t track truancy rates. Have people been fired for incompetence?

  5. TrueBlueDevil

    Black on black crime exists, it just causes problems for liberals and their “logic”.

    David suggests issues when a white police officer shoots a black suspect – who was wrestling with his gun and trying to shoot him – but bypasses the black police officer who shoots an unarmed white man outside 7/11.

    But David’s main thesis here is that crime is: 1. committed; 2. prison; 3. then there is poverty; and 4. race is an issue, and the cycle is tough to break.

    I agree it is tough to break, but how the person got to jail is a lot more involved than that. David skips a lot of steps that have little to do with alleged racism. Here is my short list.

    Fewer positive activities to engage young minds / TV predominates

    Many start in public or Section 8 housing

    Family / parent / parents / community support uncommitted sex

    Sex without protection condoned / suppported

    Girl / woman / family sees potential benefits of an added child 

        (welfare, food stamps, public housing assistance, attention from neighbors, church, etc.)

    Mother has child, often with no Father; some inner cities the out-of-wedlock rate is up to 90%

    Government becomes integral to raising the child (food, housing, health care, child care)aising child

    Traditional family values cast aside

    As the typically male child matures, few positive male role models

    Oftentimes no Father in the house, a society and school system dominated by single women and Big Government

    Gangs often become a “support system” that is “like a family”, and rap music supports anti-social values

    High truancy rates, high unemployment rates (for various reasons), and a high rate of not getting a high school diploma

    Young boy / man with no Father commits crimes (not caught)

    Young boy / man commits a crime, is caught and convicted



  6. Anon

    ““According to the Department of Justice, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” The stats back up this claim: 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, and over 70 percent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level, according to””

    What we don’t know is if those who are illiterate are that way because they choose to be, or perhaps because they may have learning disabilities, much of it handed to them because of substance abuse via the mother.  If you are born with a learning disability, reading can be a very frustrating exercise, and it is often easier to give up than to keep trying.  Special training is needed to overcome such a disability.

    From the American Psychological Association: “Substance abuse overlaps significantly with learning disabilities and behavioral disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, according to a report issued last year by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. Learning disabilities affect 10.8 million children in the United States.
    A major point of the report is to raise awareness among parents and those involved in special education of a possible link between learning disabilities and substance abuse.”

    Also, from wikipedia, high divorce rate contributes to poverty: “Some of the causes of poverty include changing trends in a country’s economy, lack of education, high divorce rate which causes feminization of poverty, having a culture of poverty, overpopulation, epidemic diseases such as AIDS and malaria,[1] and environmental problems such as lack of rainfall.[2][3]”

  7. Miwok

    Really nice of this article to get re-hashed once more, and lots of comments by smart people on here.

    It would be interesting to see the survey Ms Alexander did, because she mentions nothing about the makeup of the HR or employers as far as race. In the last few decades, I have been interviewed by at least one or more minorities in the process to be chosen, or on the panel, let alone in the workplace. She only talks about her kid, who is only ten years old… nice hook.

    Are those figures there? What are the biases of the people who make those choices? I think instead of victimizing the criminals who cannot get jobs, it may be better to research the perpetrators of these problems? Go back a few generations?

    Does the survey basically indict White Employers, or all of them? Corporate or small business? Are the people not hiring these felons, black or white? Maybe they try to pass a background check or security clearance?

    it’s great to generalize, isn’t it? It irritates me that statistics are like they are. They only measure numbers, not causes, and the people who write books don’t often live the lives they write about. This seems to be one of those cases.

  8. Tia Will


    While it is true that the people who write the books often do not live the lives they right about, it is equally true that many who expound on their impressions of those books also do not live those lives and have done no research of any kind into them.

    I do not believe that the kinds of disadvantages that we are talking about are unique to one race. I believe that disadvantage is a product of economics more than of race, but race is far, far easier to see and label. For the first 30 years of my life I was definitely living at the lower end of the economic scale and for much of that, in circumstances that we would call poverty, although I did not know that at the time. I have seen the hopelessness that Frankly is choosing to portray as characteristic of the “black underclass” in whites, Hispanics, Native Americans and blacks.

