Farrakhan v. Gregoire: The Wrong Debate

The 9th Circuit Appeals Court recently ruled that racial bias in Washington's criminal justice system negates the felon disenfranchisement provision in the State Constitution.

If upheld, incarcerated felons in the State would have voting rights. This has spawned debates about whether or not felons should be allowed to vote from prison, but the more important issue is the institutional racism behind the ruling.

During a recent KZOK radio interview, Attorney General McKenna pledged to appeal the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary. In response to a question about the minority concentration in prison, McKenna said, "unfortunately our prison population is disproportionate based on race, but disproportionality isn't in and of itself an indication of racial discrimination."

McKenna won't argue that on appeal, however, because the fact of systemic racial bias isn't in dispute. The lower court accepted plaintiffs' evidence of racial discrimination, but rejected arguments that such discrimination violated the Voting Rights Act. That finding was overturned on appeal, but at no point did anyone argue "disproportionality is in and of itself an indication of racial discrimination", nor is that what the court found.

Why would McKenna present this straw man argument in the court of public opinion? Could it be that acknowledging discrimination in our penal system would require him to do something about it?

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-of Law Enforcement.

Every politician lives in fear of the Law Enforcement Lobby. Law Enforement never has to produce results and it can never be criticized. Law Enforcement are the uncriticizeable Brahmins of American politics.

So of course McKenna is going to deny racial bias in law enforcement. The most-brutal form of racial discrimination in law enforcement is the fact that law is not enforced in minority communities. Of course there are more black, latino and asian criminals in our jails.

A) They're easier to identify for lazy police.

B) Those communities have become a "Wild West" of criminal activity and law enforcement people just whine about it.

Back East, Italians have complained for decades that they have been over-targeted by the police and other law enforcement personnel. Some of those people really were legitimate businessmen, who really did feel undue pressure. Some were criminals trying to use community solidarity to shelter themselves from prosecution.

Criminals always try and use their communities, families and significant others to shelter them from prosecution. They're criminals. They're not going to be honest and responsible and they try and make everyone else around them dishonest and irresponsible. That's why crime has a pernicious influence.

The answer to the Mafia was for law enforcement to care enough about stopping crime that they did the work to penetrate social barriers and rooted out criminality in communities who had fallen prey to its influence. Rob McKenna is not going to ask that from Washington state's law enforcement community. McKenna is going to tell everyone what a good job they're doing and keep getting elected. He'll go to the Supreme Court to do it, if he has to because it's in his political interest to do so.

Meanwhile, law enforcement will become increasingly ineffective, increasingly militarized, increasingly politicized and increasingly corrupt and corrupting. But why should Rob McKenna care? He keeps getting elected, so what's the problem?

by dlaw on Fri Feb 12, 2010 at 01:14:42 PM PST

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