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What if we treated the issue of race in our criminal justice system as we do in our medical system? That is, not as a cause but as an index. What do I mean?

Demonstrators protest Saturday, June 6, 2020, in Washington, over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. (Images AP/Alex Brandon)
Demonstrators protest Saturday, June 6, 2020, in Washington, over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. (Images AP/Alex Brandon)

Statistics in the criminal justice system show that blacks are more likely to be arrested for violent crimes, incarcerated, and victims of police shootings. Some conclude this is because of racism on the part of the police. In our medical system, however, we see a similar dis-proportionality. Blacks are more likely to suffer and die from heart disease and stroke. Why, then, do we not hear cries of racism and “Black Lives Matter” against doctors? After all, both crime and health are largely matters of behavior.

There could be a few answers, but I think most suppose, rightly, that doctors do not look at race as a cause, but as one of many indices, such as sex, diet, family history, etc. Their diagnosis of a disease can be verified if they find the same index of the same disease in other races, but varying proportionately by the occurrence of those causes. For example, they see the causes of heart disease and stroke as poor diet, obesity, and lack of exercise. These causes affect a human person regardless of race; it just so happens that these are more prevalent among blacks than other races, not because of their race, but for other reasons.

Can we look at the criminal justice statistics and see a similar indicator? One that shows likelihood in a race but not because of race? We can. Ask any social worker, clergyman, or teacher (I won’t ask you to ask any reasonable politician because you would be hard-pressed to find one) what is the factor that most likely indicates that a person, regardless of race, will engage in criminal behavior? The answer will be the family. A person of any race that comes from a broken home is far more likely to engage in antisocial behavior than one from a family where the mother and father are married. I would also bet just about any money you want that the likelihood of criminal behavior decreases proportionally as that family attends religious worship together regularly. It decreases even further, to put the Abrahamic point on this, as the mother and father have practiced the virtue of chastity, and further still, to put the Catholic point on this, as the mother and father have practiced natural family planning. Are there exceptions? Yes, just as there are exceptions to medical statistics. But we don’t treat diseases in a medical system based on exceptions, and we shouldn’t treat diseases in our criminal justice system based on exceptions.

Go down that list—a married mother and father, attending religious worship together, practicing chastity, and practicing natural family planning. The further you deviate from it, the more you get broken homes and the more you get criminal behavior. This is true regardless of race. It is the one indicator that cuts through all others. It also explains why the problem of “racism” has seemingly become worse, or at least more incendiary, in our criminal justice system. Broken homes increase exponentially with each generation. A person from a broken home is more likely to engage in behavior that will result in more broken homes.

There are three questions in response to this. The first is, why do these factors affect criminal behavior so much? You could bring in psychiatrists and clergy to give long, detailed answers, but the simple one can be found using common sense. A person who has been raised in a loving, intact, religious home is more likely to feel loved and more likely therefore to love.

The second question is, why are there more broken homes among blacks than among other races? Here’s a statistic: about seventy percent of black children born today are born out of wedlock. Why? If you say that “that’s just the way blacks are,” I would say that is racism. If you say “it’s because white people have caused it,” I would say, you may have a point; if you look at the history of “family planning,” it came on the heels of social Darwinism and has an ugly strain of racism in it. The financing for much of the eugenics movement came from wealthy whites such as Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller. Rockefeller even funded the program that Josef Mengele worked in before going on to Auschwitz. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, promoted segregation and forced sterilization and in a letter to Clarence Gamble, another wealthy, white eugenicist, said, “We don’t want the word to get out that we want to exterminate the negro race.” Even today, Planned Parenthood targets–the verb is an apt one—black communities and neighborhoods. That is not to say that all those who promote “family planning” are racist. Some are well-intentioned. But good intentions don’t change human nature, and birth control, whatever else it may do, undeniably leads to less self-control.

The third question is, why have we gone along with it? Why have many black leaders championed policies—birth control and abortion chiefly—that have clearly hurt blacks? To say that “blacks need them” is, again, racism. Virtue knows no color and to say otherwise is racism regardless of your race. Why have so many politicians of all races gone along with it? They are blind to the facts and it gets votes. Pointing fingers gets votes. Saying “the problem is them, the problem is the ‘system’” gets votes. Virtue does not get votes. Saying “we have to change” does not get votes. Why have so many clergy of all races and creeds been silent on these family issues? Again, they may not know the facts, but they also may just be afraid to preach them. As G. K. Chesterton said about Christianity, it hasn’t been tried and found wanting, but found difficult and left untried. Long before there was a “social gospel” there was the gospel, and chief among the practices of that gospel was chastity. Preaching on that gospel won’t fill the collection plates, and it will come as a shock to many, including many Catholics and Jesuits, that the chief solution to racism is the Church’s teaching on the family.

As a society, we must also face some difficult facts. The first is that our behavior—whatever our race—is also determined by our culture: the music we listen to, the shows we watch, and the role models we promote in sports and entertainment. Frankly, we all have failed here and we need to stop it. The second fact is that this problem of breaking and broken homes has been going on for generations. It won’t be fixed overnight, over a year, or even over one generation. It is an open question whether our nation has the patience or courage for the fight.

When the riots broke out, one priest said that it was apparent that there were no parents. The anger we saw may have been sparked by an act of racism, but it was put to the tinder and timber of broken homes.

Robert B. Greving Author:
Robert B. Greving teaches Latin and English grammar at The Heights School in Potomac, Maryland. Mr. Greving served five years in the U.S. Army J.A.G. Corps following his graduation from the Dickinson School of Law.

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