Endless Outrage

“Let me be clear: this by no means justifies the Isis-inspired attacks. But, until the leaders and opinion makers and talking heads in the U.S. and France and their allies, are willing to recognize the extent to which their own massive intervention in the Greater Middle East is also responsible for the terrible situation we find ourselves in today–then, this long, downward spiral to God knows where will only continue its bloody way.” –Barry Lando

“Atrocities breed atrocities. Or as Andrew Kopkind remarked in another context, the skies were dark in Orlando this past weekend with the chickens coming home to roost.” –John V. Walsh

The recent club shooting is one of those rare events that unites nearly all Americans.

Those on the political right can feel particular hate for the shooter because he was a Muslim of Middle Eastern descent who killed Americans, ignoring that he too was American and ignoring those he killed probably included minorities and surely many atheists as well. And those on the political have a similar response because the targets were gay, an official identity politics victim class. But if the shooter had been a white right-wing Christian who shot up a women’s health clinic or if it had been a poor struggling single black mother who shot up a convention of big biz lobbyists, many Americans would have had a more mixed reaction and the outrage would be less clear.

As always, the identity of the victimizer and the identity of the victims determines the responses heard from the general public, the mainstream media, and government officials. We live in a global world where victimizers and victims are dime a dozen, but most of the violence and death is ignored by most Americans and most Westerners. It depends on the value of those involved, and of course not all humans are seen as equal in value. At times like these, that is the thought that first comes to my mind. It was the same thought I had after 9/11, an event that had followed upon decades of terrorism worldwide, both of the state and non-state varieties.

The United States military actions, CIA covert activities, and government policies such as sanctions lead to the deaths of millions in my lifetime. Bin Laden even made it clear that the 9/11 attack was precisely about that fact, the nonchalant oppression and careless murder of poor brown people and non-Christians by Western powers. The US regularly invades countries, overthrows governments, assassinates leaders, collapses countries into chaos, and destabilizes entire regions; or else aids and abets those who do such morally depraved things.

Fifty innocent people dead is just another day’s work for a government like the United States. A single drone strike in an instant easily kills fifty innocent people. It happens all the time. The illegal and unconstitutional, immoral and unjustified Iraq War has already led to the death of probably at least a half million Iraqis and possibly over a million, most of those being civilians, many of whom were women and children, and surely way more than fifty gay people died in the process—not only that, it turned a stable secular society with a thriving economy and a strong middle class into a permanent war zone where Islamic extremists have taken over, creating yet one more stronghold for terrorists.

If you take the total death toll of the War On Terror, it is in the millions. Looking at one country alone, “total avoidable Afghan deaths since 2001 under ongoing war and occupation-imposed deprivation amount to around 3 million people, about 900,000 of whom are infants under five” and “Altogether, this suggests that the total Afghan death toll due to the direct and indirect impacts of US-led intervention since the early nineties until now could be as high 3-5 million.” More broadly: “According to the figures explored here, total deaths from Western interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan since the 1990s – from direct killings and the longer-term impact of war-imposed deprivation – likely constitute around 4 million (2 million in Iraq from 1991-2003, plus 2 million from the “war on terror”), and could be as high as 6-8 million people when accounting for higher avoidable death estimates in Afghanistan.”

That is a small sampling of the kinds of things the United States and its allies have done and continue to do in the Middle East along with many other areas of the world (e.g., Latin America). In some cases, it might be a severe undercount of deaths. That doesn’t even include the crippled, traumatized, orphaned, dislocated, etc. Much of the refugee crisis right now is the result of Western actions in non-Western countries.

Just imagine if some other country (or alliance of countries) over a period of decades invaded the United States multiple times, armed and trained paramilitary groups here, overthrew the government, propped up a dictator or left the country in chaos, sent drone or military strikes from across the national border, enforced economic sanctions, and on and on. Just imagine that these actions led to the harming and killing of millions of Americans, including hundreds of thousands innocents (women, children, and other civilians), maybe taking out a few gay clubs that were in the wrong place.

Yet we Americans have the arrogant audacity and willful ignorance to wonder why so many people hate America. Worse still, Americans go on voting into power the same kind of neocons that caused so much suffering and devastation for decades. And idiotic assholes on the political left will praise someone like Hillary Clinton for supposedly being a feminist and LGBT advocate and a voice for minorities, the very politician who has promoted policies around the world that have killed more innocent women, LGBTs, and minorities than all American right-wing hate groups combined. Who needs the evil hate-and-fear-mongering of the political right when we have the New Democrats to do the job for them.

