The Five exploited Attorney General Eric Holder's recent commencement speech addressing the nation's ongoing problems with racial discrimination in order to question whether such discrimination exists at all.
Eric Holder delivered a commencement address on May 17 at Morgan State University, commemorating in part the 60th anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that ruled that state-mandated racial segregation of schools violated the U.S. Constitution. Holder highlighted ongoing problems in racial discrimination, such as the fact that “African-American men have received sentences that are nearly 20 percent longer than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes,” and called on graduates to “take account of racial inequality, especially in its less obvious forms, and actively discuss ways to combat it.”
On the May 19 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-hosts jumped off of Attorney General Holder's recent commencement speech to question the existence of racial discrimination in America, even going as far as questioning the validity of studies showing blacks are incarcerated more often and given longer sentences than whites for the same crimes.
Guest host Jesse Watters, a correspondent for The O'Reilly Factor -- a program with infamous coverage of racial issues -- took issue with Holder's discussion of discrimination in school discipline, wondering “is it drugs” at home that cause black students to act out more than white students and face suspension from zero tolerance disciplinary policies in schools:
WATTERS: Two things that you and Eric Holder said. I think he said that zero tolerance disciplinary policies affect black males more in school? Why is that? OK? Do they misbehave more than white students?
WATTERS: OK, then why is that? His solution is to lower the standards to accommodate the misbehaving black male students. What's the other solution? Maybe address the root cause of the misbehavior. Is it something going on at home? Is it drugs? What's the problem? He wants to lower standards. We want to bring other people up.
Watters went on to question whether racial discrimination truly contributes to higher incarceration rates for black Americans, arguing that the number of “prior convictions” is responsible for the more frequent incarceration of black Americans and longer sentences:
WATTERS: The other thing that you said and Eric Holder said is that blacks are incarcerated at 20 times more rate for the same crimes as whites. You know what that study doesn't account for? It doesn't account for priors. So if someone has three prior convictions for slanging crack, and a white guy does it and a black guy does it, the black guy with the three priors is going to go away for a longer time.
BECKEL: You believe that blacks are put into prison at a higher rate than whites because they're -- not because of the color of the skin?
WATTERS: No, I'm taking issue with the study, Bob.
Host Kimberly Guilfoyle agreed, stating that “blanket statements” like the facts on incarceration rates for blacks and whites are “dangerous” and “reckless” :
Data released by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights show disproportionately high suspension/expulsion rates for students of color, and experts agree that discrimination is a cause of the racial disparity in school discipline rates. It's not true that black children misbehave at a higher rate than white children: the Department of Education and Department of Justice reported that the racial disparities “are not explained by more frequent or more serious misbehavior by students of color.”
The reality of racial discrimination in America also explains the disparity in incarceration rates. Van Jones noted in Huffington Post that black youth arrest rates for drug, assault, and weapon offences “are higher than arrest rates for white youth -- even though both report similar rates of delinquency,” and “federal lawmakers recognize youth of color are treated differently by the juvenile justice system.” The Sentencing Project found that blacks are incarcerated at “nearly six (5.6) times the rate of whites,” and the ACLU pointed out that 1 in every 106 white men are incarcerated, compared to 1 in every 15 black men.