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Bill Clinton vs BLM ?

April 10, 2016

So. President Clinton got heckled by BLM[1], and it seems they hit a nerve. His response was not his usual cool character.

Keep in mind, the point of BLM is that the behavior of law enforcement is different for suspects based on race. Just to make things really clear, they homed in on the specific example of black suspects getting shot more, which is pretty much impossible to ignore, and that’s the point.

A close cousin of this particular pattern of unequal justice is the treatment of suspects in drug cases. Besides whatever criticism there may be of law enforcement and the actual operation of the courts, this unequal treatment was effectively codified by laws which made punishment for crack worse than for coke[2] or meth[3].

Connecting back to Clinton, we look at the logic that used to make the law this way. Both Clintons as well as Sanders supported the legislation in the 90’s, but it was this week that Clinton lectured the protesters on the same logic. Namely: you take people caught for drug-related crime, “put them away” for a long time, and by doing so, break the power of gangs who make money from selling drugs, and reduce gang violence. Sounds like a reasonable sales pitch at first glance — prevent violence by eliminating drugs.

Somewhere distantly related to this sales pitch are the lessons learned from the prohibition, that making drugs illegal creates crime. We’re going to forget that completely, there’s no need to go to anything that theoretical.

Completely non-theoretical: in the name of reducing violent crime, you are putting very large numbers of non-violent offenders in jail. For long enough to pretty much destroy their lives and mess up their families. It happens they’re disproportionately likely to be black, by a lot. And the law is structured in a way that if a person is caught with an equivalent amount of coke or meth, which makes them more likely to be white, the consequences to them are much less.

So with all that in mind, when Clinton was confronted by a BLM protester, instead of “I feel your pain”, which was really all he needed to say, he delivered a somewhat condescending lecture about how the protesters are “defending those who get hopped up on crack and kill 13 year old girls”. That was a cheap misrepresentation of their criticism, a little bit of an ugly stereotype, and a complete evasion of the real issue[4]. Pretty dumb. To top it all off, and I didn’t know this until today, Bill went up in front of the NAACP[5] and said all the “right things” on this issue, a couple months ago, so obviously he was perfectly well informed.


 

[1] the video is here

[2] http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2010/08/03/data-show-racial-disparity-in-crack-sentencing

[3] http://www.november.org/stayinfo/breaking06/Meth-Crack.html

[4] http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/04/bill-black-hillary-and-bill-and-paul-krugman-race-to-the-right-to-stop-the-bern.html

[5] https://www.buzzfeed.com/darrensands/after-clash-with-black-lives-matter-ny-activists-question-bi

 

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