Not Their Fault

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From a Washington Times report:

Talking about education yesterday, Mr. Kerry also told the largely black crowd at the day care center that there are more blacks in prison than in college.

"That's unacceptable," he said. "But it's not their fault."

What's not their fault? Is it not the fault of each criminal that he or she is a criminal or committed a crime? Or is it not the fault of black criminals as a whole that there are more blacks in prison than in college? If it's the first, it's a good example of separatist morality that I've mentioned in a few posts in the last week. (I'm not convinced every reason for the second is an instance of dangerous separatist morality, according to which someone isn't held as morally responsible simply in virtue of being black, but I haven't had time to think carefully enough about it to give one that I don't find problematic. I suspect I wouldn't be comfortable with Kerry's reasons, but I'd need to see more.)

Whichever one he means, the statement is actually true but not for the reasons he thinks. It's true that black people aren't responsible for there being more black people in prison than in college, but that's because there aren't more black people in prison than in college! See Joanne Jacobs and James Taranto for more.

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In the same vein, it's not Jews' fault that almost none of them end up in prison, and almost all of them end up in college. It's actually Judaism's fault.

That's not entirely parallel. It's not as if someone is saying being black is like Judaism, and being black causes people to go to prison. Judaism is unique in being an ethnic identity wrapped up in a religious heritage. There's nothing like that with being black.

I do think an argument can be constructed that points out forces on black men that aren't present for white people or black women that could serve as a partial cause for black men's higher percentage in the prison statistics. I don't find that problematic at all. The culture of crime has certainly been influenced by racism in the past. The victimologist attitude today that gives rise to separatist morality originally came out of a reaction to real racism, even if most of the offenses it responds to today aren't as serious or, in some cases, aren't even racism. Surely that's a cause in the list of causes. What it isn't, though, is an excuse or a justification for criminals' criminal activities.

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