Last Updated:November 25 @ 11:06 am

Elder: Five Myths of the 'Racist' Criminal Justice System

By Larry Elder

Calling America's criminal justice system "racist" is not confined to "civil rights leaders" like the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Then-Sen. Barack Obama, during the 2008 presidential campaign, said it, too. Blacks and whites, said Obama, "are arrested at very different rates, are convicted at very different rates (and) receive very different sentences ... for the same crime."

When the man who became president of the United States says this -- the No. 1 law enforcement officer -- it must, therefore, be true.

Let's examine five major assumptions behind this assertion.

1) Blacks are arrested at higher rates compared to whites -- but wrongly so. 

Not true. While only 13 percent of the population, blacks accounted for 28 percent of nationwide arrests in 2010 and 38.1 percent of arrests for violent crime (murders, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault). But are they unfairly arrested? Studies find that arrest rates by race are comparable to the race of suspect identification by victims.

For example, in a given city, x number of robbery victims describe their assailants as black -- whether or not the suspect has been apprehended. It turns out that the race of those arrested matches the percentage given by victims. This has been found repeatedly across the country, in all categories of crime where the race of an assailant is identified. So unless the victims are deliberately misidentifying their assailants -- unconcerned about whether the suspect is apprehended and knowingly give a false race -- blacks are not being "over-arrested."

2) Blacks are convicted at higher rates and given longer sentences than whites for the same crime.

Not true. Differences in conviction and sentencing rates by race are due to differences in the gravity of the criminal offenses, prior records or other legal variables. A 1994 Justice Department survey of felony cases in the country's 75 largest urban areas actually found lower felony prosecution rates for blacks than whites and that blacks were less likely to be found guilty at trial.

3) The sentence disparity between powder and crack cocaine is racist and accounts for a large percentage of imprisoned blacks.

Not true. Concerned about the deadly effect of crack within their own communities, black members of Congress led the charge to pass the 1986 federal drug laws. The bill that was passed -- which included the crack/powder sentencing disparity -- did so with the support of the majority of black congresspersons. None at the time objected to the sentencing disparity as "racist."

In 2006, the feds tried 5,619 crack sellers, and 4,495 of them were black -- out of the 562,000 blacks in state and federal prisons at the end of that year. Add in county and city jails, and the figure rises to 858,000. And states' crack cocaine laws are not the culprits. Only 13 states employ differing sentencing guidelines for crack vs. powder -- and their differential is much smaller than that of the feds.

4) The "War on Drugs" accounts for a large number of blacks behind bars.

Not true. In 2010, blacks were 31.8 percent of all arrests for drug crimes. But arrests for drug offenses are only 12.4 percent of all non-traffic arrests in the country and accounted for 14.2 percent of the offenses for which blacks were arrested.

5) More blacks are in jail than in college.

Not true. "More blacks (are) in jail than college, in every state," said Jesse Jackson in 2007. That same year, presidential candidate Sen. Obama, echoed: "More young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities across America." 

If Jackson and Obama refer to black men of the usual college-age years, their claim is not even remotely true. The Washington Post "Fact Checker" wrote: "According to 2005 Census Bureau statistics, the male African-American population of the United States aged between 18 and 24 numbered 1,896,000. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 106,000 African-Americans in this age group were in federal or state prisons at the end of 2005. ... If you add the numbers in local jail (measured in mid-2006), you arrive at a grand total of 193,000 incarcerated young black males, or slightly over 10 percent.

"According to the same census data, 530,000 of these African-American males, or 28 percent, were enrolled in colleges or universities ... in 2005. That is five times the number of young black men in federal and state prisons and two and a half times the total number incarcerated. If you expanded the age group to include African-American males up to 30 or 35, the college attendees would still outnumber the prisoners."

Racism against blacks exists, but it is no longer a meaningful obstacle to success. People are not angels. Some people are rotten. Humans make mistakes -- and always will. But the facts do not show a "racist criminal justice system."

There may be votes in teaching people to think like victicrats. But the problem of the high rates of black imprisonment will not be solved by falsely screaming racism.


Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit



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  1. inluminatuoComment by inluminatuo
    April 19, 2012 @ 7:58 am

    Considering that most black crime is black on black, yes there is racial disparity, as the blacks are apparently picking on their own black community. Just look how the income of average blacks has plummeted and their unemployment risen, just since Obama took office. Of course the Liberal Progressive will tell you black on black crime is because of the psychological manifestation of self-hatred and poor self image promulgated upon blacks by whites since the days of slavery. As for me, I have yet to meet anyone of slave status in modern America other than the American Taxpayer who comes in all colors. Democrats never discriminate when it comes to taxing ALL people into oblivion, but that is about all they never discriminate against, in the otherwise Progressive class warfare of divide and conquer the rational minds of American voters.

