July 22nd, 2013

Sowell on justice, traditional and cosmic

In the aftermath of the Zimmerman trial we see outrage and protest among those who think Zimmerman is guilty of something or other, even if the criminal justice system couldn’t quite put its finger on it.

“He racially profiled Trayvon”—although there’s no evidence whatsoever of racial motivations in Zimmerman’s report of Martin’s suspicious behavior, or of racial bias in Zimmerman’s previous life. “He followed Trayvon”—although the evidence is that Zimmerman only did so in the very beginning, and stopped when the dispatcher suggested it. Besides, following someone is no crime. “Zimmerman confronted him”—again, no credible evidence of it, and at any rate no crime if verbal, which is all that seems possible given the evidence. “He’s a wannabe cop,” as though, even if that were true, it would be some sort of actionable offense.

From whence comes this sense of Zimmerman’s guilt? Those race hustlers whose specialty it is to heighten racial animus and perceptions of victimization, and a media which willingly cooperates in distorting the record towards the same aim, have played no small part. But what is the motivation behind those who are more well-intentioned? What do they mean by “Justice for Trayvon”?

In thinking about the answer, one would do well to look at the words of Thomas Sowell, in his 1999 book The Quest for Cosmic Justice. Sowell wrote:

Cosmic justice is not just a higher degree of traditional justice, it is a fundamentally different concept. Traditionally, justice or injustice is a characteristic of process. A defendant in a criminal case would be said to have received justice if the trial were conducted as it should be, under fair rules and with the judge and jury being impartial. After such a trial, it could be said that “justice was done”—regardless of whether the outcome was an acquittal or an execution…In short, traditional justice is about impartial processes rather than either results or prospects…

But this is not what is meant by those people who speak of “social justice.” In fact, rules and standards equally applicable to all are often deliberately set aside in pursuit of “social justice.” Nor are such exceptions aberrations. The two concepts [traditional and "social" justice] are mutually incompatible.

What “social justice” seeks to do is to eliminate undeserved disadvantages for selected groups…[T]his is often done in disregard of the costs of this to other individuals or groups—or even to the requirements of society as a whole.

Don’t like the result of a trial? Call it unjust, even if the process of the law has been applied with scrupulous fairness—or even if, as in the Zimmerman trial, what bias there is seems to favor your side (for example, Angela Corey’s affidavit, which even Alan Dershowitz pointed out was biased—against Zimmerman). The remedy of the anti-Zimmerman “social justice” forces is to advocate applying the law unevenly in order to encourage the outcome they would have preferred, or to change the law in the way they think might end up benefiting their side in future cases. But those who do that need to watch out for another law—that of unintended consequences—because it can come back some day to bite them.

Thus, the unwarranted demonizing of George Zimmerman, and the apologia and justification for Trayvon’s Martin’s own violence during the incident, continue apace, unaffected by a legal process that, if it was skewed at all, was twisted in favor of Zimmerman’s conviction rather than his exoneration.

[NOTE: Cross-posted at Legal Insurrection.]

37 Responses to “Sowell on justice, traditional and cosmic”

  1. Mr. Frank Says:

    To the extent that there is a black subculture, it tends to be more emotional than the dominant culture which is more rational. The basis of the dominant culture is northern European where science and self control prospered. As the U.S. becomes more diverse the role of emotions becomes greater. This can be seen in sport where good sportsmanship used to stress humility in victory. Now, dancing and taunting are the order of the day.

    Feeling that someone is guilty is legitimate for some.

  2. Liz Says:

    “He racially profiled Trayvon”—although there’s no evidence whatsoever of racial motivations in Zimmerman’s report of Martin’s suspicious behavior, or of racial bias in Zimmerman’s previous life.
    ===================

    So what if he did profile Martin? If you don’t want to be profiled, don’t be part of a demographic that commits such a wildly disproportionate amount of crime. And yes, I’m including “black” alongside “young” and “male”.

