FOR THE LOVE of heaven, won't somebody just call this thing what it is?
It's racism, pure and simple. And it comes from those folks at the Justice Policy Institute, who apparently believe that more than half of the black men in Baltimore between the ages of 20 and 30 have no control over their actions and shouldn't be held accountable for them.
That was, for decades that stretched into centuries, the justification for slavery and Jim Crow, wasn't it? Black folks were simple-minded, childlike creatures who were unable to control their emotions and needed only the civilizing influences of slavery and segregation to bring them to heel.
Well, that thinking is back -- if indeed it ever left -- and was recently expressed by Eric Lotke, the JPI research director. Here's a nutshell capsule of Lotke's thinking about why more than 4,000 of Baltimore's black men between the ages of 20 and 30 are in prison or jail, and close to 9,000 are on probation or parole.
"Lotke faulted police, lawmakers, prosecutors, state and city government, and judges, contending that they are running on `autopilot' and continue to lock up more offenders, even while crime is declining," wrote Sun reporter Ryan Davis in an article this week.
Using this logic, a rapist who comes before a Baltimore judge should get cut loose because the incidents of reported rape are down.
"Sorry, young lady," the judge is supposed to tell the victim. "I can't lock him up. Crime is declining, you know."
You'll notice a distinct absence in Lotke's list of culprits: the young men who commit the crimes that get them locked up in the first place. There are, no doubt, young white men -- and Hispanic men and men of other races and ethnic groups -- who are in prison, in jail or on probation or parole in Baltimore. But there's a difference between them and young black men: It's assumed the nonblack ones have some responsibility for, and control over, their actions.
If that's not a classic, textbook definition of racism, I don't know what to call it. And it's an insidious racism that will, in the long run, hurt the young black men those JPI bleeding hearts think they are helping.
"The system is to blame" is not what these young men need to hear. They need a stern rebuke, some scolding, perhaps a foot up their derrieres and some sage advice about getting their acts together. And they should definitely be reminded that being in jail or in prison is neither a rite of passage nor a cultural imperative for young black men.
But I've overheard that discussion a dozen times if I've heard it once. Two or more young black men in Baltimore -- on a bus, at a bus stop, on the subway, on a corner -- talking about themselves and their friends. Which ones are in jail. Which ones are out. Who did what to get sent up this time.
This is said loudly, so that folks standing nearby can hear it. There's no shame. There's no embarrassment. Going to jail or prison, these young black men figure, is something they're supposed to do.
You'll forgive me if I refuse to blame police, lawmakers, prosecutors, state and city government and judges for this sorry state of affairs. This sounds more like a failure of way too many families to instill proper values in their sons, nephews and cousins.
That will be called "blaming the victim" by the bleeding heart crowd, who have never met the black criminal they didn't like. But even ultra-leftist Stokely Carmichael -- the former civil rights worker turned pan-Africanist Marxist who died in 1998 -- had to 'fess up in his autobiography, Ready for Revolution, the real reason why some young black men turn to crime and others don't.
After giving his knee-jerk accusation that "the system" was to blame, Carmichael then acknowledged that he stopped his own juvenile crime spree when he realized how ashamed his family would be if he were caught.
Ah, shame! It seems almost like an ancient concept now. How valuable it would be to have around today. Alas, shame was shot dead and buried in this town years ago.
That, along with the rise of the baser elements of hip-hop and rap culture, account for 52 percent of Baltimore's black men between 20 and 30 being "in the system." It's no accident that the age range coincides with people born in the years between 1975 and 1985, when hip-hop and rap were on the rise.
Twenty percent of Baltimore's young black men in jail or prison? The rising body count from homicides, the nagging problem of witness intimidation and the bitter experience of the Dawson family -- killed in a fire set by a young black man who should have been in prison -- suggests that the figure might be too low.