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  2. dak605Comment by dak605
    April 19, 2012 @ 9:52 am

    Does the study give any reason why these poor disadvantaged youth CHOOSE their illegal lifestyle? Don’t they get enough FREE stuff from the workers of this country? The black community should be proud. They are FINALLY showing initiative. They have created their own plan to redistribute the wealth. obama steals our money quasi-legally, street blacks have to resort to breaking the law. Can’t we all just get along? Have all the illegal aliens in this country meet up with the BLACK Panthers, they can have guacamole and watermelon while plotting the overthrow of the white money base, Holders FBI will provide security and entertainment.
    The black community has come along way. I’m 66, when I was a kid, all the blacks seemed to want to be pimps, drug dealers or basketball stars. Some have realized their skin color opens up a whole new opportunity to steal. They call themselves Community Organizers. They are similar to Jesse Jackson (started as a LABOR Union troublemaker while a “mechanic” for Curtis Candy in Il.) His job was to walk around with a scrapper and scrape chocolate off the conveyor belt. If there was a problem, he would call someone that actually knew something to fix it. No talent, lazy bum, only knew how to get through life on the back of his own race. Blacks made him rich, stupid whites let him become influential. The organizers feed on their communities belief that they are constantly being discriminated against instead of realizing they are the ones doing the discriminating. We owe them that because WE enslaved them. I never owned a slave in my life! Those that allow themselves to remain slaves in this day and age aren’t worth the cost to upkeep them. As we know because we get nothing in return from the lazy welfare rats but complaints that they are “entitled” to more free stuff. Wake up America.

    When they can’t get it for free, WE force them to steal, riot, burn and kill. Its OUR fault! Its always somebody else’s fault, not that they are just lazy free loaders. The government is racists for promoting reverse discrimination since 1960, which while didn’t help the lazy blacks much, it sure screwed white America leaving a generation of white kids to emulate the lazy blacks that can’t even hold their pants up,let alone one side of an intelligent conversation.

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    • stymied4sureComment by stymied4sure
      April 19, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

      What for the love of Pete, is wrong with you? Color reflects you also as you are some color. And to put the blame for our white children wearing rags and having them hang to their crotches as something foisted on them by the blacks??????? What?????????? Maybe their parents not stopping the whole process to begin with might account for some of it???? We white folk should be every bit as accountable as we expect people of other races to be. It is too darn bad that the first time the black community actually does get to shine through a leader, it ends up being the scumbag and his cronies we now have. They were not the only ones hoping for a change in our governmment but it didn’t happen as anticipated. No one political party is accountable for the mess we are now in. We can all look in the mirror and see some of the blame if we are living beyond our means. We have stood by and watched our country go down the tube and waited for someone else to fix it. Well, its pretty obvious that someone didn’t make it happen. So now we need to start fixing what we have left to work with. I can’t imagine there is one politician in power that has not thoroughly lined their pockets and will continue while in office. We need to clean house and get better if they are politicians and out there.

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    • dak605Comment by dak605
      April 19, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

      No idea how old you are but I’ve seen it. First it was the kids emulating the black “gangstas”. Now, it’s not just kids, adult whites race are emulating the black race. Whites are tired of seeing the blacks get everything for nothing. They want it FREE too. When everyone gets it for free – whose making the money to give to the government so they can give you your free stuff? Whites are being shown the way by the government and blacks that the government will give you everything. OBAMA 2012! Sign me up for my free stuff.

      PS my boys laughed at the black wanna bys.

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  3. Dingbat36Comment by Dingbat36
    April 19, 2012 @ 9:53 am

    “Blacks and whites”, said Obama, “are arrested at very different rates, are convicted at very different rates (and) receive very different sentences … for the same crime.”

    Probably because they are responsible for far more crime than whites. Extremely and disproportionally so! And as far as the “same crime” comment, might that be because they are repeat offenders committing those same crimes over and over? Liars figure and figures lie.

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  4. Tonto (USA)Comment by Tonto (USA)
    April 19, 2012 @ 10:01 am

    I have noted for a long time that through the efforts of the Republican Party and all the legislation to help blacks to dig themselves out of poverty, there has been much progress toward equality for blacks and many have worked hard, gained much respect and progressed very well. Those that have been most often hampering progress and encouraging racism have been the democrats….who actively foster racial hatred and dependency on the welfare systems.

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  5. drewscoComment by drewsco
    April 19, 2012 @ 10:43 am

    Mr. Elder:

    As Mark Twain stated, there are lie, damned lies, and then there are statistics.