    People who don’t profile are idiots. And claiming that oh noze, Zimmerman didn’t profile, nope, no way, nosirree, does no one any favours. If nothing else, it buys into a thought crime mentality.

  3. OlderandWheezier Says:

    I assume that many in the black community are convinced that the verdict is unjust because it fits so neatly into their mindset of being unjust victims on a wholesale basis in this country.

    But there have been whites (overwhelmingly left-wing, of course) whose response imo has been more extreme than those in the black community. And this began long before the trial. Their cherry-picking of details was aided, naturally, by news entities which colored or edited details of the case in order to heighten its appeal.

    As you’ve mentioned, neo, even when confronted with and forced to concede details that deflate the narrative to which they’ve clung, there’s almost always some response from them that somehow, some way, Zimmerman must have been the one who set the whole sad affair in motion.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Liz:

    You are confusing profiling with racial profiling.

    Racial profiling is suspecting someone merely because of race. Race is not enough to justify suspicion. Zimmerman’s phone call to police reported Martin’s suspicious behavior. His race was only mentioned in response to a direct question about race by the dispatcher. The context of the race issue there was to describe the suspect for police, not to indicate he was suspicious because he was black. The population where Zimmerman lived was something like 30 or 40 percent black; he would not and should not have suspected him for that reason. Martin’s suspicious behavior, as reported by Zimmerman, was meandering around in the rain, looking into houses. NBC selectively edited the tape in order to make it seem as though Zimmerman was racially profiling, for which Zimmerman is suing the network. See this:

    Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.

    Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?

    Zimmerman: He looks black.

    NBC changed it to “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

  5. George Pal Says:

    The systematic process is a relic. The legal process has no status. Process holds back desires and/or payback. Aesop’s Ant is about process, the Grasshoper was about about racism, slavery, Jim Crow, or ant privilege. The greatest pathogens in the black community are the race hustlers, Jesse, Al, Michael Eric Dyson, Julian Bond, and the NAACP.

    Tripping over themselves to get to get in the most tropes in the least amount of time is all they know how to do. I would note that in the course of three generations, the Holocaust could not do to Jews, and stay a modern state – Israel, what the trauma of racism, slavery, etc. is contended to have done to blacks – promoting a postmodern day Detroit where nearly half the population is functionally illiterate. There’s an obvious point here but it would be racist to take the spotlight from the Trayvon hucksters.

  6. Don Says:

    The news today is that Zimmerman helped rescue a family of four from their turned over SUV today. What’s up with that guy? He can’t stay in his truck.

  7. Don Carlos Says:

    “Racial profiling is suspecting someone merely because of race. Race is not enough to justify suspicion.”
    Oh, fiddlesticks. Racial Profiling=Suspicion? That’s blackthink.
    I’m with Liz: People who don’t profile are idiots. Profiling is screening, that’s all. We have to justify it? To whom? Says who?

  8. Don Says:

    Neo,

    I don’t think there is anything that is wrong with racial profiling. Race is one part of the profile. In Zimmerman’s situation, the problems were being caused by young black males.

    Per the call, Zimmerman didn’t know for sure when first asked if the person was black, he only determined that later. So racial profiling was not a major element in the case.

    But that said, racial profiling is part of profiling. If the local rapist is white, black or hispanic, that is part of his profile.

  9. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos:

    Sometimes I wonder if you actually read my posts.

    Racial profiling in order to call in a police complaint (that’s the action we’re talking about here)—is wrong, not to mention stupid and ineffective. You can’t call in to the police saying a person is suspicious because he/she is black. That would be an absurdity. You would be laughed at.

    In one’s personal life one can do anything one wants. If you wish to racially profile and prefer to cross the street when a black person comes by, that’s your right, although I would refer to you as a bigot. Nor would such action keep you safe from harm.

    If you prefer not to sit next to black people on the subway, it’s your prerogative. I’m certainly not going to force you. We are talking about racial profiling to call in to police about a suspicious person here, and nothing else.

