Blacks commit many more violent crimes than do whites in the US. The difference in rate is around 7 to 1. That is a huge difference. So it raises the question, are blacks more violent than whites? Read this article to find out.
The obvious answer is yes, but it is the wrong answer and a brilliant sociologist proved it. This post shows how he did it.
Most poor whites live in mixed neighborhoods represented by middle and lower class whites. In contrast, most poor blacks live in overwhelmingly poor, non-mixed neighborhoods. So this researcher analyzed census tracks to see if he could find areas where poor whites lived in an similarly unmixed poor areas. He found a substantial number of such tracts, even though most poor whites live in mixed areas. He then analyzed at crime rates in those selected tracks and discovered that the rate of violent crime was statistically similar to rates of the same crimes among blacks!
What does this mean? He disproved the race effect and that discovery is HUGE!
And there is more to it than this. We are fond of criticizing tcops as being racist because they are arresting many more blacks than whites. There is a little truth to this belief and we can we see why this is true based on this research. Cops are merely doing their jobs and because blacks commit the many more crimes, they should be arresting many more black suspects. Two, people are very quick to condemn the whole society as racist because the prisons are full of non-white prisoners. We see that this is also not, necessarily, an indicator of systemic racism. But we do see that there is a very serious racial problem underlying all of these racially unequal conditions; namely that where poverty is deep and where it is homogeneous, you’re going to have much higher rates of violent crime. The key criterion is homogeneity of class …. not race.
I describe this remarkable research below in more detail.
A number of years ago, I taught criminal justice on the university level. Anytime you talk about crime, particularly person-to-person violent crime, you can’t avoid the issue of race; with respect to prejudice and the incidence of violence.
I would ask my students, how do we explain the observation that our prisons are mostly black and brown? They would answer with a firm and certain claim of racial bias in the law.
The FBI data show that black people commit violent crimes at a rate of about 7 to 1 compared to whites. It’s a little lower for sex crimes, but it’s higher for robbery. That’s a HUGE difference. Can it be explained as a simple outcome of prejudice in the law?
The answer is a resounding NO. While there is some bias in the nature of law enforcement, it is not nearly high enough to explain these enormous differences. By and large, it is an observed fact that black people do commit violent crime at rates of about 7 to 1 over whites. Hundreds, if not thousands of studies, have sought to show prejudice in the way law is administered in the US, but the differences they show fail to explain the enormity of this difference.
So the question remains, are blacks more violent than whites? The crime data collected in the United States seems to answer that question beyond any shadow of a doubt. Black people are more violent. But is this true?
I often planned the lecture to end at this point, thus forcing the students to either mull over the question or to come to the obvious conclusion that I am a flaming racist.
Many years ago (1920s), two sociologists took a look at crime data culled from various sections of Chicago. They discovered that crime appeared to be linked with issues of distance, that areas that were isolated from active business areas and, particularly, Chicago’s Loop, had higher rates of crime. These areas tended to highly ethnic and homogeneous.
This research laid the groundwork for a much more interesting line of research that is relatively recent. Using the same data that I was presenting to my class, a sociological criminologist asked himself the same question, are black people more violent than white people. It was obvious that the actual crime data strongly supported that conclusion, but he wondered if it was really true.
If black people are more violent, then rates of violence in predominately black areas should be similar. If black people are more violent and if violence were explained by race, then blacks should be more violent everywhere they live. He discovered that they were not. Hmmmmm. Something else seemed to be going on here.
So then he looked at where violent crime was actually happening. No surprise there. It was happening in areas that were mostly or all black and that were poor.
But then he dug a little deeper. He asked himself, where do poor white people live? He made an amazing discovery. He discovered that most poor whites about (about 75%) live in areas that are mostly middle class. He looked at individual blocks using census tracts. On a given block there might be 12 middle class houses and about 3 poor households. Well, that’s intriguing.
Then he looked at where poor black people live. Did it follow the same pattern? The answer was no, it did not. About 80% of poor black people live in areas that are predominately poor and predominately black. So the pattern of residence and poverty differed markedly between whites and blacks.
Then he dug even deeper. He looked at rates of violent crime in these black areas that were most poor and black. No surprise there, they were very high. Then he took his research a step further. He collected census tracts that were predominately middle-class, but had some black population, and were ethnically mixed and then looked at the rates of violent crime in those neighborhoods. What do you think he found? He found that the rates of crime were not significantly different from those white census tracts that were used in the original comparison.
Then he took his research one step further. He collected census tracts consisting mostly of poor whites. These are not so easy to find, but they exist, because most poor whites, as we have seen, live in areas that are mostly middle class. He then looked at the rates of violent crime. What do you think he discovered? He found rates of crime that were very similar to those found in mostly poor black areas.
He showed that violence and race are not linked. Poverty and ethnic homogeneity explained violence. Race did not.
Those students who were thinking that I might be a closet racist now saw me as a kind of saint. It was this research that freed from relying on much less compelling construct of belief. We no longer needed to dig deeper in the nuances of racist law enforcement (which is still an important problem) to explain huge disparities in crime rates. We could see that this was an issue that was so much larger. It was the whole of American society that was racist, that allowed for such poverty, isolation, and rage to exist in the first place. The story goes so much further and it is one of the reasons I wrote my book Liberation from the Lie, because this topic is all about power; how the few amass it and most of us are forced to live in fear.
But the real reason I’m writing this post is to show how much more powerful and liberating the truth is over mere belief. I could have spoken from the position of a white supremacist using my beliefs and I could have used the FBI data to show these students that, indeed, blacks are more violent. The facts obviously show it. It would have been an ugly battle between my beliefs and those of my black students. Who knows. I might have created some new white supremacists as a consequence of this lecture. Religion creates just this kind of separative poison with its beliefs.
Without this research, I could challenge people with this question, and they might talk about prejudice and racism, but they could not prove it. They might use anecdotal evidence, they might flail about, they might get angry, they might even get violent, but, in the end, they would have to rely on a flimsy foundation of belief and it would be a battle between conflicting beliefs.
Facts are so much more powerful than belief. This is the truth and the truth can and will set you free.
Countries like Sweden and Denmark don’t have much violent crime not because they are culturally homogeneous, but because they have relatively much lower levels of income inequality, and thus, very little concentrated poverty. This is a result of conscious policy making on their part. The situation in the US is also a result of conscious policy and the result is that the US has vast income inequality and immense areas of concentrated poverty. The UK is somewhere between those poles.
This is not something mystical. It’s about seeing what’s true. Clear vision. Simple seeing. The seeing of the racist and the classist is not clear. It is blinded by belief. It is much easier to blame a young black man than to recognize one’s choices. Perhaps that is a matter of a greater change in consciousness.
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Are Blacks More Violent than Whites: An Example of the Awesome Power of the Truth to Liberate US from Racism by A Voice, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.