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“Let us state this unequivocally: originating in slave patrols, policing is inherently rooted in white supremacy and cannot be reformed,” read the latest iteration of this canard, in a recent letter from a group of black students to the administration of Duke University. “Now, we must imagine a world beyond police and prisons, one that seeks to heal and rebuild our communities from generations of systemic violence.”
They’re wrong, of course. Modern American law enforcement can claim descent from British policing as it was organized, two centuries ago, by Sir Robert Peel. Peel (whose Christian name is the inspiration for “Bobbies”) was an indefatigable advocate for professional, humane, community-oriented policing.
But why nitpick! Let’s just go along with the notion that American police officers are the direct occupational descendants of slave catchers, armed men working within a savagely racist system that came to an end in the 19th century. How many generations of officers, reformers, theoreticians, and scholars of criminal justice have worked to improve and refine American policing? Doesn’t matter. Nothing they’ve done and nothing they could do would neutralize the influence of those malign roots.
So no, it doesn’t matter if any given officer is black. Or if his chief is black, or his commander-in-chief for that matter; once he takes his oath to defend the Constitution, to serve and protect without fear or favor, once the badge has been pinned to his breast… the ancient sin seeps in. So when a Duke campus cop makes his rounds at that Ivy League campus, chit chats with students, checks dorm doors, takes a report on a stolen skateboard, provides an escort for an inebriated and fearful co-ed or just sits around in the station, sipping his DD and waiting for his shift to end…he’s still a slave catcher.
What evidence is there that policing is not just rooted in racism, but remains racist to this day? Here it is: American police officers disproportionately arrest black people. Though only 13.4% of the U.S. population is black, forty percent of prison inmates are. Disparities like this can only be explained, we are told, by systemic racism, inculcated into the institution of policing from the very beginning, and persisting throughout history despite any and all attempts at improvement or reform. Since reform did not succeed in a criminal justice system wherein the racial distribution of arrestees and prison inmates is identical to that of the country as a whole, reform is useless. Burn it down.
So let’s talk about the origins of America’s largest abortion provider: Planned Parenthood.
Margaret Sanger was an enthusiastic member of the American eugenics movement, self-tasked with the supposedly vital effort of culling the unfit from the population through the promotion of birth control and sterilization. Among those whose living presence was considered a drag on the healthy whole were, of course, non-white persons; Sanger was a racist. Not surprisingly, when she spoke before the women’s auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan, she was a big hit.
The organization Sanger founded, has only very recently admitted that their founder held some…ahem… problematic views. In an age of widespread, woke iconoclasty, they’re thinking that maybe Sanger’s name had better come off the clinics, and the organization’s highest honor should be re-named after someone a little more woke. And yeah, maybe her bust —the one with the cute straw hat—could be discretely withdrawn from public view?
Unlike America’s police, Sanger’s Planned Parenthood is still carrying out its forebear’s original mission. They continue to push birth control particularly, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg put it in a 2009 NYT interview, “in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” But the notorious RBG was talking about Roe v. Wade in that interview; Margaret Sanger was against abortion, calling the practice “a disgrace to civilization.”
So even if American policing were rooted in slave catching, it would be worth pointing out that Planned Parenthood wasn’t actually rooted in abortion. Abortion represents not a softening reform of its founder’s mission, but a dramatic amplification. So while police officers are no longer occupied in catching slaves and American law enforcement has not, in fact, scaled up from slave catching to wholesale murder (fewer than twenty unarmed black men are killed by the police every year) PP has taken the original, racist and eugenic vision of its founder, and translated it into more than three hundred thousand small, dismembered corpses. Most of these are merely “unwanted,” but some number have been killed for reasons a eugenist would applaud; the kid has Downs Syndrome, cleft palate, or some other disability that renders her life unworthy of life. More to the point, however, as Ross Douthat puts it in a recent NYT op-ed ” …when abortion was legalized in the United States, with Planned Parenthood’s strong support, its initial effect was a sharp decline in minority births.” When an affected group is disproportionately black, the explanation, we are told, is racism, period. Well, the racial disparities in the abortion industry are startling: 38% of abortions eliminate black babies despite, again, blacks being only 13.4% of the overall population.
A New York Times reader (surprise!) indignantly defends Planned Parenthood in the comments section: “If there are more abortions in minority populations, then minority populations present a higher need for the procedure. You can convince me that structural racism, poverty, lack of opportunity, expensive child care, wage inequality, and any number of social ills make abortion more necessary, but the sin lies with our society, not Planned Parenthood.”
This is exactly the argument that those of us who work in law enforcement make about policing—social ills make arresting and imprisoning people more necessary, and if these are disproportionately black, the sin lies with our society, not with the police.
That argument probably wouldn’t fly with the anti-racist woke. It should, though. After all, as Douthat writes: “[Anti-racism]emphasizes, first, the persistent influence of formerly-institutionalized racism even in the absence of conscious racists, and second, the importance of assessing every policy based on its effects on racial equality.”
Planned Parenthood’s actions, like the actions of police officers, whether driven by conscious racism or not (probably not, in both cases) do not produce racially equal effects. And Planned Parenthood’s origins don’t lie with vaguely-described “slave catchers,” but with an actual movement, and a specific woman who left plenty of written evidence of her prejudices and biases. And while American law enforcement long ago repudiated any and all connections with racism, and has worked to improve over many decades, making tremendous strides in reducing the incidence of police brutality and corruption of all kinds, including racial bias, Margaret Sanger was not repudiated by the organization until last week.
So: “Let us state this unequivocally: originating in the racist eugenics movement, Planned Parenthood is inherently rooted in white supremacy and cannot be reformed. Now, we must imagine a world beyond abortion, one that seeks to heal and rebuild our communities from generations of systemic violence to women and their unborn children.”Published in