Size Matters

“If you owe the bank ten thousand dollars, the bank owns you; if you owe the bank a million dollars, you own the bank.”
~ attributed to various people

And other variations:

“If you owe your bank manager a thousand pounds, you are at his mercy. If you owe him a million pounds, he is at your mercy.”

“If you owe the bank $100 that’s your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem.”

* * *

“a TEN-YEAR-OLD lad in Indianapolis who was arrested for picking up coal along the side of railroad tracks is now in jail. If the boy had known enough to steal the whole railroad he would be heralded as a Napoleon of finance.”
~ Mother Jones

And another version, also attributed to her:

“I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if he had stolen a railroad he would be a United States Senator.”

Or related variants, often misattributed to Theodore Roosevelt:

“The illiterate robs a freight car; the educated thief steals the whole railroad.”

“An uneducated thief will steal a ride on a railroad train. An educated thief will steal the whole railroad system.”

“If a man steal a ride on a railroad, he is called a “hobo;” If he steal the whole railroad his name is emblazoned in history as a financier.”

“Steal a ride and you are a “hobo,” liable to be shot. Steal a whole railroad and you are a financier, eligible to the United States Senate.”

“if a man steals a ham from a freight car, he goes to jail; while if he steals the whole railroad, he goes to the United States senate.”

* * *

“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”
~ usually misattributed to Stalin

Along with numerous variations:

“The death of one man: that is a catastrophe. One hundred thousand deaths: that is a statistic!”

“If only one man dies of hunger, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that’s only statistics.”

“One Murder made a Villain, Millions a Hero.”

“Kill one man, and you are a murderer. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror. Kill them all, and you are a god.”

“If you shoot one person you are a murderer. If you kill a couple persons you are a gangster. If you are a crazy statesman and send millions to their deaths you are a hero.”

Homelessness and Mental Illness

I was talking to a friend. The topic was depression. She told me that, “I have a lifelong fear of being homeless and alone.”

I’ve had similar fears for a long time, about becoming homeless. Maybe that’s a common fear for many people who deal with depression or other similar conditions. But it can be so much worse for women, as they can find themselves living in constant fear of rape or of being exploited for prostitution (the same for many young boys).

Many homeless people simply die from such a hard life: hypothermia, heat exhaustion, untreated health conditions, malnutrition, victims of violence, etc. Mental illness can lead to homelessness and, considering how difficult such a life can be, many homeless have deteriorating mental health. The other place many people with mental illnesses end up is in prison, which isn’t exactly a better fate.

In America, we’ve come to consider this barbaric state of society to be normal. This is the American Dream meeting capitalist realism.

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The Nordic Theory of Everythng
By Anu Partanen
Kindle Locations 525-551

As I got to know my new acquaintances in the United States better, however, I was surprised to discover that many of them suffered from anxiety just as severe as mine— or worse. It seemed that nearly everyone was struggling to cope with the logistical challenges of daily life in America. Many were in therapy, and some were on medication. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimated that almost one in five adult Americans suffered from an anxiety disorder, and the most commonly prescribed psychiatric drug in the country— alprazolam, known to many Americans as Xanax— was for treating anxiety.

Soon I didn’t feel so alone, or so crazy. This may sound strange, but imagine my relief when I heard about a study conducted in 2006 by a life insurance company in which 90 percent of the American women surveyed said that they felt financially insecure, while 46 percent said that they actually, seriously, feared ending up on the street, homeless. And this last group included almost half of women with an annual income of more than one hundred thousand dollars a year. If American women making more than one hundred thousand dollars were afraid of ending up in the gutter— and this study had been conducted even before the financial crisis— then perhaps I was channeling the same unease that Americans themselves were feeling in droves. The difference was that for me, the fear was brand-new and strange, while for them it was just life. So maybe I had it backward. Maybe I wasn’t racked by anxiety because I came from a foreign country. Maybe I was racked by anxiety because I was becoming an American.

As the months passed and I did my best to settle in and learn to live with this uncertain new existence, it seemed that all around me Americans were becoming more unsettled, more unhappy, and increasingly prone to asking what was wrong with their lives and their society.

Since I’d arrived in the United States a couple of months after the Wall Street collapse, people were talking more and more about the huge gap between the very rich in America and the rest of us, and about stagnation in the incomes of the middle class. Politicians were also fighting, of course, over what to do— if anything— about the tens of millions of Americans who lacked health insurance. In the meantime the nation was buckling under the astronomical costs of medical care, burdening everyone else. At parties or get-togethers, a frequent topic of conversation was the fights that people were having with their health-insurance companies.

Lots of people were also discussing how America could improve its failing schools. I read about poor families trying to get their children out of terrible schools and into experimental ones that might be better. Well-to-do families were competing ever more fiercely, and paying ever-larger sums, for coveted spots at good schools, and at the same time competing ferociously in the workplace for the salaries they needed to pay the out-of-control expenses of not only private schools but also of college down the road.

The American dream seemed to be in trouble.

Unprepared for all this, I struggled to reconcile myself to it all— to my new home, to the excitement of this country’s possibility, but also to the intense anxiety and uncertainty that America wrought, on me and seemingly most everyone I met.

 

Kindle Locations 3802-3849

This could have been a scene from a Charles Dickens novel depicting the impoverished suffering of the nineteenth century. It could have been a scene in some dirt-poor Third World country. But it took place in an otherwise clean and orderly twenty-first-century New York City subway car, not long after my arrival in the United States, and it left me disturbed for days. I had seen homeless people before, of course. But never in my life had I seen such an utter, complete, total wreck of a human being as that man on the New York City subway, and certainly never back home in Helsinki.

The Nordic countries have their psychiatric patients, alcoholics, drug addicts, and unemployed, but I couldn’t imagine a person in a similar state roaming the streets of Finland’s capital or any other Nordic city. Usually everyone has someplace to stay, if not in public housing, then in a decent shelter. And while you see the occasional person talking to themselves in public, the health-care systems reach more of the mentally ill than in the United States. Encountering the man on the New York subway was one of the moments that made it clear to me early on that in the United States you are really on your own.

Eventually I got so used to seeing the homeless that I stopped paying attention. Instead my attention was drawn to the other end of the spectrum.

As I began meeting people and sometimes getting invited to events or gatherings in apartments with roof decks, or gorgeous lofts with windows overlooking the Manhattan skyline, or brownstones with several floors and backyard gardens, I began performing a new calculation in my head. How were they able to afford it all? Some of these people were lawyers, doctors, or financiers, which easily explained their wealth, but some were artists, employees of nonprofits, or freelancers working on their own projects. Their well-appointed lifestyles mystified me, but I felt awe and cheer when faced with such uplifting examples of America’s ability to remunerate talent. The American dream seemed to be alive and well, not to mention within my reach. If all these people were making it, surely I could, too.

Finally I realized that many of the people with an expensive lifestyle but a seemingly low-earning profession had family money supporting them. I hope it doesn’t take someone from stuffy old Europe, like me, to point out that inheriting wealth, rather than making it yourself, is the opposite of the American dream. America became an independent nation partly to leave behind the entrenched aristocracy of the old country, to secure the opportunity for Americans to be self-made men and women.

I’d traveled the globe, and I’d lived in Finland, France, and Australia. Now in America I felt as if I’d arrived not in the land of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, but in that proverbial nineteenth-century banana republic of extremes— entrenched wealth, power, and privilege on the one hand and desperate poverty, homelessness, and misfortune on the other. A cliché, yes. But that makes the reality of it no less brutal. Never before had I seen such blatant inequality, not in any other nation in the modern industrialized world.

For someone coming from a Nordic country, it’s hard to comprehend the kinds of income inequalities one encounters in the United States. The twenty-five top American hedge fund managers made almost one billion dollars— each— in 2013, while the median income for an American household hovered around fifty thousand dollars. At the same time homeless shelters were overflowing with record numbers of people seeking help. It’s telling that many of them were not drug addicts or the mentally ill, but working families. The United States has returned to the age of the Rockefellers, Carnegies, and The Great Gatsby, and the trend in that direction isn’t showing signs of slowing. After the financial crisis, incomes for the wealthiest bounced back quickly, while the vast majority of Americans saw little improvement. Between 2009 and 2012, the top 1 percent captured more than 90 percent of the entire country’s gains in income. This is not a problem that is only connected to the financial crisis. The share of income going to the richest Americans— the 1 percent, or even the 0.1 percent— has grown dramatically in recent decades, while the rest of America has faced stagnating incomes or even seen wages diminish.

The reasons commonly given in America for these changes are by now familiar. There’s globalization, free trade, deregulation, and new technology, which allow the brightest talent to reign over larger realms and to amass more wealth. Today the most visionary CEO presides over a vast multinational corporation, instead of having fifty top executives running smaller companies. The best product is now sold everywhere, replacing local products. Because of advances in technology and the outsourcing of low-skilled work to poorer countries, workers in developed countries need increasingly specialized skills. The few who have such skills benefit. The many who don’t suffer. At the same time arrangements at work have become less stable. Part-time and low-paying work has become more common, as technology has let employers optimize production, and as the power of labor unions has faded.

However, these oft-repeated reasons are not the whole story. Every wealthy nation is dealing with all these dislocating changes, not just the United States. Yet how different the experience has been in places like the Nordic countries, which have made serious efforts to adapt to this brave new future with smart government policies that fit the times. Rising inequality doesn’t simply result from inevitable changes in the free market. Much of it follows from specific policies, which can direct change in one way or in another. Even though the times demand the opposite, American taxes have become more favorable to the wealthy. Partly as a result of this shortsighted change, American social policies have had to move from supporting the poorest to having to help prop up the middle class. Income inequality has increased everywhere, but in the United States it’s particularly pronounced because taxes and government services do less to mitigate the effects of the changes in the marketplace than elsewhere in the modern developed world.

Inequality Divides, Privilege Disconnects

Privilege is a tough subject. For most people, there are always plenty of others who are both more privileged and less privileged. Still, nuance and complexity isn’t how we tend to think about such things. It depends, as always, on what we focus upon and what we ignore—this typically being shaped by unconscious biases.

We don’t objectively compare ourselves to the larger social reality. And we don’t base our perceptions on intricate demographic data and comprehensive surveys. What we usually do is create a sense of our place in the world through personal anecdotes and vague media-filtered experience, through narrative frames and political rhetoric. This causes us to compare ourselves to the distorted and often fictionalized narratives portrayed in MSM news reporting and Hollywood movies—not to mention the influence of now near endless political campaigning and the subtle class war rhetoric that is drilled into our psyches. Besides that, it is human nature to focus on and, when possible, aspire toward what is above us. Even the wealthy will look with envy at the even wealthier. This is exaggerated in a high inequality society, where the gap between the rich and super-rich is as vast as the gap between the upper classes and all the rest, and such gaps continue to grow ever more vast. Only those near the bottom might bother to spend much time looking down upon those below them in the social pecking order, whether the differences are real (class) or perceived (race).

I’ve pointed out how this plays out for liberals—the privilege of the liberal class, the bias and benefits inherent to greater wealth and status, opportunities and resources. The liberal demographic is among the most economically well off and well educated. And, related to this, the wealthier of any demographic (race, ideology, etc) the more liberal people tend to be, often both in terms of social liberalism and classical liberal economics. It’s not only about those who self-identify as liberals. A similar pattern is found among libertarians and other right-wingers, from objectivists to anarcho-capitalists. It’s true of the Republican political elite and activists, the conservative pundits and think tank intellectuals, the business managerial class and inherited old wealth. But it’s also true of most people on the far political left: Marxists, anarcho-syndicalists, feminists, etc. Even the typical minority activist and politician is going to be far above average in wealth and education. To hold and defend any particular ideology or identity politics largely depends on a privileged status in society. It takes a lot of time, energy, and resources to commit to such activities—especially if one makes a career out of it. The poor, whether working or unemployed, whether white or minority, don’t have this kind of luxury.

There is an odd dynamic here. The middle-to-upper class are more ‘liberal’ in many ways, including for those on the political right. Those far down the economic scale are less concerned about defending liberalism in any of its forms, whether leftist standard liberalism or right-wing classical liberalism. In Western countries, even radical left-wingers who often are critical of ‘liberalism’ are more culturally liberal than the poor. On the other hand, the lower classes (i.e., the majority of the population) are more liberal/leftist in concrete ways than the political elite that claims to represent them—supporting: higher taxation of the rich and corporations, stronger social safety net, more effective regulations, less wars of aggression and military adventurism, etc. The supposed conservatism of the lower class majority is primarily symbolic, not necessarily based on specific political principles and policies. But it could be seen as genuinely conservative in the lower class’ demand for more emphasis on social capital and culture of trust, family and community—the very things that are undermined by upper class politics and economics, especially neoliberalism. Anyway, it’s a class divide more than an ideological divide, as the differences between partisan/ideological elites is negligible in terms of practical politics and actual results.

The main thing, anyway, is that there are these fundamental divides in our society. They lead to endless disconnections and conflicts. Our thoughts are distorted and our vision narrowed, causing endless confusion and misunderstanding. This is why privilege is so hard to see and understand. We rarely ever get the sense of the full context of our lives. This has worsened because of the segregation of not just ghettos, housing projects, and rural isolation but also of suburbs, walled communities, and gentrified neighborhoods. Physical distance leads to psychological distance.

Obviously, it’s not just about the hypocrisy of self-identified liberals living comfortable lives, even though their example is egregious based on the politics they outwardly support. This is a collective failure, not just of the dominant liberal order of post-Enlightenment society, or rather at this point we are all liberals complicit in this failure, even those who spend their lives complaining about liberalism and blaming liberals. Hypocritical liberals simply make explicit what is implicit to the world we live in. Even poor Westerners are part of the problems involved in a long history of imperialism, colonialism, genocide, slavery, exploitation, etc. Living in the West, we are all legacy beneficiaries of immense crimes against humanity in the past but also continuing into the present. This is particularly true of a country like the US, for being a subject of an empire has its advantages even for the poorest of subjects, not that it’s all that great of a fate even though there are worst fates.

As a liberal, much of my focus has been on other liberals. But I want to clarify this. There is a reason I identify as a liberal. It’s because of, not in spite of, my criticisms. According to my most utopian ideals and futuristic visions, I could identify as a left-libertarian, anarcho-syndicalist, democratic-socialist, etc. I could grab hold of some ideology as a way of distancing myself from liberalism. I don’t want to do that. Instead, I want to emphasize that I’m complicit in all that goes on in this society. I don’t want to merely stand back from it all or worse still pretend I’m above it all. That is what irritates me about many left-wingers. It’s true that left-wing politics has little overt power in the world today, certainly not in the United States. But I think it’s a cop-out for left-wingers to play intellectual games with detached righteousness, lost in their highfalutin abstruse historical and economic analyses, as if they aren’t stuck down in the sewers covered with shit like the rest of us.

Joe Bageant was a Marxist and considered himself far left of the far left, but he never forgot his roots in poor white Appalachia. He complained about liberalism and yet at times admitted he was a liberal of sorts—worse still, an educated liberal and an old hippie at that. He was trying to make his voice heard from within the belly of the beast, not observing the beast’s behavior as if a zoologist studying from afar. From the opposite end of the class spectrum, there was someone like Theodore Roosevelt. His class solidarity apparently was a bit lacking, as he didn’t espouse an ideology for the wealthy and business interests. He took socialists seriously, in that he argued they made some valid points. Unlike many mainstream partisans today reacting to the supporters of Sanders and Trump, TR didn’t just dismiss the perceived radicals as loud-mouthed rabble-rousers and malcontents. He argued that many socialists were simply social reformers, not utopian ideologues, and that the issues they brought up should be taken seriously—it being better to allow genuine reform if it prevents violent revolution. Both Bageant and Roosevelt were making the simple point that we should listen to those making complaints and try to understand where they are coming from—i.e., don’t shoot the messenger.

Here is what has been on my mind, a specific demographic that is some combination of middle-to-upper class, well educated, professional, and mostly white. Out of this demographic comes the politicians and activists, community organizers and social workers, intellectuals and academics, writers and artists, musicians and actors, journalists and reporters, etc. Despite being a minority of the population, they have greater power to be heard and influence than all of the rest of the population combined. They are, of course, more economically secure and comfortable than most of the population, along with greater opportunity for economic mobility. They particularly dominate the political and media spheres and so they determine the terms of public debate and controlling the framing of issues and narratives. These are the people who are most invested in the system and likewise benefit the most from the system, but they aren’t the people who experience the greatest harm from and costs of the system.

These are the privileged. These are the people who have the most insulated lives. They either don’t see or don’t understand many of the divides in our society. Certainly, they have little experience of those who live on the other side of those divides. They argue among themselves within a narrow frame of interests and ideas. Even the supposed radicals among them are safely contained within the dominant paradigm. Yet fissures are beginning to form in their walled reality. And the voices from outside are beginning to be heard. This disturbs their comfortable lives and puts them in an irritable mood. They realize their position in the social order is being threatened.

Even so, I don’t get the sense that most of these middle-to-upper class gentlefolk realize how bad it’s gotten for the majority of the population. Some do get it, but many more don’t. When I hear the criticisms of the supporters of Sanders and Trump, it becomes obvious that these critics are oblivious to the point of utter cluelessness. It’s not just economic problems getting worse: increasing poverty among the disadvantaged and growing inequality across society, higher rates of unemployment and underemployment (permanent unemployment no longer even being measured), the falling behind other developed countries in economic mobility along with the size and wealth of the middle class, stagnating or falling real wages and buying power, etc. It’s also a worsening of rates of mental health issues, suicide and other mortality causes, delayed marriage and divorce—and the destruction of all that held the social fabric together: deteriorating tight-knit farming communities and factory towns based on strong local economies, loss of high membership rates in labor unions and civic organizations, undermining of culture of trust and civic participation, weakening of democratic process and representation, disempowerment and disenfranchisement and demoralization of the lower classes, economic segregation and isolation, underfunding of schools and libraries and infrastructure and public services, and so much else.

This isn’t directly impacting most of the people the comfortable middle-to-upper classes. They usually don’t even see it’s impact on others, except occasional reports about it in the news media and occasional portrayals of it in the entertainment media. But even then, no real sense of what it means for those suffering and struggling. When they dismiss demands for reform from those below them, what they don’t understand is that these aren’t unreasonable requests. Those at the bottom of society don’t have the luxury to wait for slowly implemented moderate reforms. The system is broken. For the worst off, this at times can be a life or death situation. Some people are barely hanging on, at the end of their rope. As the economy worsens and the divides widen, desperation gets pushed to the breaking point with the inevitable result of soaring rates of mental health issues and suicides. Push it far enough and you will see even far worse consequences for all of society. The presently comfortable might find themselves increasingly uncomfortable, if they continue to ignore the victims of these oppressive problems. It’s not wise, much less moral and compassionate, to dismiss the pleas of the desperate.

* * *

The Unimagined: Capitalism and Crappiness

The Desperate Acting Desperately

Trends in Depression and Suicide Rates

From Bad to Worse: Trends Across Generations

Republicans: Party of Despair

Rate And Duration of Despair

“They join the army because they want to be like you.”

Below is David Graeber explaining the political right (“Army of Altruists” from Revolutions in Reverse). The view is similar to that of Joe Bageant.

It’s not that they have gone mad. Don’t callously dismiss them, as stupid. No, they aren’t voting against their own interests. It’s that the world they live in offers them few, if any, good choices. They are responding to a society that no longer values justice and no longer honors the agreed upon social contract, at least what many Americans thought was agreed upon.

This is why I argue that the Democratic Party, in refusing to offer genuine reforms that help the lower classes, have made this situation inevitable. The policies of the Clinton New Democrats are Republican lite: tough-on-crime policies, cutbacks on welfare, neoliberal attacks on the working class, war hawk mentality that is willing to sacrifice the lives of the poor for wars that defend corporate interests, bloated corporatist government that no longer serves the public good, etc.

Democrats have refused to offer an alternative that matters. Instead, they’ve offered policies that make miserable the lives of so many Americans, both whites and minorities. Yes, so have the Republicans, but no one expects right-wingers to fight for social justice and political reform. The desperate and disenfranchised have often turned to Republicans because they at least seem honest in what they are offering. Even for poor whites, telling tem that their lives are slightly less shitty than that of poor minorities is no comfort.

For the down-and-out American, facing poverty and unemployment isn’t an inspiring situation. Even finding work at McDonald’s or Walmart is not much of a sign of success and a hope for the future. An aspiring individual can make more selling drugs or prostituting themselves. It’s not like the good ol’ days when some poor, uneducated schmuck could start their own successful business or get a high paying entry-level factory job working his way up into management. These days, a working class job is a dead end and a mark of shame, not an opportunity to better oneself and one’s children.

It is unsurprising that large numbers of people in poverty turn to military service. The military offers these people discarded by society a vision of greatness and pride. They can be part of the most powerful military in the world. For too many Americans, this is the only realistic path of mobility left.

This is why conservatives praise the military and put it at the center of their political narrative. The good liberals of the Democratic Party, on the other hand, offer the poor jack shit.

Here is the passage from Graeber’s essay:

“America, of course, continues to see itself as a land of opportunity, and certainly from the perspective of an immigrant from Haiti or Bangladesh it is. But America has always been a country built on the promise of unlimited upward mobility. The working-class condition has been traditionally seen as a way station, as something one’s family passes through on the road to something else. Abraham Lincoln used to stress that what made American democracy possible was the absence of a class of permanent wage laborers. In Lincoln’s day, the ideal was that wage laborers would eventually save up enough money to build a better life: if nothing else, to buy some land and become a homesteader on the frontier.

“The point is not how accurate this ideal was; the point is that most Americans have found the image plausible. Every time the road is perceived to be clogged, profound unrest ensues. The closing of the frontier led to bitter labor struggles, and over the course of the twentieth century, the steady and rapid expansion of the American university system could be seen as a kind of substitute. Particularly after World War II, huge resources were poured into expanding the higher education system, which grew extremely rapidly, and all this growth was promoted quite explicitly as a means of social mobility. This served during the Cold War as almost an implied social contract, not just offering a comfortable life to the working classes but holding out the chance that their children would not be working class themselves. The problem, of course, is that a higher education system cannot be expanded forever. At a certain point one ends up with a significant portion of the population unable to find work even remotely in line with their qualifications, who have every reason to be angry about their situation, and who also have access to the entire history of radical thought. By the late Sixties and early Seventies, the very point when the expansion of the university system hit a dead end, campuses were, predictably, exploding.

“What followed could be seen as a kind of settlement. Campus radicals were reabsorbed into the university but set to work largely at training children of the elite. As the cost of education has skyrocketed, financial aid has been cut back, and the prospect of social mobility through education–above all liberal arts education–has been rapidly diminished. The number of working-class students in major universities, which steadily grew until the Seventies, has now been declining for decades. […]

“Why do working-class Bush voters tend to resent intellectuals more than they do the rich? It seems to me that the answer is simple. They can imagine a scenario in which they might become rich but cannot possibly imagine one in which they, or any of their children, would become members of the intelligentsia. If you think about it, this is not an unreasonable assessment. A mechanic from Nebraska knows it is highly unlikely that his son or daughter will ever become an Enron executive. But it is possible. There is virtually no chance, however, that his child, no matter how talented, will ever become an international human-rights lawyer or a drama critic for the New York Times. Here we need to remember not just the changes in higher education but also the role of unpaid, or effectively unpaid, internships. It has become a fact of life in the United States that if one chooses a career for any reason other than the salary, for the first year or two one will not be paid. This is certainly true if one wishes to be involved in altruistic pursuits: say, to join the world of charities, or NGOs, or to become a political activist. But it is equally true if one wants to pursue values like Beauty or Truth: to become part of the world of books, or the art world, or an investigative reporter. The custom effectively seals off such a career for any poor student who actually does attain a liberal arts education. Such structures of exclusion had always existed, of course, especially at the top, but in recent decades fences have become fortresses.

“If that mechanic’s daughter wishes to pursue something higher, more noble, for a career, what options does she really have? Likely just two: She can seek employment at her local church, which is hard to get. Or she can join the army.

“This is, of course, the secret of nobility. To be noble is to be generous, high-minded, altruistic, to pursue higher forms of value. But it is also to be able to do so because one does not really have to think too much about money. This is precisely what our soldiers are doing when they give free dental examinations to villagers: they are being paid (modestly, but adequately) to do good in the world. Seen in this light, it is also easier to see what really happened at universities in the wake of the 1960s–the “settlement” I mentioned above. Campus radicals set out to create a new society that destroyed the distinction between egoism and altruism, value and values. It did not work out, but they were, effectively, offered a kind of compensation: the privilege to use the university system to create lives that did so, in their own little way, to be supported in one’s material needs while pursuing virtue, truth, and beauty, and, above all, to pass that privilege on to their own children. One cannot blame them for accepting the offer. But neither can one blame the rest of the country for hating them for it. Not because they reject the project: as I say, this is what America is all about. As I always tell activists engaged in the peace movement and counter-recruitment campaigns: why do working-class kids join the army anyway? Because, like any teenager, they want to escape the world of tedious work and meaningless consumerism, to live a life of adventure and camaraderie in which they believe they are doing something genuinely noble. They join the army because they want to be like you.”

Conservatives Pretending to Care About Economic Problems

Here is how a recent Wall Street Journal article begins (The Partisan Tax Policy Center):

For centuries discussions of tax policy centered on the collection of government revenues. As Louis XIV’s finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, famously wrote: “The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.” This was the received wisdom until Adam Smith pointed out in 1776 that the wealth of nations—not the wealth of governments—is what really matters. The debate about the proper ends and means of taxes has raged ever since.

The authors, Marc Sumerlin and Noah Williams, invoke Adam Smith. They are relying upon the ignorance of their readership in not knowing what he actually wrote.

Smith was a strong critic of economic inequality. He didn’t think a free market and a free society was possible when inequality was allowed to grow. It corrupts the moral sentiments and destroys the social fabric, as he explained in great detail.

For this reason, Smith thought the upper classes should be taxed at a higher rate than the lower classes (i.e., progressive taxation). He also supported other progressive ideas such as public education to counter the negative consequences of industrial labor, and of course that public education would be paid for with progressive taxation.

It is either ignorant or dishonest of the authors to not mention any of this. I understand it’s an opinion piece, but that is not an excuse for disinforming the public. It is the job of journalists to know what they’re talking about. These two writers are acting as experts about the topic, and so they should hold themselves to a higher standard.

They then go on with stating that,

This year’s presidential election is no different. High marginal personal income-tax rates provide a disincentive for work, and the tax system heavily penalizes saving. American corporations face the highest statutory tax rate in the developed world. The disincentives to invest lead to slower growth, fewer jobs, lower wages and a less vibrant economy; and the fundamental purpose of tax reform should be to achieve broad prosperity.

This is further dishonesty. I’m not even going to pretend it might be mere ignorance at this point.

No one could honestly say that US corporations have the highest actual tax rate in the developed world. They are being misleading in what they say. There are so many loopholes and offshore accounts that many corporations avoid a lot of taxes.

Plus, corporate profits are higher than they’ve ever been, even after taxation. If there is a lack of investment, it isn’t because of a lack of money to invest. Part of the problem is some corporations spend more money on advertising, lobbying, astroturf, etc than they do in research and development.

What creates disincentive for work is the fact that there are more people than jobs. Also, there are more people who would like to start a business than can afford to start a business or can get a loan to do so. There is a reason the black market is one of the biggest sectors of the economy. People are willing to work, but when they can’t find legal work they look for illegal work. This has the sad side effect of landing many people in prison, which then further economically devastates these communities of high unemployment. Between offshoring and mechanization, the old good jobs are unlikely to come back.

These authors attack the Tax Policy Center. They do so not because they actually believe the data is wrong. It just doesn’t fit their ideological agenda and political narrative. They see it as an extension of the Democratic Party, as if the TPC simply speaks for the campaigns, which isn’t even accurate considering Sanders’ criticisms. Their attack on the TPC is simply a partisan tactic—the authors just dismiss the political left:

Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are more focused on redistribution of income and have proposed higher taxes on capital gains and on high-income earners.

That goes back to my point about Smith. Redistribution has been a part of capitalism from its beginning. It was considered a necessary part of creating and maintaining a free market.

Neither Clinton nor Sanders is against capitalism. Clinton is a full on capitalist, to the point of being a globalist, corporatist neoliberal. As for Sanders, I just heard him make a strong defense of corporations in a debate, when discussing gun manufacturers. His ‘socialism’ is of an extremely capitalist-friendly variety… some might not even call it socialism. Sanders’s view is basically a moderate form of New Deal politics.

Many older conservatives who fear Sanders have themselves benefited earlier in their lives from redistributionist programs and funding, from cheap housing to cheap education. The older generations grew up at a time of the highest rate in US history for taxes on the rich and corporations. That was what paid for all the opportunities they had and helped so many of them get into the middle class. So, now they want to pull up the ladder behind them, really?

Like Smith, Sanders points to inequality as a central concern (and then Clinton parrots Sanders rhetoric). It turns out that Smith was right about inequality, and hence so is Sanders. I’ve previously pointed to a ton of data that shows that many social problems are directly correlated to inequality, and that for this reason decreasing inequality ends up benefiting the poor as well as the rich. Free markets function better to the degree inequality is decreased, as that guarantees economic mobility, grows the middle class, and incentivizes hard work—all of which most American conservatives and libertarians claim to value.

If one hates redistribution, then one should really hate inequality. In Redistribution, Inequality, and Growth, an interesting point was made by the authors (Ostry, Berg, & Tsangarides). After looking at a cross-country dataset, they concluded with three points:

First, more unequal societies tend to redistribute more. It is thus important in understanding the growth-inequality relationship to distinguish between market and net inequality.

Second, lower net inequality is robustly correlated with faster and more durable growth, for a given level of redistribution. These results are highly supportive of our earlier work.

And third, redistribution appears generally benign in terms of its impact on growth; only in extreme cases is there some evidence that it may have direct negative effects on growth. Thus the combined direct and indirect effects of redistribution—including the growth effects of the resulting lower inequality—are on average pro-growth.

