Virgil Gooding sees a link when it comes to the difficulties black Iowans have had obtaining home ownership, higher income, jobs, and high school and college degrees.
“It has to do with systemic problems in the various social or educational or criminal justice institutions,” said Gooding, a therapist at Keys to Awareness in Cedar Rapids and a member of the city’s African American Family Preservation and Resource Committee.
“So in short it points, in my opinion, clearly at a toxic level of institutional racism in this state.”
One of the chief exhibits of Gooding’s argument is how African Americans, especially young males, often are negatively stereotyped.
“The image that’s there is that African American teenagers get involved with the juvenile justice system because of violent behavior that is assaultive,” Gooding said.
Yet 2010 data from the Department of Human Rights Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning shows that while simple assault is the most common reason for African American juveniles to be arrested at 17.2 percent, it only exceeds disorderly conduct by 1 percent. The third most common crime is shoplifting at 14 percent.
Twelve percent of Caucasian juvenile arrests were for shoplifting, 11.2 percent for simple assault and 10 percent for liquor law violations, the 2010 data show.
In other words, nonviolent crimes outweigh violent crimes for both black and white Iowans.
“Even though the real reasons that these kids get arrested are the same reasons that other kids from other races get arrested why do we continue to believe that black kids get arrested for big crime and violent crime?” Gooding asked.
A recent American Civil Liberties Union report stated that the disparity between marijuana-related arrests of black and white Iowans is the worst in the nation. The report found that despite nearly equal use, blacks in Iowa are more than eight times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
At the national level the rate of arrest is 3.7 times as likely for blacks.
The report does not include data on Latinos.