Fox's Wallace Lectures Civil Rights Leaders And Obama To Focus On Black Crime Rates, Not Zimmerman

Fox host Chris Wallace continued Fox's misguided focus on black crime rates following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, leaving out critical historical context to black crime and the perception of black violence.

On the July 21 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace asked whether comments by President Obama and civil rights leaders following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin had deflected attention from other issues. Wallace aired a graphic of black homicide statistics:

Then added, “But when you look at the crime numbers. ... Should civil rights leaders be focusing on that and not what one neighborhood watchman did in Sanford, Florida 17 months ago?”:

But, like his Fox News colleagues, Wallace failed to present black crime rates in the context of proximity and perception. In a July 19 press conference, President Obama explained that the perception of black crime rates are a reflection of “poverty and dysfunction,” but black men are often “painted with a broad brush” as criminals. The Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice also found that “public estimates of Black criminality surpasses the reality” due to their unfair portrayal in the media and racial profiling.

On the July 21 edition of CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund president Sherrilyn Ifill explained that after incidents such as the Martin shooting, people try to deflect the issue to black on black crime. Ifill responded to the focus on black-on-black crime by pointing out that “most crime happens between the same race”:

Wallace also ignored crucial social and historical context in his question of race. Crime rates are driven by a variety of factors, including a lack of economic opportunity and social factors. The Sentencing Project found that “Drug policies constitute the single most significant factor contributing to the rise in criminal justice populations” and drug incarcerations disproportionately affect blacks. The NAACP reported that that variety of factors contribute to black criminality:

  • Crime/drug arrest rates: African Americans represent 12% of monthly drug users, but comprise 32% of persons arrested for drug possession
  • “Get tough on crime” and “war on drugs” policies
  • Mandatory minimum sentencing, especially disparities in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine possession
  • In 2002, blacks constituted more than 80% of the people sentenced under the federal crack cocaine laws and served substantially more time in prison for drug offenses than did whites, despite that fact that more than 2/3 of crack cocaine users in the U.S. are white or Hispanic
  • “Three Strikes”/habitual offender policies
  • Zero Tolerance policies as a result of perceived problems of school violence; adverse affect on black children.
  • 35% of black children grades 7-12 have been suspended or expelled at some point in their school careers compared to 20% of Hispanics and 15% of whites. 

Fox News continues to ignore the fact that black men are excessively targetedarrested, and incarcerated in the American criminal justice system.