The first point is most important. It is in an unequal society that redistribution is the most needed. This is why the US states with the highest inequality are the same states that receive more federal funding than they give in federal taxes. Partly, this is because these are the states with the highest per capita of welfare recipients. But also inequality exacerbates all of the related problems of poverty, such as health conditions which also need government funding to deal with. The US states with lower inequality tend to better solve their own problems in the first place and so are less dependent on federal redistribution.

Another paper titled The China Syndrome by Autor, Dorn and Hanson has related findings:

“Rising imports cause higher unemployment, lower labor force participation, and reduced wages in local labor markets, … [and] contemporaneous aggregate decline in U.S. manufacturing employment. Transfer benefits payments for unemployment, disability, retirement, and healthcare also rise sharply in more trade-exposed labor markets. … Reductions in both employment and wage levels lead to a steep drop in the average earnings of households. These changes contribute to rising transfer payments through multiple federal and state programs, revealing an important margin of adjustment to trade that the literature has largely overlooked. … The largest transfer increases are for federal disability, retirement and in-kind medical payments. Unemployment insurance and income assistance play a significant but secondary role.”

About inequality, there is another WSJ article by Lawrence B. Lindsey, How Progressives Drive Income Inequality. It’s more the same:

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are promising all types of programs to make America a more equal country. That’s no surprise. But when you look at performance and not rhetoric, the administrations of political progressives have made the distribution of income more unequal than their adversaries, who supposedly favor the wealthy.

It’s endless ignorance and ideological rhetoric. Timothy Noah, in an MSNBC article (Has income inequality lessened under Obama?), points out that,

The Tax Policy Center data show that the top 1% would get 6.5% more in income if Bush administration tax policies were still in place, while the bottom 20% would get 1.2% less. Relative to an imaginary Republican president, Obama has reduced income inequality. That’s something to be grateful for.

Only a complete ignoramus would blame Obama for inheriting the greatest economic problems since the Great Depression. It takes years for a presidents’ policies to take effect. If you want to know what the real impact is of Obama’s presidency, you’d want to look in the first few years of the next presidency who will likewise inherit the results of the prior administration. I’m no fan of Obama, but let’s do an honest appraisal.

It really pisses me off that these kinds of asshole conservatives even pretend to give a fuck about inequality. They’ve endlessly denied that it even matters. Now they have the audacity to say it matters after all, constantly backpedaling (just like with their denialist climate change arguments). They go so far as to say that inequality grew faster under Clinton than Reagan, when it was Reagan who created the permanent debt that all following presidents were forced to deal with. Can’t these people be honest for even moment?

Inequality, like the permanent debt, just keeps growing exponentially. The more it grows the faster it grows, worse leading to worse still. It’s a problem that has immense momentum for it isn’t just inequality of wealth but also of real world opportunities and political power. It just goes on and on, until something is done to stop the original cause and undo the harm done. But it is relevant that this growth slows down under Democratic administrations, as the data shows.

It is true that this slowing down doesn’t stop it, though—a valid point. Still, only a worthless piece of shit would try to blame this on ‘progressives’. The main blame recent Democrats must accept is that of embracing neoliberal voodoo economics. Clinton took up the policies of Reagan: welfare reform, deregulation, tough on crime, etc. Clinton may not have been a crazy right-winger like George W. Bush, but he certainly wasn’t much of a progressive, if we are to be honest. Both parties are corporatist at this point. Even so, the data shows there is a difference (see the work of James Gilligan, as quoted below).

I don’t get the point of these ideological games. Let me repeat one thing. I despise the two party system. They are part of the same problem. Nonetheless, the two parties aren’t exactly the same. We should acknowledge this simple fact, if we want to make any headway with these problems. It might be useful to know why rates of inequality, unemployment, homicides, suicides, etc get better or at least get less worse when Democrats win the presidency. It’s such a consistent pattern over more than a century.

Just imagine if we had an actual left-wing party, rather than just a slightly more moderate form of corporatism. If progressivism supposedly fails, then why do so many progressive countries and US states do so well? Why do Nordic social democrats do so well? Or how about social democracy in Canada, a country that by some measures has even greater diversity than the US? And what about one of the most successful local governments in US history, the Milwaukee sewer socialists?

Conservative response: *crickets chirping*

* * *

Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others
By James Gilligan
Kindle Locations 801-830

Why has unemployment increased and then lasted longer, and why have recessions occurred so much more frequently and then lasted longer, during Republican administrations than during Democratic ones? And why have declines in unemployment and growth of the economy been so much greater when there was a Democratic president rather than a Republican in the White House? Is this simply a matter of bad luck for the Republicans and good luck for the Democrats? Is it a function of the “business cycle” that operates independently of human political choices, like a force of nature or an act of God that just happens to coincide with times when Republicans are presidents? A misfortune , to be sure, but not their fault?

As opposed to that supposition , many experts on the relationship between the political parties and the functioning of the economy have concluded that the latter is very much a function of the difference between the economic policies of the two parties. This has been shown, for example, with respect to why economic inequality increases under Republicans and decreases under Democrats. Writing in 2007, the Princeton political economist Larry Bartels 8 concluded that:

“The most important single influence on the changing US income distribution over the past half-century [has been] the contrasting policy choices of Democratic and Republican presidents. Under Republican administrations, real income growth for the lower- and middle-income classes has consistently lagged well behind the income growth rate for the rich – and well behind the income growth rate for the lower and middle classes themselves under Democratic administrations.”

Furthermore, Bartels observes that “these substantial partisan disparities in income growth … are quite unlikely to have occurred by chance.… Rather, they reflect consistent differences in policies and priorities between Democratic and Republican administrations.”

Bartels also points out that one measure of inequality, “the 80/ 20 income ratio, increased under each of the six Republican presidents in this [post-World War II] period.… In contrast, four of five Democratic presidents – all except Jimmy Carter – presided over declines in income inequality. If this is a coincidence, it is a very powerful one .” 9 He then goes on to show reasons why it “seems hard to attribute this to a mere coincidence in the timing of Democratic and Republican administrations.”

To extend the argument, the political economist Douglas Hibbs 10 points out that “Democratic adminis-trations are more likely than Republican ones to run the risk of higher inflation rates in order to pursue expansive policies designed to yield lower unemployment and extra growth.” Hibbs notes that “six of the seven recessions experienced since [1951] … occurred during Republican administrations. Every one of these contractions was either intentionally created or passively accepted … in order to fight inflation.” The cruelest irony of all, in this regard, is that from 1948 through 2005 the inflation rate during Republican administrations has been virtually indistinguishable from that achieved under Democratic ones (3.76 percent vs. 3.97 percent), while the degree of overall prosperity (real per capita GNP growth per year) has been 70 percent higher under Democrats than under Republicans (2.78 percent vs. 1.64 percent), as Bartels 11 has documented. So, while the Republicans have pursued economic policies that have increased unemployment, recessions, and inequality, all ostensibly in order to prevent inflation, they have not in fact succeeded in preventing inflation noticeably better than the Democrats have.”

Kindle Locations 850-853

Referring to a more recent period, Daniel Hojman and Felipe Kast14 have shown that during the 1990s (the decade when Clinton was president), significantly fewer people entered poverty and more escaped it than during the 1980s, the Reagan– Bush years.

Kindle Locations 927-95

The greatest increases in the concentration of wealth in the twentieth century occurred during the Republican administrations of the 1920s, which led to the Great Depression, and during those from the late 1960s into the 1990s (especially during the 1980s, the Reagan years). The polarization of wealth attained by the Republicans during the “Roaring Twenties” was reversed by the New Deal Consensus from 1933 to the late 1960s. This was accomplished by introducing income supplements for the needy (social security, unemployment benefits, etc.) that had not existed before, reducing unemployment, and creating not only a “minimum wage” but also what was in principle a “maximum wage,” by raising the highest marginal income tax rates above 90 percent. The result of these and other policies was what some economic historians have called the “Great Compression” in incomes and wealth that occurred during the most prosperous – and also the most economically equal, and the most non-violent – period in American history (at least with respect to domestic or intranational violence), from roughly 1940 to 1970. Once the Republicans returned to power in 1969, however, that period ended, and inequalities in wealth and income once again reached the same – or nearly the same – levels under Reagan as they had in the 1920s (as did the rates of lethal violence). The rate at which inequality was growing slowed down during the Clinton administration in the 1990s to only about a third of the rate at which it had been growing under his Republican predecessors. This may have been because he succeeded in reducing both the rate and the duration of unemployment, and increasing the highest marginal income tax rates, the Earned Income Tax Credit (the negative income tax which gives money to those who are poor despite having a job), the median and minimum wages, and applying other policies whose effect was to redistribute at least a bit of the national collective income and wealth from the rich to the poor. However, the momentum of the forces producing inequity was still so strong that by 1998 the wealthiest 1 percent of US citizens still owned 38 percent of the total household wealth of the country and 47 percent of the total financial wealth. In other words, the richest 1 percent owned nearly 40 percent of the country’s real estate and almost half of its money and other liquid assets (stocks, bonds, etc.).

Although we do not have comparable data yet for rates of lethal violence during the last year of the second Bush administration or the first two years of Obama’s presidency, we do know something about their economic policies, and their results. First of all, the current “Great Recession”—as it has been called, in acknowledgment of the fact that it is the worst economic failure the US (and perhaps the world has suffered since the “Great Depression” of the 1930s (a description that would also describe recessions that occurred during the prior Republican administrations of Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush Sr., although this one is even worse)—occurred right on schedule—after one of the most conservative Republican presidents in US history had been in office for seven years. we also know that when Obama cut a deal with Congressional Republicans to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed, and to renew ax cuts for middle-class and poor families, he spoke of those groups as being taken hostage by the Republicans, who would not agree to help the unemployed and the two lower classes unless the Democrats would agree to continue the comparatively enormous income tax cuts that the Bush administration had given to the extremely rich, and to give an even larger cuts in the inheritance taxes that would primarily be of benefit only to the wealthiest 1 to 1/10 of 1 percent of the American population.

Kindle Locations 2130-2139

But even when looking only at domestic actions, I have to admit that, yes, it is true that Democrats often do the will of their corporate masters—how else could they persuade them to donate to the campaign funds without which they could not win any elections? For example, under Clinton, economic inequality continued to increase, which it had been doing since – and only since – the Republicans ended the 37– year period of Democratic hegemony that had lasted from 1933 until Nixon took office in 1969. But this inequality was increasing only about a third as fast under Clinton as it had been under Reagan and Bush Sr. 4 And there were many other indices of economic equality, which I have mentioned before, that did improve during Clinton’s terms in office. But most importantly, for the purposes of this book, lethal violence rates during Democratic administrations going back to the beginning of the twentieth century had fallen, not risen (as they had done under the Republicans). In that respect, the two parties were not merely different, they were opposite to each other! The same applies to the rates and duration of unemployment, both of which have, like the rates of suicide and homicide, also increased during Republican [administrations]

* * *

Conservatism, Murders & Suicides
Republicans: Party of Despair
Rate And Duration of Despair
Poor & Rich Better Off With Democrats
Unequal Democracy, Parties, and Class
‘Capitalist’ US vs ‘Socialist’ Germany

‘Capitalist’ US vs ‘Socialist’ Finland
Problems of Income Inequality

Immobility Of Economic Mobility; Or Running To Stay In Place
Not Funny At All

Mean Bosses & Inequality
The United States of Inequality
Economic Inequality: A Book List

Not Funny At All

Here is a decent article: Funny How? by Ben Hunt. It’s not the type of thing I normally read, but it’s worth a quick perusal.

My dad regularly reads this guy because of his investment views and he thought I’d like it. Like my dad, the author of this piece is strongly pro-capitalist with the standard advocacy of deregulation and such. That is what makes the following statements so powerful:

“I’m pretty sure that I agree with absolutely none of Thomas Piketty’s policy prescriptions. And the impact of his bugbear – tax policy – on wealth inequality is laughably minor compared to the impact of a triple in the S&P 500 market cap or central bank purchases of trillions of dollars of bonds. But if you don’t recognize that Piketty has a point when he says that today’s wealth inequality is both outrageous and poisonous, you’re just not paying attention. Increased wealth inequality always leads to increased political polarization, within and between countries, within and between political entities. That was true in the 1870s, that was true in the 1930s, and it’s true today.”

I’ve been telling my dad that for years. And he is finally coming around to appreciating why this matters. He used to dismiss it. Many people did. Even this guy might have not given inequality the time of day in the pre-recession early 2000s or further back in the booming 1990s.

So, many of those who are normally disconnected from the reality on these issues are coming around. Fear of consequences is finally hitting home. They are realizing that this isn’t just effecting poor minorities and third world countries. They are realizing that the entire status quo is being threatened… and that the time of externalizing costs has ended.

* * * *

For those who wonder about the consequences of high inequality, I came across two other relevant articles:

This might be the most controversial theory for what’s behind the rise of ISIS
by Jim Tankersley

The new argument, which Piketty spelled out recently in the French newspaper Le Monde, is this: Inequality is a major driver of Middle Eastern terrorism, including the Islamic State attacks on Paris earlier this month — and Western nations have themselves largely to blame for that inequality.

Piketty writes that the Middle East’s political and social system has been made fragile by the high concentration of oil wealth into a few countries with relatively little population. If you look at the region between Egypt and Iran — which includes Syria — you find several oil monarchies controlling between 60 and 70 percent of wealth, while housing just a bit more than 10 percent of the 300 million people living in that area. (Piketty does not specify which countries he’s talking about, but judging from a study he co-authored last year on Middle East inequality, it appears he means Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia, Bahrain and Oman. By his numbers, they accounted for 16 percent of the region’s population in 2012 and almost 60 percent of its gross domestic product.)

This concentration of so much wealth in countries with so small a share of the population, he says, makes the region “the most unequal on the planet.”

Within those monarchies, he continues, a small slice of people controls most of the wealth, while a large — including women and refugees — are kept in a state of “semi-slavery.” Those economic conditions, he says, have become justifications for jihadists, along with the casualties of a series of wars in the region perpetuated by Western powers.

His list starts with the first Gulf War, which he says resulted in allied forces returning oil “to the emirs.” Though he does not spend much space connecting those ideas, the clear implication is that economic deprivation and the horrors of wars that benefited only a select few of the region’s residents have, mixed together, become what he calls a “powder keg” for terrorism across the region.

Inequality is Fundamental to U.S. Capitalism: Tweaking the Edges Will Accomplish Nothing
by Steven W. Thrasher

The economic hoarding by those at the top has been termed “income inequality”, but that’s neither a strong nor accurate enough phrasing. I have never heard poor people complain about “income inequality”; poor people complain about being screwed out of housing , or about working more hours for less pay or about having to choose between medicine and food. […]

Income inequality is better termed structural racism. White people earn more money with less education than black people and consistently have half the unemployment of black people. And, as new research has shown, “family wealth” predicts outcomes for 10 to 15 generations. Those with extreme wealth owe it to events going back “300 to 450” years ago, according to research published by the New Republic – an era when it wasn’t unusual for white Americans to benefit from an economy dependent upon widespread, unpaid black labor in the form of slavery.

Income inequality is better viewed as structural sexism. Women earn 78 cents on the dollar overall compared to white men, but black women only earn 64 cents and Latinas 56. Women are also routinely discriminated against economically for bearing children.

Income equality is better viewed as structural child abuse. In the United States, one in five children needs government help to eat. As Aisha Sultan recently wrotein the Education Writers Association, if a 30-child classroom looked like the nation at large, seven of the children would be living in poverty, six would be victims of abuse and one would be homeless. These kids aren’t just unequal; they are never offered the opportunity to achieve equality.

Income inequality is better viewed as economic genocide, which shortens the lives of the poor. As the New York Times bluntly put it last year, “where income is higher, life spans are longer”. For one of the most jarring examples of how this plays out, look no further than the Ferguson Report, which shows how just in St Louis County, the average life expectancy ranges from 91 in the whitest neighborhood to 56 in the poorest, blackest neighborhood.

Costs Must Be Paid: Social Darwinism As Public Good

I was considering the state of the world, both happier and less-than-happier changes. On the less-than-happier side, one piece of data has had me scratching my head for years.

The wealthier are worse off in higher inequality societies than in lower inequality societies, at least in terms of comparable societies where other factors are more similar, specifically when comparing European countries. When great disparities dominate, the wealthy have higher rates of health problems, homicide, etc. It’s not just about the rich saying, screw the poor!  So, what is going on? Why does inequality grow when it is causing so much harm, even to those with the power and self-interest to do something about it?

I’ve sometimes wondered that the self-appointed elite aren’t as smart as they think they are, that they fall prey to cognitive biases just like the rest of us and in some ways to a worse degree. For example, the wealthy tend to be more well educated and higher IQ, while also being more prone to the smart idiot effect—overestimating what they know and not recognizing what they don’t know, which is to say they are so used to being treated as experts (by other wealthy people) that they forget that whatever expertise they may genuinely have tends to be extremely narrow and limited… or, to put it simply, they lack humility and self-awareness, not to mention other-awareness.

That would relate to a study I’ve mentioned before. Supposedly, people in the lower classes are better than those in the upper classes at accurately reading the body behavior and facial expressions of others and using that to perceive the subjective experience of those others. Those who are without power are forced to pay close and careful attention to the world around them to ensure survival, especially in terms of understanding those who hold power over them. Because of this, if you want to know the inner truth of a society, talk to the servants, maids, janitors, nannies, etc for they are the people who see what no one else sees.

From this perspective, those who act destructively may not be doing so on purpose. They know not what they do. That is my normal line of thought. But a different connection popped into my mind. What if on some level they know exactly what they do?

There is yet another study that points to a more general pattern in human nature. The study was set up to allow a choice between socially positive behavior and selfish behavior. It also gave the opportunity to choose how to respond. The researchers found that many people were willing to knowingly sacrifice their own good in order to punish someone who they perceived as having acted wrongly and without proper respect and concern for others. It was as if some people felt certain social norms had been betrayed and that defending them was worth the cost.

It is easy to see how this could be a positive force at times. Our entire legal system, when it works well, is supposed to put bad people away. If there are no consequences to socially harmful behavior, then social trust is undermined and social capital declines. Bad would lead to worse. But it is obviously comes at high cost to punish and imprison people. In this sense, something is being created, a hopefully good society.

Not punishing the guilty would be a moral hazard. We see this where corruption and cronyism dominates. It makes it harder for others to act in socially beneficial ways, because instead of punishing bad behavior it is rewarded. In such a world, an honest person won’t be able to compete with the dishonest and so will find themselves on the short end of the stick, the honest politician not getting elected and the honest businessman going out of business.

The world we have has been made to be the way it is. Social Darwinian meritocracy isn’t just rhetoric for those who genuinely believe in it. I’d argue that most people in power (and those who benefit from their power) do hold the conviction that they deserve their wealth and position (not just the ruling elite but also the middle class and aspiring middle class). From this perspective, they see everyone else as undeserving.

I’ve had arguments with people that go along a strange path. Those who disagree with social programs that help others don’t always do so because they believe they are ineffective. Such people will sometimes admit or consent to the possibility that the targeted populations will actually be helped and their lives improved. But they still think it shouldn’t be done. Those other people deserve their problems and don’t deserve anything to be taken away from the more deserving. All the wealth, power, opportunities, etc are controlled by certain people for a reason. It would be unfair to even out the playing field, to allow the inferior to challenge and possibly harm the social order that is already working so well for the deserving.

It’s not just that these people lack imagination. Sure, the world maybe could be made better for everyone. But then that would eliminate what makes this society so great and superior. In many ways, it comes at an extreme cost to maintain a Social Darwinian meritocracy—police state and mass incarceration for social control and just enough welfare to keep the masses from revolting. It would be cheaper to have a less oppressive and more egalitarian society, but those in power are willing to pay the costs to have it this way, even when the costs personally harm them, just as long as it harms the undeserving even more.

Having a massive permanent underclass isn’t just about keeping people down in a simple sense. Those in power love to lavish praise and resources upon the few people who escape that hell, for the few that escape prove that they are deserving and so prove the system is working. That many deserving people don’t escape is fine, because the perception of moral worth in this society isn’t based on the good of all. The only thing that is required is that some people sometimes are able to move upwards. If that social and economic mobility were easy and more evenly expressed, then to the winners it would seem to be of less value and worthiness. Struggle and suffering is part of the design.

Within this worldview, all the social costs are necessary for the social good. It just so happens that most of the social costs fall on those already disadvantaged, but it even comes with costs to those at the top. A surprising number of people apparently find these costs worth paying, as an investment toward the status quo. The costs aren’t a loss or waste. Anytime a politician tells you that government is inevitably a failure, that government is the problem and not the solution, they are lying and they know they are lying. The system is working just fine, even if the purpose and the beneficiaries are being hidden from public view.

On Racialization of Crime and Violence

This post is mostly a data dump, but I personally think the data included is quite fascinating. Part of my motivation was in response to another blog. I already responded once before. That previous post was about Appalachia. This one is more general— mostly about race, crime and violence, but also including issues of poverty and class, history and ethnicity, health and environmentalism; et cetera.

My thinking about all this has been going on for quite a few years now. There is a lot of data out there, but it takes immense effort to even begin to grasp what it all might mean. Trying to analyze the data can seem like a fool’s errand, for many reasons.

The breakdown by race, for example, is pretty much meaningless. Some argue that Hispanics should be separated from ‘whites’. But why? Other ethnic groups (Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, Jewish-Americans, etc) used to be separated and at the time they had high crime rates. No one has a clue what the crime rates of these groups are today.

Also, should we try to separate the percentage of crimes by the percentage of racial genetics. So, if a black person is 60% European, then 60% of their crime should be put into the ‘white’ category, right? In that case, how do we categorize the crimes of blacks who have no detectable African genetics (about 1 in 20 blacks)?

The reality, however, is that we don’t know the genetic breakdown of criminals. Considering that, shouldn’t we ask who is determining the race of criminals when it gets recorded in official records? Is it self-identification or is it what the arresting police officer perceives, the same police officer that is arresting people based on his perception of race, as studies show?

Is it surprising in a racist society that people who are perceived as a black or another minority are more likely to be arrested for the very crimes that are perceived as being black/minority crimes, whether or not that is the case? And is it surprising that those who are arrested are more likely to be perceived as black or another minority? In the eyes of a police officer, what is the difference between a light-skinned black and dark-skinned white, both before and after the officer decides to stop and confront the person?

It is always good to keep in mind that FBI statistics are arrest data, which may have little correlation to crime data. We know that blacks get arrested more (along with convicted more and imprisoned longer) than whites, even for crimes that whites commit as much or more. Also, police are more likely to see black as carrying guns when they aren’t and more likely to see whites as not carrying guns when they are, despite the fact that whites are more likely to carry both legal and illegal guns than blacks. It’s no surprise that the police have a bad habit of shooting blacks first and asking questions later. Once dead, blacks tend to be portrayed as criminals, and without video footage the police can say whatever they want.

Interestingly, overall crime arrests for whites are about equal to their percentage of the population (here is the 2009 FBI data, in order to compare against the 2010 census data). It’s only with certain crimes that whites show disproportionate lower arrest rates, whatever that may say about their actual crime rates. There are some crimes, however, that whites commit at much higher rates. There are such things as high rates of white-perpetrated child molestation, but I don’t know if that means whites really are more inclined to pedophilia or just more likely to get reported.

A more interesting example is everything related to intoxication. Whites have a major drinking problem for some reason. You are way more likely to get killed by a white drunk driver, but these deaths aren’t included as part of the homicide rates. Even with drugs, whites have a greater predisposition to addiction, although not necessarily more drug use, depending on the drug. This might relate to their greater rates of carrying and dealing drugs, even as blacks get arrested at higher rates for drug crimes because of racial profiling (the Drug War has been mostly fought in poor minority neighborhoods, because they are a population that can’t easily defend itself: legally, financially, and in the mainstream media’s court of public opinion).

What racists like to focus on are the arrest data on murder offenders. The total numbers between whites and blacks are about equal, the difference not being statistically significant. Racists argue that whites are a larger population and so have a lower rate. That misses the point that there is no single population of either blacks or whites.

Violent crime is mostly about poverty and all that goes with it: unemployment, homelessness, heavy metal toxicity, undiagnosed mental health issues, lack of healthcare, food deserts, underfunded public schools, general lack of opportunity and resources, etc; not to mention cross-generational carryover effects from past environments caused by epigenetics, as even slavery is well within the known range of epigenetic influence. When controlled for poverty (both in terms of severity and concentration), the differences in violent crime rates disappear; other non-criminal social problems also equalize along economic lines. The fact that the total numbers of murders for blacks and whites are about the same is merely indicative that the total numbers of severe and concentrated poverty are fairly close (and becoming closer), although the percentages are different within each race.

It sucks to be a poor white in a poor area about as much as it sucks to be a poor black in a poor area. Pointing to statistics is small comfort to a poor white. Class ends up getting conflated simultaneously with race and crime, but a lot of this has to do with inequality. Poverty most often manifest as major social problems where high levels of inequality are found. The United States does indeed have high inequality compared to less violent Western countries, and that goes along with the United States also having lower economic mobility which of course is worse among minorities, but also worse where poor whites are concentrated (not to ignore the fact that poor whites do even more badly where black poverty is found the most, which so happens to directly map onto the areas of former slavery and the continuing regional legacies of inequality).

One thing I noticed in the homicide data is the shifts across ages. The lowest rates of  black murders compared to white murders shows up in the oldest demographics. This fits the lead toxicity hypothesis. Lead toxicity mostly hit poor minority communities during specific decades. The oldest blacks grew up during a time prior to the spike of childhood lead exposure. On top of that, the oldest blacks reached adulthood before the deindustrialization and ghettoization of the inner cities. So they never experienced the high rates of unemployment that younger blacks have known nor did they experience the drug wars that targeted specific generations of young black males. Though older blacks did spend much of their life during a more overtly racist time, they were able to establish their careers and families while society was more stable and the economy more prosperous.

My point is that the generational differences being greater among blacks shows that environmental factors are playing a larger role for the black population. This makes perfect sense in relation to other data. For example, it is known that environmental factors have a greater influence on IQ for the poor than for the wealthy, whereas genetic influences are nearly undetectable for the poor because of all the environmental noise of confounding factors.

That ends my personal commentary. The rest of my post will be the data dump. I’ll first share some of my previous posts. Following that is a slew of info from articles and books.

* * * *

Opportunity Precedes Achievement, Good Timing Also Helps

White Violence, White Data

“Before the 1890s…”

America and the West: A Comparison of Violence

Paranoiacs With Guns: Violence and More Violence

Real Threats

Death of Millions is a Statistic

Jimmy Carter & Clean Air Act

No, The Poor Aren’t Undeserving Moral Reprobates

Are Blacks More Criminal, More Deserving of Punishment and Social Control?

Young Poor Darker-Skinned Minority Men

An Unjust ‘Justice’ System: Victimizing the Innocent

Structural Racism and Personal Responsibility

The Myth of Weak and Broken Black Families

Black Families: “Broken” and “Weak”

Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, & the Issues Being Discussed

Paranoia of a Guilty Conscience

Crime and Incarceration, Cause and Correlation

Americans Left Behind: IQ, Education, Poverty, Race, & Ethnicity

Working Hard, But For What?

Whose Work Counts? Who Gets Counted?

Worthless Non-Workers

The Privilege of Even Poor Whites

Poverty In Black And White

Race & Wealth Gap

To Be Poor, To Be Black, To Be Poor and Black

Facing Shared Trauma and Seeking Hope

Union Membership, Free Labor, and the Legacy of Slavery.

Substance Control is Social Control

To Put the Rat Back in the Rat Park

Rationalizing the Rat Race, Imagining the Rat Park

The Desperate Acting Desperately

Immobility Of Economic Mobility; Or Running To Stay In Place

Consumerism, Poverty, and Economic Mobility

* * * *

Race and crime in the United States: Prison data

A 2011 study which examined the racial disparities in violent crime and incarceration from 1980 and 2008 found little difference for black share of violent offending. Racial imbalances between arrest rates and sentencing have caused some to question the disparities. The authors argued that the prior studies had been confounded by not separating Hispanics from Whites.[26] Another recent study in 2012 raises a different concern, showing that Hispanics and blacks receive considerably longer sentences for the same or lesser offenses on average than white offenders with equal or greater criminal records.[27][28] Another recent study in 2012 raises a different concern, showing that Hispanics and blacks receive considerably longer sentences for the same or lesser offenses on average than white offenders with equal or greater criminal records.[27][28] A 2012 University of Michigan Law School study found that African Americans are given longer federal sentences even when factoring prior criminal records, and that African American jail sentences tend to be roughly 10% longer than white jail sentences for the same crimes.[29]

There’s no evidence of a ‘new nationwide crime wave’

These ten charts show the black-white economic gap hasn’t budged in 50 years

Baltimore: The divided city where Freddie Gray lived and died

The Poor Have Double the Rate of Violent Crime

The overall pattern of persons in poor households having the highest rates of violent victimization was consistent for poor non-Hispanic white households (46.4 per 1,000) and non-Hispanic black households (43.4 per 1,000). However, the rate of violent victimization for Hispanics did not vary across poverty levels. Poor whites (56.4 per 1,000) and poor blacks (51.3 per 1,000) in urban households had higher rates of violence than persons in all other types of households.

Violence against persons in poor (51 percent) and low-income (50 percent) households was more likely to be reported to police than violence against persons in mid- (43 percent) and high- (45 percent) income households.

This pattern of lower reporting of violence among mid- and high-income households held true for whites but not for blacks or Hispanics. […]

Poor Hispanics (25.3 per 1,000) had lower rates of violence compared to poor whites (46.4 per 1,000) and poor blacks (43.4 per 1,000).

The Myth of the Black-on-Black Crime Epidemic

  • Black-on-Black homicides have decreased by 67% in 20 years, a sharper rate of decrease than white on white homicide.
  • According to FBI statistics 7361 Blacks were killed by fellow African-Americans in 1991. In 2011, it dropped dramatically to 2447 African-Americans.
  • Among Black youth, rates of robbery and serious property offenses are the lowest in more than 40 years.

Mass incarceration no factor in crime drop

The 134-page study, titled “What Caused the Crime Decline?” found that “when other variables are controlled for, increasing incarceration had a minimal effect on reducing property crime in the 1990s and no effect on violent crime.”

The report continued, “In the 2000s, increased incarceration had no effect on violent crime and accounted for less than one-hundredth of the decade’s property crime drop.”

