Good people can perpetuate unequal opportunity, when they are tasked to work in flawed systems.

Last week, Jeffrey H. Anderson wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Biden, Claiming ‘Systemic Racism’ in Policing, Defies Science.” In it, Anderson claims that charges of systemic racism “in American police forces is contrary to the best data we have on the subject.” In reality, the best data we have show widespread systemic racism in policing throughout the United States. That is not an indictment of our police officers, but the policies they implement.

Systemic racism refers to racially disparate or concentrated deleterious outcomes that follow from policies in a system, not systems full of racist people…

A high priest of anti-antiracism preaches to the choir

Via wikimedia commons user Uoaei1

One of the first things I saw on Twitter last week was an older white man I follow sharing and praising a new piece by John McWhorter, noted linguist and cultural critic. This is usually the way of it: a Black intellectual says or writes something against the perceived Black/progressive cultural orthodoxy, and the white praise pours in — much from the right of center, but also a predictable segment of moderate white liberal elites. I write not to impugn McWhorter’s motives or question his earnest belief in his writing; this…

We don’t have to choose between defunding the police and accepting the status quo.

The conversations around policing and reform often devolve into the typical “us versus them” politics, where each side believes it is fighting for all that is right and good and the other represents something horribly wrong, if not evil. As in life, policy is rarely quite so simple, even when the issue at hand is basic human freedom and police confrontations that can end in needless death. …

The D.C. City Council is proposing reforms that would make Washington safer and make its police department more accountable and transparent.

Photo: Koshu Kunii / Unsplash

This article is adapted from written testimony I delivered to the District of Columbia City Council’s Committee on the Judiciary & Public Safety on October 15, 2020, regarding the “Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act of 2020” and other topics related to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

My name is Jonathan Blanks and I’m a criminal justice fellow at the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, a nonpartisan think tank focused on how to provide economic opportunity to those who have least access to it. I am also a Ward 6 resident interested in making D.C. a safer and…

An easy way for police to help Black lives matter is to reducing needless contact with law enforcement.

Photo by Sushil Nash on Unsplash

Police reform conversations tend to be sparked by high-profile incidents, like unnecessary police shootings or tabloid corruption cases. These are undoubtedly important and the mechanisms and policies that allow these incidents to happen should be addressed and rectified. But most people who come into contact with police aren’t physically harmed let alone killed during the encounter, but nevertheless these incidents can have a wide range of negative impacts within a community. While tragedies make headlines, many of the core problems with policing stem from practices that make up an officer’s daily routine.

In the October issue of Reason Magazine, I…

Police are charged with enforcing too many laws and solving too many social problems.

Photo by Felix Koutchinski on Unsplash

In late July, I had the distinct honor to join several prominent voices in the policing space for a virtual roundtable discussion about the future of policing, reforms, and broader themes in American criminal justice. The roundtable was hosted by Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and it was moderated by their editor-in-chief, Michael Tomasky. The transcript of the discussion will be in the forthcoming Fall issue of the magazine and it went live online this morning.

My co-panelists were Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, CEO of the Center for Policing Equity, Lt. Diane Goldstein (ret.), Chair of Law Enforcement Action Partnership…

Our most distressed communities need a neutral, authorized, and armed force to preserve peace and order.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

In the wake of the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, messages emanating from the Black Lives Matter movement shifted: Past rallying cries such as “hands up, don’t shoot” and “I can’t breathe” were joined by a demand to “defund” or “abolish” the police. Calls to shrink police budgets were coupled with community investment, effectively throwing out the standard law enforcement model as anathema to the public good.

The more recent episodes of needless police violence have given abolition a broader audience than it has enjoyed in the past — but the challenge to…

The tragic shooting of Jacob Blake is yet another example of why we should rethink what we ask police to do.

Photo: Frankie Cordoba / Unsplash

The police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin is the latest entry into the long list of legitimate grievances the public and particularly Black communities have with American police. From the video and the reporting about the incident, we know that the shooting was particularly awful given the proximity of Blake’s young children who witnessed it from the backseat of his automobile.

Even with video evidence that shows officers struggle with Blake prior to his opening the door to his vehicle, we know the police failed to restrain Blake and ultimately reacted in a way that…

If police departments want the support of their communities, they must embrace significant change.

Photo by Sean Lee on Unsplash

Originally published in Democracy as “Can the Police Really Change?” on June 11, 2020.

As American cities start to pick up the pieces from days of protests and unrest following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, policymakers and particularly police departments need to reflect on how their actions and policies have led to this moment. While it is clear that some individuals came to these protests intending to foment chaos, too many police departments shamed themselves and their profession with their actions and policy decisions. Moreover, officers’ widespread and reckless use of violence and noxious chemical agents…

A family helping immigrants meet U.S. nursing and teacher shortages gets prosecuted for ‘human trafficking.’

Photo of Jia Tolentino from

Last Wednesday, author and New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino shared a heart-wrenching story about a dark chapter in her family’s history: the federal prosecution of her Filipino-Canadian parents for human trafficking violations. Her family’s case is useful to understand how the American criminal system regularly perpetuates injustice instead of justice.

An effort to address the U.S. nursing and teacher shortages

Tolentino’s family ended up in the cross-hairs of the government as a result of their work helping to fulfill U.S. skilled labor shortages. She explains:

Around the time I was born, my grandmother founded an agency placing nurses from the Philippines in U.S. hospitals that were experiencing a skilled labor…

Jonathan Blanks

Writer, Researcher, Communicator;; Twitter: @blanksslate

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