Blind Justice: Statistics vs. The Real World

| by erik

Previous administrations took a pragmatic, reactive response to racial discrimination.  The administration would essentially wait until it got a call, then send a team to investigate the merits of the case.  They let the victims provide the necessary filter for legitimate cases, and corrected the problem whenever one occurred.  Not so in the Obama-nation.  Under Obama, any inequity must be caused by racial discrimination.  If a school population is 75% White, then White kids better get 75% of the suspensions.  If the school population is 13% Black, then Black kids better only get 13% of the school’s suspensions.  Otherwise, Holder’s coming after you.

There’s a major problem with this system: in most cases, discrepancies in this raw statistic do not indicate racial discrimination.  Kids don’t pay attention to their class’ racial breakdown when they’re breaking school rules.  There’s not a “bully quota.”  And if—as is often the case—the discrepancy is based on a behavior gap, then “correcting it” results in true racism where punishments are doled out according to the color of a student’s skin.

Here’s a fictional example.  The racial breakdown of PC High is equally divided between purple and yellow students.  At PC high, fighting is an offense that warrants a suspension.  Even though the population is equally divided, 80% of students who fight are purple, and only 20% are yellow.  Thus 80% of suspensions for fighting are given to purple students even though they account for only 50% of the population, a 30% discrepancy according to Obama.  The school would be investigated for racial discrimination, and could possibly lose federal funding simply because its administrators had the audacity to grant equal punishments for an equal crime.

The school now faces a difficult choice.  It can waste valuable resources defending a constant wave of senseless investigations, or it can comply with the Obama policy and make the discrepancy disappear on paper.  If PC has ten students involved in fights in an average year, then eight are purple and two are yellow.  To make the statistics appear non-biased, the school must either not suspend six of the eight purple students, or find six yellow students to suspend arbitrarily.  Most schools would probably see reducing the sentence of six purple students as the lesser evil.

Now purple students are punished for fighting only 25% of the time.  Meanwhile 100% of yellow students caught fighting are suspended.  In an effort to clean their books and escape the Obama justice probe, the school has gone from a policy of equal enforcement to one where yellow students are punished four times more harshly simply because they’re yellow.  Far from eliminating racial discrimination, the Obama policy has given birth to it.

Think PC High could never play out in reality?  It already has.  When the Tucson Unified School District in Arizona discovered disparities in the suspension and expulsion rates among various ethnic groups, they were quick to act.  They dedicated “special attention” “to data regarding African-American and Hispanic students” because those students were being suspended more frequently.  When disparities were found, the schools had to take steps to eliminate them.  Of course, this doesn’t solve the underlying problem of which groups are committing the offenses.  Much like PC High, the Tucson schools now have a two-tiered justice system, and the groups committing the most offenses receive the most lenient treatment.

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