Some states with large Black populations, such as Michigan, Texas, New York, and California, even reduced their prison populations during the crime decline with no adverse effects. Texas, for example, has decreased its imprisonment rate by 15 to 25 percent since 2000; at the same, both property crime and violent crime have dropped about 20 to 30 percent.[…]

The United States accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population but holds 25 percent of its incarcerated population. One in three Americans now has a criminal record. One in nine school-aged Black children has or has had a parent in prison. The Brennan Center calculates that federal prison spending has increased 1,100 percent in 30 years as a result of being overpopulated by more than 30 percent – fueling the rise of for-profit prisons that disproportionately house young Blacks and Latinos. […]

“Research has shown, in fact, that the U.S. poverty rate has increased by 20 percent because of mass incarceration rate. There are proposals on the table to cut back on mandatory minimums, to curb nonviolent drug offenses, and there is renewed attention being paid across the country to rehabilitation to lower recidivism rates. All of these proposals are worth great consideration.”

Black Children in U.S. Are Much More Likely to Live in Poverty, Study Finds

Black children were almost four times as likely as white children to be living in poverty in 2013, a new report has found, the latest evidence that the economic recovery is leaving behind some of the United States’ most vulnerable citizens.

The share of American children living in poverty fell to about 20 percent in 2013 from 22 percent in 2010, according to the report by the Pew Research Center, which analyzed data from the United States Census Bureau.

But the poverty rate remained stable for black children, while it fell for Hispanic, white and Asian children, a sign of just how pervasive and stubborn poverty has been for African-Americans, according to the report. About 38.3 percent of black children lived in poverty in 2013, nearly four times the rate for white children, at 10.7 percent. About 30.4 percent of Hispanic children and 10.1 percent of Asian children live in poverty.

For the first time since the federal government started collecting the data, the number of black children in poverty appears to have overtaken the number of poor white children, even though white children far outnumber black children in the American population, the report said. About 4.2 million black children were living in poverty in 2013, compared with 4.1 million white children, though researchers said the difference was not statistically significant.

A household in poverty in 2013 was defined as a family of four, two of whose members were children, living on an annual income of less than $23,624.

In actual numbers, there were still more Hispanic children in poverty, 5.4 million, than any other group, researchers said, a ranking the group has held since at least 2008. The Hispanic population is larger and younger than any other racial or ethnic group, and the child poverty rate is relatively high. […]

The child poverty rate is closely related to the unemployment rate, as children are more likely to be poor if their parents are unemployed.

The Crime of Innocence: White Denial, Black Rebellion and the Cost of American Obliviousness

…it is undeniably true that when it comes to our political anger and frustration (as contrasted with that brought on by alcohol and athletics) we white folks are pretty good at not torching our own communities. This is mostly because we are too busy eviscerating the communities of others—those against whom our anger is aimed. In Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Panama, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Manila, and on down the line.

When you have the power you can take out your hatreds and frustrations directly upon the bodies of others. This is what we have done, not only in the above mentioned examples but right here at home. The so-called ghetto was created and not accidentally. It was designed as a virtual holding pen—a concentration camp were we to insist upon honest language—within which impoverished persons of color would be contained. It was created by generations of housing discrimination, which limited where its residents could live. It was created by decade after decade of white riots against black people whenever they would move into white neighborhoods. It was created by deindustrialization and the flight of good-paying manufacturing jobs overseas.

And all of that is violence too. It is the kind of violence that the powerful, and only they, can manifest. One needn’t throw a Molotov cocktail through a window when one can knock down the building using a bulldozer or crane operated with public money. One need not loot a store when one can loot the residents of the community as happened in Ferguson—giving out tickets to black folks for minor infractions so as to rack up huge fines and fees, thereby funding city government on the backs of the poor. Zoning laws, eminent domain, redlining, predatory lending, stop-and-frisk: all of these are forms of violence, however much white America fails to understand that. They do violence to the opportunities and dreams of millions, living in neighborhoods most of us have never visited. Indeed, in neighborhoods we consider so God-forsaken that we even have a phone app now to help us avoid them.

As I was saying, it is bad enough that we think it appropriate to admonish persons of color about violence or to say that it “never works”—especially when in fact it does. We are, after all, here, are we not? Living proof that violence works and quite well at that, thank you very much. What is worse, as per Baldwin, is our insistence that we bear no responsibility for the conditions that have brought about the current crisis, and that indeed we need not even know about those conditions. That innocence, as Baldwin expressed it, was the crime, because it betrays a non-chalance that ensures the perpetuation of all the injustices against which those presumed to be uncivilized are rebelling.

Charles Murray, Maytag Man

The Two Americas

Coming Apart excludes non-whites from its discussions of unemployment, out-of-wedlock births, and other troublesome social indicators, but at the end of the book Murray recalculates his findings to demonstrate that in nearly every instance the same dismal patterns hold within the colorblind proletariat. (The only notable exception is the incarceration rate, which shoots way up when you include blacks.)

Blaming Decline in Family Values for Soaring Inequality

Reading Mr. Murray’s book and all the commentary about the sources of moral collapse among working-class whites, I’ve had a nagging question: Is it really all that bad?

I mean, yes, marriage rates are way down, and labor force participation is down among working-age men (although not as much as some of the rhetoric might imply), but it’s generally left as an implication that these trends must be causing huge social ills. Are they?

Well, one thing oddly missing in Mr. Murray’s work is any discussion of that traditional indicator of social breakdown, teenage pregnancy. Why? Because it has actually been falling like a stone, according to National Vital Statistics data.

And what about crime? It’s soaring, right? Wrong, according to Justice Department data.

So here’s a thought: maybe traditional social values are eroding in the white working class — but maybe those traditional social values aren’t as essential to a good society as conservatives like to imagine.

Review – Our Kids: The American Dream In Crisis

Putnam shows that as social capital has now deteriorated, poorer families generally have fewer close friends and fewer “weak ties” that help parents and their children navigate through school and work. Compared to wealthier families, poor families’ networks are disproportionately concentrated within their own extended family and perhaps a high school friend or two. He calls lower-class social circles, “redundant,” that is “their friends tend to know the same people they do, so that they lack the ‘friend of a friend’ reach available to upper-class Americans.” He reports that 64% of wealthier kids have some mentoring beyond their extended family, while on the flip side, 62% poor kids do not. This affects kids’ ability to handle difficulty at school or at home, Putnam argues, by making it difficult to navigate through challenges and build resiliency.

“Studies during the past 40 years have consistently shown that, if anything, drug usage and binge drinking are more common among privileged teenagers than among their less affluent peers,” Putnam reports. “What is different, however, are the family and community ‘air bags’ that deploy to minimize the negative consequences of drugs and other misadventures among rich kids.”

Poverty leads to death for more black Americans than whites

She said that poor white Americans are more likely to reap the benefits of living near areas with better resources and higher incomes, while poor black Americans tend to live in relatively isolated inner-city neighborhoods.

“When low-income whites can reside in close proximity to higher-income whites then they reap the benefits of living in a higher-income area and everything that goes along with that,” Nuru-Jeter said.

In black communities, economic segregation is much higher. Higher-income black people are more likely to move away from low-income black people. Poor black communities often struggle with higher crime rates, fewer grocery stores, a higher proportion of liquor stores and less green space such as parks.

“In terms of opportunity to lead the healthy life, the environment doesn’t really support that,” Nuru-Jeter said. […]

A college education, commonly believed to be a ticket out of poverty, is expensive. In fact, about half of black college students graduate with more than $25,000 in student loans. Yet even a college degree doesn’t guarantee that they will be better off. In fact, a recent Demos analysis of Americans’ net worth revealed that white high school dropouts have about the same wealth that black college graduates do.

Concentrated poverty and homicide in Chicago

If the homicide rates in the poor black areas were twice the rates in the better-off white areas, that would be significant. The differences above, averaging about 13 to one, are staggering. This is what apartheid looks like.

Let’s remember how things got this way, in Chicago and a host of other northern cities. Policies throughout the first seven decades of the 20th Century—some governmental, some commercial—hemmed blacks in geographically. So did the bombing and burning of the homes of blacks who tried moving into white neighborhoods, and the shooting and stoning of these intruders. Racial segregation combined perfectly with racial discrimination in hiring and schooling to create vast areas of concentrated poverty—most notably in housing projects, but in other black neighborhoods as well. In areas of concentrated poverty, children are far more likely to grow up with one parent or no parent, neglected and abused, amid alcoholism and drug addiction. If you want children to become violent in their teens and early 20s, these are the right ingredients. Merely having more police around to catch them in the act is like throwing thimblefuls of water on a house fire.

The Enduring Effect of Neighborhoods
Richard Florida interviewing Robert J. Sampson

Chicago is hailed as a great comeback city. Business and the arts are flourishing and it has seen extensive investment and renewal and gentrification, yet in one startling graph, you show the striking persistence of poverty across its neighborhoods from 1960 to 2000. Earlier anthropologists and sociologists like Oscar Lewis would have pointed to a so-called “culture of poverty.” You disagree with that. Explain.

“Culture of poverty” advocates typically attribute the persistence of poverty to self-defeating norms among the poor. Structural forces take a back seat. I view culture and structure as inextricably linked, with structure in the driver’s seat. So while culture matters—here Lewis was right—the question is how and why.

My data show that the poor are quite conventional morally. It is also a myth that the work ethic is weak among the poor, witness the long hours put in among first-generation immigrants in concentrated immigrant communities.

Despite commitment to mainstream values and striving to get ahead, the stigmatization heaped on poor neighborhoods and the grinding poverty of its residents are corrosive, leading to what I call “moral cynicism” and alienation from key institutions, setting up a cycle of decline. Those with the means move out, leading to further cynicism and an intensified “poverty trap” in the neighborhoods left behind.

Trust and altruism toward strangers—such as giving CPR to heart attack victims or mailing an anonymous lost letter on the street—are undermined by levels of concentrated poverty and segregation laid down as far back as 1960. Initial conditions thus matter, setting in motion a reinforcing mechanism.

Despite political change and urban social transformation toward the end of the 20th century and gentrification in the early 21st century, neighborhoods remained remarkably stable in their relative economic standing—whether at the bottom or the top. Overall, then, while cultural norms shaped by poverty may linger or take on explanatory relevance, they cannot be thought about independent of structural change and socioeconomic resources.

A good deal of the book and a great deal of your own work focuses on urban crime. In another startling graph, you show the “spatial persistence” of the rate of incarceration in Chicago neighborhoods. What causes such localized persistence of incarceration and crime?

Much interest has been focused of late on the national phenomenon of “mass incarceration.” Yet mass incarceration has a local concentration too, what we can think of as “punishment’s place.” Like the geographically concentrated nature of crime, a small proportion of communities bear the disproportionate brunt of U.S. crime policy’s experiment with mass incarceration. For example, large swaths of the Chicago, especially in the southwest and northwest, are relatively untouched by the imprisonment boom no matter which time period we examine, with almost no one sent to prison in some areas. By contrast, there is a dense and spatially contiguous cluster of areas in the near west and south central areas of Chicago that have rates of incarceration many times higher that cannot be explained away by crime differences. In fact the incarceration rate in the top African-American community is over 40 times higher than the highest incarceration rate in the white community. This is a staggering differential even for community-level comparisons —a difference of kind, not degree.

The rate of male unemployment predicts crime and incarceration in predominantly black communities much more strongly than in white communities. Incarceration is part of the cycle of “poverty traps” that find their most intense manifestation in segregated and racially isolated communities. There is a reciprocal feedback – imprisonment removes males from their families and the wider community, a form of disruption, while at the same time unemployed males drive the incarceration “input,” thus reinforcing a vicious cycle of disadvantage. Counterintuitively, then, incarceration does not just reduce crime through the incapacitation of criminals, at the same time it appears to indirectly increase future crime through a neighborhood feedback effect

Twin Pillars of Poverty in Black America: NTDs and Incarceration

In the United States of America, a higher percentage of African Americans live in poverty than any other racial/ethnic subgroup. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 27.4% of blacks lived below the poverty line in 2010, compared to 9.9% non-Hispanic whites, while 38.4% of black children (almost five million children) lived in poverty compared to 12.4% of non-Hispanic white children [1]. A high percentage of Hispanics (26.6%) and their children (35%) also live below the poverty line [1]. […]

This disturbing data undoubtedly account for a significant amount of maternal and child poverty among African Americans in the U.S. Five years ago, I proposed a second possible underlying factor, namely high rates of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) among the poor, especially in the American South [3]. NTDs are chronic infections often lasting for years that both occur in the setting of poverty and can actually cause poverty by making people too sick to go to work and causing developmental delays in childhood. My research published in a PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases article entitled, “Neglected infections of poverty in the United States of America”, identified a (previously hidden) burden of NTDs among the poor in the U.S. and mostly among people of color [3]. The leading NTDs among African Americans include toxocariasis, a parasitic cause of asthma and epilepsy; trichomoniasis, a sexually-transmitted parasitic infection, congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection that results in severe mental disabilities and deafness, congenital syphilis, and possibly dengue [3]. I estimated that the number of cases of these NTDs among African-Americans exceeds 4 million at any given time [3]. These are not rare diseases! Among Hispanics, a second group of NTDs includes Chagas disease and cysticercosis [3]. I recommended a series of measures to combat NTDs in the U.S. including programs of active surveillance, disease transmission studies and research and development efforts to produce new drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines [3].

Who Benefits From the Safety Net

Another finding of the study is that the distribution of benefits no longer aligns with the demography of poverty. African-Americans, who make up 22 percent of the poor, receive 14 percent of government benefits, close to their 12 percent population share.

White non-Hispanics, who make up 42 percent of the poor, receive 69 percent of government benefits – again, much closer to their 64 percent population share.

The Nurture Assumption
by Judith Rich Harris
p. 240

I mentioned a study of African -American kids from “high risk” families —no fathers, low incomes. The ones who lived in low-income neighborhoods were more aggressive than their middle-class counterparts; aggressive behavior was the norm where they lived. But the ones who lived in mostly white, middle-class neighborhoods were not particularly aggressive. These black kids from fatherless, low-income homes were “comparable in their level of aggression” to the white, middle-class kids they went to school with. They had adopted the behavioral norms of the majority of their peers.

pp. 285-7

When the biological father is living but not living with his kids, you have a family situation that is statistically associated with unfavorable outcomes for the kids. Let me show you how it might be possible to account for the unfavorable outcomes without reference to the children’s experiences in the home or to the quality of parenting they receive there.

Most single mothers are nothing like Murphy Brown: most of them are poor. Half of all homes headed by women are below the poverty level. Divorce usually leads to a drastic decline in a family’s standard of living— that is, in the standard of living of the ex-wife and the children in her custody. 22

The loss of income impacts the kids in several ways. For one thing, it can affect their status in the peer group. Being deprived of luxuries such as expensive clothing and sporting equipment, dermatologists and orthodontists, can lower kids’ standing among their peers. 23 Money is also going to play a role in whether the kids can think about going to college. If it’s out of the question, then they may be less motivated to graduate from high school and to avoid getting pregnant.

But by far the most important thing that money can do for kids is to determine the neighborhood they grow up in and the school they attend. Most single mothers cannot afford to rear their children in the kind of neighborhood where my husband and I reared ours —the kind where almost all the kids graduate from high school and hardly any have babies. Poverty forces many single mothers to rear their children in neighborhoods where there are many other single mothers and where there are high rates of unemployment, school dropout, teen pregnancy, and crime. 24

Why do so many kids in these neighborhoods drop out, get pregnant, and commit crimes ? Is it because they don’t have fathers? That is a popular explanation, but I considered the question in Chapter 9 and came to other conclusions. Neighborhoods have different cultures and the cultures tend to be self-perpetuating; they are passed down from the parents’ peer group to the children’s peer group. The medium through which the cultures are passed down cannot be the family, because if you pluck the family out of the neighborhood and plunk it down somewhere else, the children’s behavior will change to conform with that of their peers in their new neighborhood.

It’s the neighborhood, not the family. If you look at kids within a given neighborhood, the presence or absence of a father doesn’t make much difference. Researchers collected data on 254 African-American teenage boys from an inner city in the northeast United States . Most of the boys lived in households headed by a single mother; others lived with both biological parents, a mother and a stepfather, or in other kinds of family arrangements. Here are the researchers’ conclusions:

“Adolescent males in this sample who lived in single-mother households did not differ from youth living in other family constellations in their alcohol and substance use, delinquency, school dropout, or psychological distress.” 25

Within an economically disadvantaged inner-city neighborhood, the kids who live with both parents are no better off than those who live with only one. 26 But within a neighborhood like this, the majority of families are headed by single mothers, because mothers with partners generally can afford to live somewhere else. The higher income of a family that includes an adult male means that kids with two parents are more likely to live in a neighborhood with a middle -class culture and, therefore, more likely to conform to middle-class norms.

Homelessness: It’s About Race, Not Just Poverty

Homelessness is primarily a poverty issue. In 2010, nearly one-quarter (23.3 percent) of black families lived in poverty, three times the rate of white families (7.1 percent).

But there is more to it than that. Understanding why blacks are overrepresented in homeless shelters requires an examination of the longstanding and interrelated social and structural issues facing the black community. Throughout U.S. history, housing discrimination has been ever-present, both in the form of official government policies and societal attitudes. Federal policies that reduced the stock of affordable housing through urban renewal projects displaced a disproportionate number of poor blacks living concentrated in cities to other substandard urban neighborhoods.

Residential segregation, which affects black households to a greater extent than other minorities, perpetuates poverty patterns by isolating blacks in areas that lack employment opportunities and services, and experience higher crime and poverty rates. Blacks are also overrepresented in the criminal justice system, which increases the risk of homelessness and developmental delays among affected children.

Lower educational attainment among blacks, in particular black males, is a barrier to gaining any employment and especially to qualifying for jobs in well-compensated sectors. Black males earn bachelor’s degrees or higher at half the rate of white males (15.6 percent compared to 32 percent). Employment disparities rooted in subtle forms of discrimination persist even with educational advancement.

In 2010, blacks with an associate’s degree experienced a higher unemployment rate than whites with a high-school diploma (10.8 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively). Furthermore, a male black employee with a bachelor’s degree or higher was paid one-quarter (25.4 percent) less on average in weekly full-time salary ($1,010) in 2010 compared to a male white worker ($1,354) with the same level of education.

Getting unstuck: Why some people get out of poverty and others don’t

While many of the factors related to increasing income are at least potentially under the control of people born in the lowest income level, at least one important item is not: race.

“If you look at the findings, there are some that are not potentially encouraging,” says Elliott. “This study reinforces how difficult movement is upward out of the bottom (fifth) for blacks rather than whites.”

The study is based on the Panel Study of Income Dynamics — a look at actual parent/children pairings starting in 1968 and continuing to today. This means that because so few samples were taken in the 1960s from Latino families, there isn’t enough data available to see how those families have fared over time. So the study is best able to look at black and white families. Elliott says Pew has found a persistent gap between white and black families.

Whites were two times more likely to leave the bottom fifth of income than blacks. Forty-five percent of blacks got out of the bottom versus 68 percent of whites.

That 23-point difference shrinks when comparing the percentage of whites and blacks that climbed to the middle fifth. Twenty-five percent of blacks at the bottom made the middle while 35 percent of whites did — a 10 percent difference.

“This underscores the persistent race gap in economic mobility,” Elliott says.

When Exceptions Prove the Rule: Poverty, Whiteness and Privilege

So, in the case of Appalachians, the proper test of their racial privilege (or lack thereof) would be to compare whites in the region with blacks in the same region and to then ask, do whites have an advantage or privileges relative to their regional counterparts of color? That most people aren’t even aware of the existence of blacks in Appalachia (though they comprise about 6 percent of the region’s population, and are among some of the poorest) seems a pretty good answer to that question. That whites are the ones we instantly think of when we think of Appalachian poverty, and the ones for whom we typically then express such great sympathy, seems to indicate a very substantial kind of privileging; a kind that erases from our consciousness altogether, the problem of rural black poverty as though it were a non-factor.

And indeed there is far more sympathy expressed for the white poor, historically and today, than for the black and brown poor: another form of implicit preference for, and privileging of, whiteness. Now that the economy is imploding, one can hear concern expressed about the poor (especially the once middle-class poor, mostly constructed as white), and how terrible it is that they are now facing such hardships. Yet when those same hardships were being experienced by the urban black and brown (whose communities have been in a recession or even depression state for entire generations in some cases) little sympathy attached. Indeed, as Martin Gilens explained in his book Why Americans Hate Welfare, as the media imagery of the poor began to shift in the early 1970s, from mostly white and rural to mostly black and urban, public animosity towards the impoverished rose in lockstep. As contrasted with the mostly sympathy-filled portrayals of the Dust Bowl poor in the 30s, or the white families that were losing their farms in the 80s, black families suffering under the combined forces of the decline in city-based manufacturing employment, as well as racism, redlining by banks and neglect of urban school infrastructure, were viewed as responsible for their own plight.

The simple truth is, working people are not all in the same boat, and white working class folks have real advantages. Black and Latino workers are typically the first fired in an economic downturn, and remain twice as likely to be unemployed and 3-4 times as likely to be poor, in good times or bad; and white high school dropouts are twice as likely to find work as similarly uneducated African Americans.

Furthermore, according to Thomas Shapiro’s groundbreaking work on the racial wealth divide, whites in the bottom fifth of all white households (in terms of income) have, on average seven times the net worth of similar blacks. In large part this is due to a major advantage in home ownership and thus equity, due to passed down property from parents. Indeed, whites with incomes below $13,000 are more likely to own their own homes than blacks with incomes that are three times higher, largely due to these intergenerational transfers of wealth.

When Poverty Was White

Involuntary sterilization is no longer legal, and intelligence is recognized as a complex interplay between biology and environment. Indeed, the 1960s, the era that Mr. Murray blames for the moral failings that have driven poor and middle-class white America apart, was the very same era that stemmed the human rights abuse of involuntary sterilization. (Not coincidentally, it was the same era that began addressing the discrimination that entrenched black poverty as well.)

The stigmatization of poor white families more than a century ago should provide a warning: behaviors that seem to have begun in the 1960s belong to a much longer and more complex history than ideologically driven writers like Mr. Murray would have us believe.

Crime and Criminal Statistics in Nineteenth Century Massachusetts
by Roger Lane

This data from Massachusetts challenges the traditional assumptions at two levels. First, the available evidence points to the fact that serious crime was not increasing but decreasing between 1835, the first date for which reasonable records are available, and the turn of the century. Second, while a full explanation for this decline would require a social history beyond the limits of a brief study, the structure of the evidence suggests that, under relatively stable conditions, the urban-industrial growth of the commonwealth was itself a major contribution. In short, the growth of cities had a literally “civilizing” effect on the population affected. […]

At the beginning of the period covered, in 1835, Massachusetts had a population of about 660,940, 81 percent rural, still overwhelmingly pre-industrial and native born.” Its inhabitants, used to living and working independently, were more free than lawabiding, not easily constrained by formal rules. Although scarcely a frontier, the commonwealth was used to this condition and was prepared to tolerate considerable disorder. No city in the state boasted a full-time professional police. The machinery of justice was not equipped to handle many cases, and the citizens often ignored their lesser injuries or dealt with them privately.

By 1900, in contrast, the 2,805,346 inhabitants of Massachusetts were 76 percent urban. And the move to the cities had produced, for better and worse, a more tractable, more “civilized,” more socialized generation than its predecessors. What had been tolerable in a casual, independent society was no longer acceptable in one whose members- were living close together, whose habits were governed by the clock” and whose livelihood, controlled by a supervisor, was dependent upon cooperation and a delicate interdependence. All cities and many towns had acquired police forces. And throughout the state, the victims of violence and theft were conditioned to seek official help. The whole system of criminal justice had expanded to meet new demands. As a relative decrease in major offenses eased the task of dealing with minor ones, the system was increasingly able to undertake the task of “maintaining order,” of dealing with irregular or distasteful behavior.

In nineteenth-century Massachusetts, then, the figures indicating a “rise in crime” represent at the least a misleading half-truth. Further study may well show that the case is similar for other times and places. If so, we should readjust the conventional notion of an inevitable urban viciousness.

Its acceptance on the one hand is part of a continuing tendency to pasteurize the image of our rural past. And on the other it helps to perpetuate that mistrust of the city that has haunted our society for too long.

Crime and Policing in Rural and Small-Town America: Third Edition
by Ralph A. Weisheit, David N. Falcone, L. Edward Well
p. 48

Informal social control, keeping things in, and showing a greater suspicion of government may also help account for rural-urban differences in the willingness of local communities to cooperate fully with reporting to the FBI’s UCR. Reporting to the CR program in 2003 differed by population density, with reports covering 95% of citizens living in metropolitan statistical areas but only 83% of those living in rural areas (FBI, 2003). Similarly, Laub (1981) has found that while the overall likelihood of reporting crime to the police is similar for rural and urban citizens, those in urban areas fail to report because they think nothing can be done, while those in rural areas fail to report because they consider the crime a private concern, even when the offender is a stranger. As a New Mexico state police officer observed: “In a lot of these [rural] areas, there’s really no law enforcement—no police, no sheriff, no state police station. People prefer to handle their own affairs and disputes themselves” (Applebombe, 1987, p. 11). The officer’s comment should be taken as more figurative than literal, although there are remote areas of Alaska where the statement could be taken literally. The statement does reflect two dimensions of the issue that are distinct but tend to reinforce each other. First, rural citizens may less often to choose to deal with a problem formally because they see it as a local problem. Second, in some rural areas formal police authority is in fact physically distant and is not an immediate option.

p. 55

Kenneth Wilkinson (1984) also used county-level data but came to a very different conclusion. In contrast to other data, he found that homicide rates were higher in rural areas. He accounted for this by noting that in a geographically dispersed population, social interactions occur more frequently among family members and close acquaintances; both are groups at a relatively higher risk for homicide. Wilkinson also observed that when compared with large cities, homicide rates were higher in rural areas but lower in small cities. Taken together, these findings highlight the importance of crime-specific analyses and of using care in defining the term rural. Simply treating everything outside of major metropolitan areas as rural can mask important patterns.

p. 59

Finally, official police data provided in the UCR also reveal some offenses for which the rates are higher in small towns and rural areas than for large cities… [R]ural counties are much higher than large cities in the arrest rate for DUI and for crimes against family members and children. This last finding conflicts with field research and some survey research that suggests that family violence rates are similar across rural and urban areas and that police in rural areas are more hesitant to respond to family violence… [S]mall towns are higher than either large cities or the most rural areas in arrest rates for fraud and vandalism. In small towns and rural areas arrest rates for fraud are about four times greater than in the largest cities. Curiously, arrest rates for vandalism are lowest in the most rural areas and highest in small towns, with city rates falling in between.

Is Water Fluoridation an Environmental Racism issue?

Lead and Crime: Some New Evidence From a Century Ago

Cities with at least some lead piping had murder rates that were, on average, 8.6 percent higher than cities with galvanized iron or wrought iron pipes. Other causes of death were mostly unrelated. Only the murder rates changed1.

Protect – Heavy Metals

In the United States, nearly a million children between the ages of one and five have lead in their blood at levels above the safety threshold.

Low-income children are eight times more likely to be exposed to lead paint, and African-American children are five times more likely than Anglo children to suffer from lead poisoning. […]

Toxicity Threshold for Lead and IQ Scores – Studies

In the largest study of its kind, data from 4,800 children and adolescents showed that those with blood lead concentrations as low as 5 ug/dL had learning problems. For every 1 ug/dL rise in blood lead levels, their reading scores dropped an average of 1%.

The more data we get, the more we must lower the toxicity threshold for lead. “There is no safe level of blood lead,” says Dr. Bruce Lanphear, an associate professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati. It’s estimated that one in every 30 U.S. children suffers from the harmful effects of lead.

” Until the last decade, we couldn’t find children with levels low enough to study them in this way,” said he study’s author Dr. Lanphear at a news briefing in March 2001, sponsored by the Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning and the American Public Health Association.

His research team also measured blood lead levels in 276 New York children – twice a year, from six months to five years old. At age five, the kids were given an IQ test. Those with a lead concentration of less than 10 ug/dL scored on average more than 10 points lower on the Stanford-Binet IQ test, compared to children with concentrations of less than 1 ug/dL.

Levels as low as 2.5 ug/dL were associated with lower scores in tests of reading and mathematics. (The CDC’s threshold of safety established in 1991 is still 10 ug/dL.) Lanphear said the study also found that for every additional 10 ug/dL increase in blood-lead concentration, IQ declined by an average of 5.5 points.

Low-Level Lead and Cognitive Performance – Study

Neurologists at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem found a direct link between low-level long-term exposure to lead and deficits in cognitive performance and behavior in childhood through adolescence.

They also concluded that “there is no threshold below which lead remains without effect on the central nervous system.”12

Intellectual Impairment in Children with Low Blood Levels – Study

Researchers at the College of Human Ecology, Cornell University, released a new study in April of 2003 to examine low blood lead concentration and IQ. The results suggest that there may be more U.S children who are adversely affected by environmental lead than previously estimated. In the study, 172 children had their blood lead concentrations measured at 6, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, and 60 months of age.

These same children were given the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale at the ages of 3 and 5 years. 101 of the 172 children whose blood lead concentrations measured below 10 µg per deciliter (the CDC’s threshold of safety) showed a 7.4 point decline in IQ.13 […]

” Of wider concern are the subtler effects on mental function seen among children exposed to lead before birth. Researchers have now documented small but significant mental deficits among children whose fetal lead level (measured in umbilical cord blood at birth) exceeded 10 ug/dL. . . . If the exposure ends at birth, the effect appears to be reversible and children recover normal IQ scores by four or five years of age. But if a child is also exposed to lead after birth (as is often the case) or is raised in an otherwise disadvantaged environment, his intelligence may be permanently compromised.” […]

“Lead Kids” and Attention-Deficits-Studies

According to Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Baltimore-based Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, “lead kids” have very low levels of concentration, are very disruptive, and have violent tendencies.