  10. neo-neocon Says:

    Don:

    Incorrect, as I already explained to Liz. It is part of his description, not his profile.

    Racial profiling is suspecting someone because they are black (or Hispanic, or whatever race may be involved) rather than because they are acting suspiciously.

    Police describe suspects by race, height, gender, hair color, clothing, estimated age. That is not profiling, it is part of identifying a suspect.

  11. Eric Says:

    Not enough emphasis is given to reinforce what Zimmerman did ethically right as a neighbor. His affirmative righteousness should accompany every rebuttal defending him from wrongful accusations.

    In a parenthetical comment to Mitsu about his living in NYC, I advised him to pay heed to common sense as well as legally accepted indicators. They’re not the same thing.

  12. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    The inimitable Thomas Sowell provides half the formula when he states that, “What “social justice” seeks to do is to eliminate undeserved disadvantages for selected groups…” finishing that “social justice” formula however requires the inclusion of equality of outcome, which is how proponents of social justice measure compliance.

    In addition, the ‘social justice’ concept is entwined with the leftist theory of “white privilege”. Which posits that, as the white majority enjoy benefits and opportunities unavailable to minorities, by just being part of a majority, all whites participate in a racist system and are thus racist.

    Thus, as long as whites are in the majority, they will be racist.

    Interestingly, nothing is mentioned about black majorities in Africa, Hispanic majorities in S. America or Asian majorities in the far eastern societies…

  13. Don Carlos Says:

    Uhh, Neo: I quoted you to open my earlier post. Your quote, and your distinguishing profiling from racial profiling, caused me concern.
    But I quoted you, so obviously I read. A quote is a quote.
    I am not sure you read my post. You sure didn’t respond thereto except to suggest I am a bigot. Not a nice thing to do to someone who helped integrate health care in the South.

  14. Beverly Says:

    “Ant Privilege!” I love it.

    This “social justice” that the Reds prate of, is nothing more than payback for endless grievances. And boy, is it lucrative.

    Like Jonah Goldberg said, “Al Sharpton, like herpes, is forever.”

  15. Don Says:

    Racial profiling is suspecting someone because they are black (or Hispanic, or whatever race may be involved) rather than because they are acting suspiciously.

    But I don’t know anyone, ever, to accuse someone of a crime simply because of race. What typically happens is that race is used as one factor that draws additional attention to a person.

  16. neo-neocon Says:

    Don:

    People (police, and in fact George Zimmerman) have been accused of racial profiling that is just that: suspecting someone merely—or primarily—because of race. The police are often accused of stopping and frisking black men for no reason other than their race. And the accusation of racial profiling against Zimmerman was helped along in good measure by the deceptive editing of his non-emergency call to police that night (often mistakenly referred to as his 911 call) by NBC quite early in the game. I described what NBC did in this comment of mine addressing Liz. The network had edited his call to sound like this:

    This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.

  17. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos:

    Well, now I suspect you not only don’t read some of my posts that you respond to, but that you don’t read some of my comments that you respond to. Because you just did it again.

    Let me explain:

    This post has approximately 570 words, according to the wordcount tool on the blog. Your comment, to which you refer as proof you read the post, quoted 16 of my words—which, by the way, were not even in my post, but were in a comment to “Liz” (see this), and those words were at the beginning of my comment at that. This is no indication of whether you read even the entire comment of mine or not, much less the post. So your statement, “But I quoted you, so obviously I read. A quote is a quote” is irrelevant to my point.

    What’s more, you continue in your comment at 7:21 above:

    I am not sure you read my post. You sure didn’t respond thereto except to suggest I am a bigot. Not a nice thing to do to someone who helped integrate health care in the South.

    This is what I had written in my comment to you that used the word “bigot”:

    In one’s personal life one can do anything one wants. If you wish to racially profile and prefer to cross the street when a black person comes by, that’s your right, although I would refer to you as a bigot.

    .