If you want to be fully pissed off, right there is a good reason for righteous anger. And if you want to fight evil in the world, make sure sociopaths like that never get elected again. But if you get emotionally worked up every time fifty innocent people get killed for reasons of oppression and prejudice, you’d be in an endless state of outrage and much of it would be directed at the United States government.

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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.”

“Before the 1890s…”

I was reading from many books lately. My curious mind was flitting about, sampling various authors.

One thing that was on my mind was shame and honor, specifically as related to culture and social problems. That led me to look at a book I’ve had for a while, American Homicide by Randolph Roth, because it came up while doing web searches. The author, near the beginning of the book (Kindle Locations 222-225), encapsulates the difficulty of understanding violence. He writes that,

“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?”

He simultaneously disproves the plausibility of the conservative argument that blames culture for everything and the neoreactionary argument that blames genetics for everything. These were changes happening within populations. The basic cultures and genetics of these populations didn’t likely change much over such short periods of times. Some other social dynamic was behind the increase of violence in some places and the decrease elsewhere.

Even I’m fond of some of the more interesting cultural hypotheses, but I’m always wary about the implications of taking them too much at face value. They can potentially offer insight. The danger is that they make for convenient just-so stories. They have a way of ending inquiry, instead of inspiring further questioning.

As for genetics, Roth doesn’t specifically discuss that in this book. He does, however, speak of specific populations. So, specific population genetics are indirectly involved. This book severely undermines the type of arguments one hears from human biodiversity advocates.

Also, the above passage would seem to even challenge the simpler accounts of social problems that come from the political left. The black population more than a century ago was more impoverished than the black population is today. On the other hand, those on the political left could rightly point out that economic inequality has increased as economic mobility has decreased. Blacks in the post-Civil War era had many reasons for feeling more hopeful than desperate. It seemed like their world was improving dramatically and quickly.

The full backlash was yet to come. Industrialization and urbanization was bringing benefits for most Americans, even poor minorities. De-industrialization and offshoring, suburbanization and ghettoization (followed by gentrification) was not even on the horizon. Blacks, immediately following Emancipation, acted like a people with a sense of realistic hope. The shame of centuries of enslavement had fallen away and for the first time a generation of free blacks were becoming a force in American society.

The 1890s, however, began a new era of racial oppression. It was the beginning of Jim Crow. Is it surprising that increased oppression led to increased desperation and hence violence? The entire society got more violent during that time. In fact, it was the most violent period in our country’s history.

It is interesting that the black population has yet to fully recover from what happened during Jim Crow. Before that time, blacks were becoming increasingly independent. They had formed their own communities and towns. They opened their own businesses, ran their own newspapers, and had their own schools. They elected their own local political officials.

Then the wrath of violence came down upon them. It wasn’t just lynchings. It included the theft of land and property, or else its destruction. Entire neighborhoods were burnt down. Entire populations were driven out of towns. Blacks were herded into inner cities.

In the relatively good times before the backlash, blacks showed that they were perfectly capable of having well functioning communities. Their violence rates were low. Their economic mobility was increasing. I’m willing to bet about everything was improving, from crime rates to marriage rates.

The twentieth century was a slow destruction of black communities. It was a slow destruction of their families and social capital. The early twentieth century began the rise of mass incarceration and the drug wars, and of course all of this was mostly directed at poor minorities.

Why do people act surprised that when communities, families, and lives are destroyed that people will become desperate and act in less than optimal ways? Neither culture nor genetics is needed to explain the increase of violence, and it indeed was an increase. It didn’t begin that way.

Real Threats

“If you added up all the women who have been murdered by their husbands or boyfriends since 9/11, and then you add up all the Americans who were killed by 9/11 or in Afghanistan and Iraq, more women were killed by their husbands or boyfriends.”
~Gloria Steinem, as quoted by Corey Robin in Violence Against Women and the Politics of Fear

“Americans are a whopping 29 times more likely to die at the hands of a police officer than they are of a terrorist attack. It’s impossible to say for certain how many people are killed by cops each year, but the best estimate is anywhere from 600-1,000. Contrast that with the 30 police officers who were killed in 2013.”
~Caleb G., Why American Police Departments Are More Of A Threat Than ISIS

People are notoriously bad about assessing personal risk.

