Paranoia of a Guilty Conscience

A big issue in the city I live in, Iowa City, is the racial disparity in arrests. This is a problem all across the country, but the data shows that this town has one of the highest disparities in the country. That contradicts the liberal self-image of this middle class white college town.

This relates to the majority white population here being freaked out about black people from Chicago. White people and wealthy people from Chicago, however, are perfectly fine. Just not those low class gangbangers and welfare queens.

When my parents moved back to town in 2008, there was an unusual spike in criminal activity or at least a spike in the media’s attention on criminal activity. I always wondered if there was any real change in crime, though. There was some youth gang activity, but it mostly seemed like high schoolers pretending to be in gangs.

The black issue became all the buzz, despite the fact that the spike of murders that year all came from middle class white people, including a banker and a mother who separately killed their families. Of course, no one fear-mongered about the dangers of middle class white people going berzerk. But some black youth shoplifting sure did get a lot of attention.

A recent article in the local alternative media (Study Shows IC Police Stop Minority Drivers At Disproportionate Rates) cleared up something I’ve been wondering about for some years now:

“However, despite the 2008-2009 uptick, data show violent crime has still trended downward over time, even in those so-called high-crime neighborhoods.”

Even as the media obsessed over violent crime incidents, the actual rate of violent crime was going down. This has been true nation-wide. Many people think violent crime is worse right now in the US, despite it being at the lowest point in my lifetime.

How can we have a rational public debate when the public’s view of reality is so distorted by media? This irritates and frustrates me.

I did find some data on crime rates in Iowa City (from It even breaks it down, although not in as much detail as i’d prefer. It only includes data between 2005 and 2012 and so, unfortunately, the larger trends can’t be seen.

Within that limited timeframe, it shows Iowa City’s crime rates are about the same as for all of Iowa. And Iowa’s crime rates are generally low by national standards.

For example, Iowa City’s murder rate is extremely low for most years. But there was that temporary jump in the murder rate for 2008. The murder rate for that particular year stands out as the murder rate for years before and after it are so low, typically at zero for most years. Iowa, in general, has one of the lowest homicide rates and one of the lowest gun homicide rates in the entire country, and that should be put in the context that Iowa has a high gun ownership rate.

The only Iowa City crime rate that is above the national average is for rape. And that is probably because it is a college town. I would guess that all college towns with on average younger populations have higher than average rates of rape. Whereas towns with on average older populations probably have lower rates of rape. Young people tend to rape more than old people. Also, as other data shows (from, the high rate of rape in Iowa City is mostly rape by acquaintances that occur in residences/homes, not roving gangs of Chicago black thugs randomly defiling young white maidens.

The violent crime rates have been going down in this town, in this state, in this country, and across the world. We haven’t seen such low rates of violent crime since a half century ago when it dropped down from a high rate earlier in the 20th century. What is this obsession with imaginary violence? And why are real blacks getting blamed for it?

As the data shows, blacks are less likely to commit crimes such as using illegal drugs, carrying illegal drugs, and carrying illegal guns. Yet blacks are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, harshly judged, and imprisoned for these crimes. Most of the murders in this country aren’t committed by blacks. Besides, most of the murders by blacks are committed against blacks, just as most murders by whites are committed against whites. In a majority white place like Iowa City, why are people so worried about blacks who are a tiny percentage of the population?

It is hard to see how this can be explained by anything besides racism. In Racism: A Very Short Introduction (p. 11), Ali Rattansi puts it in the context of one particular piece of data:

“It is even more difficult to decide exactly how racism might be involved in, say, the fact that in the USA black men are 10 times more likely to go to prison than whites, and 1 in 20 over the age of 18 is in jail. Or, as revealed in an Amnesty International report of 2004, why black defendants convicted of killing whites have been sentenced to death 15 times more often than white defendants convicted of killing blacks. Also, blacks convicted of killing other blacks in the USA are only half as likely to suffer the death penalty as when they are convicted of killing whites. Is this racism at work? Where does this and similar instances fit into the American, and indeed general, narrative of racism?”

One should be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that American society puts a lesser value on the lives of blacks. I sometimes wonder if the real fear that many white Americans have is that the maltreatment and injustice committed against blacks might one day come home to roost, that blacks would do the same to whites if given the opportunity. Basically, it seems like the paranoia of a guilty conscience.

* * * *

6/22/14 – I came across something that fits this post perfectly.

It is a review of a book about racism and the media in Iowa City. That is awesome that someone went to the trouble to write a book about it. Now if only Iowa City residents would read it and learn something about the community they live in.