    I know you are an educated man. I assume that English is your native tongue, and that you understand the use of the conditional and qualifiers in that excerpt. In other words, note the word “if”: if you wish…

    “If” means “if.” It doesn’t mean that’s what you actually do. Same with “would” following “if.” In other words, that’s what a racially profiling person might do. It’s called the subjunctive mood (see this) and often follows the pattern I used: “if…would…”. An example of the genre at that link is, “If I were a butterfly, I would have wings.”

    Therefore I did not call you a bigot—it was a “what if” sentence. I do not know what your racial profiling would lead to in terms of your particular behavior towards black people; I do not know what form it would take. In that sentence, I am talking about the argument in which you are defending racial profiling, so I am indicating how far such things could go, and I was making a distinction between racial profiling that would be used in calling the police to report suspicious behavior, versus racial profiling in private life. I was purposely choosing a very extreme example of the latter in order to show just how much would be permitted in the case of racist private behavior, because I am somewhat of a libertarian on that score. Such private behavior would not be something I would admire, and I would consider it bigoted, but I would consider that a person has a right to exhibit that behavior in terms of his/her private life.

  18. Mr. Frank Says:

    Neo said: In one’s personal life one can do anything one wants. If you wish to racially profile and prefer to cross the street when a black person comes by, that’s your right, although I would refer to you as a bigot.

    Isn’t that a bit harsh? Given the violent crime rate among blacks is seven times that among whites, couldn’t that be a rational decision to control risk? Is avoiding driving your car in high crime neighborhoods bigoted behavior?

  19. neo-neocon Says:

    Mr. Frank:

    They are two completely different situations, as I believe is obvious.

    Crossing the street to avoid a black person—any black person?

    Versus avoiding a high-crime area—including, of course, many predominantly black areas that are high-crime?

    No equivalence. I did not write anything about high-crime areas, I was postulating a situation where someone had no tolerance for being near a black person—any black person—walking down the street.

    I would think this difference should not have to be explained.

    If I had meant to say I thought it was bigoted to avoid walking or driving a car in high-crime areas, I would have said exactly that.

  20. Don Carlos Says:

    Neo:
    A “what if”(yours)= “suggest”(mine). End result is the same, and I suspect you know that.

    I did not feel my duty was to respond only to your essay. I felt I could also respond to your comment statements.

    You have defined racial profiling…as an inherently bad thing. Folks like Liz and I do not attach that kind of value judgement to profiling, racial or otherwise. I said profiling is screening (to me), and meant it. That profiling is baad comes from the MSM, NAACP and similar sources. And they say “profiling”, without the qualifier. If you lie down with dogs….

  21. Mr. Frank Says:

    Neo,

    Point well taken. When we size strangers up we look at age, sex, and clothing as well as race.

  22. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos:

    Your argument makes no sense. Using the subjunctive (“if…would”) about a hypothetical is not the same as an accusation of of bigotry towards a particular person.

    And you have not answered my point in any way that makes sense—I had said I wondered whether you had read my post, and you offered a sentence quoted from a comment of mine as proof that you had, which is an absurd “proof.” And now you say, “I did not feel my duty was to respond only to your essay. I felt I could also respond to your comment statements,” as though I was talking about your duty to respond, and as though I ever for a moment suggested that you couldn’t respond to a comment? It was you who were claiming to have read the post, and offered in your comment that 16-word quote from my comment to prove it. I was merely pointing out it was no such proof at all.

    I’ve been making an effort and taking some time explaining to you, because you’ve been commenting here for a long time. But although I am a patient person I do not have endless patience, especially for sophistry and goalpost-moving like that.

  23. SteveH Says:

    I get the sense the sin of racial profiling in America sort of follows the Cloward/Piven strategy. You create an untenable subculture that offends the sensibilities of decent people, then dare anyone to react to it for fear of abandoning their assigned lofty morals of loving thy neighbor.

  24. Peter B Says:

    Not enough emphasis is given to reinforce what Zimmerman did ethically right as a neighbor.

    Why, you could even say that Zimmerman was acting as though it takes a village.