I’m an American. Like most Americans, I’ve spent my whole life in this country and don’t travel outside the country. The genuine threats that should concern me are in America. I’m more likely to be killed by my own government than by a foreign government. I’m more likely to be killed by a Christian than by a Muslim.

Also, I’m “white”. Like most whites, I live in a white neighborhood in a white community. I don’t spend much time with non-whites. As the data shows, whites such as myself are more likely to experience crimes and violence from other whites. Blacks have more to fear from whites in this country than vice versa, since most of the police, judges, etc are white.

Being a white American, I’m way safer than the vast majority of people in the world. I have little to realistically worry about. I have no reason to fear terrorism, ebola, or much else.

I have more reason to fear being run over by a car or having a heart attack. Why doesn’t the news obsess over the things that actually will kill me?

McDonald’s unhealthy food is one of the greatest threats to my life in the immediate vicinity. Why doesn’t the government spend millions of dollars to fight that menace?

My rights are more likely to be taken away by the ruling elite of my own country. Why don’t we Americans fight that enemy?

Rate And Duration of Despair

“One of the most remarkable features of the unemployment figures is that both the rate and the duration of unemployment have increased during every Republican administration and decreased under every Democratic one, without a single exception.”
~James Gilligan, Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others,  Kindle Locations 704-706

This pattern has existed since records first began being kept, unemployment rate since 1900 and unemployment duration rate since 1948.

It’s not even just unemployment. The same partisan disparity is found with rates and, when applicable, durations of diverse issues: poverty and economic inequality, recessions and depressions, GDP and GNP, homicides and suicides, etc. The author further explores the broad range of studies that show various correlations between these factors, most especially how the other factors have through time-series analysis been causally linked to increasing violence.

Then Gilligan connects it all to regional partisan politics and differences of populations. He considers many angles, from crime policies to studies on authoritarianism; revealing “some very interesting inter-correlations between all three of these variables: character, party, and state” (Kindle Location 1816).

Also, he offers a thorough survey of the data on incarceration and crime rates. There is no clear, strong evidence that mass incarceration decreased crime and violence. An argument, instead, can be made that mass incarceration has been contributing to the problem.

Gilligan’s main argument is based on his accidental discovery of how the homicide and suicide rates followed party administrations. No one had noticed because the two parties were averaging each other out. No party was in power continuously for long enough to make the pattern obvious enough for a casual observation. The more the author looked at the data the stronger the correlation became and the wider set of the correlated data.

The primary conclusion is that economics is so bad during Republican administrations that an increasing number of Americans turn to violence, both against others and against themselves. Furthermore, the longer a Republican administration remains in power the worse it gets. The opposite happens with Democratic administrations. This is what the data shows.

It’s freaking mind-blowing.

He does offer a cautionary note. Even under Democrats, violence rates although lower than Republicans are still at what would be considered epidemic levels in other Western countries. Still, the pattern remains interesting.

One has to wonder what the pattern would look like if Democrats or those even further to the left had maintained political power continuously for this past century. Or imagine how our society would be transformed if ever a left-wing party came to power, as seen in other Western countries. Screw both the Republicans and Democrats! We can only take so much backlash of misery and temporary respite.

Even for someone who despises the two party system, this pattern can’t be easily dismissed or ignored. The differences between the parties are real. Politics does matter.

Many independents wish the differences were even greater, but one has to be extremely cynical to argue these differences aren’t significant enough to make a difference. If one is unemployed or at risk of unemployment, if one is poor or homeless, if one feels the shame and desperation of being deemed a loser in a society based on Social Darwinism, it certainly matters.

Nonetheless, what is an independent to do when the back and forth partisan power struggle never leads to permanent solutions that get to the root of problems? As a psychiatrist who worked for 25 years in the prison system, that is what James Gilligan wants to know (Kindle Locations 123-134):

“Given the stability of that correlation between the political parties and the violent death rates, and my inability to disconfirm it, the question that remains is: what does it mean? Why is it occurring, and doing so repeatedly? As a physician, my interest has always been in matters of life and death, not politics, and this foray into politics because of a chance discovery that implicated political actors only happened because of my attempt to learn what was causing these deaths and how we could save lives.”

Ignoring parties, how do we get positive results? How do we make the world a better place? What lesson should we learn?

