Richard Pryor Schools Donald Trump on Criminal Justice Reform

Though he had the chance every day, Donald Trump never took the bait on “criminal justice reform” during his campaign for the Republican nomination.

Whenever anyone asked about why so many black people are arrested, charged, convicted, sent to prison, and once released, go back so quickly, Trump would remind them how much he supported police and that was that. And he did not think too highly of criminals.

Ted Cruz was not much different. But the other 15 also-rans for the Republican nomination were constantly stumbling over each other to prove how he (or she) was quite happy to go along with Hillary and Bernie’s core -- and often stated -- belief that police and courts in America were just one big occasion of institutional racism.

Many of these appearances were documented right here in American Thinker.

But something changed. And now Trump is telling conservatives to get on board the criminal justice reform train.

At a White House press conference, Trump reminded supporters and reporters of how Senator Rand Paul is tough on crime and how he supports Trump’s bipartisan effort to arrest fewer black people, send fewer to prison, and open an embassy in Wakanda.

Rand Paul made institutional racism a centerpiece of his short-lived presidential campaign: He made the rounds of different black groups including the NAACP, telling anyone who would listen how was down with their cause and how unfair it was that so many black people were in prison and so many white people were not. He always seemed a bit puzzled when they were not down with him as well.

Just like lots of other people were puzzled when we could not get anyone to answer two questions: If so many white people are committing so many crimes and getting away with it, where are the victims, the videos, the 911 calls, the police reports, the witnesses?

And if there are so many innocent black people in prison, why can’t we just hire a bunch of lawyers and get them out?

Guess we will just have to take Bernie and Hillary’s word for it.  And now Trump’s too.

This thing called “criminal justice reform” seems like a done deal: The president’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has been hammering out the details with one of Trump’s chief antagonists, Van Jones, for more than a year. They both agree there are way too many black people in prison for no damn reason whatsoever. And that’s just not right.

Kushner and Trump say they need jobs. Van Jones et al say they need to escape white racism. The solution of letting more black people out of prison is the same, so what’s the difference?

Finally, this week, Trump took the bait. 

But before Republicans get on this bipartisan love train, perhaps they should hear from one more voice. As unlikely as it is timely: comedian Richard Pryor, from his classic 1981 recording, Live on Sunset Strip.

Pryor starts off his bit by reminding people that he and Gene Wilder made a prison movie in Arizona. They spent six weeks acting and mingling with the prisoners, 80 percent of whom were black, Pryor said. A few excerpts:

“What’s strange about that, is that there are no black people in Arizona,” Pryor said. “When I was up there, I looked at all the brothers; all these beautiful black men in the joint, and I said ‘god damn… (they are) warriors. They should be out there helping the masses.”

“And I felt that way. I was real naive, right? For six weeks I was up there… I talked to the brothers,” Pryor said, breaking his stride and changing his expression to proclaim: “Thank god we got penitentiaries.”

“I asked this one dude, ‘why did you kill everybody in the house.”

He said: “They was home.”

“I mean murderers,” said Pryor with incredulity. “Do you hear me? Murderers. Real live murderers. I thought black people killed people by accident.”

This pre-prison conversion view of Pryor is not that different from what Chris Christie and Marco Rubio and others loved to tell the conservatives watching Fox during the primaries whenever they had the chance. 

But not Pryor: he jokes about one encounter after another with truly dangerous people that way too many people came to think of as victims, rather than predators.

Pryor, of course, died long before he could set his conservative brothers straight about who is in prison, and how they belong there.

But it all worked out: the more the Republican candidates tried to convince Republican primary voters about prison and racism and how unfair it all was, the sooner they dropped out for lack of support.

Until there were just two: Trump and Ted Cruz, neither of which were fooled by the greatest lie of our generation: the hoax of black victimization.

After this week’s press conference at the White House, now there is just one.

Colin Flaherty is the author of that scintillating best seller, Don’t Make the Black Kids Angry. He always knew that watching and recording and writing about Republicans during the primary would come in handy someday. You can catch Richard Pryor talking about prison just by clicking here.