  25. Lester Says:

    The real shame is who the black community holds up as role models.

    Obama may be the first black pres’nt but he is also the most incompetent. When I see a young black person with an Obama tee shirt it makes me shudder.

    Meanwhile they demonize Justice Thomas, Dr. Sowell and Ben Carson.

  26. Eric Says:

    SteveH: “I get the sense the sin of racial profiling in America sort of follows the Cloward/Piven strategy. You create an untenable subculture that offends the sensibilities of decent people, then dare anyone to react to it for fear of abandoning their assigned lofty morals of loving thy neighbor.”

    I agree. An untenable situation has been created where common criminality distinct from race has been disproportionately linked to a class of black people.

    Blacks can still react normally to common criminality by blacks in their midst, and they do, and it’s not racism. But if non-blacks react normally to common criminality by blacks, then the politically powerful racism bat swings.

    What if both Zimmerman and Martin were black? What if Zimmerman were black and Martin were white and/or mestizo? If all other facts were the same, would there be a difference? I don’t think so.

    One would like to give the benefit of the doubt that what you describe is not a purposeful divide and conquer strategy. But then we see Obama’s strategic response that nakedly promotes this untenable situation and racial conflict. It seems an awful lot like calculating intent by the Left.

  27. Eric Says:

    Lester: “Meanwhile they demonize Justice Thomas, Dr. Sowell and Ben Carson.”

    Allen West.

    In the classic progressive era, liberal reformers like Booker T. Washington tried to solve pathologies internal to the black community with aspirational citizenship via independent education, business, industry, financial independence, etc.. Their goal was for blacks to add value to American society and bring something to the table, very much like modern-day Asian Americans, in order to join harmoniously with whites as true American equals.

    Malcolm X was less about harmony and aspirational citizenship, but he otherwise advocated for a similar brand of bootstraps self-help for blacks. If Malcolm X was alive and robust today (for an 88 yo), he might well be a leading light of the Tea Party movement.

    That was the true progressive liberal course. Marxists blew it up. There’s a reason that real progressive liberals – the few of us there are left – despise the Marxist Left.

  28. Ymarsakar Says:

    Profiling is a skill like swimming. A lot of people talk about it but don’t do it. Or say that other people shouldn’t do it, while doing it themselves.

    So having prejudices about race alone, is a very weak profile, the Left is correct. However, the Left’s profiling methods are much stronger than that. And there are stronger methods than theirs that can be used to locate people as well.

  29. Don Says:

    People (police, and in fact George Zimmerman) have been accused of racial profiling that is just that: suspecting someone merely—or primarily—because of race. The police are often accused of stopping and frisking black men for no reason other than their race.

    Oh yes, I know. However, I don’t believe the police in these situations ONLY frisk the black men because they are black men. In reality it is one of several factors that are used.

    I often drive through a border patrol checkpoint. I have been stopped on several occasions and searched, although I’m a middle aged white male. Once, I was stopped because of the way I responded to a question, the other time my hispanic wife and I were stopped due to cues from a drug sniffing dog. My hispanic brother in law has a chip on his shoulder about being stopped at this checkpoint. He doesn’t like the fact that his hispanic ethnicity is an additional factor in stopping him. My point is that the agents are using multiple factors to profile. One of those factors is ethnicity; few illegals or smugglers are white or black.

    The left’s goal in this is to remove race as a factor in profilling in situations like this, so that BP searches as many WASP old ladies as they do young hispanics.

  30. Don Says:

    A lot of people talk about it but don’t do it. Or say that other people shouldn’t do it, while doing it themselves.

    I think most people do it. Not sure how you wouldn’t.

    I recall in the ’90s, when my politically correct Democrat mother in law was looking for a neighborhood to live in. She wanted “diversity”, but the right diversity was 90% to 95% white people. She wanted to see sufficient minorities to know she wouldn’t be the only one. It was funny to listen to her talk about how important “diversity” is while she looked for a place with very little of it.

  31. Don Says:

    So having prejudices about race alone, is a very weak profile, the Left is correct.

