Justice Richard Sanders: African Americans "Have a Crime Problem"

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When State Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders said at a recent court meeting that African Americans are overrepresented in the prison population, he was stating a fact: African Americans make up only four percent of Washington's population, yet one out of every five prisoners is African American. The trouble for Sanders (pictured at right, in the same shade in which he sees the world) began when he completely failed to acknowledge the roots of that overrepresentation.

As the Times reports, "Sanders later confirmed his remarks about imprisoned African Americans, saying 'certain minority groups' are 'disproportionally represented in prison because they have a crime problem.'" He went on to add that neither age, race, nor disability were barriers to the criminal justice system.

Read those statements again. That's not just a blind spot. That's a blind patch. That's like watching all five seasons of "The Wire" in one marathon sitting, stretching your way out of a barcalounger and saying, "Yep, just as I suspected: black people only commit crimes because their people have a crime problem."

And this is coming from a guy who's supposed to know the law, inside and out. Who, presumably, understands that up until very recently, the law said that a person caught with 5 grams of crack should be treated the same as someone caught with 500 grams of cocaine.

Gee, if only we had a better understanding of what kind of people are more likely to do crack and what kind of people are more likely to do cocaine. Without that, I guess we'll just have to conclude that Sanders is right: those people just really can't help themselves.

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