The relationship between hair lead levels of children and their attention-deficit behaviors in the classroom was evaluated at the University of Massachusetts. Researchers found a “striking dose-response relationship between levels of lead and negative teacher ratings. . . An even stronger relationship existed between physician-diagnosed attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and hair lead in the same children.”16
A similar study done at Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam found that children with relatively high concentrations of lead in their hair “were significantly less flexible in changing their focus of attention.”17

Violent Behavior: A Solution in Plain Sight

THE TOXIC ENVIRONMENTAL BURDEN

According to a study by the Environmental Working Groups, blood samples from newborns show exposure to over two hundred eighty-seven toxins, including mercury, fire retardants, pesticides and Teflon—exposure that occurs even before they are born. Of these, one hundred eighty cause cancer in humans or animals; two hundred seventeen are toxic to the brain and nervous system; and two hundred eight cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests.123

Common exposures have been documented for mercury from vaccines, amalgam fillings, and fish; for lead from paint, soil and water fixtures; for arsenic from treated wood, pesticides and shellfish; for aluminum from processed food, cookware and deodorants; for cadmium from shellfish, paint, pesticides and piping; for antimony from Scotchgard; for manganese from soy milk, welding and metal works; and for fluoride from water, tea, medications and soy. All of these metals are documented to be extremely neurotoxic.

Heavy metal exposure compromises normal brain development and neurotransmitter function, leading to long-term deficits in learning and social behavior. Studies show that hyperactive children and criminal offenders have significantly elevated levels of lead, manganese or cadmium compared to controls; high blood lead at age seven predicts juvenile delinquency and adult crime.124

Prenatal and neonatal toxic metal exposure to mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, nickel and aluminum have been documented in medical publications and medical texts to cause common and widespread neurological and psychological effects including depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders, social deficits, mood disorders, schizophrenia, anorexia, cognitive impairments, ADHD, autism and seizures.125

High lead, copper, manganese, or mercury levels are associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), impulsivity, anger, aggression, inability to inhibit inappropriate responding, juvenile delinquency and criminality.126Occupational mercury exposure has been found to cause depression, anxiety, anger, antisocial behavior and aggressiveness.127

Manganese toxicity has a known association with impulsive and violent behavior. A poor diet increases the susceptibility to lead and manganese toxicity. The most significant dietary source is soy infant formulas, which typically have very high levels of manganese.128

Lead has been the subject of extensive research documenting its relationship to all of these conditions and to juvenile delinquency. Based on a national sample of children, there is a significant association of lead body burden with aggressive behavior, crime, juvenile delinquency and behavioral problems. After adjustment for covariates and interactions and removal of non-influential covariates, adjudicated delinquents were four times more likely to have bone lead concentrations greater than 25 parts per million (ppm) than controls. Communities with a higher percentage of children having blood lead over 10 mg/dL are significantly more likely to have higher rates of violent crime and higher rates of educational failure.129

Communities using silicofluorides in the water supply also report higher rates of learning disabilities, ADHD, violent crime and criminals using cocaine at the time of arrest. The use of fluorosilicic acid (H2SiF6) to fluoridate public water supplies significantly increases the amounts of lead in the water. Data from analysis of a national sample of over four thousand children show that water fluoridation is associated with a significant increase in children’s blood lead, with especially strong effects among minority children.129

Studies have found that heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, lead, aluminum, nickel, and tin affect chemical synaptic transmission in the brain and the peripheral and central nervous system.130,131 They also disrupt brain and cellular calcium levels, significantly affecting many body functions. Inadequate calcium levels in the brain can adversely affect cognitive development and contribute to degenerative CNS diseases. Calcium-dependent neurotransmitter release results in depressed levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine, all conditions related to mood and motivation.131

Are Big Cities More Dangerous Than Small Ones?

So where did we see the most exposure to gasoline lead? Answer: in places with the densest concentration of automobiles. And that’s in the inner core of big cities. In the early ’60s, big cities had double the ambient air lead levels of midsize cities, which in turn had air lead levels 40 percent higher than small cities. (Nevin, p. 316.) So if lead exposure produces a rise in crime, you’d expect to see a bigger rise in big cities than in small ones. Over time, big cities would become increasingly more dangerous than small ones.

Likewise, when lead was removed from gasoline, and children started to grow up normally, you’d expect to see a bigger crime decrease in big cities. Over time, crime rates would start to converge.

And that’s exactly what we see in the data.

Environmental racism

The protests in Warren County, North Carolina in 1982, to prevent the siting of a polychlorinated biphenyls landfill in the county became the driving force to a 1983 US General Accounting Office study, “Siting of Hazardous Waste Landfills and Their Correlation with Racial and Economic Status of Surrounding Communities.” The study revealed, “ Three of the four commercial hazardous waste landfills in the Southeast United States were located in majority black communities.” The General Accounting Office Study, or GAO study, solely studied off-site hazardous waste landfills in the Southeastern United States limiting the scope of the study.[60] In response to this limitation the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, or CRJ, directed a comprehensive national study on demographic patterns associated with the location of hazardous waste sites.[60] The CRJ national study conducted two examinations of areas surrounding commercial hazardous waste facilities and the location of uncontrolled toxic waste sites.[60] The first study examined the association between race and socio-economic status and the location of commercial hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities.[60] After statistical analysis, the first study concluded that “the percentage of community residents that belonged to a racial or ethnic group was a stronger predictor of the level of commercial hazardous waste activity than was household income, the value of the homes, the number of uncontrolled waste sites, or the estimated amount of hazardous wastes generated by industry”.[61] The second study examined the presence of uncontrolled toxic waste sites in ethnic and racial minority communities, and found that 3 out of every 5 African and Hispanic Americans lived in communities with uncontrolled waste sites.[62]

Other studies like the 1987, “Toxic Waste and Race in the United States,” by the Commission for Racial Justice, found race to be the most influential variable in predicting where waste facilities were located.[63]

 

Red Barns and White Barns: Why Rural Crime Skyrocketed in the Late 1800s

In short, lead paint simply wasn’t available in most rural areas before the 1880s except in very narrow corridors with good transportation. You can see this in the prevalence of white barns along the National Road. Then, starting in the 1880s, revolutions in both rail transport and mail order distribution made economical lead paint available almost everywhere—including rural areas. A couple of decades later, homicide rates had skyrocketed in rural areas and had nearly caught up to urban murder rates.

By itself, of course, this would be merely speculative. What makes it more than this is that it adds to the wealth of other evidence that lead exposure in childhood leads to increased violence in adulthood. In the post-World War II era, lead exposure came mainly from automobile exhausts, but in the post-Civil War era it came mainly from the growth in the use of lead paint. And when lead paint became available in rural areas, farmers found it just as useful as everyone else. Given what we now know about the effects of lead, it should come as no surprise that a couple of decades later the murder rate in rural areas went up substantially.

Where slavery thrived, inequality rules today

In a passing comment, Chetty and his co-authors observed that “both blacks and whites living in areas with large African-American populations have lower rates of upward income mobility.” Far from being divergent, the fates of poor blacks and poor whites in these regions are curiously, inextricably, intertwined.

Instead of chalking it up to race, recent research points toward a more startling and somewhat controversial explanation: When we see broad areas of inequality in America today, what we are actually seeing is the lingering stain of slavery. Since 2002, with increasing refinement in the years since, economic historians have argued that the “peculiar institution,” as it was once called, is dead but not gone. Today, in the 21st century, it still casts an economic shadow over both blacks and whites: “Slavery,” writes Harvard economist Nathan Nunn, “had a long-term effect on inequality as well as income.” […]

The question, then, is how exactly did slavery have this effect on contemporary inequality? Soares and his colleagues speculated that limited political rights for slaves and their descendants played a role, as did negligible access to credit and capital. Racial discrimination, too, would have played a part, though this would not explain why whites born in former slaveholding regions might find themselves subject to higher levels of inequality. Nunn, though, advanced an additional explanation, pointing to an idea advanced by Stanford economic historian Gavin Wright in 2006.

In lands turned over to slavery, Wright had observed, there was little incentive to provide so-called public goods—schools, libraries, and other institutions—that attract migrants. In the North, by contrast, the need to attract and retain free labor in areas resulted in a far greater investment in public goods—institutions that would, over the succeeding decades, offer far greater opportunities for social mobility and lay the foundation for sustained, superior economic growth.

Black Pathology and the Closing of the Progressive Mind

In his masterful history, Reconstruction, the historian Eric Foner recounts the experience of the progressives who came to the South as teachers in black schools. […] In short, white progressives coming South expected to find a black community suffering the effects of not just oppression but its “cultural residue.”

Here is what they actually found:

During the Civil War, John Eaton, who, like many whites, believed that slavery had destroyed the sense of family obligation, was astonished by the eagerness with which former slaves in contraband camps legalized their marriage bonds. The same pattern was repeated when the Freedmen’s Bureau and state governments made it possible to register and solemnize slave unions. Many families, in addition, adopted the children of deceased relatives and friends, rather than see them apprenticed to white masters or placed in Freedmen’s Bureau orphanages.

By 1870, a large majority of blacks lived in two-parent family households, a fact that can be gleaned from the manuscript census returns but also “quite incidentally” from the Congressional Ku Klux Klan hearings, which recorded countless instances of victims assaulted in their homes, “the husband and wife in bed, and … their little children beside them.”

The point here is rich and repeated in American history—it was not “cultural residue” that threatened black marriages. It was white terrorism, white rapacity, and white violence. And the commitment among freedpeople to marriage mirrored a larger commitment to the reconstitution of family, itself necessary because of systemic white violence.

“In their eyes,” wrote an official from the Freedmen’s Bureau, in 1865. “The work of emancipation was incomplete until the families which had been dispersed by slavery were reunited.” […]

Nor had the centuries-long effort to destroy black curiosity and thirst for education yielded much effect:

Perhaps the most striking illustration of the freedmen’s quest for self-improvement was their seemingly unquenchable thirst for education …. The desire for learning led parents to migrate to towns and cities in search of education for their children, and plantation workers to make the establishment of a school-house “an absolute condition” of signing labor contracts …

Contemporaries could not but note the contrast between white families seemingly indifferent to education and blacks who “toil and strive, labour and endure in order that their children ‘may have a schooling’.” As one Northern educator remarked: “Is it not significant that after the lapse of one hundred and forty-four years since the settlement [of Beaufort, North Carolina], the Freedmen are building the first public school-house ever erected here.”

“All in all,” Foner concludes, “the months following the end of the Civil War were a period of remarkable accomplishment for Southern blacks.” This is not especially remarkable, if you consider the time. Education, for instance, was not merely a status marker. Literacy was protection against having your land stolen or being otherwise cheated. Perhaps more importantly, it gave access to the Bible. The cultural fruits of oppression are rarely predictable merely through theorycraft. Who would predicted that oppression would make black people hungrier for education than their white peers? Who could predict the blues?

And culture is not exclusive. African-American are Americans, and have been Americans longer than virtually any other group of white Americans. There is no reason to suppose that enslavement cut African-Americans off from a broader cultural values. More likely African-Americans contributed to the creation and maintenance of those values.

The African-Americans who endured enslavement were subject to two and half centuries of degradation and humiliation. Slavery lasted twice as long as Jim Crow and was more repressive. If you were going to see evidence of a “cultural residue” which impeded success you would see it there. Instead you find black people desperate to reconstitute their families, desperate to marry, and desperate to be educated. Progressives who advocate the 19th-century line must specifically name the “cultural residue” that afflicts black people, and then offer evidence of it. Favoring abstract thought experiments over research will not cut it. […]

And it’s not just knowable from Eric Foner. It can be gleaned from reading the entire Moynihan Report—not just the “tangle of pathologies” section—and then comparing it with Herb Gutman’s The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom. It can be gleaned from Isabel Wilkerson’s history of the Great Migration, The Warmth of Other Suns. One of the most important threads in this book is Wilkerson dismantling of the liberal theory of cultural degradation.

Slavery By Another Name
by Douglass A. Blackmon
Introduction (from excerpt)

As I began the research for this book, I discovered that while historians concurred that the South’s practice of leasing convicts was an abhorrent abuse of African Americans, it was also viewed by many as an aside in the larger sweep of events in the racial evolution of the South. The brutality of the punishments received by African Americans was unjust, but not shocking in light of the waves of petty crime ostensibly committed by freed slaves and their descendants. According to many conventional histories, slaves were unable to handle the emotional complexities of freedom and had been conditioned by generations of bondage to become thieves. This thinking held that the system of leasing prisoners contributed to the intimidation of blacks in the era but was not central to it. Sympathy for the victims, however brutally they had been abused, was tempered because, after all, they were criminals. Moreover, most historians concluded that the details of what really happened couldn’t be determined. Official accounts couldn’t be rigorously challenged, because so few of the original records of the arrests and contracts under which black men were imprisoned and sold had survived.

Yet as I moved from one county courthouse to the next in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, I concluded that such assumptions were fundamentally flawed. That was a version of history reliant on a narrow range of official summaries and gubernatorial archives created and archived by the most dubious sources—southern whites who engineered and most directly profited from the system. It overlooked many of the most significant dimensions of the new forced labor, including the centrality of its role in the web of restrictions put in place to suppress black citizenship, its concomitant relationship to debt peonage and the worst forms of sharecropping, and an exponentially larger number of African Americans compelled into servitude through the most informal—and tainted—local courts. The laws passed to intimidate black men away from political participation were enforced by sending dissidents into slave mines or forced labor camps. The judges and sheriffs who sold convicts to giant corporate prison mines also leased even larger numbers of African Americans to local farmers, and allowed their neighbors and political supporters to acquire still more black laborers directly from their courtrooms. And because most scholarly studies dissected these events into separate narratives limited to each southern state, they minimized the collective effect of the decisions by hundreds of state and local county governments during at least a part of this period to sell blacks to commercial interests.

I was also troubled by a sensibility in much of the conventional history of the era that these events were somehow inevitable. White animosity toward blacks was accepted as a wrong but logical extension of antebellum racial views. Events were presented as having transpired as a result of large—seemingly unavoidable—social and anthropological shifts, rather than the specific decisions and choices of individuals. What’s more, African Americans were portrayed by most historians as an almost static component of U.S. society. Their leaders changed with each generation, but the mass of black Americans were depicted as if the freed slaves of 1863 were the same people still not free fifty years later. There was no acknowledgment of the effects of cycle upon cycle of malevolent defeat, of the injury of seeing one generation rise above the cusp of poverty only to be indignantly crushed, of the impact of repeating tsunamis of violence and obliterated opportunities on each new generation of an ever-changing population outnumbered in persons and resources.

Yet in the attics and basements of courthouses, old county jails, storage sheds, and local historical societies, I found a vast record of original documents and personal narratives revealing a very different version of events.

In Alabama alone, hundreds of thousands of pages of public documents attest to the arrests, subsequent sale, and delivery of thousands of African Americans into mines, lumber camps, quarries, farms, and factories. More than thirty thousand pages related to debt slavery cases sit in the files of the Department of Justice at the National Archives. Altogether, millions of mostly obscure entries in the public record offer details of a forced labor system of monotonous enormity.

Instead of thousands of true thieves and thugs drawn into the system over decades, the records demonstrate the capture and imprisonment of thousands of random indigent citizens, almost always under the thinnest chimera of probable cause or judicial process. The total number of workers caught in this net had to have totaled more than a hundred thousand and perhaps more than twice that figure. Instead of evidence showing black crime waves, the original records of county jails indicated thousands of arrests for inconsequential charges or for violations of laws specifically written to intimidate blacks—changing employers without permission, vagrancy, riding freight cars without a ticket, engaging in sexual activity— or loud talk—with white women. Repeatedly, the timing and scale of surges in arrests appeared more attuned to rises and dips in the need for cheap labor than any demonstrable acts of crime.

HBD debunked – Debunking hypocritical hereditarianism and “human biodiversity” ‘role models’

Putative “role models” show high rates of violence. It just depends on the era studied.
As regards the 2011 black homicide rate of 17.51 per thousand this is high, but often surpassed by whites- it just depends on the time period you want to study. The supposedly more self-restrained Dutch of Amsterdam posted a whopping 47 per 100,000 in the 16th century, higher than any rate ever recorded for New York City, Irish and all. (Epstein and Gang 2010. Migration and Culture, Vol 8) In Maryland the rate at which unrelated European adults killed was 29 per 100,000 adults per year in the mid 1600s. In white Virginia it was 37 per 100,000. The supposedly more virtuous Yankee peoples in colonial America in the Chesapeake posted a rate of 12 per 100,000.

In some decades of the 1800s, white San Francisco posted rates well above 17.5. Even allegedly milder white Oregon posted a rate around 30 per 100,000. (Randolph Roth- Homicide Rates in the American West) Using modern FBI formulas, mostly white Los Angeles County in the 19th century ran up a body count of about 414 homicides per 100,000. (McKanna 2002. Race and Homicide in 19th Century California). Nor is the West unique. Studies show the heavily white Scotch-Irish Kentucky-Tennessee borderlands posting a rate of 24 per 100,000 starting in the 1850s. ( –Randolph Roth, 2009. American Homicide). In a study of homicides in white Russia, it was found that in 1998, the homicide victimization rate was 23.9 per 100,000. The 1999 homicide figures were substantially up over those for 1998.” –Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment, Vol 1. 2002 (David Levinson ed) p. 1426. […]

Whites post higher rates of child molestation than other groups according to scholars Hattery and Smith 2007, depending on the baselines measured, and said white child molesters serve LESS time for their crimes than black crack cocaine offenders, according to some studies. QUOTE:

‘Furthermore, our analysis suggests that child molesters, who are primarily white men, serve shorter average sentences than crack offenders who are primarily African American men. Child molesters serve an average of 6 years and only 43% of their full sentences, whereas the average inmate serving a sentence for possession of crack serves 11 years and 80% of his or her sentence.”
–(African American families, by Angela Hattery, Earl Smith, SAGE 2007. pp. 245)

and as one conservative police chief report states:

“Criminal profiling has a legitimate and successful history when applied to serial killers, rapists, hijackers, child molesters and arsonists. Ironically, some criminal profiles show a racial relationship between white males and serial killers, rapists, and child molesters.”
(– Carl Milazzo (1999) Race Relations in Police Operations: A Legal and Ethical Perspective. International Assn. of Chiefs of Police)

The police chief profiling report mentions several offenses, but when broken out separately, a pattern emerges of whites as over-represented among child molesters. Kirk (1975) found that black offenders were more likely to pick out adult females for sexual assault at a rate three times more than white offenders (34% and 11% respectively), compared to white offenders who selected non-adults more. Kirk’s finding is supported by West and Templer’s 1994 study of incarcerated sex offenders, which found that a disproportionate number of child molesters were white, compared to negro offenders.
(Kirk, S.A. (1975). The sex offenses of blacks and whites. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 4, 295-302)
(West, J and Templer D. (1994). Child molestation, rape and ethnicity. Psychological Reports, 75, 1326)

——

The heavy white pattern varies by state. For example, a 1998 study in Florida was carried out on molesters over a 21 month period. Of these 88.4% were white, versus 7.9% black. Around 1998, Florida’s populations stood at 78% white, and 14.6% black (Bureau of the Census 2000). Whites were thus overrepresented among the child molesters relative to general population, (88% molesters versus 78% general population) versus blacks who were underrepresented 7.9% versus 14.6%) on molestation offenses.
— Tingle, et al (1998) Childhood and Adolescent Characteristics of Pedophiles and Rapists.

An alternative point of comparison is to compare criminals to criminals – those actually in jail for crime – rather than non-offending persons in the general population. In the 1990s in Florida, whites made up less than 50% of the prison population.* Based on such patterns, whites are thus overrepresented as a proportion of those in jail. The same pattern repeats itself nationally. (*Data Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 1995 – State detail.)
—-

The white pattern is also seen in some federal crime reports. Per the website below- quote:
QUOTE:
http://stop-molestation.com/disturbing-stats-on-child-molestation-and-child-predators/

“According to the Survey of Inmates of State Correctional Facilities by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, the following statistics have been recorded concerning the characteristics of offenders who violate and assault children.

* Those inmates who were convicted of committing violent acts against children were more likely to have been white, a percentage of nearly 70%, than any other race.
* White inmates were nearly three times more likely to have victimized a child than black inmates.”

——

Detailed data from Federal prison statistical reports also show the same pattern. Under the “Other sexual Assault” category, which is primarily child molestation, whites were six times more likely to go to state prison than Blacks and twice as likely to go to prison for such offenses than Hispanics. Under the category “Parole violators returned to State prison” whites were twice as likely to be returned to prison for the sexual offences than blacks.
–Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics. National Corrections Reporting Program, 1994.
NCRP9404 – New court commitments to State prison, 1994: Offense by sex, race and Hispanic origin
NCRP9405. Parole violators returned to State prison, 1994: Offense, by sex, race, and Hispanic origin

And in 1994 the white prison population was less than 50%, (48,21% per the Federal Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics- 1990) and yet whites made up 77% of all child molesters in prison, almost 30 percent more than their representation in the general prison population. Whites are thus overrepresented as child molesters in proportion to their incarceration rate. […]

Much is made of comparisons to blacks and assorted European immigrants, but as the example of the Irish shows, blacks are not some unique, basket case. They suffered and show the same patterns that often accompany rural people being urbanized. As anyone who has a basic knowledge of black history knows, WWII was to spark major changes and population movements in Black America. The MAJORITY of Blacks became an urban people, in contrast to the majority rural volk of previous decades. As becoming urbanized, blacks fell prey to a common pattern that often afflicts ‘country’ people who are squeezed into the crowded slums, violent streets and indifferent attitudes of cities – there is greater social dysfunction as the old rural community bonds begin to break down. It happened with whites from and in Ireland and Britain. It happened with Chinese in the over-packed slums of numerous Chinatowns. It happened with a host of other people in varying measures. But according to HBD “experts”, black people are these unique basket cases as far as such problems go. Only they are permanently affected by such horrible dysfunctions, you see, because’ they are black. Never mind the white people who have gone before, and who underwent the same pattern. They are exempt, and covered with a magical mantle of white goodness and virtue.

Ethnic America
by Thomas Sowell
pp.25, 277

Such living patterns reflected not only the poverty of the Irish but also their being used to squalid living conditions in mud huts in Ireland… Sewage piled up in backyard privies until the municipal authorities chose to collect it, or else it ran off in open trenches, fouling the air and providing breeding grounds for dangerous diseases. The importance of proper garbage disposal, to keep the neighborhood from being overrun with rats, was one of many similar facts of urban life that every rural group new to the city would have to learn over the years, beginning with the Irish, and continuing through many others until the present day. Cholera, which had been unknown before, swept through Boston in 1849, concentrated almost exclusively in Irish neighborhoods. In New York, cholera was also disproportionately observed in Irish wards. In various cities, both tuberculosis and fire swept regularly through the overcrowded tenements where the Irish lived, and there was a high rate of insanity among the Irish immigrants.. The incidence of tuberculosis in Boston varied closely with the proportion of the Irish living in a neighborhood.

Patterns of alcoholism and fighting brought over from Ireland persisted in the United States. Over half the people arrested in New York in the 1850s were Irish.. Police vans became known as ‘Paddy wagons” because the prisoners in them were so often Irish. “The fighting Irish” was a phrase that covered everything from individual brawls to mass melees (known as “Donnybrooks” for a town in Ireland) to criminal gangs.. Irish neighborhoods were tough neighborhoods in cities around the country. The Irish Sixth Ward in New York was known as “the bloody ould Sixth.” Another Irish Neighborhood in New York was known as “Hell’s Kitchen,” and another as ‘San Juan Hill” because of the battles fought there. In Milwaukee, the Irish section was called the “Bloody Third”.. Where the Irish workers built the Illinois Central Railroad, people spoke of “a murder a mile” as they laid track. The largest riot in American history was by predominantly Irish rioters in New York in 1863..

Even the proportion of the black population who were laborers and house servants in Boston in 1850 was much lower than among the Irish, and the free blacks in mid-century Boston were in general economically better off than the Irish. The Irish-women’s work as domestic servants and washerwomen was usually more steadily available than that of Irishmen- a situation later to be repeated among blacks.

As in Ireland itself, the poverty and improvidence of the Irish immigrants to America often reduced them to living on charity when hard times came. In early nineteenth-century Ireland, even before the famine, it was common for whole families of the poor to go ‘tramping about it for months, bragging from parish to parish.’ Recourse to public charity was a well-established habit carried over to America. Expenditures for relief to the poor in Boston more than doubled from 1845 to 1855, during the heavy influx of the Irish, after such expenditures had been relatively stable for years. In New York City in the same era, about 60 percent of the people in almshouses had been born in Ireland. As late as 1906, there were more Irish than Italian paupers, beggars and inmates of almshouses, even though the Italians arrived a generation later and were generally poorer at the turn of the century. radically different attitudes toward accepting charity existed in Ireland and Italy, and these attitudes apparently had more effect than their respective objective economic conditions in America. There were similar cultural differences in attitudes toward the abandonment of wives and children. In the 1840s, ‘it was almost automatically assumed than an orphan was Irish,” and as late as 1914, about half the Irish families on Manhattan’s west side were fatherless. No such pattern appeared among the Italians.

Although the Irish immigrants (like other immigrants) had a disproportionate representation of young people in the prime of life, the mortality rate shot up after their arrival. Boston’s mortality rate in 1850 was double that of the rest of Massachusetts, even though there were relatively fewer aged people in Boston. The difference was due to the extremely high mortality rate in the Irish neighborhoods. Diseases that had become rare in America now flourished again. In 1849, cholera spread through Philadelphia to New York and to Boston- primarily in Irish neighborhoods. There had not been a smallpox epidemic in Boston since 1792, but after 1845, it became a recurring plague, again primarily among the Irish. The spread of the Irish into other neighborhoods, mean, among other things, the spread of these and other diseases. The residential flight of middle-class Americans from the Irish immigrants was by no means all irrationality…

Today’s neighborhood changes have been dramatized by such expressions was ‘white flight’ but these patterns existed long before black-white neighborhood changes were the issue. When the nineteenth-century Irish immigrants flooded into New York and Boston, the native Americans fled. With the first appearance of an Irish family in a neighborhood, ‘the exodus of non-Irish residents began. ‘White flight’ is a misleading term, not only because of its historical narrowness, but also because blacks too have fled when circumstances were reversed. Blacks fled a whole series of neighborhoods in nineteenth-century New York, ‘pursued’ by new Italian immigrants who moved in. The first blacks in Harlem were fleeing from the tough Irish neighborhoods in mid-Manhattan, and avoided going north of 145th Street for fear of encountering more Irish there.

Rethinking Southern Violence: Homicides in Post-Civil War Louisiana
by Gilles Vandal
pp. 162-73

Information compiled on 557 black homicides committed against other blacks provides comprehensive evidence of the frequency of black intraracial homicides in rural Louisiana. This data becomes an even more significant record of real physical violence in rural Louisiana when black intraracial homicidal behavior is compared not only to black homicides committed against whites, but also with white homicidal behavior.

Against the scattered evidence of contemporary prejudices and perceptions, one must set the hard statistics concerning black homicide. The black community certainly had its criminal elements, but in spite of the economic, social, and political emancipation that they gained through enfranchisement, blacks, with some minor exception, were less prone than whites to violence. Indeed, whites had little need to fear from blacks. The cases were rare and were mostly related to either robbery or work relations. […] The evidence provided by quantitative analysis is overwhelming. Although they formed 60 percent of the population, blacks were responsible for only 25 percent of all murders committed in rural Louisiana between 1866 and 1884 (table 7.1). In the same period they were victims of 72 percent of all homicides. The situation was even more striking during Reconstruction, when blacks committed less than 20 percent of the homicides, but were the victims in 80 percent of all murders. Furthermore, only 20 percent of whites killed during the whole period died at the hand of blacks, while 75 percent of black victims were killed by whites. Thus, though black homicides were a feature of the period, their importance was minimal compared to white homicides.

The figures in table 7.1 show important differences between black homicides and those involving both whites and the total population. Most black homicides were also intraracial in nature. Almost all black homicides were perpetrated against other blacks during Reconstruction (77%) and the early post-Reconstruction period (83%). In contrast white homicides were largely interracial during Reconstruction (77%). Only after 1876 were more than half of white homicides directed against other whites (56%). […]

Whatever the conservative newspapers may have said about black homicidal behavior, the evidence clearly shows that black intraracial homicide rates were lower than white rates during both periods. The data show that there were fewer black murders per 100,000 persons than there were white. While black homicidal behavior decreased slightly, with rates of 8.9 per 100,000 during Reconstruction and 6.6 in the early Redemption period, white intraracial homicide rates dropped from 17 to 8. The last noteworthy feature to emerge from these data is the apparent stability of black homicidal behavior as a proportion of all homicides in the twenty years with which we are concerned. But the question arises why black homicide rates remained more stable while those of whites strongly decreased.

Data in table 7.1 show that the overall homicide rates in Louisiana actually declined as Reconstruction ended. Though the evidence certainly shows that blacks were far less prone to homicides than whites, they were far from being upright and law-abiding as shown by their involvement in property crimes. Still, the figures in table 7.1 show clearly that black patterns of homicidal behavior diminished only slightly through the years, while white rates went through a slow but constant decline.

Blacks, then, were less likely to resort to murder. Moreover, when they did, blacks acted alone. Indeed, 86 percent of black intraracial homicides involved only one assailant. This was also true for black interracial violence; in 66 percent of such cases, a lone black killed a white. In sharp contrast, white intraracial (33%) and interracial (70% murders tended to involve two or more assailants (fig. 7.1). Clearly, homicide among blacks followed different patterns and thus had different consequences and meanings than among whites.

As we have seen in chapter 5, a striking feature of this analysis is the absence of women as either murderers or murder victims. Women represented only 4 percent of 156 whites killed by blacks, they cocmprised 10 percent of the victims of black intraracial violence. Meanwhile, white and black women represented 3.4 percent and 3.5 percent respectively of the victims of white violence. The higher number of black women dying at the hands of other blacks may imply a greater tendency among blacks to turn their aggression against themselves rather than against whites. The absence of women as assailants is even more evident. Indeed, women, whether black or white, represented less than 1 percent of the people committing homicides.