    I guess from the perspective of those individuals posting comments, the flaws in your numbers doesn’t matter as long as your fuzzy math reinforces their preconceived beliefs.

    However, I’m compelled to reexamine what you allege that then-Senator Barack Obama stated and what you are asserting.

    You question whether Blacks are unfairly arrested and then you dispute that proposition by stating that “Studies find that arrest rates by race are comparable to the race of suspect identification by victims”.

    First of all, you don’t cite a source which makes me skeptical of that point, and second you presume that all crimes are thoroughly investigated by law enforcement. Regardless of whether a witness correctly identifies a suspect, you ignore the possibility that the police may be less inclined to investigate cases involving White suspects or simply not arrest them-especially if the victim is unwilling to press charges. If so, this would further help to explain why Blacks are arrested at a disproportionate rate than Whites.

    Further, from my experience in law enforcement. I have seen instances where White criminal suspects, especially the wealthy one in South Florida (Boca Raton, Palm Beach e.g.) aren’t investigated for crimes such as assault and battery, robbery, and drug possession that they have allegedly committed, yet the Blacks in poorer neighborhoods are arrested consistently for these same crimes.

    In some instances, the police have even engaged in misconduct and manufactured or tampered with evidence to strengthen their case against black suspects.

    I could give you numerous examples of how our system of justice is skewed unfavorably towards African Americans, including evidence that contradicts all of the facts and statistics you state.

    My issue with you sir is that you merely want to extrapolate data that gives you a favorable result while ignoring evidence that doesn’t, and in essence, you compromise your principles and character all for the mere sake of appeasement.

    Shame on you sir.

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    • JamesTComment by JamesT
      April 19, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

      You reprimand Mr. Elder for not citing his sources, yet after barely pausing long enough to take a breath you suggest the possibility that police are less inclined to investigate crimes where the suspect is white rather than black, and then say “if so, this would further help (further than what else you do not make clear) to explain why blacks are arrested at a disproportionate rate than whites. You yourself have stated no sources, and actually have stated nothing but conjecture with a side order of poorly concealed bias. I suggest that your “experience” in law enforcement was either as a defense lawyer or social worker, and that your issue with Mr. Elder is on shaky ground considering the lack of verifiable information in your own response.

      I see you like to quote Mark Twain. One of my personal favorites is from Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn:

      “Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side?
      And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?”

      This could easily be the tag-line for those who charge others with “pre-concieved beliefs” while using their own unsubstantiated blathering in an attempt to silence what any but fool would see as obvious.

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    • iamacmanComment by iamacman
      April 19, 2012 @ 6:02 pm


      “First of all, you don’t cite a source which makes me skeptical of that point,”

      And YOUR cited sources are where?

      I’m sorry, but “I’m compelled to reexamine”, “I have seen instances where”, “from my experience in law enforcement” and “I could give you numerous examples” do NOT count as cited sources.

      In fact, you have not cited one source in any post you have ever made on this site, and, although your propensity for false charges, innuendo, lies, misinformation, inflammation, and simply incorrect statements literally begs for evidence, you have as of yet offered absolutely none.

      Therefore, you, “sir”, are absolutely devoid of any credibility whatsoever.

      You obviously can’t stand the fact that Mr. Elder, a man of intellect and integrity which greatly surpasses yours, would dare to PROVE with FACTS and STATISTICS, that racially charged statements made by your heros, the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and Barack Obama, are blatantly false.

      I’d suggest you re-read the article because you obviously missed the following multiple sources from which Mr. Elder derived his FACTS and STATISTICS: A 1994 Justice Department survey, drug crime arrest, Bureau of Justice, Census Bureau, and college and prison statistics, state and federal conviction and sentencing rates and guidelines, and the Washington Post “Fact Checker”, all of which are readily and easily accessible to even someone as ignorant and challenged on research techniques and sources as you.

      Numbers don’t lie. Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and Barack Obama, and of course, YOU, do.

      You keep posting here, and you keep making a fool of yourself.


      You’re certainly not enlightening anyone. No one pays serious attention to your inane drivel. And now that you’ve been repeatedly successfully refuted, what’s the point?

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    • drewscoComment by drewsco
      April 19, 2012 @ 6:11 pm

      James T:

      Obviously you didn’t consider the statement I made about being in law enforcment as an actual source.

      I have seen firsthand, how White police officers and prosecutors are less inclined to prosecute White criminal who committ the same type of criimes such as drug possession and class C felonies.

      Many of them reason that the White defendants are more likely to retain an attorney and so them simply refuse to arrest them in order to avoid going to court.