I wish I knew.

America and the West: A Comparison of Violence

Violence in the United States is a topic that has been on my mind for a while. I’ve read some books and many articles about it and about the issues related to it. I still don’t fully know how to make sense of it.

It does seem that this country is somehow different than many similar countries. What are these differences?

One could argue about which countries are the most similar and hence most comparable. For my purposes, I tend to think about countries that share traditions of culture, language, philosophy, politics, and law. I most specifically think of Britain and Western Europe, whose residents like to think of themselves as the center of the “Free World”.

There are many books that discuss the historical influences and continuities across these societies of the West. The history of the US largely originates from these societies and remains intertwined with them. So, in what ways has the US diverged in terms of crime and violence? And why has the divergence occurred?

One difference that has stood out to me is how violence relates to crime. Many similar countries have higher rates of particular crimes than the US. But the US has particularly high rates of crimes of all categories ending in violence, including homicide. What is the cause of this? Does this originate in America’s gun culture? If so, why did a gun culture develop here and not as much or else not in the same way elsewhere? If not a gun culture, what is the explanation?

Certainly, the US isn’t the most violent country in the world. But as far as I know none of those more violent countries are democracies that were founded on Enlightenment ideals of freedom. That is what makes American violence in all of its forms so intriguing. It’s not just about shootings, but also the fact that the US still practices capitol punishment and has the most incarcerated population ever. This is far different from other Western countries.

One book I was reading a while back is No Duty to Retreat by Richard Maxwell Brown. I haven’t read much of it yet, but the introductory thoughts have remained on my mind (Kindle Locations 11-20):

“Ancient English common law obliged one who was assailed and in fear of death or great bodily harm to retreat “to the wall” at one’s back before killing in self-defense. Indeed, the common law required an individual in such a plight to forestall violence by fleeing from the scene if such flight could be safely made. This was the English doctrine held by Blackstone and his predecessors in the common-law tradition. In America a gradual legal revolution reinterpreted the common law to hold that, if otherwise without fault, a person could legally stand fast and, without retreat, kill in self-defense. This was a right to stand one’s ground with no duty to retreat. Not merely a revision of an esoteric legalism but a significant development in American culture, no duty to retreat reigned mainly in the frontier states west of the Appalachian Mountains. By the early twentieth century a standard text on the American law of homicide declared that the duty to retreat was “inapplicable to American conditions,” and in 1921 Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes of the United States Supreme Court incisively upheld the Americanized common-law doctrine of no duty to retreat.

“Representing similar, widespread social values, the Americanization of the common law in favor of no duty to retreat helps explain why the American homicide rate has been so much higher than that of England during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It also helps explain why our country has been the most violent among its peer group of the industrialized. urbanized democracies of the world.”

This is pointing to something fundamentally different (Kindle Locations 21-22):

“no duty to retreat is much more than a legal technicality. It is an expression of a characteristically American approach to life.”

Many people point to how strongly American society originates from England. That is the origins of the colonies that would become the first states. It is, after all, the reason most Americans speak English. Why did the US so early on take a separate path from England? In the first chapter, the author explains the what had become established in England (Kindle Locations 44-46):

“At the core of Blackstone’s view was the centuries-long English common-law tradition that supported “the idea of all homicides as public wrongs.” In England the burden was on the one accused of a homicide to prove his innocence. The plea of self-defense was eyed most skeptically. The presumption against the accused killer stemmed from the fear, as Blackstone put it, that “the right to defend may be mistaken as the right to kill.””

That is opposite of how the law formed here in the States. English travelers in the 1800s were shocked by what they observed when visiting the United States. Early on, England had made illegal the carrying of weapons in public; but in the US, weapons were everywhere and violence was commonplace. Americans were more likely than Englishmen to resort to resolving their own conflicts rather than relying on police and the legal system. This was the environment from which “no duty to retreat” took shape.