    From personal experience, I can attest that it is very difficult to do what you do not know can be done because it does not exist within your social environment. True, there are break outs. I know, because I am one. However, the trap of such an environment is very strong .For some the simplistic comments of those who post their  lists of:

    1. Don’t have sex out of marriage

    2. Stay in school

    3. Get a job

    are saying nothing more than “create a middle class life out of virtually no resources and everything will be fine” is a virtual impossibility, not because of any “flaw” in their character, but because of the overwhelming negative circumstances into which they have been born.

    So from nothing more than my personal experiences from life, and with the police, what did I teach my brown boy who is light enough to pass ? I taught him to obey the laws, to be consistently polite, both to the police and anyone else he encounters. I also taught him that if stopped by the police to “just have a talk” the answer is a very polite “No thank you officer”. I taught him that if detained or arrested he invokes his Miranda rights immediately and calls me. I taught him that he says nothing.

    What would I have taught him if he could not pass as white ? In addition to the above, I would have taught him the following:

    1. It doesn’t matter which clothing you prefer, when you go out, you dress like the white boys.

    2. You watch how they carry themselves, how they walk, how they move and when you are out, you do what they do and speak how they speak.

    3. Don’t stay out after dark. Don’t walk home after your game either alone or with a group of similarly colored boys. If you must, walk with the white kids but better yet, just call me to come get you.

    4. When you are out, never, ever put your hands  in your pockets or in your waist band. Keep them visible to everyone all the time. If you must reach into a pocket for your wallet, clearly announce what you are doing.

    I found the Chris Rock video on how to avoid being beaten up by the police entertaining until I realized that when looked at in the light of how differently I would counsel a black or brown son from my own “olive colored” boy, as a mother concerned that her son might not make it home at the end of the day, and that the reason he might not make it home is because of a “mistake” or accident on the part of a police officer, it didn’t look so funny any more. There is nothing at all funny about telling one’s child that he must pretend to be something he may not be just in order to increase his chances of living to adulthood.

    1. Miwok

      Thank you, Tia.

      I grew up with no clue if I was rich or poor, until my parents said “we can’t afford that” when other families could or did. I worked too much as a child to realize some kids played every day after school. When I lived in the ‘hood with “the poor people”, I saw the hopelessness you describe, and  chalked it up to parents having no ambition.

      I have had biracial children in my charge at certain times of my life, and tried to learn from them as much as I taught. Because I did not inject racism into the relationship, there was none between us. I have been with others who wear it on their sleeve, as teens seem to do.

      I work with many people from around the world and love to hear about their life and experiences. I learned a long time ago my attitude was more important than theirs, meaning I was nice, they were usually nice. Some people are different but angry about it. Strident types are ready to argue about the weather if you want. I have worked for years with those types. That was my introduction to UC Davis. Since then there have been many people working there who have no interest in the success of the institution, only themselves.

      funny you should mention the dress and manners, though. Just like the Disco days, we tried to look cool like the black guys, but didn’t pull it off.

  9. TrueBlueDevil

    Tia, you make a good point when you write: “I have seen the hopelessness that Frankly is choosing to portray as characteristic of the “black underclass” in whites, Hispanics, Native Americans and blacks.” 

    1. But you cherry pick his comments. No one on her is riding a train to defend or explain the plight of poor whites in California, Appalachia, or even Clearlake. The plight of African Americans is constantly discussed here, and the Left religiously plays the race card as the first option, and often the only option, which is insulting, simplistic, false, and patronizing.

    2. You also add “… saying nothing more than “create a middle class life out of virtually no resources and everything will be fine” ” which is patently false. Virtually every American child is offered a free education through high school, numerous resources, numerous social programs, and oftentimes their families receive $20-50,000 per year in social benefits / programs.

    I give the same basic advice to young men of all ethnic persuasions. A white kid gives an officer lip at midnight in an urban area, doesn’t follow directions, odds are high he won’t like the outcome.

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