One must not forget that a large portion of the black population was young and consequently fell into the age group that tended to be more prone to violence. Not surprisingly these data indicate that younger members of the black population had a greater propensity to commit homicides than did their elders. This is even more obvious when compared to the rates for young whites. Thirty-four percent of blacks who killed other blacks were less than 24 years old, compared to only 23 percent of whites who killed other whites. Furthermore, only 15 percent of blacks involved in intraracial homicides were 45 years old or more, compared to 26 percent for whites. The analysis of interracial homicides gives similar numbers for each racial group. For blacks, being young and male were the conditions most consistently associated with the risk of becoming involved in a murder. this may suggest that younger blacks were more free from the restraint of slavery, less submissive to whites, and consequently less afraid to resort to violence to solve their disputes.

The data reveal few cases of homicide among the black elites. The killing of William Weeks, the assistant secretary of state, by George Paris, a former member of the state legislature and a member of the state board of assessors, represented the most notable case. But such bloody incidents among the black elites were rather rare. Most black intraracial homicides involved people from the lower social strata of the black community in both the city and the rural areas.

Meanwhile white intraracial homicides were spread more evenly through the different levels of white society (figure 7.2). This finding contradicts studies of twentieth-century North America and sheds light on attitudes prevailing within white society after the Civil War. The involvement of a large number (33%) of members of the social and economic elites is an important characteristic of white intraracial homicide. Finally, the presence of large numbers of skilled workers, day laborers, businessmen, professionals, and public officials seems to support the hypothesis that a great number of homicides, for both races, took place in towns and villages. […]

Although conservative press asserted that blacks regularly killed each other for trivial matters, my data show that the prime motives for black intraracial homicide were similar to those which moved whites to kill each other. Blacks (37%), as well as whites (32%), killed each other over personal grudges, in self-defense, and over trivial matters, as violence became an extralegal means of defending their honor and gaining respect within their own communities. Blacks lived in a world they could not change. The endemic frustration of black life and their particular code of honor were expressed not in encounters against whites but in violence within the black community. […]

Familial and marital quarrels were the second major category of criminality among blacks. Quarrels over women and disputes of passion were one of the main causes for which blacks killed each other. As shown in chapter 5, there were also a few instances of wife-killing. The killing of men by their wives did occur, but very infrequently. Overall, the relative scarcity of black intrafamilial homicides is striking when compared to modern industrial societies. […]

In spite of the conservative presses’ allegations that blacks had become inveterate criminals and that they monopolized the criminal calendar, the data presented here show that they were less prone to resort to homicide in the course of another crime. Only a few homicides could be linked to other forms of black criminal behavior. Although robberies were regularly committed by blacks in rural Louisiana, evidence shows that blacks rarely committed murder while perpetrating theft. Only 34 black homicides, of which 19 were against whites, were linked to robbery. Meanwhile, 61 white homicides originated with robberies, and 37 of these were intraracial in nature. The fact that so few homicides were related to robbery is in itself rather surprising.

When all of the evidence is evaluated, one is left with the impression that most intraracial homicides, for both races, were not premeditated but rather spontaneous acts arising from disputes between individuals who knew each other. These data confirm the view that both blacks and whites in nineteenth-century Louisiana had quick tempers and an exaggerated sense of honor. When these two elements combined with whisky, gaming, and pistols, they became highly explosive. Indeed, these were the cultural characteristics that made intraracial homicides a daily occurrence for both races in rural Louisiana.

Conclusion

Twentieth-century social scientists have fully examined the various factors that underlie black and white violence. They have demonstrated by sophisticated analysis how violence was deeply rooted in poverty, lack of education, poor housing, and disrupted family. Nevertheless few historians have examined nineteenth-century black violence, except in very general terms. Since intraracial homicide rates have been especially high among African Americans in the United States during the last century, these historians have concluded, without detailed study, that the same was true for the nineteenth-century rural South. They were therefore rather quick to draw sweeping conclusiosn and to adopt the impressionistic portrayals of black violence that they found in the local conservative press.

The foregoing analysis of the general patterns of homicide and the statistical breakdown between races show that these historians have been too hasty in blaming blacks for the high level of violence that marked the period. In fact, whites were largely responsible for the general atmosphere of violence that prevailed. Proportionately they killed each other in greater numbers than did blacks. Evidence presented here clearly shows that there were fewer black intraracial homicides per 100,000 persons than there were among whites.

This data set also reveals several important characteristics of post-Civil War homicidal behavior in Louisiana. First, violence became more intraracially oriented with the end of Reconstruction. Second, white intraracial homicide rates declined significantly with the end of Reconstruction, while black homicide rates also fell, but much less sharply. Third, white and black intraracial rates varied within the various areas of the state and were closely linked to the general rates of violence that prevailed in those regions.

The sharp decline of white interracial violence was due to a greater consensus among whites about the black issue, the fall from power of the Republicans, and the appeasement of the social and political disruption generated by the Civil War. Paradoxically, the same factors that eased the tension within the white community were responsible for the relative stagnation of black homicidal behavior. As blacks became more socially and politically alienated, violence remained a dominant feature of their community.

Roots of Violence in Black Philadelphia, 1860-1900
by Roger Lane
p. 165-74

As was appropriate for these decades of stasis, the Afro-American murder rate simply started high and stayed there. It began at 12.9 convictions per 100,000 population during 1901-1907, dropped marginally […] The most thorough investigation ever into the patterns of criminal homicide was conducted in Philadelphia during this hopeful period, from 1948 through 1952. This was in retrospect the high point of the urban-industrial revolution. Three full generations had passed since the city’s overall murder rate had begun to fall in the 1870s—since the public and parochial schools, factory and white-collar work, had combined to redirect the aggressive impulses of most of the population. Homicide was not then a major social problem for most of the population. The overall murder rate for Philadelphia, as counted by the best and highest method, the number of offenders known to the police, was 6.0 per 100,000 of population, very close to the big-city average of 6.8. By comparison with earlier years, and later, murder was almost domesticated. Over half of all killings, or 51 percent, occurred in the home and were confined largely within the circle of family, friends, and acquaintance. Only 14 percent of victims were strangers; less than 8 percent of them were robbed. The white murder rate stood at 1.8; the black at 24.6, or just fourteen times as high. Thus, for the first time in generations the officially recorded racial gap in this index of violence had not grown at all.

The future had not looked so promising for decades, as greater opportunities continued to pull blacks out of the South and into northern cities. These in-migrants were by no means troublesome social problems on arrival. On the contrary, transplanted southerners were typically vigorous and ambitious young people, more of whom had graduated from high school—34 percent—than the 33 percent among the white population of the cities in which they settled. In Philadelphia specifically they were also much less prone to mental illness than those who had been longer exposed to the multiple problems that still afflicted people who had grown up in a metropolis.

Many of the hopes, too, of these Afro-American migrants were apparently realized. The breakthroughs in civil rights helped create a new leverage in urban politics. Above all, the gains continued in factory and white-collar employment, matched by the steady but far smaller increases among professionals managers and other elite groups. The situation in Philadelphia was again typical. As of 1950, 8 percent of the black male work force had won white-collar jobs, fully 25 percent were classified as operatives and kindred workers,” and another 11 percent were called “craftsmen, foremen, etc.” Over the next decade these figures crept up, the white-collar workers to 10.5 percent and the craftsmen to 12.5.

The year 1960 marked three related and dramatic firsts. The census of that year, marking the climax to the long historic process of migration, recorded that the black population of the United States, once overwhelmingly rural, had reversed that situation and become more typically urban than the whites, by a margin of 73 to 70 percent. The end of an almost equally significant process was signaled by the black proportion of factory workers for the first time exceeding the white, or 28 percent to 21 percent in Philadelphia, 25 to 20 percent across the country. In a further development, the national death rate from homicide dropped for both whites and blacks—the white rate from 2.6 to 2.5 per 100,000 annually, the black from 28.8 to 23.1. As of 1960, which closed out three eventful and promising decades, the overall murder rate of 4.7 was the lowest in any decennial year since the F.B.I. began collecting statistics in 1933.

PHILADELPHIA AND THE WIDER WORLD, 1960-

Yet the promise of the mid-century decades has not generally been realized, and in particular the condition of poorer blacks in cities is in many respects worse than it was a generation ago. Patterns of criminal behavior have intensified, exacerbating all other problems, as part of a wider national and even international increase in violent and illicit activity of all sorts. In other respects, too—some positive, many negative—the postindustrial era dating form the late 1950s has created a different world for Afro-Americans and indeed for everyone.

The central irony is that just as blacks were beginning to enter the urban industrial age, the economy and indeed the whole society shifted beneath them. The high point occurred toward the middle of the 1950s when the Afro-American unemployment rate reached a historic low of 4.5 percent. From then on, though migrants continued to move into the city, the city itself was increasingly not what it had been. Part of the reason that blacks had by 1960 become more characteristically urban than whites is that whites were leaving the city in larger numbers.

Race, Reform, and Rebellion (3rd ed.)
by Manning Marable
p. 152

In 1960, the homicide rate per 100,000 blacks was 21.9, slightly less than the black homicide figure of 1910 (22.3). By 1970, the black homicide rate reached 35.5 percent, compared to a 4.4 figure among American whites. During the Nixon, Ford and Carter administration, black fratricidal violence soared. About 55 black males per thousand were victims of violent crime during the 1970s. Of all black working-class and impoverished households 13 to 16 percent experienced robberies every year in the decade. Black male homicide rates were between 600 and 900 percent higher than those for whites by the late 1970s. And by 1980, 50 percent of all American homicides were black males killing other black males.

American Homicide
by Randolph Roth
Kindle Locations 222-225

Race and slavery are connected to America’s homicide problem, but not in a straightforward way. Before the 1890s, for example, African Americans were far less likely to kill than whites were, and especially unlikely to kill one another. Why, for the past century, has the opposite been the case? Why were Virginia and Maryland no more homicidal than Pennsylvania in the 1720s and 1730s, when they had more slaves and free blacks? Why did slave states become more homicidal after the Revolution, when free states became less homicidal?

The Ethnic Myth: Race, Ethnicity, and Class in America
by Stephen Steinberg
pp. 111-124

However, now that immigrants have escaped from the poverty of earlier generations, they tend to look back on their experience in poverty as different from that of lower-class minorities today. Thus, Nathan Glazer distinguishes between “slums of hope” and “slums of despair,” by which he implies that immigrant slums were not afflicted with the social disorganization and cultural distortions that are identified with present-day slums. According to this view, despite their material privations, immigrant families stayed together, workers organized for better wages, and a stubborn ethnic pride cemented immigrants together in collective self-defense against the deprecations of the outside world. The solidarity of family and community is assumed to be the chief reason that immigrant ghettos were spared the social pathologies associated with today’s ghettos.

But were they so spared? A number of recent studies suggest that social pathologies of various kinds were more widespread in immigrant communities than has previously been acknowledged. Once again, it will be useful to focus on the Jewish experience, since Jews have so often been held out as an example of a group that, despite the poverty of the immigrant generation, did not produce high rates of crime and other such pathologies.

“Slums of Hope”

Chroniclers of the Jewish experience in America have rarely suggested that crime among Jews was ever more than an idiosyncratic event. […] However, this was not the prevailing view in the early part of the century.

In 1908 the “crime wave” among immigrant Jews emerged as an explosive political issue […] In the popular mind Jews were very much a part of the crime wave that had besieged American cities, and Jewish groups were kept busy defending Jewish honor against the exaggerated and often malicious allegations that periodically appeared in the press.

The debate within the Jewish community over the “criminality problem” produced the usual ideological split. Most of the Yiddish press, as well as moderate Jewish leaders, attributed the rising rate of crime among Jews to the breakdown of the traditional order. The problem, they believed, was that in America parents had lost control over their children, and religion and other traditional values had been shattered. To remedy this situation, they called for a revitalization of traditional values through religious instruction and various social work programs; they also advocated a more concerted effort within the Jewish community to stamp out crime.

The socialist Forward, however, took a quite different view of the rising rates of crime among Jews. The problem, the Forward insisted, was not with the Jewish community or even an erosion of traditional values, but with capitalism. The Forward explicitly rejected the notion of “Jewish crime.” It seemed obvious that the destitute condition of immigrant Jews was the root cause of crime, and for this reason the Forward opposed the Kehillah and other specifically Jewish efforts to control crime. If crime was a product of conditions endemic to capitalism, then narrow strategies that treated crime as an internal disorder of the Jewish community were misdirected and doomed to failure.

The experience of other immigrant groups certainly is consistent with the Forward’s view that crime had nothing to do with ethnicity as such, but was primarily a function of poverty. The history of prostitution in America is a case in point. The “oldest profession” has always been the province of the newest group to reside in urban ghettos. In the middle of the nineteenth century it was the Irish who, despite a strong tradition of chastity, figured most prominently among the streetwalkers of New York and Boston. Later in the century they were replaced by Jews and other immigrants. Only in recent decades has this dubious mantle been passed on to blacks and other newcomers to the city.

Generally speaking, there has been an ethnic succession in an all areas of crime, beginning with the Irish, who were the first identifiable minority to inhabit urban slums. In the 1860s Harper’s Magazine observed that the Irish “have so behaved themselves that nearly 75% of our criminals are Irish, that fully 75% of the crimes of violence committed among us are the work of Irishmen. . . .” Speculation as to the causes of the alarming rate of crime among the Irish centered on ethnic traits, especially the intemperate disposition of the Irish “race.”

By the end of the century, the connection between immigration and crime became something of a national obsession. The United States Immigration Commission, which carried out a series of studies on the “immigration problem,” devoted a whole volume to “Immigrants and Crime.” On the basis of extensive statistics collected in New York, Chicago, and Massachusetts, the commission drew up a composite picture of “races and nationalities . . . exhibiting clearly defined criminal characteristics.” Italians figured most prominently with respect to crimes of personal violence, including murder. The Irish stood out among those arrested for drunkenness and vagrancy. The French and Jews were disproportionately represented among those arrested for prostitution. In addition, Jews were second only to native Americans when it came to crimes against property, including burglary, larceny, and receiving stolen goods. Greeks, Italians, and Jews all ranked high with respect to infractions against city ordinances regulating peddling and trade. The commission concluded that “immigration has had a marked effect on the nature of the crime committed in the United States.” Though the report did not attempt to explain the observed relationship between crime and ethnicity, neither did it consider the possibility that the correlation was simply a by-product of poverty. For the commission, the relationship between nationality and crime was self-evident, and implied its own remedy: crime should be reduced by restricting the immigration of those “races” that were prone to criminality.

Today, of course, it is blacks, Puerto Ricans, and Chicanos who are blamed for high rates of crime, and as before, crime is treated as a cultural aberration rather than a symptom of class inequality. No doubt, the incidence of crime in immigrant ghettos was lower than it is today; nor, perhaps, were homicides and other crimes of violence as prevalent. But neither were immigrants mired in poverty over many generations. On the contrary, having entered an expanding economy, most immigrants were on the threshold of upward mobility. Yet if the Irish, Italians, Jews, and others produced as much crime as they did in a single generation, what could have been expected of these groups had they remained in poverty for five or eight or ten generations, like much of the nation’s black population?

That crime in immigrant communities was primarily a response to economic disadvantage, and not a product of deeper cultural abnormalities, is easier to see now that these groups have attained middle-class respectability. To realize this should make it easier to avoid confusion of social class with culture and ethnicity when considering the problems of minorities today.

“Slums of Despair”

If social scientists have idealized the immigrant communities as “slums of hope,” they have also portrayed the communities of today’s racial minorities as “slums of despair,” characterized by a tangle of pathology involving high rates of crime, unstable families, weak and disorganized communities, and a debilitating culture of poverty that is said to impede social and economic progress. In this respect, contemporary sociological thought is reminiscent of nineteenth-century Social Darwinism. Then, as now, the prevailing attitude toward the ghetto was of moral condemnation, and the onus for the ethnic plight was placed on the ethnic groups themselves. Of course, there is no small irony in the fact that the “New Darwinists” invariably have their roots in the very ethnic groups that were previously maligned by the Social Darwinists. […]

Controversy surrounded Moynihan’s insistence that the problems of black families today are a by-product of the ravages of slavery on the black family. This is a seductive argument, since it appears to place the onus of blame on a racist society. But for Moynihan it is not our sins but the sins of our fathers that are at the root of the problem. That is to say, the report tends to minimize the role of present-day conditions as they operate to undermine black families; instead, the emphasis is upon racism as it operated in the distant past. Aside from this misplaced emphasis, more recent historical evidence calls into question the assumption that slavery shattered the black family as a cultural institution.

In his history of The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, Herbert Gutman marshaled an enormous body of evidence to show that despite the abuses inflicted on black families during slavery, the cultural fabric of the family remained intact, and blacks left slavery with very powerful family traditions. Even before Gutman’s book was published there was evidence that contemporary problems in black families do not have their roots in slavery. Had Moynihan examined available data prior to the 1940s, he would have realized that illegitimacy and family instability are only recent trends that began with the mass movement of blacks to cities since the First World War. In other words, if there is a crisis in the black family, it has its roots not in slavery, but in the conditions that black migrants encountered in northern ghettos.

When immigrants lived in urban slums, they, too, experienced strains in the family system. In the early 1900s, for example, desertions wee widespread among Jewish immigrants, and Jewish journals and social agencies expressed alarm over the “desertion evil.” Some indication of the magnitude of this problem can be gleaned from the records of the United Hebrew Charities of New York, which reported that in 1903-4 alone it had received over one thousand applications for relief from deserted women. The Jewish Daily Forward routinely ran a “Gallery of Missing Husbands” to assist women in locating their errant spouses.

Once again, it would not be correct to imply that family instability was as common among Jews and other immigrants as it is among today’s racial minorities, for this was not so. But neither was their experience in poverty the same. Despite the hardships of immigrant life, most immigrants had left still more depressed conditions in their countries of origin, and their American experience of poverty was generally short-lived. In the case of New York’s Jewish population, the proportion residing on the Lower East Side declined from 75 percent in 1892 to only 23 percent in 1916. If this was a “slum of hope,” then it is clear that there was something to be hopeful about.

The vulnerability of the family to poverty was revealed during the Depression. A study by Edward Bakke, called Citizens Without Work, traced the devastating impact of unemployment on the family system. Bakke wrote:

“The family, dissociated from many of its former community contacts, is now thrown in upon itself where conflict and confusion dominate and established relationship patterns have disintegrated. There is no comfort in the family circle. The breaking up of the family unit may be considered at this time by one or both of the parents since there is a present failure to receive satisfaction customarily expected of the family and very little prospect that the future will offer anything different.”

The dissolution of families occurred despite the fact that the “citizens without work” had been unemployed for only a short time, and could hardly blame themselves for a collapse in the national economy. In contrast, racial minorities today not only experience chronic unemployment, but do so at a time of general prosperity, a condition that exacerbates feelings of self-blame, with dire consequences for the family. […]

The issue with respect to the culture of poverty, however, goes beyond the question of how much weight is to be given to internal versus external factors. The more compelling question has to do with the relationship between these two sets of factors and particularly with the ways in which external structures impinge upon and shape the values and life-styles of the poor. The stark figures presented in the Moynihan Report, for example, do not shed light on the process that results in a high rate of illegitimacy and family breakdown. To suggest that a weak family system produces family instability is meaningless, when the only evidence for the claim that the family system is weak is the high rate of family instability. To break out of this pattern of circular reasoning, and to understand the process through which family relationships are undermined, it is necessary to explore the linkages between economic forces, cultural values, and individual states of mind.

“Whites commit crimes, but black males are criminals”

In The Condemnation of Blackness, Muhammad shows how “the racial data revolution” was made to work against blacks even as social scientists, journalists, and reformers created pathways to rehabilitation for Irish, Italian, and other foreign-born immigrants once tagged with a similar stigma of criminality. Where white criminals enjoyed the privilege of “racial anonymity” and were afforded an understanding of the structural roots of poverty and crime, black criminals, whose crimes, we can now see, differed little in form and function from those committed by whites, were made to stand in for the imagined deficiencies of the race as a whole, so that in evaluations of black fitness for modern life, the innocent came to be tarred along with the actually guilty. “Whites commit crimes, but black males are criminals”—in exposing the roots of this persistent refrain, one that has justified not only racial violence but the kind of benign neglect that has relegated blacks to the margins of an American social sphere that has historically expanded to incorporate new and different groups, Muhammad shows how this particular mismeasure of man has become foundational to our thinking about modern urban America, and how its insidious logic remains with us to this day.

White Logic, White Methods: Racism and Methodology
Chapter 18
“Being a Statistician Means Never Having to Say You’re Certain”
by Oscar H. Gandy Jr
Kindle Locations 5769-5785

Arguments in support of racial profiling that are based on crime statistics often point to the “fact” that “blacks, who are only about 13 percent of the population, make up ‘35 percent of all drug arrests and 55 percent of all drug convictions,’” implying that African Americans are responsible for a “disproportionate share of the crime” (Muharrar 1999, 8).

It then falls to public intellectuals like Kennedy to remind us that not only is the implication that one is likely to draw from these statistics dangerously incorrect, in that arrest and conviction rates bear no necessary relationship to the commission of drug-related crimes, but that the social cost of using race to activate police surveillance exceeds the short-term benefits that the supporters of profiling might reasonably expect.

Kennedy (1999) suggests that each encounter that an “innocent” or nonoffending African American has with the police increases their sense of alienation, resentment, and disregard for the police and for the criminal justice system. Public opinion data support this claim, in that African Americans are more likely than Whites to hold unfavorable opinions of the police, with young Black men most likely to hold unfavorable opinions of their local police (Gallup 1999). This alienation feeds back into the system and weakens it, inviting high-level concern about the nature and extent of “jury nullification” and the reluctance among African Americans to participate in the imprisonment of still more young men (Cole 1999).

Most of what we have read about racial profiling has been framed in terms of the importance of the war against drugs (Allen-Bell 1997). The police and much of the general public have come to believe incorrectly that African Americans are far more likely to be users of illegal drugs than Whites. For many, the numbers of African Americans in prison for drug offenses supplies all the proof that anybody might need. But those “facts” deserve greater scrutiny.

If the truth is that African Americans are no more likely than Whites to be carrying drugs as they drive the New Jersey Turnpike (ACLU 1996), yet they are far more likely to be stopped and searched

Chapter 19
“Crime Statistics, Disparate Impact Analysis, and the Economic Disenfranchisement of Minority Ex-Offenders”
by Regina Austin
Kindle Locations 5910-5930

One of the most significant disabilities burdening the economic advancement of blacks and Latinos today is the tendency to link their race and/ or ethnicity with crime and violence, a linkage that statistics seemingly confirm. For example, although Blacks represent roughly 12.8 percent of the population, they constitute 28.6 percent of persons arrested, 27.7 percent of persons convicted in federal courts, 44 percent of those convicted of felonies in state courts, 37.8 percent of those incarcerated by federal authorities, and 46.5 percent of those incarcerated by state authorities. 2 Similarly, Latinos, who represent roughly 11.9 percent of the population and may be of any race, are 27.3 percent of federal inmates and 17 percent of state inmates (Bureau of Justice Statistics 2000; U.S. Census Bureau 2000). 3

All manner of social and economic consequences follow from the mistaken significance attached to such racialized criminal justice data. Because minorities are disproportionately represented among those arrested, convicted, and incarcerated, it is assumed that any individual minority person is more likely to engage in criminal behavior than any individual White person. It is accordingly thought to be rational for actors or decision makers in political, economic, or even social settings to avoid contact or interaction with minority persons who might use the encounter as an opportunity to commit a crime. There are many problems with this approach. For one thing, it is an erroneous interpretation of the gross criminal justice statistics. Even if the data are taken at face value, the percentage of the minority population engaged in criminal behavior is still quite small and so are the chances that any random minority individual poses a threat of criminal behavior (Armour 1997, 38– 39, 165 n. 10). 4 More importantly, action predicated on misinterpretations of racialized crime data produces grave social, political, and economic consequences that contravene norms of fairness and equality. The burdens imposed on Blacks and Latinos because of the inappropriate interpretation of crime data extend beyond racial profiling by law enforcement officers, a practice nearly universally condemned. 5 For example, statistical discrimination and the exaggerated fear of minority criminality have impaired the ability of law-abiding minority citizens to engage in such mundane activities as shopping in a retail establishment without being closely watched, having a pizza delivered to their door (because deliverymen fear being mugged), or paying for a purchase by check (because merchants fear that the checks will bounce) (Austin 2000; Linstedt 2000). 6

Kindle Locations 6210-6218

All racialized crime statistics should be published, read, or interpreted with the following explicit or implicit disclaimer:

Racial and ethnic data must be treated with caution because of the varying circumstances under which such information is recorded or reported…. Race and ethnicity may be recorded from observation or from self-identification. The use of racial or ethnic descriptions may reflect social custom rather than genetic or hereditary origins. Moreover, existing research on crime has generally shown that racial and ethnic identity is not predictive of crime behavior within data which has been controlled for social and economic factors such as education levels, family status, income, housing density, and residential mobility. (Minnesota Department of Public Safety 2000)

Stated more succinctly, descriptive racialized crime statistics that are not controlled for social and economic factors are “not sufficient for causal analysis and should not be used as an indicator of the role of race and criminality in economic decision making” (Walker, Spohn, and DeLone 2000).

The Condemnation of Blackness
by Khalil Gibran Muhammad
pp. 5-9

In the period under investigation, crime, despite its variability in form and expression across groups, was a ubiquitous problem across the nation— so much a problem in the urban North that it was not clear that blackness would eventually become its sole signifier. Even the wellsprings of violent crime, as historian and criminologist Jeffrey S. Adler found in his recent definitive study of homicide in Progressive era Chicago, flowed from the same broader cultural, social, economic, and demographic shifts and tensions affecting all non-elite urban people. “Contrary to the impressions of most observers,” he writes, “African American violence was similar to white violence. It resembled white homicide in the form it took; and African-American violence paralleled white violence in how that form changed.” 22 From the 1890s through the 1930s, from the Progressive era through Prohibition, African Americans had no monopoly on social banditry, crimes of resistance, or underground entrepreneurship; the “weapons of the weak” and “lower-class oppositional culture” extended far and wide and in many directions. 23 The Condemnation of Blackness demonstrates and explains how ideas of racial inferiority and crime became fastened to African Americans by contrast to ideas of class and crime that shaped views of European immigrants and working-class whites. 24

Whiteness scholars have shown how crucial the attributes of skin color, European ancestry, and the gradual adoption of anti-black racism were to immigrant assimilation “into the singular ‘white race.’ ”25 Such benefits, Thomas Guglielmo found recently, even secured the whiteness of Chicago’s “Sicilian Gunmen” because their criminality “never positioned them as non-white in any sustained or systematic way.” 26 Building on whiteness and critical race scholarship, I explore how postbellum southern black out-migration to the urban North— to Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York in particular— fueled an invidious black migration narrative framed by crime statistics and reshaped broader racial discourses on immigration and urbanization during Progressive era. Evoking the specter of black rapists and murderers moving north one step ahead of lynch mobs, innovative racial demographers such as Frederick L. Hoffman explicitly sanitized and normalized the criminality of northern white working and immigrant classes. Consequently, the black southern migrant— the “Negro, stranger in our midst”— was marked as an exceptionally dangerous newcomer.

One of the strongest claims this book makes is that statistical comparisons between the Foreign-born and the Negro were foundational to the emergence of distinctive modern discourses on race and crime. For all the ways in which poor Irish immigrants of the mid-nineteenth century were labeled members of the dangerous classes, criminalized by Anglo-Saxon police, and over-incarcerated in the nation’s failing prisons, Progressive era social scientists used statistics and sociology to create a pathway for their redemption and rehabilitation. 27 A generation before the Chicago School of Sociology systematically destroyed the immigrant house of pathology built by social Darwinists and eugenicists, Progressive era social scientists were innovating environmental theories of crime and delinquency while using crime statistics to demonstrate the assimilability of the Irish, the Italian, and the Jew by explicit contrast to the Negro. 28 White progressives often discounted crime statistics or disregarded them altogether in favor of humanizing European immigrants, as in much of Jane Addams’s writings. 29 In one of the first academic textbooks on crime, Charles R. Henderson, a pioneering University of Chicago social scientist, declared that “the evil [of immigrant crime] is not so great as statistics carelessly interpreted might prove.” He explained that age and sex ratios— too many young males— skewed the data. But where the “Negro factor” is concerned, Henderson continued, “racial inheritance, physical and mental inferiority, barbarian and slave ancestry and culture,” were among the “most serious factors in crime statistics.” 30

Similar comparisons would echo for the rest of the twentieth century. The Progressive era was indeed the founding moment for the emergence of an enduring statistical discourse of black dysfunctionality rather than the 1960s, as is commonly believed. The post-Moynihan social-scientific and public policy view of black pathology that scholars such as Robin D. G. Kelley criticize as “ghetto ethnography” began, statistically speaking, in the 1890s. The racial project of making blacks the “thing against which normality, whiteness, and functionality have been defined,” was foundational to the making of modern urban America. 31 Shaped by racial ideology and racism, the statistical ghetto emerged, study by study, in the Progressive era as the northern Black Belt formed block by block. 32 Inextricably linked at birth, they grew up together.