The book is A Transplanted Chicago: Race, Place, and the Press in Iowa City by Robert E. Gutsche, Jr. The review is How the Media Stokes Racism in Iowa City – and Everywhere by Eleanor J Bader (source: Truthout). Here is part of the review:

“His answer: Unabashed racism. In fact, Gutsche concludes that virtually every news item about the southeast conforms to stereotypes depicting African Americans as lazy, uneducated, dependent on government handouts and prone to criminal or immoral behavior. To make his case, he cites a newspaper article about the opening of a new shelter for homeless families. The story was illustrated by a photo of a black woman leaning against a window. The caption identified her as a Chicago native who had been living in the shelter with her five children for nearly a year. “Just that single sentence says it all,” Gutsche writes, “Poor blacks (especially mothers) continue to come to Iowa City with their children, (far too many for the woman to care for) and take advantage of the city’s good will and resources (by staying in the shelter for nearly a year) . . . The caption was wrong. The woman and her children had only been living in the city – and at the shelter – for a couple of months . . . What is interesting about this caption and photograph is how it matches with dominant discourse surrounding Iowa City’s southeast side and the migration of folks from Chicago to Iowa City.”

“Central to this discourse, of course, is the belief that low-income women, aka “welfare queens,” are taking advantage of government programs and feeding at the trough of public generosity. “Chicago has come to mean more than just another city,” Gutsche concludes. “It signals the ghetto, danger, blackness – and most directly, of not being from here.” That two-thirds of the low-income households registered with the Iowa City Housing Authority were elderly and disabled – not poor, black or from Chicago – went unacknowledged by reporters. Similarly, the drunken escapades of mostly white University of Iowa students have been depicted by reporters as essentially benign and developmentally appropriate. “Just as news coverage explained downtown violence as a natural college experience, news coverage normalized southeast side violence as being the effect of urban black culture,” Gutsche writes. “News stories indicated that drunken packs of college students were isolated to the downtown, whereas southeast side violence was described as infiltrating the city’s schools, social services and public safety.””

* * * *

6/23/14 – Another article compares the safety of states:

“By safety, we’re not referring exclusively to protection from violence and crime. The term encompasses various categories, among them workplace safety, natural disasters, home and community stability, traffic safety and, of course, financial security.”

Both Iowa and Illinois are in the top 10 safest states in the country. Illinois is even ranked at number 3 for the lowest number of assaults per capita. Many people think of Illinois in terms of the media image of Chicago. It turns out that overall Illinois is one of the safest states in the country, even with all those supposedly dangerous inner city blacks. Maybe it is because these are such safe places to live that any act of violence stands out.


5 thoughts on “Paranoia of a Guilty Conscience

  1. At the article, I left a comment. Someone responded to it with the mainstream viewpoint based on official police statistics:

    From Johnson Co. Monthly Jail Roster Report — 2014-04

    Violent crimes:

    Blacks 14
    Whites 6


    Blacks 8
    Whites 3

    Please mind that it based on jail roster, not police log, so statistics is for solved crimes only. Having said that, this limited sample of data does not seem to support your claim that “most of it is white on white crime that the local media mostly ignores.”

    Can you provide the source for data that supports your statements above?

    You must learn to think more carefully, more thoroughly, more intelligently, and with more nuance. You also need to inform yourself to a greater degree. Knowledge is power, but a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous. There are many people in this society wish you to remain ignorant, but please don’t give them that satisfaction.

    It has been proven that the police racially profile. It has been proven that the entire legal system is racial biased. Blacks are stopped and searched more. Because of this, blacks are more likely to be arrested for possession of illegal drugs and illegal guns. However, the data shows that whites are more likely to use and carry illegal drugs and more likely to carry illegal guns.

    It also has been shown that the police target minority communities. They spend more of their time patrolling where blacks live. This is why they end up stopping and searching blacks more. This is why they disproportionately catch more black criminals and why more white criminals get away without being arrested and imprisoned.

    The official data doesn’t show all the white people the police ignored. It doesn’t show all the white violent criminals and white robbers who got away because the police were spending most of their time harassing black people.

    Most of the drug-related and alcohol-related crimes in Iowa City, as throughout the country, are committed by whites. And most crime by whites is committed against whites. When some drunk white kids get in a fight, the police are more likely to just break it up. But if it were some black kids were involved, the police would more likely arrest them.

    You have to learn to think for yourself. If you want the data, you have to spend a lot of time and effort searching for it. You have to read scholarly books and scientific studies. You shouldn’t allow yourself to be so intellectually lazy as to rely on police statistics.

    “At the same time that Eric Holder was experimenting with a public change of mind, a federal judge named Shira Scheindlin handed down a ruling against New York’s stop-and-frisk policies. This was late in the summer of 2013. Scheindlin , among other things, cited a popular new book, The New Jim Crow, in her ruling and noted that since 2004 more blacks and Latinos have been accosted by police than actually live in the city. The ruling came at the end of a long and well-coordinated campaign by groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights and the NAACP.”

    Keep in mind also that most of these targeted poor people are poor minorities, mostly poor blacks. Numerous studies have shown that it is a racially biased system at every single step of the way, from policing to imprisonment. This is even worse when one considers, as the author does, how many innocent people become victimized by the very system that is supposed to protect victims. This is how families and entire communities are destroyed, many poor black communities with the vast of their male black populations (and much of their female black population as well) tangled up in the justice system or else in the school-to-prison pipeline.

