To say that I'm deeply troubled by Classically Liberal's blog post is an understatement. There may be crimes that make it prudent to put a thirteen year old boy on a sex offender registery. I won't exclude that possibility. But to make the registry a default -- your modern-day Scarlet A -- is incredibly wrongheaded. Indeed, we would benefit from a registry of legislators who would pass such a law so that we can steer clear of the foolish and short-sighted.
So, I agree with Radley and Classically Liberal that these laws need reform. There is a "but," however. To me, there were two shocking aspects of Classically Liberal's set of underaged mug shots. The first was how young these kids looked. They are too young. The second was that nearly every kid chosen used by Classically Liberal for inclusion appears to be white. [See Update.] (There is one kid who may be Hispanic.)
I don't know how that came about. It's unlikely that every (or nearly every) young boy who ends up on a sex offender registry is a white kid. Indeed, my bet is that black kids are more likely to be victimized by these kinds of laws, given the legacy of racism that we Americans continue to shoulder -- a legacy particularly chronic at the intersection of black, youth, and sex.
To be clear, I'm not faulting Classically Liberal for what is a pretty stunning blog entry: a great piece of work, a moving piece of work. I'm not implying that CL is racist or that he anyone used race in choosing these photographs.* And I don't subscribe to the view that everything must have the racial balance of a network sitcom. (Here's the blonde with the perfect hair; here's the sassy Puerto Rican; here's the high-striving black girl with her goofy cousin; here's the asian dude who's into hip-hop; here's the bad-boy brunette ....)
But I can't keep myself from posing a dangerous question: Does this blog post contain more power for me because the kids look like I once did? Because they are white like me?
I think yes. And I don't think that's a good thing.
*But what if CL someone had used race in choosing these photographs, knowing that his CL's readers were mostly white and hoping to play on their latent racism? Good or bad?
Title source: Sartre, of course: "Hell is" and "the other".
UPDATE: Liberal Japonicus points out that CL states in the comments to his post that "The photos were gleaned by someone else from various on line registries. I was limited to the teens that they had downloaded. The photos were not mine, though the essays was." Thus, the edits.