Northern black crime statistics and migration trends in the 1890s, 1900s, and 1910s were woven together into a cautionary tale about the exceptional threat black people posed to modern society. In the Windy City, in the City of Brotherly Love, and in the nation’s Capital of Commerce this tale was told, infused with symbolic references to American civilization, to American modernity, and to the fictive promised land of unending opportunity for all who, regardless of race or class or nationality, sought their fortunes. In these imagined communities of a post-slavery, post-Reconstruction civil rights America, “color-blind universalism” added an additional thread of contempt to the narrative. In a moment when most white Americans believed in the declining significance of racism, statistical evidence of excessive rates of black arrests and the overrepresentation of black prisoners in the urban North was seen by many whites as indisputable proof of black inferiority. 33

What else but black pathology could explain black failure in these modern meccas of opportunity? Unlike subsequent commentators in the 1920s and 1930s, Progressive era white race-relations writers frequently asserted that racism had nothing to do with black criminality. They self-consciously critiqued black criminality in what they perceived to be race-neutral language. The numbers “speak for themselves” was one frequent refrain, followed by “I am not a racist.” 34 A variant attached to both rhetorical strategies accused black race-relations writers of being biased and sentimental toward their own. They were accused of “coddling” their own criminals and excusing their behavior. When black experts dug in, when they made forceful counterarguments of epidemic racism in the heyday of “separate but equal”— even in the North— they were often charged with playing the race card (a concept then still in its infancy). The familiar resonance of these statements and exchanges is a testament to their longevity in American culture and society. 35

One explanation for the staying power of black crime rhetoric is that it had far more proponents than opponents compared to other racial concepts. 36 Beginning in the late nineteenth century, the statistical rhetoric of the “Negro criminal” became a proxy for a national discourse on black inferiority. As an “objective” measure, it also became a tool to shield white Americans from the charge of racism when they used black crime statistics to support discriminatory public policies and social welfare practices. Evidence throughout the first half of this book shows that the gap in the racial crime rhetoric between avowedly white supremacist writers and white progressives narrowed significantly when it came to discussing black crime, vice, and immorality. Progressive era white social scientists and reformers often reified the racial criminalization process by framing white criminals sympathetically as victims of industrialization. They described a “great army of unfortunates” juxtaposed against an army of self-destructive and pathological blacks who were their “own worst enem[ ies].” 37 Race and crime linkages fueled an early antiliberal resentment that pushed African Americans to the margins of an expanding public and private collaboration of social, civic, and political reform. 38 Northern white settlement house workers, for example, drew on these ideas when they limited their crime prevention efforts “for whites only.” 39 Local YMCA officials, playground managers, and recreation center supervisors drew on these ideas when they locked black youngsters out of constructive sites of leisure and supervised play. Trans-ethnic gangs of white men— backed by consenting police officers— drew on these ideas as they attacked black pedestrians and homeowners in an increasingly violent and enduring contest over racialized space in the urban North.

To be sure, racial liberals— a subset of white progressives— pushed back against the rising tide of northern segregation, discrimination, and violence during the Progressive era. 40 Such leaders as Jane Addams and Mary White Ovington distinguished themselves in their NAACP commitments to civil and political rights. Drawing on the pioneering work of cultural anthropologist Franz Boas, racial liberals also promoted new cultural explanations of black criminality and rejected the biological determinism of the racial Darwinists who had dominated scientific discourse on race since the mid-nineteenth century. But there were limits to Boas’s culture concept. 41 The statistical evidence of black criminality remained rooted in the concept of black inferiority or black pathology despite a shift in the social scientific discourse on the origins of race and crime. The shift from a racial biological frame to a racial cultural frame kept race at the heart of the discourse. Although racist notions of (permanent) biological inferiority gave way to liberal notions of (temporary) cultural inferiority, racial liberals continued to distinguish black criminality from white and ethnic criminality. In effect, they incriminated black culture. Attempts to deemphasize blackness and provide social welfare for African Americans never matched the scale or intensity of the Americanization project among immigrants. The racial-cultural content of white ethnic criminality gradually began to lose its currency during the Progressive era, while black criminality became more visible (and more contested by blacks). 42

African Americans & Crime

War on Drugs and Marriage

ARE Blacks A Criminal Race? Surprising Statistics

Unfortunately, this false debate has obscured the deeper issue – whether or not Blacks contribute disproportionately to the crime rate. Media coverage, conviction rates and “common knowledge” (stereotypes) all suggest that Blacks commit crimes at a rate disproportionate to our numbers in society. Conservatives embrace this assumption, and call for tougher laws. Liberals embrace the same assumption, though squeamishly, and instead call for more social programs.

The better question for public debate is this: do the actual government statistics bear out the claim that Blacks contribute disproportionately to the crime rate? Or is this largely a stereotype, which is driven by the disproportionate rate of ARRESTS and CONVICTIONS of Black people? And does the over-focus on Black crime conceal an alarmingly high crime rate within the white population? […]

Those who believe that African American or Latino youth are more “criminal” than any other ethnic groups are simply wrong. The real facts tell us much more than stereotypes, or musings—both of which obscure the well-documented disparate treatment accorded African Americans compared to whites within the justice system. These comments on racially disparate crime also overlook the area of “corporate crime.”

And another thing about that “Blacks being more Criminal…” noise

As you can see the clearance rate for violent crimes are far far higher than they are for property crimes such as Burglary or Larceny – yet Burglaries and Larcenies occur many times more often, which means that since the most common crimes actually lead to the lowest percentage of arrest we really have NO IDEA whose doing what “the Most”.

If they’re only arresting 22% of the people who perpetrate larceny, that means 78% of them are getting away with it. 78% of 6.1 Million is 4,797,000 Crimes being committed that no one is being arrest for. […]

[Ed. To reinterate: being ARRESTED MORE OFTEN doesn’t mean that someone is necessarily GUILTY More often. Arrests only show the amount of focus that Police are placing in that particular area, so what we can see is that the Police focus is HIGHER for Murder and for Robbery than it is for Burglary and it is for Larceny, even though Murder and Robbery are much less frequent than the others. It doesn’t mean Black people committed more of these crimes, it only means they get presumed guilty and arrested for them more often.]

It’s very possible that Black People are arrested more often simply because they are suspected more often regardless of whether they did the crime or didn’t. We can see from the results of the Innocent Project that using DNA evidence 317 people who had been convicted and sent to death row – Couldn’t Have Done the Crime, so exactly how positive can we be about everyone else in prison with cases against them that are nowhere near as rigorously vetted as Death Row Cases are? […]

The presumption of Black Guilt drives police to stop, question, ticket and arrest black people far more often than they are found actually committing crimes, and the same type of thing affects who gets charged, who gets sentenced harshly [remember “affluenza”] and who ultimately winds up in jail and prison for longer periods. This is has been shown to be case by many studies. […]

What we don’t see here in any of the data is a greater propensity for Black Criminality Across the Board. It’s not across the board, where’s there’s a disparity it’s limited to specific areas and doesn’t spread to every type of case.

Yes, even if we were able to add a control to eliminate the police disparity and bias that has been repeatedly proven, proportionally Blacks would probably still be far too represented in cases of Murder and Robbery, but there may be reasons for that. Many of the Robberies are economically induced. People steal because they Want Stuff they don’t have. People who have stuff, and are earning a decent wage at a decent job don’t usually need to commit Robberies – those people can commit Larceny by stealing from their employer while they’re on the job.

Also a lot of Murders in the Black community are retaliatory, especially when Gangs and the Drug Trade are involved. They’re Pay-Back for someone else being Murdered. People are getting Street Justice, because they don’t think the POLICE are going to catch the person who did the first crime [rightly or wrongly the perception is that many murders of Black people are far more likely to go unsolved without an arrest or prosecution even when other Black people are the perpetrators], so as a result they take the law in their own hands. […]

Yeah, it’s an issue. Yeah, they’re out of “proportion” in these two areas. But it’s interesting how people that harp on this proportion stuff, don’t ever want to recognize that they’re also dramatically out of proportion on access to jobs, access to healthcare, access to housing, and access to decent education. Their out of proportion in their access to HOPE, and without Hope nothing good can flourish. These things are not unconnected. If you go further down the table Black people are actually below their proportion – just 12-13% of those arrested – when it comes to DUI and liquor laws but I’m not really expecting that they get any “credit” for that stuff. Blacks overperform in plenty of areas and that’s used against them all the time.

But again, the total number of Murders we’re talking about are fairly small compared to every other crime that’s happening on the list. Same thing with the Robberies. Take an unemployment rate somewhere in the 20-30% for young black men, add some resentment, persecution, lousy schools, hopelessness, desperation and puree for 50 years and a shit load of pointless Murder and Robbery is just a couple of the crappy results you’re gonna get. Shiny Happy Talk about “Opportunity” and “Pulling up your Pants” aren’t very convincing in that environment.

Yes, Murder is a far more serious crime, but is Robbery really that different from Burglary or Larceny? We’re literally comparing Millions of Crimes, with Thousands, and Hundreds. Why doesn’t that proportional difference count?

Either way we can see that Larceny – one of the most common crimes – isn’t where you see Black people jumping out way ahead of White people. Not even.

In raw simple numbers Black people with 2.6 Million Arrests really can’t possibly commit More Crime than White People at 6.5 Million Arrests. That’s just not logical. Maybe if Black people were only at 1.7 Million Arrests, or 1.4 Million some people who seem eternally bothered by this would feel better – but it still feels like a big smoke screen to take our attention away from the OTHER 4.7 Million Criminals that are getting away without an arrest and without a conviction for their crimes, year after year after year. Now I think it’s safe to assume that some of those missing arrests are for repeat offenders, even if they don’t get caught the first, second, third or tenth time – they might get them on the eleventh so there just might not be a one-to-one relationship between one single crime each being performed by one single criminal.

But then that means we really have no fracking idea how many of who is actually doing what now what do we? All we know is who is far more likely to pay the price for it in our jails and losing their lives on our streets.

Although I can’t prove it, somehow I just don’t think most of those missing guys and gals doing the most crimes and not getting caught – are Black. I just don’t. Black guys, generally speaking, are automatically suspected of everything and practically can’t get away with anything.

Black-on-Black Crime You Say? White People Kill Each Other Just as Much as Black People Do

The final issue with the “Black-on-Black Crime” argument involves the disparate treatment of Black and White offenders in the criminal justice system. Whites represent a majority of the American population and are responsible for 54% of murders involving an intimate partner, 59% of murders involving a family member, 55% of murders involving infants, 56% of murders involving elders, 54% of sex related murders, 53% of gang related murders, 70% of workplace related murders, 55% of arson related murders, 80% of poison related murders, and 53% of murders involving multiple victims (BJS, 2011). Blacks comprise 13% of the population and are responsible for 59% of felony murders, 65% of drug murders, 50% of murders involving an argument, 56% of gun homicides, and 54% of murders with multiple offenders (BJS, 2011).

Although Whites commit more types of homicides in comparison to Blacks, Blacks are more likely to be arrested and convicted. Whites are just as likely as Blacks to commit crimes against people of their own race, but Blacks often receive longer sentences and are more likely to be incarcerated or sentenced to death when they commit crimes against people of their own race. It is a double-standard that Whites who commit crimes are more likely to be acquitted, and Blacks who commit crimes and are more likely to be convicted. This historical issue of racially disparate treatment in the criminal justice system is another reason why people rally for justice. Using the “Black-on-Black Crime” argument only serves as a means to distract people from macro-level issues of injustice.

White People Commit the Most Heinous Crimes, So Why Is America Terrified of Black Men?

In our nation’s history, so many of the sickest, most appalling crimes have been committed by whites. Yet no matter how sadistic the crime, no matter how young the victims, no matter how much fear is engendered in a community, no matter how much media attention and public discussion the crimes of whites engender, the race itself is never sullied. One does not look at a white man or woman and feel concern that pale skin enhances the likelihood that he or she is an assassin, a bomber, a murderer. […]

Let’s look at run-of-the-mill crimes today. Who’s committing them? Who should be feared? Again, it depends on what categories of offenses we choose to fear. Whites are disproportionately arrested for some crimes, such as arson, driving under the influence, and vandalism. That is, even with the focus of police resources on black communities, whites are convicted of these offenses at numbers greater than their percentage of the population. Drunk driving is a real menace, killing over 10,000 Americans per year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. Yet no one eyes a white driver next to him on the road and says, “A-ha, light-skinned guy, he’s probably drunk, I’m calling the police.” The statistics don’t matter. Our perceptions do.

How much crime overall is committed by African Americans? You’d be surprised at how difficult it is to strip away anxieties and emotions and arrive at the factual answer to this question. Most go quickly to FBI arrest or incarceration statistics, to see who has been convicted and sentenced for various offenses, broken down by race. But this data doesn’t include every state or even consistent reporting from one police department to the next. Nevertheless, this FBI data shows that African Americans, who comprise 13 percent of our population, represent 38 percent of inmates in state and federal prisons. That is, blacks are locked up at nearly three times their rate in population, a shockingly high number. This statistic is often used in support of the black-as-criminal conclusion.

But these numbers are almost entirely useless, because they are both over- and under-inclusive. They include a small number of people who may be innocent as well as a very large number of inmates incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, especially marijuana possession, which does not strike fear in the hearts of most people. Worse, these numbers are flawed because they do not reflect who’s committing the crime, merely who has been apprehended and locked up. They leave out all the burglars and rapists and killers who are still on the loose.

And the statistics don’t take into account unequal policing. Many people are unaware of the huge disparity of law enforcement resources applied to majority black urban neighborhoods in comparison to the relatively lax policing of white suburbs. Police departments send legions of officers to patrol inner city neighborhoods, with high concentrations of blacks, stopping, questioning, and frisking African Americans (and Hispanics), and where law enforcement has more eyes on a community, it finds more offenses. Once in the “sticky” criminal justice system, young men of color are likely to find themselves under correctional control, monitored, watched for many years, even after release from incarceration. To make room for the skyrocketing number of Americans (disproportionately men of color) incarcerated in the last few decades, we’ve slashed and generally eliminated prison counseling, drug treatment programs, education and vocational programs. Once released, ex-cons are legally discriminated against by employers, denied food stamps, access to public housing, school loans, professional licenses, and access to many other basic services. As a result, the United States has a high recidivism rate, as drug dealing and other criminal enterprises are the rare occupations that offer jobs to released former inmates. In inner city neighborhoods, it’s easy to fall under correctional control, and once in, it’s tough to get out.

The chief problem with arrest and incarceration statistics, compiled so diligently by law enforcement annually and relied upon heavily by most legal analysts, is that they are only as good as the humans making decisions as to where to focus police, what crimes to charge, what plea bargains to offer, what sentences to impose. As we’ve seen, nearly everyone harbors implicit racial fears and assumptions, and the humans staffing our criminal justice system are no better nor worse than the rest of us. We know that at every turn, similarly situated African Americans are treated more punitively than whites in the criminal justice system.

Thus the decisions made at the entry point to the criminal justice system – community policing decisions as to who gets watched, who gets stopped, who gets questioned, who gets patted down for contraband – powerfully determine not who is a criminal, but who gets labelled as criminal. All things being equal, inmate numbers would easily tell us who has broken the law. But again, almost nothing is equal in our justice system.

For example, arrests. We know that overall blacks and whites use marijuana at about the same rate (whites are more likely to sell). Among young people aged eighteen to twenty-five, the most common age to be caught up in the criminal justice system, whites are more likely to have smoked marijuana. This is contrary to the widely held association of drug use with African Americans. When we include other narcotics, whites constitute the vast majority of drug users. Yet in one survey, when subjects were asked, “Would you close your eyes for a second, envision a drug user, and describe that person to me?” Ninety-five percent of respondents pictured a black drug user.

Nationwide, four times as many African Americans as whites are arrested for marijuana possession. In Iowa and the District of Columbia, the number jumps to eight times as many. How does this happen? Because police departments, partly driven by a desire to increase their drug arrest statistics, concentrate on minority or poorer neighborhoods. Focusing on low-level offenses is easier and cheaper than investigating serious crimes, and drives those arrest numbers high, triggering increased funding. And so hundreds of thousands of inner city residents are arrested, convicted, and incarcerated for having a joint, a cookie, or a baggie of marijuana in their pocket, even though the majority of Americans favor legalization.

When was the last time you saw a drug sweep in the suburbs?

If one reasoned only from arrest records, one would conclude that blacks are four times as likely as whites to smoke marijuana. And we know that would be wrong. Reasoning backward from arrest or imprisonment statistics to conclude that minority groups are violent criminals is equally flawed.

We know that police disproportionately target neighborhoods of color, so that’s where the vast majority of arrests occur. That does not necessarily mean that’s where most of the criminals are.

White people are more likely to deal drugs, but black people are more likely to get arrested for it

30_war_on_drugs_fig

Here’s a pretty astonishing chart on the skyrocketing number of arrests of black Americans for nonviolent drug crimes. Brookings’ Jonathan Rothwell lays it out:

Arrest data show a striking trend: arrests of blacks have fallen for violent and property crimes, but soared for drug related crimes. As of 2011, drug crimes comprised 14 percent of all arrests and a miscellaneous category that includes “drug paraphernalia” possession comprised an additional 31 percent of all arrests. Just 6 percent and 14 percent of arrests were for violent and property crimes, respectively.

Even more surprising is what gets left out of the chart: Blacks are far more likely to be arrested for selling or possessing drugs than whites, even though whites use drugs at the same rate. And whites are actually more likely to sell drugs

U.S. Homicide & Suicide Rates in Whites & Blacks

(6) The suicide rate is notably increasing for whites.
(7) The homicide rate is notably decreasing for blacks.

White-on-white murder in America is out of control

And there are many countries full of white people — Norway, Iceland, France, Denmark, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom — where white people murder each other at a much lower rate than you see here in the United States. On the other hand, although people often see criminal behavior as a symptom of poverty, the quantity of murder committed by white people specifically in the United States casts some doubt on this. Per capita GDP is considerably higher here than in France — and the white population in America is considerably richer than the national average — and yet we have more white murderers.

To understand the level of cultural pathology at work here, it’s important to understand that 36 percent of those killed by whites are women — a far higher share than you see with black murderers.

Race, Crime and Statistical Malpractice: How the Right Manipulates White Fear With Bogus Data

* Only about 1 percent of African Americans — and no more than 2 percent of black males — will commit a violent crime in a given year;
* Even though there are more black-on-white interracial crimes than white-on-black interracial crimes, this fact is not evidence of anti-white racial targeting by black offenders. Rather, it is completely explained by two factors having nothing to do with anti-white bias: namely, the general differences in rates of criminal offending, and the rates at which whites and blacks encounter one another (and thus, have the opportunity to victimize one another). Once these two factors are “controlled for” in social science terms, the actual rates of black-on-white crime are lower than random chance would predict;
* No more than 0.7 percent (seven-tenths of one percent) of African Americans will commit a violent crime against a white person in a given year, and fewer than 0.3 (three-tenths of one percent) of whites will be victimized by a black person in a given year;
* Whites are 6 times as likely to be murdered by another white person as by a black person; and overall, the percentage of white Americans who will be murdered by a black offender in a given year is only 2/10,000ths of 1 percent (0.0002). This means that only 1 in every 500,000 white people will be murdered by a black person in a given year. Although the numbers of black-on-white homicides are higher than the reverse (447 to 218 in 2010), the 218 black victims of white murderers is actually a higher percentage of the black population interracially killed than the 447 white victims of black murderers as a percentage of the white population. In fact, any given black person is 2.75 times as likely to be murdered by a white person as any given white person is to be murdered by an African American.

Nazis Can’t Do Math: Reflections on Racism, Crime and the Illiteracy of Right-Wing Statistical Analysis

To say that white people’s lives are endangered by black folks, as though it were some widespread social truth, is to ignore the facts in the service of one’s prejudices and paranoiac fears. According to the most comprehensive data set ever compiled regarding homicides in America, which breaks perpetrators and victims down by race and ethnicity, the numbers of black-on-white homicides, and the percentage of homicides by African Americans that involve white victims are both much smaller than one would expect. And although interracial homicide in either direction is quite rare, the fact is, any given black person in the U.S. is almost three times as likely to be murdered by a white person as any given white person is to be murdered by someone who is black. […]

[O]nly a ridiculously small percentage of African Americans will kill anyone in a given year. In 2010, since there were 42 million African Americans in the population, for there to have been 8,384 black murderers (and even if we assumed that each of these were separate and unique persons — i.e., there were no repeat offenders, which is unlikely), this would mean that at most, about 2 one-hundreths of one percent of all blacks committed homicide that year. So to fear black people generally, given numbers like these, is truly absurd. […]

In other words, although interracial homicides are incredibly rare in either direction, any given black person in the United States is about 2.8 times more likely to be killed by a white person than any given white person is to be murdered by a black person.

Just to put the risk of a white person being murdered by a black person in perspective, that risk is one-fifth the risk of dying while out for a walk, and we’re about 2.5 times more likely to die from choking, more than twice as likely to die from post-surgery complications, and about 60 percent more likely to die from falling down stairs.

Likewise, we are more than 40 times as likely to die in a motor vehicle accident, about 3 times as likely to date a supermodel, 4.5 times as likely to strike it rich on Antiques Roadshow, and far more likely to die from falling in the bathtub.

Which is to say, rather than fearing black people, white folks should — statistically speaking — stop bathing, stop driving, gather up all the dated nicknacks in our basements and call our local public television station, never climb stairs, and go on a completely liquid diet that won’t involve chewing. […]

*A note here about why the black homicide offending rate is so much higher than the rate for whites. Contrary to the arguments of many on the right — and especially white nationalist types — that the disproportionate rate of violent crime (and especially murder) is due to something either genetic or cultural about black folks specifically, the facts say otherwise.

According to the research by actual criminologists (which is to say, not by racist internet trolls), socioeconomic variables explain the difference between white and black violence rates, and where economic conditions are comparable between whites and blacks, there are no significant racial crime differences. In fact, the correlation between economic variables and crime are remarkably consistent from one society to the next. Evidence gathered from more than thirty countries has found that race and ethnicity have far less to do with crime than these environmental factors.

Please note, it is not that poverty in the abstract causes crime — or is, in and of itself, even the main correlative factor for crime — but rather, the kinds of conditions associated with extreme poverty that are to blame. Although whites in the U.S. also suffer poverty, black poverty is more severe and more likely to correlate with crime. Seven out of ten poor whites live in stable, mostly non-poor neighborhoods, while eighty-five percent of the black poor live in mostly poor areas. Blacks are three times more likely to live in extreme poverty than whites (less than half the poverty line), and six times more likely to live in concentrated poverty neighborhoods. Indeed, three-quarters of persons living in concentrated poverty neighborhoods are people of color (powell, john, 2001. “Socioeconomic School Integration,” Poverty and Race Research Action Council Bulletin, 10: 6, November/December: 6).

Looking specifically at homicide rates, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that crowded housing was the key to higher murder rates among blacks in the U.S. When census tracts with similar incomes, population density and housing conditions are compared, racial murder rate differences evaporate, (Pope, John, 1995, “Murder linked to dense poverty,” New Orleans Times-Picayune. June 14), because the poorest neighborhoods have similar homicide rates, no matter their racial composition.

A 1990 meta-analysis of twenty-one different studies on homicide, covering thirty years of research found much the same thing: among all the factors positively correlated with higher homicide rates, two of the most significant were unemployment rates and community resource deprivation.

Indeed, racial crime gaps in the U.S. are largely a reflection of geography. Since blacks are more concentrated in cities, which have higher crime rates no matter their racial makeup, the crime rate among blacks is skewed upwards; but this has nothing to do with any genetic or cultural predisposition to crime. In large measure, because cities are more crowded, and because crowded areas tend to increase levels of anonymity amongst residents, and chip away at the levels of organization in a neighborhood, they will be the site of elevated levels of crime. Adjusting violent crime rates for levels of urbanization alone cuts the racial disproportion in half, with economic conditions explaining the remainder.

In fact, absent a litany of socioeconomic factors, there is no substantial independent relationship between a community’s racial composition and its homicide rates (Johnson and Chanhatasilpa, 2003: 92). Although the homicide rate among “middle class” blacks is higher than that for middle class whites, the reasons for this have nothing to do with race: middle class blacks tend to live in much closer proximity to poor communities, tend to be substantially less well off than middle class whites, and are thus exposed to more negative social influences than whites of their same general class group (Ibid, 107).

The role of social and economic environment and community conditions in determining crime rates is particularly evident among juveniles. A comprehensive analysis of homicide and robbery data, which looked at the importance of such things as race, poverty, family disruption and unemployment in determining crime rates in these categories, found that black male joblessness explained black family disruption, which in turn was highly related to black murder and robbery rates, particularly for youth.

Race Matters: Study Claims White Men Are More Likely To Commit Mass Murders Than Blacks Or Any Other Racial Group

Via LAWSONRY News And Analysis reports:

While the majority of all violent crimes are perpetuated by men, American mass murders in particular seem to be the territory of white men. The Encyclopedia of Murder and Violent Crime writes that, “Compared with assailants who kill but one victim, mass murderers are overwhelmingly likely to be male, [and] are far more likely to be white,” and the numbers prove it. According to Wikipedia, 75% of the rampage killings on US record were perpetrated by white males, as were 71% of massacres in schools, and 60% of workplace rampages – a seriously disproportionate number for the number of white males that make up the general population. Clearly, there is more at play here than the advantage of opportunity. […]

News outlets have a also broken down by demographic, shooter’s identities, weapons and number of victims of these shooters. The most common denominator, most of these killers were white men…

Whites Commit More Crimes Than Blacks, FBI Says

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 910,200 of the men and women behind bars last year were black, 777,500 were white and 395,400 were Hispanic.

In 1997, about 9 percent of the black population in the U.S. was under some form of correctional supervision compared to 2 percent of the white population and over 1 percent of other races.

Blacks were two times more likely than Hispanics and five times more likely than whites to be in jail.

But those numbers count only those who were jailed for a crime. In 2003, more than twice as many whites as blacks were arrested and charged with a crime, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports.

Of 9.5 million offenses charged, 6.7 million whites were arrested, compared to 2.5 million blacks.

The most common crimes were drug abuse violations, resulting in arrest of 770,430 whites and 381,006 blacks.

Whites were far more likely to be arrested driving under the influence. Of 998,035 total offenses, 877,810 of those arrested where whites.

Blacks, meanwhile, were more than twice as likely as whites to be arrested for gambling, 5,153 to 1,964.

And while blacks comprise about 13 percent of the population, they were charged with most of the robberies, 40,993 compared to 33,070 for whites, and nearly as many homicides–4,395 black and 4,454 white.

Whites outnumbered blacks about 2-1 in arrests for other crimes, including rape (11,766-6,114), aggravated assault (203,076-103,697), burglary (143,889-103,697) and larcey/theft (556,215-233,806.)

Whites also were most often arrested for motor vehicle theft, arson, other assaults, fraud, embezzlement, dealing in stolen property, vandalism, weapons charges, prostitution, sex offenses, crimes against families and children, liquor laws, drunkenness, disorderly conduct, vagrancy, curfew and loitering, suspicion, as runaways and all other offenses not including traffic.

The Distorted Exaggeration of Black-on-Black Crime Ignores Much of America’s Criminality

This myth relies on shaky evidence and a selective definition of crime that ignores crimes committed by powerful institutions and the people who run them, many of whom are white men.

Blaming the crime problem on black people is unfair and ill-founded. On one hand, according to FBI homicide data, African Americans commit more homicides than other racial groups. In 2013, there were 5,375 black homicide offenders versus 4,396 who were white and over 4,000 whose races were unknown. However, that is a very small percentage of the national black population, which is over 40 million people. The vast majority of black people do not commit any crimes.

Moreover, so-called black-on-black crime has decreased over the decades. In the past 20 years, black-on-black homicides decreased by 67 percent—a sharper decline than white-on-white homicide—and “[a]mong black youth, rates of robbery and serious property offenses are the lowest in more than 40 years,” according to Demos. Throughout the country, crime has continuously fallen since the 1990s. Plus, black-on-black crime is hardly unique. Most crime is intra-racial. Around 90 percent of black homicide victims are killed by black offenders, while white people kill each other at roughly the same rate. […]

American discourse on crime is deeply politicized and influenced by racial and class bias. “Crime” is synonymous with “black.” In news reports and TV shows about crime, the criminal is usually a black person, especially a black male. But as legal expert and author Lisa Bloom points out in her book Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat it, many mass killings and heinous crimes — such as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people and the 2012 theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado that killed 12 moviegoers — are committed by white people. White people are also the ones most frequently arrested for crimes like rape, robbery, assault, forgery, and fraud. Yet unlike black people, white people are not collectively blamed for violent crimes committed by people who look like them.

Missing from American discourse on crime are those abuses committed by the powerful. War crimes, human rights abuses, violations of international law and the U.S. Constitution, and corporate and financial crimes are regularly carried out by governments, large corporations, and people with wealth and political clout. These crimes harm large numbers of people but are largely ignored and mostly go unpunished.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports — the official national crime database—leaves out many corporate and state crimes, while largely emphasizing street crimes. It tracks some white-collar crimes, like fraud and embezzlement, but leaves out many others, like money-laundering and human rights abuses or civil liberties violations. These infractions are tracked elsewhere, but extra digging is required to find the information. Such discrepancies have a serious effect on how the public perceives what is and is not a crime.

Here are five examples of the kinds of crimes that slip under the radar in the U.S.

1. America’s Illegal Invasion of Iraq […]
2. The CIA’s Secret Torture Program […]
3. Banks Undermine the Economic Status of Minorities […]
4. Wall Street Is Complicit in the International Drug Trade […]
5. The U.S. Government’s Covert Role in the Drug Trade […]

Crimes of the powerful are far more destructive than any street crime could ever be. Street crimes, from theft to murder, harm individuals or small groups of people, while crimes of the powerful, from aggressive and perpetual war to money laundering and economic plunder, destroy entire communities and countries.

Crimes of the powerful are sophisticated and effectively concealed. Street crime is visible. State and corporate crimes involve manipulating complicated laws, rich lawyers siding with the powerful, multiple actors, layers of bureaucracy, and government secrecy. People with power have the resources and connections to manipulate the system so that they are not held accountable, like corporations buying loyalty from politicians through campaign contributions.

This is what makes our entire discourse on crime a total joke. Crimes committed by marginalized groups receive attention and punishment, while crimes of the powerful go ignored and unpunished. The black criminality myth cloaks anti-black fears under the guise of “law and order.” It serves to justify routine police brutality and the mass incarceration of black people. It means that whenever a police officer kills an unarmed black person, racist apologists can pull out the black criminality myth card and say they had it coming.

The True Lie that Black Men Commit More Crime than Whites

The black people commit more crime canard is a fallacy of both process and outcomes. African Americans are subject to discrimination in the legal system at every level. As documented by The Sentencing Project, and detailed in such works as Race, Crime and the Law, and The New Jim Crow, African Americans are more likely to be stopped by police without cause, to be more aggressively questioned, receive longer and more severe charges for the same crimes as white defendants, and to have fewer resources to defend themselves in court.

As compared to white neighborhoods, black and brown communities are also subject to more severe surveillance and aggressive police tactics. Moreover, the disproportionate number of minorities in the criminal justice system can be largely explained by the War on Drugs. In total, if white communities were subject to the same type of aggressive police tactics as black and brown communities, the number of white people in prison would skyrocket.