The issue of violence also involves our collective, public-supported response to violence. And so this relates to the state-sanctioned violence that is punishment of criminals. Another book that looks at this angle is Harsh Justice by James Q. Whitman. He also offers a historical comparison, but focuses on Germany and France going back to the 18th century prior to the revolutions. He points out how unique the US has become, especially in recent decades (Kindle Locations 21-32):

“Everyone who reads the newspapers knows that we have been in the midst of a kind of national get-tough movement, which has lasted for about the last twenty-five years. Still, Americans may not quite grasp how deeply isolated this period has left us in the Western world. Punishment in America is now, as Michael Tonry observes, “vastly harsher than in any other country to which the United States would ordinarily be compared.”‘, There are certainly some parts of the world that have turned harsher over the last twenty-five years. This is true in particular of some Islamic countries.’, But among Western nations, only England has followed our lead and even England has followed us only up to certain point.’ As for the countries of continental Western Europe, the contrast between their practices and ours has become stark indeed. The Western European media regularly runs pieces expressing shock at the extreme severity of American punish- ment.8 Meanwhile, continental justice systems have come to treat America as something close to a rogue state, hesitating to extradite offenders to the United States.

“To be sure, this era of American harshness will presumably not go on forever, and it may already have slowed.9 Nevertheless, it is the disturbing truth that we now find ourselves in a strange place on the international scene. As a result of the last quarter century of deepening harshness, we are no longer clearly classified in the same categories as the other countries of the liberal West. Instead, by the measure of our punishment practices, we have edged into the company of troubled and violent places like Yemen and Nigeria (both of which, like many jurisdictions in the United States, execute people for crimes committed when they were minors–though Yemen has recently renounced the practice);10 China and Russia (two societies that come close to rivaling our incarceration rates);” pre-2001 Afghanistan (where the Taliban, like American judges, reintroduced public shame sanctions);’2 and even Nazi Germany (which, like the contemporary United States, turned sharply toward retributivism and the permanent incapacitation of habitual offenders).’

“What is going on in our country?”

In considering this question, the author emphasizes the position that the US holds in the world (Kindle Locations 34-39):

“America is, after all, a country that belongs to something it is fair to call the Western “liberal” tradition, elusive though the concept of liberalism may be. Certainly there are many aspects of American culture that seem manifestly to belong to a humane strain of liberalism. Ours, of all Western countries, is the one that is most consistently suspicious of state authority. Ours is the country with the inveterate attachment to the values of procedural fairness. Ours is the country that–unlike Germany or France never succumbed to any variety of fascism or nazism. Why, then, is ours not the country with the mildest punishment practices? Certainly, in most respects, Americans define their values by opposition to illiberal societies to the societies of places like China or the Afghanistan of’the Taliban or Nazi Germany. How could our patterns of punishment he bringing us closer to them than to the dominant polities of the contemporary European Union?”

I haven’t read very far in either of these books. I can’t say how well these authors clarify the issues. I can’t say where the data may point. I can’t say what an historical analysis might offer. But I’m intrigued enough to want to find out. I’m sure I’ll be returning to these books.

Republicans: Party of Despair

“If I believed in what you believe, I’d kill myself.”

I recently said that to someone. The person in question is a Republican, but I don’t say it as a Democrat. I’m not a practitioner of partisan bickering and, in fact, I don’t like the entire sham of a two-party system. I also don’t say it lightly or disingenuously. I meant every word of it.

I’ve attempted suicide before and have often contemplated it many times over the years. When I make a statement like the above, I’m deadly serious. Just thinking about the Republican worldview makes me despair to the point of near hopelessness. If I were to believe that worldview to be true, what would be the point of going on?

I’m reminded of James Gilligan’s recent book, Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others. I first learned of it from a book review which offers a great summary (I’ve posted it before, but it’s so important that I’ll post it again):

James Gilligan’s new book, ‘Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others’ (Polity Press, 2011) could be reduced to a few key statements, the main one being ‘Republicans are very bad for your health’. Gilligan, Professor and MD at New York State University, has combed the statistics on violent deaths (homicide and suicide), from 1900 through to 2007 in order to determine political causation.

His findings confirm what many have hitherto instinctively and experientially known: murders and suicides increase under Republican rule. Why? Because they also create inequality and unemployment, both of which produce an employer’s market that keeps wages down. In fact, unemployment figures – in rate and duration – have increased during every Republican administration, and decreased during every Democratic administration. Ironically, despite Republican policies that favour employers and cause greater levels of inequality and unemployment, their policies then inculcate shame amongst the unemployed – blind – or to coin a much-favoured Republican word, ‘evil’ to the fact that they are its main cause. The Republican ideology – hypocritical and misanthropic – fosters the most rancid shame that goes like this: can’t find a job? It’s your own fault. Lost your job? What did you do, must have done something. Not rich. That’ll be your own fault too – or ‘thats God’s plan for you’. Addicted? Can’t hold your damn liquor. Single mum? Slut. Had an abortion? Murderer and slut. Moaning about low pay? You should thank god you’ve got a job. The list goes on. It is a terrible, cruel, vicious circle in which people become imprisoned. In short, Republicans are architects of despair that leads to suicide, and of rage that leads to murder.

