It’s a study!
Black youth are arrested for drug crimes at a rate ten times higher than that of whites. But new research shows that young African Americans are actually less likely to use drugs and less likely to develop substance use disorders, compared to whites, Native Americans, Hispanics and people of mixed race.
I guess everything I thought I knew about the world was wrong. This is clearly evidence that drug laws are being enforced in a racist manner.
But wait! What’s this?
It is not known why rates for Native Americans were so elevated, but the category of substance use disorders does include alcoholism, a disorder for which this group is known to be at high risk.
So… if they’re including legal drugs, why lead into the story with a statement about arrests in the very first sentence?
Well, the author of the study talks a lot about the need to get culturally-sensitive treatment and identify youths in trouble as early as possible. The allusion to arrests was included by the author of the column, Maia Szalavitz. She believes that crack laws are racist. So it’s no surprise that when she saw this study, she thought it supported what she already believed to be true.
This is why studies that do not support a journalist’s worldview don’t get reported. This wouldn’t be a problem except the result is that journalism tends to reinforce what is already the consensus view among journalists. There doesn’t have to be a conspiracy to explain the systemic bias in journalism. Journalists are as human as everyone else.