The data is very telling here. While people of color are the prime targets of such policies as “stop and frisk” and racial profiling, it is in fact white people who are far more likely to be both drug users and to be in possession of narcotics at a given moment. This reality signals to a larger social phenomenon: black individuals who commit crimes are representative of their whole communities, crime is racialized, and there is no qualifier of individual intent. All black people are deemed suspicious and guilty because of the deeds of the very few.

In contrast, white people who commit crimes are unique individuals: the criminals who destroyed the global economy, a group of white men, were not taken as representative of the entire white community. There is a long list of crimes such as domestic terrorism, serial murder, child rape, sedition, treason, and financial fraud that are almost exclusively the province of white people. But again, whites as a group are excluded from suspicion or indictment as a “criminal class.”

The supposition that black men (and black folks more generally) are by definition “suspicious” is a channeling of the once in vogue concept known as “rational” or “reasonable” racism. Applying this logic, George Zimmerman is justified in shooting first, profiling, or harassing black people because “statistically” the latter are more likely to commit crime. Again, this is a chain of reasoning that is rife with problems.

Generalized statistics about crime tell you very little about a given person’s likelihood of committing a criminal act. This is especially true in a society where race and class are variables which over-determine how the courts treat suspects and who the police choose to single out for surveillance, harassment, and arrest.

Broad statistics also tell us little about a given population’s capacity or propensity to commit crime. For example, while black men are disproportionately incarcerated, the majority are in jail for drug offenses. African Americans are also more likely to be poor than whites. When a researcher accounts for these variables, the story becomes one of class and not race. Further problematizing the true lie that “black equals criminal,” is that disparities in crime largely disappear when you consider the black middle and upper classes in comparison to their white peers.

As demonstrated by Jody Armour in her book Negrophobia, less than 2 percent of black men are incarcerated for violent crimes. By implication, to generalize from the demographics of a given prison population to a specific person’s likelihood of committing a violent crime is a fool’s errand of the first order.

This is a counter-intuitive dynamic: just because a given group may constitute a higher percentage of those in jail, it does not in fact mean that a given individual is more likely to commit said type of crime.

A person is more likely to suffer a violent crime at the hands of a family member, friend, or acquaintance than a stranger; and most crime is intraracial.

Ultimately, incarceration is a function of many structural factors in relation to the criminal justice system.

Anecdotes matter. Police often give a pass to those who they know or trust. The white kid with weed just made a mistake; the black or Latino is a hardcore thug to be jailed. The judge may give parole or a lenient sentence to a white defendant in order to “teach them a lesson” about bad behavior. By comparison, a person of color before the same judge is already a “lost cause,” someone to have the book thrown at. We see this same dynamic even in schools: researchers have determined that white and black youth who are accused of the same offenses see wildly different outcomes in terms of punishment. The latter are suspended or expelled, while the former are given warnings or other remediation.

Blacks are 13% of Population, yet Commit more than Half of the Murders (drugs, FBI)

People living in poverty with access to less quality education, and fewer everyday mundane resources(jobs,healthcare, recreational parks) tend to commit way more crimes than those who are from a more affluent upbringing.

In general most black people tend to live in densely populated areas(cities),whereas poor white Americans tend to live in less densely populated areas(rural settings) where the nearest neighbor may be a few miles away.

Guess which population of poor people are more likely to have confrontations, the people living in the densely populated area. Theoretically if more poor white Americans lived in more densely populated areas(in cities), white on white crime would be astronomical.

It should come as to no surprise either blacks are routinely aggressively policed harder, yet non-blacks are more to carry guns or contraband:

White People Stopped By New York Police Are More Likely To Have Guns Or Drugs Than Minorities | ThinkProgress

With that said, the stats suggest there are about 4400+ black homicides a year, and there are 40 million blacks in America.

4400/40,000,000 x 100% = 0.01 aka less than one percent of the black population will likely commit a murder.

There’s no way you can parrot the “black on black gun crime epidemic” narrative without acknowledging that statistically, the clear majority of firearm related deaths in the U.S. are white males cooking their own noodles…and well out of proportion to their numbers in the population.

Contrary to white propaganda, the face of firearm death in the U.S. is a white male with a pistol to his head or a shotgun in his mouth

residinghere2007

In case it hasn’t been pointed out, I will state that the FBI statistics are only statistics on arrests, not actual perpetuators of crimes.

Black people are arrested more often due to a racial bias against them in law enforcement. I know a person who was arrested for murder in 2009 and therefore was a part of those statistics and he was acquitted at trial.

Just because someone is arrested, doesn’t mean they committed the crime.

Also, the FBI statistics usually has between 4000-6000 murder arrests listed as “unknown.” For all we know, all those people could be white.

Another also, white people commit DUI (they are convicted of it) much more often than black people. Over 10000 people are killed annually by drunk drivers. Most years the FBI statistic data states that 80% of the arrest for drunk driving were white people, by those statistics alone, whites would commit over 8000 murders by themselves. Many times, homicide by vehicle or DUI are not listed as actual homicides on FBI statistics. […]

It is always interesting to me how certain many people are so apt to believe that murder statistics in general “prove” that black people are violent, when even if we take the arrests into consideration, there are usually about 4000-5000 black people who are arrested for murder and that is 0.000125% of the black population.

As a whole, if you tally up the total amount of arrest by black people in any given year, it is 1-2% of the population that is even arrested. Considering that a majority of those arrests are cleared through the court processes, one can be fairly safe to say that less than 1% of black people commit crime in any given year.

ETA: One can even look into the prison population as people like to use that to claim some sort of “super criminality” in regards to black. On any given year there are 1-2 million blacks in prison. A large majority of those are non-violent offenses, but the total prison population in compared to the black population is about 2.5%. Not very significant or proof of any sort of wide spread black crime element in the country. Violent black criminals in prison are less than 1% of the black population. And even when you take into effect the storied black male criminal, overwhelmingly when you look at the numbers black males are not very violent or murderous on the whole. There are about 20 million black males in the country. Only about 5000 are even arrested for murder. I would guess that of those 5000 maybe 3000-4000 are convicted, that is only .00175% of the black male population.

White on White crime more prevalent than Black on Black

Most White people don’t kill White people. Yet media pundits, from Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly to CNN’s Don Lemon, have no problem using the phrase “Black on Black violence” despite the fact that most Black people don’t kill Black people.

When the news talks about gang-related deaths, they treat it as an almost exclusively Black problem. However, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, for the period of 1980 to 2008, a majority (53.3 percent) of gang homicides were committed by White offenders, and the majority of gang homicide victims (56.5 percent) were White.

When was the last time you’ve seen on the news, discussions about a White-gang problem?

Crimes committed by White people are explained as deviations of the individual but have nothing to do with race, but crimes committed by Blacks or Latino’s are somehow attributed to race. Gang-bangers from South Chicago have somehow become a symbol that Black men are to be feared, but you don’t get the same fear that one could attach to the brutal murders committed by Neo-Nazi skinheads.

According to statistics from the Justice Department, White men are more likely to kill than any other racial group. When it comes to how and why people kill, Black men do, in fact, outnumber Whites in gun-related homicides, but especially drug-related offenses. However, White men top the list in most all other categories.

When the Bureau of Justice Statistics collected homicidal rates from 1980 to 2008, they found that compared to Blacks, Whites were more likely to kill children, the elderly, family members, and their significant others. They commit more sex-related crimes, gang related crimes, and are more likely to kill at their places of employment.

Mass Shooters Have A Gender and a Race

Although White individuals made up 69.2% of arrests for crimes in 20111, Black men still account for the majority of the prison population, more than six times as likely to be incarcerated than White men. Black men are also subjected, according to Lawrence Grossman, former President of CBS News and PBS, to media stereotyping where TV newscasts “disproportionately show African Americans under arrest, living in slums, on welfare, and in need of help from the community.” However, men of color do not represent the majority of school shooters or mass murderers.

Recent studies reveal that most school shooters are White males, with 97 percent being male and 79 percent White. Over the last three decades, 90 percent of high school or elementary school shootings were the result of White, often upper-middle class, perpetrators. These shootings are a direct reflection of White male privilege and the consequences that occur when groups like the NRA control influential conservative leaders. […]

There is a pattern in these school shootings that has been coined as “suicide-by-mass-murder,” and seems to be an almost-exclusively young-White-male phenomenon. Michael Kimmel, a Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Stony Brook University and founder of the academic journal Men and Masculinity, has been conducting research on the intersection between race and gender of American school shooters, and observed that “victims of [young men of color] are usually those whom the shooter believes have wronged him. And it rarely ends with his suicide. .. White men, on the other hand, have a somewhat more grandiose purpose…’If I’m going to die, then so is everybody else,’ they seem to say. Yes, of course, this is mental illness speaking: but it is mental illness speaking with a voice that has a race and a gender.”

Characteristics of Offenders Who Violate and Assault Children

* Those inmates who were convicted of committing violent acts against children were more like to have been white, a percentage of nearly 70%, than any other race.
* White inmates were nearly three times more likely to have victimized a child than black inmates.

Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis For Professionals Investigating the
Sexual Exploitation of Children Fifth Edition 2010 Kenneth V. Lanning
Former Supervisory Special Agent Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
p. 139:

In relationship to the age of child victims, potential offenders can be peers, slightly older adolescents, young adults, and significantly older adults. The National Juvenile Online Victimization (N-JOV) Study that looked at an estimated 2,577 arrests by law enforcement for Internet sex crimes committed against minors during the 12 months starting July 1, 2000, (Wolak, Mitchell, and Finkelhor, 2003) found the vast majority of offenders were non-Hispanic White males, older than 25, acting alone. […] The sex offenders discussed here have tended to be White males from a middle class or higher socioeconomic background.

National Juvenile Online Victimization (NJOV) Survey Publications
Chapter 2 Internet Sex Crimes Against Minors
pp. 2-7

Offender Characteristic
Male 99%
Non-Hispanice White 92%

Police posing as juveniles online to catch sex offenders: Is it working? Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment
pp. 249-50

All but one were male, the majority was between the ages of 26 and 39
(61%) with an additional 33% ages 40 or older, and most were non-Hispanic
White (91%). Nearly half (43%) had annual household incomes between $20,000
and $50,000 with 36% having incomes greater than $50,000.

Federal Prosecution of Child Sex Exploitation Offenders, 2006
p.5

Eighty-nine percent of arrestees charged with child pornography
were [non-Hispanic] white, 99% were male, and 58% had
attended some college. The median age at arraignment
was 42 years. […]

Most suspects charged with sex transportation offenses
were [non-Hispanic] white (70%). Twelve percent of sex transportation
suspects were non-U.S. citizens, and 9% were female.
The median age at arraignment was 36 years. Twenty-six
percent of sex transportation defendants had a prior felony
conviction compared to 20% of pornography defendants
and 21% of sex abuse defendants.

Southeast Asia a Haven for Pedophiles

Thailand has a reputation for engaging in one of the largest child sex trade operations in Southeast Asia. UNICEF estimates the number of Thai children involved in prostitution to be between 60,000 and 200,000, though the organization says the exact number is difficult to track.

The U.S Department of Justice said the growing popularity of the very profitable child sex tourism trade contributes to the problem. A Thai organization called FACE, the coalition to Fight Against Child Exploitation, claimed that 5,000 foreigners come to Thailand each year to have sex with children.

The organization described the average sex tourist as a middle-aged white male from either Europe or North America who often goes online to find the “best deals.” One particular Web site promised “nights of sex with two young Thai girls for the price of a tank of gas.”

The violence that goes unnoticed

Nixon and the stories he tells also cast light on the differences between top-down and bottom-up environmental movements. “Full-stomach” environmentalism in rich nations, for instance, has tended to focus on the preservation of charismatic megafauna and majestic landscapes, often to the exclusion of the people native to those landscapes. This is the environmentalism of Priuses, debt-for-nature swaps, recycling campaigns and dreams of going “off the grid.” Poor-nation, “empty-belly” environmentalists, by contrast, “experience environmental threat not as a planetary abstraction but as a series of inhabited risks.” Although Nixon doesn’t address the environmental justice movement among poor and minority communities in the U.S. as an example, the principle is similar: environmental justice advocates, like poor-nation environmentalists, are often spurred to action by a direct threat to which the larger society — itself the perpetrator — pays little attention. There’s power to be gained by the two sides coming together, by environmentalists embracing the diversity of their causes alongside activists for women’s rights, minority rights and other rights discourses. If, as Maathai writes, “Poverty is both a cause and symptom of environmental degradation,” then each movement can be strengthened by joining forces with the other.

Doing Environmental Studies During Times of Racialized Violence

Eric Garner, who suffered from asthma, died in a police officer’s chokehold, screaming, “I can’t breathe.” These horrifying last words have been transformed into a protest chant across the United States. But they must also be historicized, attuned to both slow violence and recent acts of police violence. Before Eric Garner was exposed to the act of state violence that killed him, he was caught up in what Gregg Mitman calls an “ecology of injustice that structures urban life.” In New York City’s ecology of injustice, “asthma disproportionately affects people of color living in impoverished inner-city communities.” These disproportionate rates of suffering are a result of differential exposure to health risks, such as living close to bus depots, polluting industries, cockroach allergens, and pesticides.

Rather than claiming a direct connection between, say, asthma and police brutality, we are recruiting concepts such as slow violence and ecologies of injustice to unpack the complexity of the events surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and other victims of racialized state violence. Moreover, it connects the recent killing to a broader history of unjust urban ecologies that expose some people to risk more than others. The environment thus becomes not a marginal concern, but a central issue in understanding risk and exposure in the struggle for justice.

Freddie Gray’s life a study on the effects of lead paint on poor blacks

Before Freddie Gray was injured in police custody last month, before he died and this city was plunged into rioting, his life was defined by failures in the classroom, run-ins with the law and an inability to focus on anything for very long.

Many of those problems began when he was a child and living in this house, according to a 2008 lead-poisoning lawsuit filed by Gray and his siblings against the property owner. The suit resulted in an undisclosed settlement.

Reports of Gray’s history with lead come at a time when the city and nation are still trying to understand the full ramifications of lead poisoning. Advocates and studies say it can diminish cognitive function, increase aggression and ultimately exacerbate the cycle of poverty that is already exceedingly difficult to break.

It is nonetheless hard to know whether Gray’s problems were exclusively borne of lead poisoning or were the result of other socioeconomic factors as well. From birth, his was a life of intractable poverty that would have been challenging to overcome.

Equally difficult to know is the total number of children lead has poisoned. That’s because the declared threshold for how much lead a body can safely tolerate has shifted dramatically over the years as researchers have come to better understand its dangers. Decades ago, city health officials tested for blood lead levels that were higher than 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. Now, it is believed that anything higher than 5 micrograms can cripple a child’s cognitive development. […]

“A child who was poisoned with lead is seven times more likely to drop out of school and six times more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system,” Norton said. She called lead poisoning Baltimore’s “toxic legacy” — a still-unfolding tragedy with which she says the city has yet to come to terms. Those kids who were poisoned decades ago are now adults. And the trauma associated with lead poisoning ­“creates too much of a burden on a community,” she said.

Why environmentalists should support the Black Lives Matter protests

“Limiting the conversation about racism to just about how we’re policed is a lost opportunity,” Bautista wrote to me. “Folks should care not only about how racism kills quickly (via the police), but how racism also kills slowly and insidiously.”

Are White Appalachians A Special Case?

I’ve had poverty on my mind. I was thinking about it in terms of violent crime and social problems more broadly. I will be writing more about this topic, but Appalachia seems like a good starting point. I’d been meaning to write about this for a long time, and I finally felt I had to do some more thorough research, despite my desire to focus on other things.

It has been bugging me. It’s a nagging set of thoughts at the back of my mind. Some time ago, I had a debate in the comments section of one of my posts. It was about white violence in specific areas of the South with a long history of violence. I made some claims based on data I’d seen, but once challenged to prove my claims I realized how complex the data was and too often lacking. I temporarily retracted my claims and promised myself I’d eventually get to the bottom of the issue.

I’ll explore this further in coming posts. For now, I wanted to share a few comments I made in response to a blog post that wasn’t particularly worthy of responses. I can be a glutton for punishment sometimes. Here is the post by someone who calls himself bharford:

Poverty Causes Crime? Meet White Appalachia

His basic argument is that white Appalachians are a model poor group, maybe similar to how Asians are a model minority. They’re poor, but still “good people.” Ya know, honest and hardworking folk who go to church on Sunday. Not like those other poor people.

There isn’t much point in reading the post itself. He only shares a bit of data. The only reason I cared at all was because these past weeks I’ve come across a lot of info that I’d never seen before, neither in the blogosphere nor in the mainstream media. Heck, much of it I haven’t even seen in the alternative media either. Some of this stuff gets lost and forgotten, hidden away in musty academic books that few people, besides other academics, read.

Apparently, bharford wasn’t all that interested in what I had to share. He didn’t approve most of my comments, specifically the ones that included data that disproved or challenged the claims he was making, but unlike me he probably isn’t going to retract claims just because the issue is more complicated than he realized. So, I’ll just have to post some of the comments here instead, as seen below. I’ll also include the one comment he directed toward me and my response.

* * *

Data does show that poor whites are more likely to own a house than poor blacks. Those houses in many cases are inherited along with land. People forget that many blacks used to own houses. A lot of their inherited wealth was loss. When blacks were driven out of communities and entire areas, there homes and property was either stolen or destroyed. This happened over many generations.

Whites, on the other hand, experienced generations of white affirmative action. Read Ira Katznelson’s book for the details.

Because of this history, poor whites are less likely to be highly concentrated in poverty and more likely to live near wealthier whites. Economic mobility is easier for whites, because that don’t have the added burden of racial biases in housing, employment, and incarceration. White privilege has been immense over this past century.

It’s easy to forget that Jim Crow, sundown towns, redlining, etc all happened within living memory. It wasn’t that long ago. Some blacks who voted for Obama spent the first part of their life not even having the right to vote.

Even worse, poor minority areas are more heavily polluted because bypasses and toxic dumps are more likely to be located there. This is called environmental racism and it has massive consequences.

Poor blacks have higher rates of lead toxicity than even poor whites, and the damage is hard to imagine on the level of entire communities. Lead toxicity increases rates of violent crime, aggressive behavior, impaired impulse control, ADHD, stunted brain development, cognitive impairment, lowered IQ, etc. That doesn’t even include all the other diseases caused or contributed to by heavy metal exposure. Entire populations of poor minorities are systematically poisoned.

In so many ways, black poverty is far worse than white poverty. Most poor whites have no idea how bad poverty can be.

* * *

http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/when-exceptions-prove-the-rule-poverty-whiteness-and-privilege/

“So, in the case of Appalachians, the proper test of their racial privilege (or lack thereof) would be to compare whites in the region with blacks in the same region and to then ask, do whites have an advantage or privileges relative to their regional counterparts of color? That most people aren’t even aware of the existence of blacks in Appalachia (though they comprise about 6 percent of the region’s population, and are among some of the poorest) seems a pretty good answer to that question. That whites are the ones we instantly think of when we think of Appalachian poverty, and the ones for whom we typically then express such great sympathy, seems to indicate a very substantial kind of privileging; a kind that erases from our consciousness altogether, the problem of rural black poverty as though it were a non-factor.

“And indeed there is far more sympathy expressed for the white poor, historically and today, than for the black and brown poor: another form of implicit preference for, and privileging of, whiteness. Now that the economy is imploding, one can hear concern expressed about the poor (especially the once middle-class poor, mostly constructed as white), and how terrible it is that they are now facing such hardships. Yet when those same hardships were being experienced by the urban black and brown (whose communities have been in a recession or even depression state for entire generations in some cases) little sympathy attached. Indeed, as Martin Gilens explained in his book Why Americans Hate Welfare, as the media imagery of the poor began to shift in the early 1970s, from mostly white and rural to mostly black and urban, public animosity towards the impoverished rose in lockstep. As contrasted with the mostly sympathy-filled portrayals of the Dust Bowl poor in the 30s, or the white families that were losing their farms in the 80s, black families suffering under the combined forces of the decline in city-based manufacturing employment, as well as racism, redlining by banks and neglect of urban school infrastructure, were viewed as responsible for their own plight.

“The simple truth is, working people are not all in the same boat, and white working class folks have real advantages. Black and Latino workers are typically the first fired in an economic downturn, and remain twice as likely to be unemployed and 3-4 times as likely to be poor, in good times or bad; and white high school dropouts are twice as likely to find work as similarly uneducated African Americans.

“Furthermore, according to Thomas Shapiro’s groundbreaking work on the racial wealth divide, whites in the bottom fifth of all white households (in terms of income) have, on average seven times the net worth of similar blacks. In large part this is due to a major advantage in home ownership and thus equity, due to passed down property from parents. Indeed, whites with incomes below $13,000 are more likely to own their own homes than blacks with incomes that are three times higher, largely due to these intergenerational transfers of wealth.”

bharford:

Blacks have a Net LOSS when it comes to bank savings.
So for the poorest whites to have 7xs that saved, is not that far fetched. Owning a trailer may not be sexy but it beomces an asset and a place to call home.
The J EW author Thomas Shapiro glosses over that fact. If we cant trust J EWs to be honest reporters about race and racial matters, who can we trust? Oy vey.

The only advantages poor whites have is common sense and resiliency, as well as a certain country resourcefulness.
They get interest laden student loans for life- like the rest of the whites, while minorities get free paid for grants, they have no quota they can fill to see their admittance into college, though black colleges are still wide open and accepting students, and whites will get passed over at job employment time by less qualified minorities via Affirmative Action in the working world-corporate or municipal.

It’s unsurprising that blacks have a net loss of bank savings when they also have a net loss of earnings. Blacks with a college degree on average earn less than whites with a high school diploma.

Research shows that equally or less qualified whites are more likely to get both an interview and get hired than blacks. This kind of racial bias exists even when comparing just white-sounding names and black-sounding names, before an interview or any personal meeting has occurred. This is also true when the white has a criminal record and the black has no criminal record.

Just imagine what the chances are for a black with a criminal record. Also, consider the fact that blacks are more likely to be arrested, convicted, and hence have a criminal record for many crimes that whites commit at higher rates.

Studies have shown these kind of racial biases are found in diverse areas all across our society. This isn’t just something from the past. It continues to this day.

For these reasons, the average poor black person is far more poor than the average poor white person. Also, poor blacks are more likely to be economically segregated in poor communities and neighborhoods, because of a history of sundown towns, redlining, racially biased housing loans, etc. Poor whites, on the other hand, are more likely to live in wealthier communities. Unsurprisingly, poor blacks have lower economic mobility than poor whites, which means they are more likely to be trapped in poverty across generations.

My family is white and they came from poverty. But because of their whiteness it was much easier for my family to move up in the world. My grandparents didn’t have much education at all and yet were able to get good jobs with life-long job security, high pay, and benefits. My mother then went to college and graduated owing no money. This was common for white people, even poor white people, in the past. Ira Katznelson explains why this was so in her book, When Affirmative Action Was White.

The ability to move out of poverty or at least to move out of poor areas makes a major difference in life outcomes, including health outcomes. The stress of poverty, especially concentrated poverty, takes a large toll on people. This is true for whites as well as blacks, but of course blacks experience poverty too a disproportinate degree.

An example of this is lead toxitiy. Bypasses and toxic dumps have mostly been located in poor minority areas. This caused these areas to have more lead and other heavy metal pollution. Data shows that the poor have higher rates of lead toxicity than the wealthier, minorities higher rates than whites, and poor minorities higher rates than poor whites. Blacks even have higher rates of lead toxicity than Hispanics. This is largely to do with blacks being disproportionately urbanized, in particular during the era when lead pollution skyrocketed, an era also when whites fled the big cities for the suburbs and so avoided the worst lead exposure. Poor whites are more rural and so didn’t have to deal as much with such problems. However, back when lead pollution was initially a rural problem, whites did have high rates of violent crime.

Lead toxicity is nothing to dismiss. It impacts different populations to varying degrees, but few populations escape its negative effects entirely because pollution has become so widespread. Heavy metal toxicty is known to cause and contribute to all kinds of health, neurological, behavioral, and social problems. If you are a bigot who hates all non-whites, you should still care about this issue.

As history has proven again and again, these aren’t just non-white problems. All populations that have experienced these kinds of conditions have shown the similar or even worst rates for these kinds of issues. Violent crime among blacks today, for example, is small compared to violent rates for whites in the past. Similar changes have been seen with IQ rates, as the average black today is far higher IQ than the average white was when the first tests were done.

To my mind, these improvements found in all populations are to be praised. We should try to understand the causes so as to create further improvements. Even white supremacists should be excited to know that poor whites are doing so much better today than was seen in the 1800s and early 1900s. The violent crime rates of whites in the past, not just the poor, were mind-blowingly high. That proves the power of changing environmental conditions. No population, no matter how bad off, is forever fated to suffering and struggle.

Everyone should be able to agree that is a good thing.

* * *

Since your focus is on poor white Appalachia, there is no way that McDowell County, West Virginia should be ignored. According to the 2010 census, the population was barely above 22,000, about 89% non-Hispanic white. It is the southernmost county in state, one of the core counties of Appalachia, and one of the main focuses of the national War On Poverty,

West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the country (listed at the bottom with largely black states like Arkansas and Mississippi). And McDowell is one of the poorest counties in the country. McDowell County is so severely poor that it doesn’t even need to worry about economic inequality. The vast majority of people with any money or prospects of making money moved away. All those who remain are mostly the poorest of the poor. Also problematic, the state has one of the highest economic inequalities in the country, an economic inequality that is at a historic high and still growing. The former residents with money may be now living in nearby counties not far away. It’s economic segregation by default.

http://www.newgeography.com/content/003912-the-emerging-geography-inequality

http://www.movoto.com/blog/opinions/income-inequality-map/

http://www.wvpolicy.org/income-inequality-at-historic-high-in-wv

http://www.wvpolicy.org/income-inequality-continues-to-grow-in-west-virginia

The violence and crime numbers are surprisingly high for such a small town and they’ve been rising. It’s even worse when put in context of per capita rates. West Virginia overall has higher violence and crime rates than the national average, and McDowell has higher rates than both the national and state averages. The rates are higher for murder, suicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, etc. That barely scratches the surface of the social problems involved.

http://www.wvnstv.com/story/26594861/mcdowell-county-tops-wv-truancy-rate

“State figures show that nearly a third of West Virginia’s public school students were truant during the 2013-2014 academic year.

“According to Department of Education data, 58 percent of McDowell County’s students were marked as truant. That was the highest rate in the state. Jefferson County had the lowest rate, 7 percent. The statewide rate was about 31 percent.”

http://www.clrsearch.com/McDowell-County-Demographics/WV/Crime-Rate

http://recordspedia.com/West-Virginia/Mcdowell-County/Crime-Statistics

“Between 2001 and 2007 there were 1,442 total crimes reported in Mcdowell County, West Virginia (174 of them violent). Of the 206 crimes that transpire each year in Mcdowell County, just about one half take place less than a mile from home. On average, someone is a victim of a crime in Mcdowell County, West Virginia 206 times a year. This includes 4 murders, 1 rape, and close to nine hundred thefts (including 99 automobile thefts).

“Throughout the last 10 years, crime data were available in Mcdowell County, West Virginia for 7 years. Over that period of time, reported crime in Mcdowell County has climbed by 37 per-cent. In the course of that same period, violent crime rose by 52 per-cent. Taken as a whole, the crime rates are a sign of a rapid worsening in crime over these years in Mcdowell County.”

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/west-virginia-sheriff-shot-dead-outside-county-courthouse

“Williamson, a town of about 3,200, sits along the Tug Fork River in a part of the state long associated with violence. Mingo and neighboring McDowell County are home to the legendary blood feud between the Hatfield family of West Virginia and the McCoy family of Kentucky, a conflict dating to the Civil War.

“Crum’s county was dubbed “Bloody Mingo” during the early 20th century mine wars, when unionizing miners battled Baldwin-Felts security agents hired by the coal operators.

“In May 1920, after evicting striking miners in Red Jacket, some of the Baldwin-Felts men tried to board a train in nearby Matewan but were confronted by the mayor and the chief of police, Sid Hatfield, a former miner, who had family ties to the Hatfields in the feud.

“After a gun battle recreated in the 1987 John Sayles film “Matewan,” the mayor, two miners, a bystander and three agents lay dead. Hatfield became a hero but was gunned down on the courthouse steps a year later in Matewan.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDowell_County,_West_Virginia

“In the 1980s the central Appalachian region lost more than 70,000 coal mining jobs. Between 1981 and 1992, according to the U.S. Department of Energy and the United Mine Workers union, coal mining employment in the state of West Virginia decreased by more than 53%. No county in the Appalachian region was more severely distressed by these losses than McDowell County. According to the United States Census Bureau, in 1980, the rate of poverty in McDowell County was 23.5%.

“By 1990, the poverty rate in McDowell County had climbed to 37.7%, the highest rate of poverty for any county in West Virginia. 50.3% of all children in McDowell County were living in families below the poverty level, up from 31.2% in 1980. The major losses in McDowell County during this period were the result of the closing of all mines and facilities operated by the United States Steel Corporation, terminating more than 1,200 jobs.

“The economic impact of U.S. Steel’s departure was particularly dramatic: personal income in the county decreased by 66% in one year. Housing values in even the most prosperous parts of the county plunged to devastatingly low values. Individuals and families who wanted to relocate outside the county were left with little or no equity in their property. Many walked away from their mortgages and simply abandoned their homes to the lenders.

“Marijuana crops, drug traffic, fraud, arson, and in one spectacular case at the Bank of Keystone—major white collar crime and embezzlement became factors in the unofficial economy of McDowell. County officials also reported significant increases in the rates of domestic abuse, suicide, and OxyContin abuse.