    To see some nice graphs, check out a previous post of mine: Prison Insanity. As violent crime has sharply decreased, the prison population has sharply increased. More specifically, even as violent crime has decreased among blacks and even though whites use and carry drugs more, the racially prejudiced War on Drugs has caused the black prison population to increase. That is an important point as the justification for imprisoning so many blacks is because of violent crime.

  2. I was thinking about this again because of recent incidents.

    A security guard at a Coral Ridge Mall harassed a woman and then returned to shoot her. She died. Just last night, a large fight broke out downtown. It involved youth. Ya know, kids these days.

    Plus, there was that church shooting down in Charleston with the white kid killing several black people, apparently in hope of starting a civil war or something. My dad worked with a lady for many years who went to that church.

    This got my parents concerned. Every time a few violent incidents happen, it’s as if it indicates some horrible decline in the community or society. It never occurs to people like my parents that sometimes events are random.

    Overall, violent crime is going down all across the country. This includes locally. The world isn’t getting worse. Iowa City isn’t becoming a bad place because of all the minorities moving here.

    Sometimes violence happens. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything beyond that.

    Anyway, I decided to look at data again. I came across this:

    The mapped data says it is from this year, 2015. I’m not sure if that means any of this is data from this year. I don’t think it is. The FAQ page seems to say that all their data is coming from the FBI and the most recent data is therefore from 2013.

    According to this source: Iowa City’s violent crime rate is 3.28 per 1,000 residents. It is 2.71 for Iowa and 3.8 for the entire United States. The murder rate is 0 for Iowa City and 0.4 for the country (the murder rate is 0 for this town most years). The rape rate is 0.42 for Iowa City and 0.3 for the country. The robbery rate is 0.78 for Iowa City and 1.09 for the country. The assault rate is 2.08 for Iowa City and 2.29 for the country.

    My parents expressed the fear that the fight downtown was evidence that such things were becoming more common. I assume such fights are listed as assaults in the crime data.

    This source breaks down crimes by year, from 2000 to 2012. Here is the total number (and rate per 100,000) of assaults for each year:

    2000 – 265 (423.9)
    2001 – 205 (329.8)
    2002 – 261 (418.0)
    2003 – 293 (458.0)
    2004 – 142 (221.8)
    2005 – 115 (181.7)
    2006 – 142 (224.6)
    2007 – 156 (248.8)
    2008 – 171 (253.0)
    2009 – 170 (248.4)
    2010 – 120 (170.4)
    2011 – 121 (177.4)
    2012 – 124 (179.2)

    My parents moved back to town in 2009. Assault numbers have been overall decreasing since at least 2000, although the numbers have gone up and down for individual years. All the years following 2009 have been significantly lower. There is no evidence of a crime wave, at least with this data. I’ll be interested to see the rates as more recent data is released.

    That same link shows the overall violent crime rate for those years. It shifts from year to year. Still, the trend is downward. The 2000 violent crime rate was 257.8 for Iowa City and 277.6 for the country. The 2012 violent crime rate was 144.8 for Iowa City and 214.0 for the country. That is even with a slight uptick for Iowa City from the two previous years, with it being 126.6 in 2011 and 141.0 in 2010. The high point was with it being 283.2 in 2002 and 285.8
    in 2003.

    So, the violent crime rate for this town was cut over a decade. The assault rate here was above the national average, from 2000 to 2003. Ever since, it has been below the national average, even during the few years where the crime spiked, from 2007 to 2009.

    I came across this interesting map:

    It separates the crime data for Iowa City by neighborhood (click on the neighborhood and it shows the data). Just focusing on downtown, I don’t see any crime waves, especially not for assaults. Aggravated assaults have remained fairly steady, going up and down slightly from year to year. As for simple assaults, they’ve been down in recent years.

    Even with the rape data, there isn’t any crime wave going on. Here is an article that is talking about the problem of rape in the area:

    Despite the concern of the article, the data at the end of the article shows no spike of reported sexual assault crimes. There was a jump in the numbers for 2007, but there isn’t any pattern in the data. It has more or less remained the same this past decade or so. It’s a problem, as it is in a lot of college towns, just not a worsening problem.

    Why all this fear every time a few violent crimes happen or when one particular year is bad? Why does the long term trend of decrease get ignored for the sake of fear-mongering? The answer is simple, I suppose. Politicians fear-monger to get elected and news sources fear-monger to make money. Fear sells, no matter what is being sold.

    So, the crime blips upwards slightly for a couple of years and it is public panic mode. Better hire more police officers. Just ignore the larger data that shows we live in the safest period in a half century. That temporary increase wasn’t even as large as the temporary increase earlier in the same decade. Even the temporary increases get lower each time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s