My emotional response to the Republican wasn’t just emotional. The facts speak for themselves.

Since reading that review of Gilligan’s book, I’ve bought and read it. I might consider it to be one of the most important books I’ve read in my life, despite it not being great literature. It is a simple and straightforward presentation of facts that can’t be rationalized away. The facts themselves aren’t the product of an ideological agenda for they are government statistics recorded over a 107 year time frame. No Democrat started recording this data with the evil plan of more than a century later showing that Democrats are better. It’s just the typical bureaucratic data gathering.

It really is mind-blowing. I wouldn’t ever have expected to come across data that so starkly puts the two parties in contrast. After the shock wears off, though, all that I feel is sadness. I don’t care about blaming one party and praising the other, but the data is what it is. It’s not even to say everything Republicans do that is wrong. It’s just that there is a vast discrepancy between their ideals and reality. Republicans need to do some deep soul-searching.

I honestly don’t know what to do with data like this. Republicans won’t pay attention to it and most people in general would assume that it’s mere ideological rhetoric fancied up in scientific guise. It’s the type of data our entire society, including both parties, doesn’t know what to do about. You won’t hear any Democrat bring this up in a campaign debate. You won’t come across Gilligan being invited on as a guest on all the major news providers.

In this way, everyone is complicit, especially Democrats. As the author explains (pp. 187-8):

What has made it so difficult or seemingly impossible for the Democrats to free themselves from Republican campaign rhetoric’s reversal of the truth and take credit for their success in ending epidemics of lethal violence in this country for over a century? They, and they alone, have done this. Could this be the downside of being ruled by a guilt ethic and inhibiting their aggression so much that they, the Democrats, often fail to defend themselves strongly enough to undo both the misinformation and the damage caused by their Republican adversaries?

It so often comes to culture from my perspective. Gilligan alludes to this in speaking of a “guilt ethic”. Republicans have their cultural worldview and Democrats have theirs, and the two have become intertwined like a codependant relationship.

But can they be separated? Instead of going back and forth between a Democratic decrease of misery and a Republican increase, couldn’t we have a dynamic that allows for continuous progress? Imagine what kind of wonderful society we might now live in if we had more than a century of continuous decrease of murders, suicides, unemployment and income inequality. Why does that seem so hard to imagine for so many Americans and even for so many partisan Democrats?

To return to the personal, I can’t state more strongly how much I don’t want to live in the Republican worldview of fear and hatred, outrage and despair, self-righteousness and judgment, blame and scapegoating. Yet like so many Americans I feel helpless against the power Republicans have wielded for so long. Nothing ever seems to change.

It’s not about my becoming a loyal Democrat and fighting on the side of good. I just want the misery to stop. I’d like to live in a world of hope. Life is hard enough as it is without creating further unnecessary suffering.

There was a line of thought I forgot to follow through on.

I mentioned culture. I was making the connection between an ideological vision and a cultural worldview. What do I mean by that?

The reason I brought up culture was partly just because the quote from Gilligan’s book seemed to allude to it. But I was also thinking of the larger context of my previous writings on ideologies and cultures.

I’m in a conciliatory mood. The campaign season is over. Like most people, I’ve had enough mindless partisan cheerleading for a good long while. Judging others is easy. The hard work comes with trying to compassionately undertand. I feel tired, sad and tired.

However, conciliatory mood aside, I’m not quite ready to roll over and die. This data sticks in my craw. What does it mean? How could this data sit there gathering dust for a century without anyone giving it much notice?

The data apparently didn’t fit the framework of American politics. Or maybe it was ignored because of political correctness. I don’t know. For whatever reason, it had been as if invisible in all mainstream political debate and, as Gilligan’s book has drawn little attention, the data remains invisible for all practical purposes.

Cultural worldviews can become reality tunnels. In this way, people become blind to what otherwise would seem obvious and common sense. This explanation is an important perspective for culture gets past the blame game. Despite how it seems sometime, most people aren’t tying to be willfully ignorant… any more than a bird flying into a window is trying to be willfully ignorant of the window. Likewise, Republicans aren’t trying to create a world of suffering and death.

