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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

George Floyd Changed My Mind


George Floyd

For many years, I was skeptical about accusations of racism in the criminal justice system. Yes, I knew that blacks comprised only about 12 percent of the population yet represented 33 percent of the prison population. But those data alone did not prove that police are racists or that courts are tougher on blacks than others. The relevant criterion is not the percentage of the population, but the percentage of the criminal population, and when you consider the higher rates of offending among African Americans, the seemingly disproportionate rates of incarceration make sense.

Well, some countered, if you look at who winds up on death row, you can see the racism at work. Less than half of murder victims in the U.S. are white, yet a 2003 study found that 80 percent of inmates on death row had killed white people. I wasn't convinced. It might be evidence of racism, or it could be that when people kill others of their same race, they are more likely to know them. These could be crimes of passion and therefore less likely to draw the death penalty. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 2001 and 2005, nearly 78 percent of blacks were murdered by other blacks, and nearly 70 percent of whites were killed by other whites.

I thought Michael Brown's death at the hands of a cop in Ferguson was tragic, but the Obama Department of Justice investigation found that the forensic evidence supported the officer's version of events.

My views have changed though, bit by bit, over the past half-decade. Was it the sheer accumulation of cases? Eric Garner was choked to death. Yes, he was resisting arrest, but for what? For selling "loosies" — untaxed cigarettes. Freddie Gray, 25, was taken into custody in Baltimore. Handcuffed but not belted to his seat, police took him for what they called a "rough ride." Somehow, he snapped his spine in the police van. He lapsed into a coma and died a week later.

Walter Scott was stopped for a defective taillight. After initial questioning and a quick scuffle, Scott fled the officer (perhaps fearful because he owed back child support). Officer Michael Slager shot Scott in the back, killing him. He filed a police report saying that Scott had grabbed his Taser, but a bystander video showed that after the shooting, Officer Slager ran back to the site of the initial scrap, picked something up and dropped it next to Scott's body.

Laquan McDonald was a 17-year-old with PCP in his system and a knife in his hand. But contrary to the police report suggesting that McDonald was shot after lunging at police, the autopsy showed that he was hit 16 times, nine of them in the back.

Ahmaud Arbery was out jogging and was tracked and trapped by a two-car posse that included a former law enforcement officer. The last words Arbery heard before he died were "f——— n——-."

And, of course, there's the depraved murder of George Floyd, crushed to death under the knee of a pitiless cop while three others stood by.

I know there are videos of whites being shot by police. And as John McWhorter argues, it's likely that we haven't seen those videos because they don't fit the narrative of racist white cops.

And yet, I think of the testimony of black men that they are routinely pulled over and hassled for "driving while black." Is that their imagination? Can we dismiss Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who recalls a meeting at which one man after another recounted his experiences of being stopped by police, only to reveal that it was a conference of black physicists? What about Senator Tim Scott? He was stopped seven times in one year driving in his own neighborhood.

There's data about those traffic stops. A study looked at 95 million traffic stops by 56 different police agencies between 2011 and 2018. They found that blacks were far more likely than whites to be pulled over — but the disparity declined at night, when it's harder to detect the race of the driver.

A study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in February 2020 looked at responses to 2 million 911 calls in two cities. It found that white officers were five times as likely to use force, including deadly force, in minority neighborhoods than African American officers.

There's a lot more where that came from.

Some conservatives object that African American men are far more likely to die at the hands of other African American men than at the hands of police and demand to know where the outrage is about deaths in Chicago. But criminals are criminals. The police, by contrast, are hired, trained and armed by all of us. They are sworn to protect and to serve. There is no equivalence between the acts of Derek Chauvin and a Chicago gang member.

I've long believed that police have a difficult job and deal with the worst of the worst on a daily basis. I'm grateful for their protection. And there's a lot of crying wolf in the race business. See Smollett, Jussie. But I've come to believe that mistreatment of African Americans is not a myth and is not uncommon. I'm glad that so many Americans are signaling their dismay at these outcomes. People's minds can change. Mine did.

Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Her new book is "Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense." To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

A Week That Was Disastrous For Trump, Miraculous For Biden

Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he was elected president, according to a blockbuster report published by the New York Times on Sunday.

The Times report also found that Trump is millions of dollars in debt, incurred through a series of failed business ventures — a fact that runs counter to Trump's self-made image as a successful businessman. Trump has also used his financial failings to avoid paying taxes, the report found.

The president has resisted revealing his financial information since the start of his first presidential campaign, despite promising otherwise. "I would certainly show tax returns if it was necessary," Trump told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in 2015. Yet for five years, the president has failed to produce the documents.The president paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, and paid another $750 in 2017, according to the report. And in 2014, Trump paid zero dollars in taxes.

Conservatives including Trump often suggest that undocumented immigrants take advantages of government services without contributing their fair share. Throughout his first term, Trump has repeatedly cast blame on immigrants and suggested they post an economic burden to U.S. taxpayers.

"Our current immigration system costs America's taxpayers many billions of dollars a year," Trump claimed in 2017 during his first presidential address to Congress.

That claim does not hold up to scrutiny. In reality, undocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes every year. In 1996, the Internal Revenue Service created a program for non-citizens who work in the U.S. to report their income. Non-citizens who do not have a Social Security Number — including undocumented immigrants — are able to file taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN. According to the IRS, 4.4 million people paid taxes using an ITIN in 2015, totaling $23.6 billion in tax revenue.

This raises the question: why would undocumented immigrants pay U.S. taxes if they are unauthorized to live in the country? Immigrants often choose to pay taxes in order to demonstrate "good moral character" when applying for legal residence or citizenship, according to the National Immigration Law Center. Undocumented immigrants who fail to pay their taxes risk deportation.

"Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, paid an estimated $328 billion in state, federal, and local taxes in 2014 alone," Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law practice at Cornell Law School, told the American Independent Foundation. "It is outrageous that the average undocumented immigrant in the United States pays more in federal income taxes than the President did in 2016."

This contrast is especially ironic given Trump's tendency to deride unauthorized immigrants as irresponsible lawbreakers. Trump has a tendency to respond to criticism with projection — when accused, he accuses others of the same thing.

"Yes, undocumented immigrants are helping fund the very system that detain and deport us," journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who is undocumented, tweeted in 2019.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.