“With, without. And who’d deny that’s what the fighting is all about.” — Roger Waters
The state of Texas (and many others) want to bar me and other teachers from teaching critical race theory in the classroom. We’ve never really called it that, but it is hard to talk about justice without bringing up race. At least, we should bring up the disparity between rich and poor. Considering our long and rich history it would be difficult to separate race from that.
A perfect illustration is the law enforcement philosophy of “broken windows.” Essentially, as I understand it, the idea is that if you arrest and prosecute small time criminals then you have more success preventing the big ones. It’s a philosophy that makes a great deal of sense. After all, most parents view parenting the same way.
If you get on your kids for the small stuff then they know there’s a line they can’t cross. All kids love to push boundaries. The ones that have those boundaries are usually better off. So, why shouldn’t policing and prosecutions work the same way?
Except it’s not and we all know it’s not. Justice never seems to work that way. The indictments of the Trump organization this week illustrate this point perfectly. According to the reporting, this pattern of alleged fraud had been going on for 15 years at least. The fact that Trump was crooked was the worst kept secret in New York. Wouldn’t his smaller financial crimes qualify under the broken windows theory?
Obviously not. So, instead we waited until everything became too hard to contain. The horse has left the barn. The toothpaste is out of the tube. The train has left the station. Feel free to insert your own euphemism here. This is usually the course of white collar crimes. They are just as illegal and while they may not physically harm anyone, they can cause just as much damage in other ways.
We can shift to the drug war. It is hard to ignore the long-term effects. Those busted for cocaine have not gotten nearly as much punishment as those busted for crack. We shouldn’t even get started on the marijuana debate. There is considerable evidence that the disparity was purposeful. Yet, even if it wasn’t we can’t ignore the effects.
That’s where something like critical race theory comes in. Whether society’s inconsistencies and inequities are purposeful or an unhappy byproduct of good intentioned law is an open debate. History doesn’t care about feelings. We report the facts of what happened and their results. Others can debate motives and the like.
Naturally, others will point to the treatment of Bill Cosby and videos of successful African Americans as proof that this disparity doesn’t exist. Yet, Cosby is a perfect example of how it does. What kind of justice did his victims get? Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves why. What’s the common denominator here?
Unfortunately, one cannot distinguish between the impact of race and the impact of socioeconomic status. They are often one in the same. My daughter asked me if a billionaire could ever really be brought to justice. I hemmed and hawed, but couldn’t give her a satisfactory answer. It’s hard to talk dispassionately about justice without being able to give s clear answer to a child’s question.