No one is to blame and everyone is to blame. There isn’t any single thing that is wrong or problematic, no particular belief or value or policy that is in and of itself causing this increase of social dysfunction.

I even feel tempted to say that conservatism shouldn’t necessarily be blamed. Like all humans, there are good and bad conservatives. Like most ideologies, there are good and bad ways conservatism can manifest.

Still, conservatism must be held to account. What I was struck by is that this isn’t just a problem of American conservatives in the Republican Party. Along with the first quote above, I shared in the same earlier post some other research that shows the same correlation with the British conservative party. Of course, we Americans largely inherited our political system from the British and in return our political system has had much influence on the British.

It would be interesting to further test this correlation in other societies. Is the cause of the social problems, is it only particular traditions of conservatism, or is it something else enirely? Ultimately, I don’t know if the exact cause matters.

It’s more important to consider why it continues. Why do Americans vote for a party that leads to the death of other Americans along with leading to other undesirable results? What makes it such a compelling and attractive worldview, despite all the negatives? Why is the connection to the negatives so hard to see or understand?

One could just as easily ask these questions about the Evangelical worldview of apocalyptic End Times. There is something apparently compelling about dark visions. It probably isn’t accidental that the type of person drawn to Evangelicalism is also drawn to the Republican Party.

I wish I understood.

Gun Violence & Regulation (Data, Analysis, Rhetoric)

“But I actually want to address his first point because it is so profoundly stupid. Why should we criminalize anything because the criminals are going to ignore the law anyway? Think about that in other contexts. Why should we criminalize murder or rape because people are going to kill and rape anyway? But wait a minute. Then, one of the reasons to criminalize it is so we can prosecute them.”
~ Cenk Uygur

I should preface this entire blog post with the delaration that I, like Cenk Uygur, am a liberal who supports gun rights and yet frames these rights within their corollary of social responsibility. I don’t know that regulation is good, but regulation does seem unavoidable in its necessity… given human nature and the state of modern civilization. Everything in this blog follows from that understanding. My biases are entirely out in the open and they aren’t above being questioned.

(By the way, if you’re interested in seeing the material I posted in direct response to the Tuscon shooting, see my other post here.)

– – –

The data about guns and violence is complex and difficult to analyze, but for argument’s sake let’s assume we could make a clear conclusion that gun regulation was effective (an argument that is confirmed by at least some of the data). Assuming this, how many gun advocates would change their minds? Probably very few. Gun advocates who argue against all regulation are a minority. If being for gun regulation is liberal, then most Americans are liberal (well, most Americans are liberal on many if not most issues: US Demographics & Increasing ProgressivismPublic Opinion on Tax Cuts for the Rich85% Oppose Cutting Social Security (Poll), Health Reform & Public Option (polls & other info), and Claims of US Becoming Pro-Life).

My frustration is that the far right gun advocates want to portray the debate as an issue of banning all guns. They do the same thing with other issues as well: banning all drugs or legalizing all drugs, banning all abortions or legalizing all abortions, et cetera. There is no middle ground in this black and white worldview.

This would appear to be a dishonest debating tactic, but it feels honest to many who see the issue this way. They truly believe in their worldview. As they see it, the gun violence issue isn’t the central issue. They perceive their right to own and carry guns as an inalienable right. Even the most basic regulation ensuring public safety is an infringement and is perceived as an erosion of gun rights that will inevitably lead to banning all guns. If those with a record of crime, violence, or insanity can’t legally buy guns, these people fear that the state will begin to label all gun advocates as violent and insane criminals. They fear the govt, they fear liberals, they fear everything. In a world where everything is a potential threat, they have to be able to defend themselves. Anything outside of their paranoid fantasy is meaningless to them. Yes, this view is only held by far right extremists and that is the problem as these people usually dominate any discussion.

It’s fine that these people have their own worldview. I don’t hold that against them per se. But I do hold it against them that their worldview is forced onto the entire country. These far right gun advocates have immense influence because the NRA and gun corporations have immense amount of wealth and large numbers of lobbyists. They’ve been so effective at controlling the narrative that they’ve even persuaded the moderate majority. If you ask many gun owners, they’ll give you an inconsistent response. Most of them support reasonable regulation, but whenever the gun advocacy narrative is brought up (which is often in the media) they will have a knee-jerk response of saying they’re against ‘regulation’ interpreting it as a codeword for banning guns. This is the power of a narrative. This is also how conservatives have won the health care reform debate. If you ask Americans, most support health care reform (specifically ideas such as public option or single payer). But if you frame the debate with push-polling questions, most Americans say they are against health care reform (against Obamacare, against Government controlled health care, et cetera).