“By 2001 suffering major losses of tax revenue, McDowell County public schools had fallen into physical decay and high rates of academic failure. Enrollments declined, more than half of the children lived in poverty. […]

“The median income for a household in the county was $21,574, and the median income for a family was $27,605. Men had a median income of $25,994 versus $18,685 for Women. The per capita income for the county was $12,004. About 29.1% of families and 34.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 43.4% of those under age 18 and 23.3% of those age 65 or over.[15]

“In 2013, press reports indicated that the average lifespan of a man in McDowell County was 63.9 years, compared to a national average of 76.3. This was the shortest lifespan for men in the country. Women in the county could expect to live 72.9 years; the national figure is 80.9. This was the second-worst number in the United States, with only Perry County, Kentucky doing worse.[16]”

http://www.alternet.org/corporate-accountability-and-workplace/mcdowell-county-usa-has-close-haitis-life-expectancy-welcome

“Those WHO figures for the U.S. take into account the country as a whole, and overall, Americans clearly aren’t living as long as Europeans. But the news becomes even more troubling when one examines a report that the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington released in July 2013. That study broke down life expectancy for men and women in different parts of the U.S., showing a strong correlation between income levels and longevity. The report found that life expectancy is 81.6 for males and 84.5 for females in Fairfax County, Virginia (a very affluent area) and 81.4 for males and 85.0 for females in Marin County, California (another upscale area) compared to only 63.9 for males and 72.9 for females in McDowell County, West Virginia or 66.7 for males and 73.3 for females in Tunica County, Mississippi.

“The fact that males in McDowell County are, on average, dying 18 years younger than males in Fairfax County or Marin County speaks volumes about inequality in the U.S. That type of disparity is more typical of a developing country than a developed country. Yet when one compares life expectancy in McDowell County to life expectancy in Guatemala, one of Latin America’s poorest countries, Guatemalans come out slightly ahead. WHO has reported an overall life expectancy of 69 for Guatemala (66 for men, 73 for women).

“So in other words, the poor in Guatemala are outliving the poor in McDowell County. In fact, McDowell County is only slightly ahead of Haiti, Ghana and Papua New Guinea when it comes to life expectancy for males: according to WHO, life expectancy for males is 62 in those three countries.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-hedges/west-virginia-oxycontin-abuse_b_1820493.html

“About half of those living in McDowell County depend on some kind of relief check such as Social Security, Disability, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, retirement benefits, and unemployment to survive. They live on the margins, check to check, expecting no improvement in their lives and seeing none. The most common billboards along the roads are for law firms that file disability claims and seek state and federal payments. “Disability and Injury Lawyers,” reads one. It promises to handle “Social Security. Car Wrecks. Veterans. Workers’ Comp.” The 800 number ends in COMP.

“Harry M. Caudill, in his monumental 1963 book Night Comes to the Cumberlands, describes how relief checks became a kind of bribe for the rural poor in Appalachia. The decimated region was the pilot project for outside government assistance, which had issued the first food stamps in 1961 to a household of fifteen in Paynesville, West Virginia. “Welfarism” began to be practiced, as Caudill wrote, “on a scale unequalled elsewhere in America and scarcely surpassed anywhere in the world.” Government “handouts,” he observed, were “speedily recognized as a lode from which dollars could be mined more easily than from any coal seam.”

“Obtaining the monthly “handout” became an art form. People were reduced to what Caudill called “the tragic status of ‘symptom hunters.’ If they could find enough symptoms of illness, they might convince the physicians they were ‘sick enough to draw’… to indicate such a disability as incapacitating the men from working. Then his children, as public charges, could draw enough money to feed the family.””

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/21/us/50-years-into-the-war-on-poverty-hardship-hits-back.html

“McDowell County, the poorest in West Virginia, has been emblematic of entrenched American poverty for more than a half-century. John F. Kennedy campaigned here in 1960 and was so appalled that he promised to send help if elected president. His first executive order created the modern food stamp program, whose first recipients were McDowell County residents. When President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “unconditional war on poverty” in 1964, it was the squalor of Appalachia he had in mind. The federal programs that followed — Medicare, Medicaid, free school lunches and others — lifted tens of thousands above a subsistence standard of living.

“But a half-century later, with the poverty rate again on the rise, hardship seems merely to have taken on a new face in McDowell County. The economy is declining along with the coal industry, towns are hollowed out as people flee, and communities are scarred by family dissolution, prescription drug abuse and a high rate of imprisonment. […]

“Much of McDowell County looks like a rural Detroit, with broken windows on shuttered businesses and homes crumbling from neglect. In many places, little seems to have been built or maintained in decades.

“Numbers tell the tale as vividly as the scarred landscape. Forty-six percent of children in the county do not live with a biological parent, according to the school district. Their mothers and fathers are in jail, are dead or have left them to be raised by relatives, said Gordon Lambert, president of the McDowell County Commission.

“Beginning in the 19th century, the rugged region produced more coal than any other county in West Virginia, but it got almost none of the wealth back as local investment. Of West Virginia’s 55 counties, McDowell has the lowest median household income, $22,000; the worst childhood obesity rate; and the highest teenage birthrate.

“It is also reeling from prescription drug abuse. The death rate from overdoses is more than eight times the national average. Of the 115 babies born in 2011 at Welch Community Hospital, over 40 had been exposed to drugs.

“Largely as a consequence of the drug scourge, a problem widespread in rural America, the incarceration rate in West Virginia is one of the highest in the country.

““Whole families have been wiped out in this county: mother, father, children,” said Sheriff Martin B. West.

““These are good people, good families,” Sheriff West, an evangelical pastor, said of his lifelong neighbors. “But they get involved with drugs, and the next thing you know they’re getting arrested.” […]

“Many in McDowell County acknowledge that depending on government benefits has become a way of life, passed from generation to generation. Nearly 47 percent of personal income in the county is from Social Security, disability insurance, food stamps and other federal programs.

“But residents also identify a more insidious cause of the current social unraveling: the disappearance of the only good jobs they ever knew, in coal mining. The county was always poor. Yet family breakup did not become a calamity until the 1990s, after southern West Virginia lost its major mines in the downturn of the American steel industry. The poverty rate, 50 percent in 1960, declined — partly as a result of federal benefits — to 36 percent in 1970 and to 23.5 percent in 1980. But it soared to nearly 38 percent in 1990. For families with children, it now nears 41 percent.

“Today, fewer than one in three McDowell County residents are in the labor force. The chief effort to diversify the economy has been building prisons. The most impressive structure on Route 52, the twisting highway into Welch, is a state prison that occupies a former hospital. There is also a new federal prison on a mountaintop. But many residents have been skipped over for the well-paying jobs in corrections: They can’t pass a drug test.”

http://www.wealthandpoverty.net/2014/04/the-reign-of-poverty-in-mcdowell-county084741.php

“The details are harrowing. Fourty-six percent of children in the county don’t live with a biological parent. The death rate from drug overdose is over eight times the national average. The incarceration rate is among the highest in the U.S.

“In the 1950’s, 100,000 people called McDowell County home. In 2014, that number has plummeted to 21,300, and the county is populated only by those who can’t leave due to lack of education or skills, or have family connections that keep them rooted in the area.

“With the disappearance of coal mining jobs, many families now rely on Social Security, food stamps, and disability payments. Dependence on government money has become “a way of life, passed from generation to generation.” Fewer than one out of three participates in the labor force (works, or is looking for work)–a figure that compares poorly to the national labor participation rate of 63.2% (as of March 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

“McDowell County is aware of their detachment from the rest of the country, and places a large importance on staying loyal to “us,” as opposed to “them.” Fifteen-year-old Emalee sees the possibility of pursuing a college education in her future, but her family doesn’t want her to go. Says Florisha McGuire of leaving her small West Virginian town to attend college: “you’d think I’d committed a crime.”

“There are so many factors that we could blame for the destitution of McDowell County. There’s the extensive dependence on welfare that disincentives productive work. There’s the economic shift that caused the disappearance of coal mining jobs. There’s pervasive drug use that puts otherwise good people in jail, separating parents from children and citizens from society. There’s the lack of hope for betterment in the future that discourages seeking out opportunity elsewhere.

“The truth is, all of these variables interact with and feed upon each other. Perhaps the one sure lesson that we can take away is that poverty, at its core, is not just a money issue–it’s a community issue.”

* * *

Why didn’t you approve my comments? In multiple unapproved comments, I offered quotes, data, and analysis from different perspectives. Don’t you want to have a discussion about what all this means? Aren’t you at least curious and hopefully concerned about what causes social problems, no matter what race or ethnicity is involved?

I’m sympathetic to poor whites. My mother came from lower working class people from what some call Kentuckiana, and it just occurred to me that several generations before her the family actually was living in Appalachia. She spoke with a Southern Hoosier dialect when she was younger, and when I visit her family I can still hear some of them speak that way. I don’t have to go back very far in my family history to find severe poverty. I’ve lived below the poverty line myself at one point in my life. The people you describe are what I consider my people.

If you really cared about these people, you’d dig much deeper in trying to understand and you wouldn’t create a stereotyped caricature that dismisses the harsh reality of poverty. And as a professed Christian (going by your About page), you should care. A good place to start is by getting an insider’s perspective. I’d suggest Joe Bageant’s Deer Hunting with Jesus (or you could check out his memoir, Rainbow Pie). Bageant doesn’t pull his punches and he most certainly cares as he writes about the people he grew up with. He was born and raised as a dirt poor Appalachian among the too often forgotten white underclass.

There is a lot more going on in this region and in these communities. The history alone is fascinating and times heartbreaking. Appalachia and the larger region isn’t even just about whites. Many areas that are majority white today had large black populations in the past, prior to Jim Crow, the KKK, and redlining. Even so, many blacks remain in these rural areas, especially in the South, but also in Appalachia.

Poverty is not a race issue. Rural blacks are basically the same as rural whites in rates of social problems, although rural blacks are less likely to commit suicide. The same goes for comparing inner city blacks and inner city whites. Back when most blacks were rural, they had strong communities and high marriage rates; and at least in some places (e.g., rural Louisiana) blacks committed less violent crime than did whites, both intraracial and interracial. Inner cities are a very different kind of place, but it’s been hard for blacks to escape those conditions. It’s similar to why poor Appalachians get stuck in poor communities, long after the employment dried up. Inner cities also at one time had high employment rates for blacks. Loss of factories in inner cities had the same basic impact as loss of mining in Appalachia.

That said, I agree with you that Appalachia is an interesting case to consider. It has poverty, no doubt about that. But I’d love to know more details. How severe is that poverty compared to the poorest communities and neighborhoods in the US? How concentrated is the poverty there? Research has found that concentrated severe poverty is, of course, far worse than sparse moderate poverty. Hence, the social problems vary greatly according to the specific type and conditions of poverty.

I know Appalachia and the Upper South. It’s a different kind of place. Kentucky has had great decreases in violent crime, but Tennessee for some reason hasn’t seen as much improvement. Both states have histories of violent populations. Tennessee remains one of the most violent states in the country, even to the extent of sometimes making it to the top of the list. Kentucky diverged from its sister state, Tennessee. I don’t know why that is. I’ve traveled around Kentucky and it truly seems like a border state, with similarities both to the Midwest and to the South. The Midwestern states also tend to have lower violent crime rates.

But there was something I noticed in Kentucky that I haven’t seen too many other places. If you drive down rural back roads, you’ll find shacks and old houses that are nearly falling down and yet sometimes nearby will be a well-kept mansion. It’s the strangest thing, especially from my Midwestern perspective. The extremes of poverty and wealth are often right next to one another, at least in rural areas.

I saw a similar phenomenon in South Carolina. My family lived in Columbia. There was a main road that headed into downtown. On one side of the road, there was a poor mostly black neighborhood (along with some Projects) and on the other side of the road was a wealthy mostly white neighborhood. There was no massive wall dividing the two worlds, just the road.

That kind of thing simply does not exist in Iowa. Ignoring the contrast to Iowa, I wanted to note some differences between the two examples above.

The South Carolina example was of concentrated poverty and concentrated wealth, even though they were right next to each other. If you looked at the county level data, you wouldn’t be able to see this concentration, but it was obvious just by driving down that road.

That kind of concentrated urban poverty, whether or not next to concentrated wealth, tends to lead to all kinds of social problems. This has been demonstrated in numerous examples throughout American history, in terms of diverse races and ethnicities. When Italians, Irish, and Jews lived in urban neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, they saw similar social problems as seen today: violent crime, family breakdown, low education achievement, job insecurity, alcohol and drug abuse, prostitution, etc.

Rural poverty may be less of a problem in some ways. It is spread out more, but that just means the problems are spread out more. Are the social problems less worse or less obvious?

I bet that interesting patterns would be seen in Appalachia if you were to break down the different areas. I’m specifically thinking of urban vs rural and concentrated poverty vs mixed class residences, but also other distinctions as well. The results might not fit what many would expect.

I’ll give some examples that shows how complicated it can be.

How the data is divided determines the conclusion that is made. According to how the data is normally divided, US rural areas on average are safer than US urban areas on average. But this is mixing up a whole lot of factors and averaging out across great diversity. Some urban areas are extremely safe. Many of the biggest cities, for example, have below average violence and crime rates, maybe because of more police presence or other reasons. Also, both inner cities and suburbs both share the trait of not being rural, but otherwise they are quite distinct.

The data can be divided up in other ways. By rural, what most researchers have meant is all small and/or sparsely populated areas. This has most often included small towns, even though one would think of a small town being an urban area, albeit a small urban area.

There was one study I came across that didn’t include small towns as part of rural areas and so entirely separated out sparsely populated rural areas, which is what many people think of when rural is mentioned. This study made three categories for analysis: rural areas, small towns, and big cities. The results showed the small towns were the safest of all for violent crime, although they had high rates of other crimes such as vandalism and larceny. Most interesting of all, is that divided up this way rural areas proved to have higher violent crime rates than even big cities. When people say rural areas are safer, what they really mean is that small towns are safer.

You also see differences according to regions. Compare the Midwest and the South. Both have high rates of gun ownership. Yet the Midwest has lower rates of gun violence and and the South has higher rates of gun violence. I know, for example, in the rural South that you are more likely to be killed by someone you know. There was a recent study that showed increasing gun ownership rates doesn’t correlate to increasing stranger gun homicides but it does correlate to increasing non-stranger gun homicides. That correlation, however, might also show great disparity between regions.

By the way, I don’t know if Appalachia is on average more similar to the Midwest or the South. Even though the Southern section of Appalachia is in the South, the northern part is in the Midwest. There might be great differences when looking at different areas of Appalachia.

It does make me wonder. I know that the South in general has higher rates of a wide variety of social problems, such as rates of teen pregnancy and high school drop outs. These social problems are mostly found among poor Southerners, both black and white. The South also has high rates of poverty and economic inequality which is always found anywhere there are social problems. Maybe Appalachia needs to be considered separately. The conditions of Appalachia might be different than other areas.

After writing the above, I came across a list of the top 50 most dangerous counties in America, based on 2012 data:

http://www.movoto.com/blog/top-ten/most-dangerous-counties/

It’s an imperfect list because the data is limited, but it still is interesting. A significant number of counties on this list are in or near Appalachia. I didn’t compare this list to that of the poorest counties in America. I bet some of the same counties would be found on both lists. For certain, I doubt many, if any, of the most dangerous counties are places of low poverty rates.

I was looking back through your post. I realized that you didn’t actually offer much in the way of data. You mostly just shared photographs and made many unsubstantiated claims. One piece of data you did share caught my attention:

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/america-s-10-poorest-counties-are-gulf-coast-states-kentucky-and-indian-reservations

“Yet, The violent crime rate for Appalachia in 2010 was lower than the national violent crime rate average by 56.76%”

You followed that with a map that showed economic by county in Appalachia. It made me realize that you weren’t clear in what point you were making. Appalachia includes many prosperous counties as well as poor. The poorest counties also probably are the least populated and so probably have the least amount of concentrated poverty, which makes a massive difference as research shows. Most Appalachians probably live in the prosperous counties because that is where most of the work is located. Nothing you said offers clear insight about the average Appalachian.

In Appalachia, the poverty rates and average income levels differ greatly. depending on the state:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Appalachian_Regional_Commission_counties

Talking about Appalachia is somewhat arbitrary. It not only crosses several state boundaries but also stretches between three different regions: Deep South, Upper South, and Midwest. Those states and those regions are very different kinds of places with different demographics, different economies, and different governments.

A similar problem exists in talking about the Midwest, something I’m more familiar with. The Lower South and Upper South might as well be considered separately. The lower edge of the Lower Midwest is culturally more Southern. The same difficult goes for the Eastern Midwest and Western Midwest. I live in Iowa, which is on the other side of the Mississippi and has no big cities. Iowa is quite different from the Midwestern Rust Belt.

I don’t mean to say that it is pointless to discuss generalizations about vast regions, whether Appalachia or Midwest. It’s just that one should be very careful and pay close attention to the details.

I’d say the same thing about even larger generalized categories such as all poor whites. Some poor whites are more severely poor than others. Some are only temporarily poor while some populations are intergenerationally poor. Some exhibit higher rates of social problems, but not all do. Many demographics considered as white today weren’t in the past. The crime data used to keep the numbers separate for not just races but all major ethnicities. A century or so ago, Italians, Irish, and Jews had high rates of crimes that went along with high rates of concentrated poverty.

Even some of the same whites show diverse rates of problems over time. Appalachia still does have plenty of violence, but it is worth noting that is far lower than it used to be. As far as that goes, all violent crime is lower in the US than it used to be and it is dropping the most quickly among minorities, for whatever reason. It likely has to do with changing environmental conditions, such as decreased heavy metal pollution.

Also, what about people who move. Many Appalachians in the past have since moved to other places. Where did they go? Did they simply assimilate into other populations? Even limiting ourselves to Appalachia, how has the population shifted around and which counties have the most population now? What are the poverty and violent crime rates like in the most populous Appalachian counties where most Appalachians live?

I don’t know the answer to those questions. You didn’t even think to ask them. If you really want to understand any of this, your post and the discussion in the comments has barely scratched the surface. Don’t these unanswered questions make you curious?

* * *

Crime and Policing in Rural and Small-Town America: Third Edition
by Ralph A. Weisheit, David N. Falcone, L. Edward Well
p. 48

“Informal social control, keeping things in, and showing a greater suspicion of government may also help account for rural-urban differences in the willingness of local communities to cooperate fully with reporting to the FBI’s UCR. Reporting to the CR program in 2003 differed by population density, with reports covering 95% of citizens living in metropolitan statistical areas but only 83% of those living in rural areas (FBI, 2003). Similarly, Laub (1981) has found that while the overall likelihood of reporting crime to the police is similar for rural and urban citizens, those in urban areas fail to report because they think nothing can be done, while those in rural areas fail to report because they consider the crime a private concern, even when the offender is a stranger. As a New Mexico state police officer observed: “In a lot of these [rural] areas, there’s really no law enforcement—no police, no sheriff, no state police station. People prefer to handle their own affairs and disputes themselves” (Applebombe, 1987, p. 11). The officer’s comment should be taken as more figurative than literal, although there are remote areas of Alaska where the statement could be taken literally. The statement does reflect two dimensions of the issue that are distinct but tend to reinforce each other. First, rural citizens may less often to choose to deal with a problem formally because they see it as a local problem. Second, in some rural areas formal police authority is in fact physically distant and is not an immediate option.”

p. 55

“Kenneth Wilkinson (1984) also used county-level data but came to a very different conclusion. In contrast to other data, he found that homicide rates were higher in rural areas. He accounted for this by noting that in a geographically dispersed population, social interactions occur more frequently among family members and close acquaintances; both are groups at a relatively higher risk for homicide. Wilkinson also observed that when compared with large cities, homicide rates were higher in rural areas but lower in small cities. Taken together, these findings highlight the importance of crime-specific analyses and of using care in defining the term rural. Simply treating everything outside of major metropolitan areas as rural can mask important patterns.”

p. 59

“Finally, official police data provided in the UCR also reveal some offenses for which the rates are higher in small towns and rural areas than for large cities… [R]ural counties are much higher than large cities in the arrest rate for DUI and for crimes against family members and children. This last finding conflicts with field research and some survey research that suggests that family violence rates are similar across rural and urban areas and that police in rural areas are more hesitant to respond to family violence… [S]mall towns are higher than either large cities or the most rural areas in arrest rates for fraud and vandalism. In small towns and rural areas arrest rates for fraud are about four times greater than in the largest cities. Curiously, arrest rates for vandalism are lowest in the most rural areas and highest in small towns, with city rates falling in between.”

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/02/red-barns-and-white-barns-why-rural-crime-skyrocketed-late-1800s

“In short, lead paint simply wasn’t available in most rural areas before the 1880s except in very narrow corridors with good transportation. You can see this in the prevalence of white barns along the National Road. Then, starting in the 1880s, revolutions in both rail transport and mail order distribution made economical lead paint available almost everywhere—including rural areas. A couple of decades later, homicide rates had skyrocketed in rural areas and had nearly caught up to urban murder rates.

“By itself, of course, this would be merely speculative. What makes it more than this is that it adds to the wealth of other evidence that lead exposure in childhood leads to increased violence in adulthood. In the post-World War II era, lead exposure came mainly from automobile exhausts, but in the post-Civil War era it came mainly from the growth in the use of lead paint. And when lead paint became available in rural areas, farmers found it just as useful as everyone else. Given what we now know about the effects of lead, it should come as no surprise that a couple of decades later the murder rate in rural areas went up substantially.”

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/before-the-1890s/

American Homicide
by Randolph Roth
Kindle Locations 222-225

“Race and slavery are connected to America’s homicide problem, but not in a straightforward way. Before the 1890s, for example, African Americans were far less likely to kill than whites were, and especially unlikely to kill one another. Why, for the past century, has the opposite been the case? Why were Virginia and Maryland no more homicidal than Pennsylvania in the 1720s and 1730s, when they had more slaves and free blacks? Why did slave states become more homicidal after the Revolution, when free states became less homicidal?”

* * *

Here are two bonus articles:

The Violence Bred By Poverty Whether In Poorest Appalachia Or Poorest Philadelphia, Joblessness And Desperation Can Bring A Whole New Way Of Living – And Dying.
by Jeffrey Fleishman and Karl Stark, phily.com

Ferguson, like Appalachia, suffers from social and economic inequality
by Kieren Weisert

Stranger Danger and Our Kids

No Adults Allowed
by Lenore Skenazy

The signs on every playground in my city, New York, say this: “Playground rules prohibit adults except in the company of children.”

Apparently, because any adult who simply wants to sit on a bench and watch kids at play could be a creep, it’s best to just ban them all. The idea that children and adults go naturally together has been replaced by distrust and disgust. [ . . . ]

By separating the generations this way, we are creating a new society, one that actively distrusts anyone who wants to help a kid other than his own. Compare this anxiety with what goes on in Japan. There the youngest kids wear bright yellow hats when they go to school.

“Doesn’t that put them in danger?” asked a friend I was telling about this. To her, a kid who calls attention to himself is a kid who could be attracting a predator.

But attracting adult attention is exactly what the yellow hats are supposed to do. In Japan, the assumption is that the easier it is to see children the easier it is for grown-ups to look out for them.

Japan’s belief is that children are our collective responsibility. America’s is that children are private treasures under constant threat of theft.

Which brings me to the flip side of our obsession with stranger danger: the idea that anytime a parent lets her kids do anything on their own, she is actually requiring the rest of us grown-ups to “baby-sit” them free of charge. [ . . . ]

It didn’t matter that he was perfectly well-behaved, only that when a store employee asked his age, he was deemed an unbearable burden to the store. The manager had him detained until his father could come pick him up.

This detention outraged many people, but a significant contingent sided with the store, saying that the employees there shouldn’t have had to “baby-sit” the boy.

But, but — no one did have to baby-sit him. He was just a person in public, albeit a young one.

‘Stranger Danger’ and the Decline of Halloween
by Lenore Skenazy

Take “stranger danger,” the classic Halloween horror. Even when I was a kid, back in the “Bewitched” and “Brady Bunch” costume era, parents were already worried about neighbors poisoning candy. Sure, the folks down the street might smile and wave the rest of the year, but apparently they were just biding their time before stuffing us silly with strychnine-laced Smarties.

That was a wacky idea, but we bought it. We still buy it, even though Joel Best, a sociologist at the University of Delaware, has researched the topic and spends every October telling the press that there has never been a single case of any child being killed by a stranger’s Halloween candy. (Oh, yes, he concedes, there was once a Texas boy poisoned by a Pixie Stix. But his dad did it for the insurance money. He was executed.)

Anyway, you’d think that word would get out: poisoned candy not happening. But instead, most Halloween articles to this day tell parents to feed children a big meal before they go trick-or-treating, so they won’t be tempted to eat any candy before bringing it home for inspection. As if being full has ever stopped any kid from eating free candy!

So stranger danger is still going strong, and it’s even spread beyond Halloween to the rest of the year. Now parents consider their neighbors potential killers all year round. That’s why they don’t let their kids play on the lawn, or wait alone for the school bus: “You never know!” The psycho-next-door fear went viral.

“Stranger Danger” to children vastly overstated
by Glenn Fleishman

Of nonfamily abductions, just 115 children (90 reported) in 1999 were estimated to fit a stereotypical kidnapping by a stranger or slight acquaintance. Forty of those were killed. That’s 1 child out of every 750,000 kidnapped, and 1 out of about every 2 million killed.

Of all children reported missing (whether the estimate or based on reports), 99.8% were returned home or located; the remaining number were virtually all runaways.

Family, through noncustodial abduction or kicking a child out; a child’s own action as a runaway, for whatever cause and for whatever duration; and accidents are most of these reports. All of these problems can be mitigated by various means, but none of them fit into our picture of not letting a kid walk down the street because she or he will be snatched.

You wouldn’t know any of this from reading typical parental advice regarding stranger danger.

Of Puppies and Predators at the Park
byy Lenore Skenazy

The problem is that the very premise makes it seem as if this is a situation kids are routinely faced with, something as common as, “Would your kids eat a cookie if someone offered it?” What is so hard to understand is that first of all, the vast majority of crimes against children are committed not by strangers they meet at the park but by people they know. That means they are far likelier to encounter their abuser at the dinner table than at the park. So it is bizarre to keep acting as if the park is teeming with danger.

Secondly, there is something twisted and weird about only looking at risk when we think of kids. Every aspect of children’s lives is seen as somehow dangerous: what they’re eating, wearing, watching and doing and, of course, what could happen to them if they ever left the house.

Which, increasingly, we don’t let them do — despite there being a crime rate that is similar to the one in 1963.

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D Putnam review – concerned, scholarly
by Richard Reeves

The concatenation of advantages and disadvantages is visible in economic sorting at the neighbourhood level, leading to social sorting in terms of schools, churches and community groups. Putnam writes: “Our kids are increasingly growing up with kids like them who have parents like us.” This represents, he warns, “an incipient class apartheid”.

Bootstraps Aren’t Enough
by W. Bradford Wilcox

For the well-educated, the phrase “our kids” may well bring to mind conditions of relative affluence, in which children grow up in a family with two married and attentive (even overattentive) parents; attend high-performing schools; and feel themselves embedded in a network of friends and mentors ready to help them navigate life’s challenges. By contrast, “their kids”—the kids of poor and working-class parents—face a world in which social capital is in short supply. As Mr. Putnam shows powerfully and poignantly—combining reporting with empirical analysis—the disparity results in too many children in nonaffluent circumstances feeling alone, emotionally stunted and unable to summon the will to climb today’s economic ladder into the middle or upper class.

Richer and Poorer
by Jill Lepore

The American dream is in crisis, Putnam argues, because Americans used to care about other people’s kids and now they only care about their own kids. But, he writes, “America’s poor kids do belong to us and we to them. They are our kids.”

Robert Putnam: When Did Poor Kids Stop Being ‘Our Kids’?
by Sarah D. Sparks

“If it takes a village to raise a child, the prognosis for America’s children isn’t good: In recent years, villages all over America, rich and poor, have deteriorated as we’ve shirked collective responsibility for our kids,” Mr. Putnam wrote. “And most Americans don’t have the resources … to replace collective provision with private provision.” [ . . . ]

Mr. Putnam, whose 2000 book Bowling Alone looked at declining civic ties among adults, argues that students in poverty growing up in the middle of the last century had greater economic and social mobility than their counterparts do today in large part because adults at all socioeconomic levels were more likely then to see all students as “our kids.”

The terrible loneliness of growing up poor in Robert Putnam’s America
by Emily Badger

“If we can begin to think of these poor kids as our kids,” he says, “we would not sleep for a second before we figured out how to help them.”

Why you should care about other people’s kids
interview by Paul Solman

PS: Sure, but Herrnstein’s point was that it could be genetic, it could be nurture, but that sort of mating is happening and it’s going to pose a huge inequality problem in this country.

RP: He’s right. And if it were just genetics, there might not be anything we could do about it. But if it’s partly just the resources that we’re investing in these kids, which is my thesis, that’s fixable in principle. That’s not like a law of genetics. My argument is basically we need to think of these kids coming from poor backgrounds and broken homes – they’re also our kids.

When I was growing up in Port Clinton 50 years ago, my parents talked about, “We’ve got to do things for our kids. We’ve got to pay higher taxes so our kids can have a better swimming pool, or we’ve got to pay higher taxes so we can have a new French department in school,” or whatever. When they said that, they did not just mean my sister and me — it was all the kids here in town, of all sorts. But what’s happened, and this is sort of the bowling alone story, is that over this last 30, 40, 50 years, the meaning of “our kids” has narrowed and narrowed and narrowed so that now when people say, “We’ve got to do something for our kids,” they mean MY biological kids. [ . . . ]

PS: But liberals like you make this argument about all kinds of things, like infrastructure or education: pay now or you’ll pay more later. Americans feel that they’re already paying enough in taxes and they don’t trust that those investments will be made efficiently enough.

RP: America’s best investment ever, in the whole history of our country, was to invest in the public high school and secondary school at the beginning of the 20th century. It dramatically raised the growth rate of America because it was a huge investment in human capital. The best economic analyses now say that investment in the public high schools in 1910 accounted for all of the growth of the American economy between then and about 1970. That huge investment paid off for everybody. Everybody in America had a higher income.

Now, some rich farmer could have said, “Well, why should I be paying for those other kids to go to high school? My kids are already off in Chicago and I don’t care about [other kids].” But most people in America didn’t. This was not something hatched in Washington – small town people got together and said, “Look, we ought to do this for our kids… We ought to have a high school so that every kid who grows up here — they’re all our kids — gets a good high school education.”