Warren's call for 'race-conscious laws' sends the willfully ignorant into a tizzy
Nigerian Gone Rogue
Feb. 09, 2020
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s call for “race-conscious laws” during Friday night’s debate seemed to hit a nerve with critics working overtime to misconstrue the suggestion as “racist.” For those of us who care more about actual change than semantics, her words were right on time.
"You know, for the exact same crimes, study after study now shows that African Americans are more likely than whites to be detained, to be arrested, to be taken to trial, to be wrongfully convicted, and receive harsher sentences," Warren said during the debate. "We need to start having race-conscious laws," she added later.
And just like that, critics had a field day.
“’Race-conscious laws’ aka racist laws. What could go wrong? 🤦🏽♀️,” Columnist Rita Panahi tweeted . Political writer Chad Felix Greene echoed the sentiment, calling Warren’s ask “unconstitutional” on Twitter . “Equality under the law is fundamental to our system,” he said Sunday. “You are advocating Democratic Jim Crow racism.” That would be true if Warren weren’t actually suggesting the exact opposite for those of us who don’t have the luxury of pretending the sentiment behind Jim Crow laws isn’t very much so alive and well in American society.
The senator wasn’t just talking for her health. She was responding to the weak explanation former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg gave when ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis questioned him on racial disparities during his time in office. Davis noted that, under Buttigieg’s leadership as mayor, black residents were four times more likely to be arrested on marijuana possession charges than white residents.
"When talking about the problem on national terms, you've called it 'evidence of systemic racism,' but you were mayor for eight years. So weren't you in effect the head of the system?" Davis asked, “and how do you explain that increase in black arrests under your leadership?" Buttigieg responded: "Well, the reality is on my watch drug arrests in South Bend were lower than the national average, and specifically to marijuana lower than in Indiana, but there is no question that systemic racism has penetrated to every level of our system."
Translation: Buttigieg decided to dodge the question. So Davis restated it: “How do you explain the increase in black arrests in South Bend under your leadership for marijuana possession?” The presidential hopeful talked about a strategy his community adopted to focus on drug enforcement cases that had connections to the most violent gang offenses. "These things are all connected, but that's the point," Buttigieg said. "So are all of the things that need to change in order for us to prevent violence and remove the effects of systemic racism not just from criminal justice but from our economy, from health, from housing, and from our Democracy itself."
Having seemingly given up on a direct response from Buttigieg, Davis instead directed her attention to Warren. "Sen. Warren, is that a substantial answer from Mayor Buttigieg?" Davis asked. “No,” the Massachusetts senator responded, earning her cheers of praise. "You have to own up to the facts, and it's important to own up to the facts about how race has totally permeated our criminal justice system, " Warren said.
The takeaway, however, for critics like Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel, appeared to be to focus on semantics and how scary "race-conscious laws" sound. "Elizabeth Warren says we need ‘race-conscious laws.’ Think about that,” she tweeted Friday. “Isn't that what we spent so long trying to make sure we didn't have?” Luckily, those who aren't gleefully cruising through oblivion responded to Strassel’s post. New York Times journalist and “1619 Project” creator Nikole Hannah-Jones tweeted : “I love when folks pretend they don’t understand history nor how language works and that race-conscious laws to discriminate are different than race-conscious laws to address centuries of said discrimination. But, ok, let’s play games.”