    Yes, but that’s a strawman. Who actually profiles based upon race alone?

    The case where you might do that is something like this: you get off the freeway to find a hotel and find yourself in a neighborhood that is almost all black. You might decide to drive on for a few more miles. But you are not profilling a specific person per se.

    The police profilling that the left doesn’t like only uses race as one factor. People rarely profile on one factor alone. The word profile actually suggests this; it implys using a multitude of factors to estimate what kind of actor you are dealing with.

  32. Don Says:

    I’ll throw in several examples of profilling:

    Several decades ago, Jessie Jackson commented how, when walking down a remote street at night and hearing footsteps behind him, he was relieved when he turned around and saw it was a white man.

    On an internet forum, a cop from Chicago (assuming he was telling the truth here) went to an appartment who had a resident who called him. When the black female resident opened the door and saw him, she blurted out “Oh thank god, it’s a white one”.

    White people are not the only ones to profile.

  33. Ymarsakar Says:

    Who actually profiles based upon race alone?

    Leftists profile based on race alone… was that something non obvious?

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    [...] see an awful lot of peo­ple on the net Ann Alt­house Smitty, Neo Neo­con to Richard Epstein to point­ing out the obvi­ous weak­ness in the argu­ments of the Al [...]

  35. Don Carlos Says:

    More on racial profiling, which I define differently than Neo:
    “In New York, the Stop & Frisk policies of Police Chief Ray Kelly are criticized as racist, except by those residents who know their communities have become safer because of the aggressive police tactics. In 2012 the number of civilian complaints about the NYPD fell to the lowest in five years. Kelly received kudos from 75 percent of New Yorkers in a poll conducted earlier this year; 81 percent of whites approved of the job Kelly is doing, along with 76 percent of Hispanics and 63 percent of blacks.

    The NYPD has long defended in-your-face policing by noting that blacks and Hispanics are victims of more than 80 percent of all murders, non-negligent homicides and felonious assaults; those groups also suffered 75 percent of all rapes and 68 percent of robberies committed in 2012.”
    http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2013/07/24/Detroits-Future-Could-Depend-on-Stand-Your-Ground.aspx#eHIAtSIHW0K6GDUL.99

    Interesting that black New Yorkers, who benefit most from this policy, approve of it less. Pathologic thinking?

  36. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos:

    New York’s stop and frisk law requires that the people stopped and frisked be suspected on something other than mere race. There has to be some other behavior or demeanor.

    Whether those criteria are used, or whether it is “just race,” is the question in NY. The police contend it is NOT “just race,” but that it ends up being applied mostly to black men because of suspicious behavior. That’s my recollection of the issue from doing a fairly large amount of research on the issue a couple of years ago. Don’t have time to research it fully now, but here’s a quick link and quote:

    The New York City stop-question-and-frisk program is a practice of the New York City Police Department by which a police officer who reasonably suspects a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a felony or a penal law misdemeanor, stops and questions that person, and, if the officer reasonably suspects he or she is in danger of physical injury, frisks the person stopped for weapons.

    You may not believe the police; you may think they profile solely on race. But that does not describe the policy they are defending, or the way the law is written. Those who criticize them say it does describe the police’s behavior. I have not been one of those people.

    You continue to misrepresent or misunderstand (I don’t know which it is) my position. You also did this earlier in the thread where we were discussing these questions, and never responded to the last comment I had made to you. Here it is, in case you didn’t see it.

  37. Ymarsakar Says:

    In some ways, the Left plays both sides against the other. Whether you are a criminal, a civilian, a cop, or somebody else, the Left can always bring their aligned focuses to such an angle that one of their members benefit.

    Profiling based solely on race may indict cops, which means unions can control cops better. Lack of profiling, racial or otherwise, may benefit criminals. Which benefit Leftists in charge of crime and its profits. (like Sharpton)

    Either way, the Left wins.

    The essence of strategy is to have 3 options, and all of them end in victory.

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