      Now, under the assumption that my statement is true, wouldn’t you agree that this is another factor that contributes to the disproportionate number of Blacks that are arrested and convicted as compared to Whites?

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    • josefkComment by josefk
      April 23, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

      @ drewsco – I am not in agreement with most of what is posted regarding this or any article on this site. I come here to read what staunch Republicans feel. I watch & listen to conservative commentators because I hate it when people demonize a party, writer, political figure, musician etc without having listened or read what it is they are “against.” That said, I abhor 99% of what I read here and it can be upsetting to read angry hateful comments but I will continue to do so.

      iamacman wrote – “You’re certainly not enlightening anyone. No one pays serious attention to your inane drivel. And now that you’ve been repeatedly successfully refuted, what’s the point?”

      I just wanted to let you know that I am paying attention and I appreciate your attempt to offer a different way of thinking.

      I hope that the people here appreciate a liberal like me actually reading what they think and trying to listen and understand. I hope that I am welcome here but I know my opinions will not be appreciated (much like your own).

      Regarding your point, I understand what you are saying. Statistics, cited or not, can truly be used to support or refute whatever agenda a person wants. While Mr. Elder may state accurate numbers, they might not really invalidate everything that the President/liberals state. So laws, sentences, incarceration rates, etc may not be racist, there IS something that accounts for the disparity in our justice system. There is an underlying issue in our society that goes beyond some innate laziness/criminality in racial minorities. I think part of that IS something systemic in America. I don’t know what the answer is but I don’t think it is clear as, “Get a job” and the article denies that the issue extends beyond personal responsibility. I DO agree that personal responsibility is lacking in ALL races and that is really the only concrete thing we can focus on to improve our country but the issue is far more nuanced than that. Thank you for trying to introduce some of that nuance.

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  6. cynicalobserverComment by cynicalobserver
    April 19, 2012 @ 10:47 am

    That is how O. J.Simpson got off by getting some Blacks on the jury.

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    • inluminatuoComment by inluminatuo
      April 19, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

      And when Zimmerman gets set free for defending himself against the 6’3″ black angel,,,,,,,of death, Blacks will soon find out how White people felt when O.J. waltzed out of court a free man after beheading his white wife and slashing to death his neighbor. The circle of life completes itself again as the black roosters come home to roost.

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  7. Ron AlfordComment by Ron Alford
    April 19, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

    Larry Elder is a good man.

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  8. awkingsleyComment by awkingsley
    April 19, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

    @Ron Alford: Ditto! Larry Elder is a fine honest human being. It does the Black cause much more harm than good to make incessant false accusations of racism. Whites are beginning to look at all of the false claims of racism as a sinister occurrence.

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  9. bbarrett49Comment by bbarrett49
    April 19, 2012 @ 4:09 pm


    Hey, if we’re going to talk about how presidential candidates treated dogs decades ago, let’s talk about how presidential candidates treated dogs decades ago. …

    “With Lolo, I learned how to eat small green chill peppers raw with dinner (plenty of rice), and, away from the dinner table, I was introduced to dog meat. … Like many Indonesians, Lolo followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths. He explained that a man took on the powers of whatever he ate: One day soon, he promised, he would bring home a piece of tiger meat for us to share,” [wrote President Obama] … about his childhood with his stepfather Lolo Soetoro in Indonesia, from Chapter Two of his bestseller Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. …

    Say what you want about Romney, but at least he only put a dog on the roof of his car, not the roof of his mouth.

    Read more:

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    • dak605Comment by dak605
      April 19, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

      Give 0 a break! He was just eating the same food as the OTHER Kenyan citizens.

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    • iamacmanComment by iamacman
      April 19, 2012 @ 6:09 pm


      Very, very nice…

      I get it, Barry ate dog, therefore Barry is a dog…

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  10. CarolComment by Carol
    April 19, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

    I don’t care the color this holds true today tomorrow or the next day:


    Young people never think before they act they act first and think about what they did because that is all part of growing.

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  11. rosechComment by rosech
    April 21, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

    My question: Since Obama is a half-breed, how many arrests for him as a whitie and how many as a black? He speaks with forked tongue and stupidity. We all have choices, whether black, white, brown, yellow, blue, whatever. Many blacks have chosen not to get an education and involve themselves in gangs (like many Mexicans) and do crime. The percentage is large and it is their fault and NOT ours. They chose their course of life instead of putting effort into getting an education, discipline and moving on up. I came from poverty and a large family, but it was instilled in me to get an education and move on up and I DID! I did not have to resort to criminal activity then or now to be where I am. The Constitution grants life, liberty AND the pursuit of happiness, so I guess they chose this type of happiness for themselves – their choice and we did not force them to make that choice because that was their freedom of choice.

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