The problem is that minority of far right gun advocates and the majority of average regulation advocates aren’t even talking about the same thing. There is a middle ground that rarely gets discussed and when it gets discssed it is framed as being far left. We can have gun ownership legalized, we can have even have more people owning more guns. None of that contradicts having more effective regulation. I’m fine with someone having a houseful of guns within reasonable limits… just as long as they don’t have a record of crime, violence, and/or insanity… just as long as certain weapons are banned such as machine guns, grenade launchers, bazookas, flame throwers, etc. The thing is that most Americans agree with me, but finding agreement in public debate is so difficult because the rhetoric used to frame the debate just muddies the water, inflames emotions, and polarizes opinions. The results of this rhetoric that we see in the media and in politics doesn’t correspond to what most people think and believe. Research shows that, for example, politicians in Washington are more polarized in their positions than are the American public that they supposedly represent. How can a democracy function when minority groups control all aspects of political debate and policymaking?

The debate isn’t about banning all weapons versus legalizing all weapons. The debate isn’t even about ‘strong’ regulation versus ‘weak’ regulation. Most Americans want to have the right to own guns and to have reasonable regulation to ensure public safety. So, the only worthwhile debate is what kind of regulation is effective. We can have few regulations if those regulations are effective and if they are enforced consistently. On the other hand, having lots of ‘strong’ regulations would be meaningless if they are badly designed and/or aren’t enforced. I’ve presented the real debate here in this post. So, why is this real debate so rarely heard in the media? Or why, when heard in the media, is this real debate so easily derailed by rhetoric? Who benefits by not having a real debate? That is obvious: those who make a lot of money off of guns (meaning the gun makers and sellers including the lobbyists and politicians who work for them).

To be fair, sometimes real debate does happen in the mainstream media and sometimes a rightwing gun advocate will openly speak about regulation:

A further problem is that the complex data on guns is in the context of even more complex data about violence in general. Many people will point out that the rates of violence have been decreasing since the 1980s, but that misses the point that our present ‘low’ rates are still massively higher than the rates of violence in the 1960s. In fact, our present ‘low’ rates of violence are about the same as the high rates of violence during Prohibition.

http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm

Also, research shows that the recent decrease of violence is largely caused by factors that have nothing to do with gun regulation or tough-on-crime policies.

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/09/05/jimmy-carter-clean-air-act/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/abortion-crime/

These other factors are conveniently ignored or dismissed by gun advocates and other conservatives because it supports a liberal vision of society. Thom Hartmann recently discussed the correlation between violence and income inequality which I’ve discussed in the past.

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/study-bosses-getting-meaner/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/08/27/capitalist-us-vs-socialist-germany/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/10-states-with-ridiculously-low-unemployment-and-why/

I noticed this blog post which I could connect into the issue of inequality:

http://www.sciencebuzz.org/blog/do-guns-make-you-safer-or-put-you-more-danger

Various people have tried to resolve this issue over the years, with little success. When the Brady list came out recently, blogger Jay Tea noted that some states with strict gun laws (such as California) actually had higher rates of gun death, while some states with looser laws (such as Utah) had much lower rates. (The “rates” are gun homicides per 100,000 people, and not total deaths. This allows us to compare large states and small states fairly.)

However, Mr. Tea failed to note that the reverse is also true — that there are also states with strict laws that have low rates of gun violence, and states with loose laws that have high rates.

So, which is it: do gun controls make you safer, or put you in more danger?

The author of that blog makes the point that no clear causal relationship can be ascertained proving the benefit of either pro-gun or pro-regulation. However, he was leaving out the data about inequality. Compare (look below) the maps of inequality and poverty to the maps of gun deaths and permits… and notice the fairly consistent georgraphic patterns. Utah has one of the lowest income inequalities in the country and California (like much of the Southern US) has high income inequality. According to The Spirit Level by Wilkinson and Pickett, Utah has one of the best ratings in the US in terms of the index of health and social problems (in the Top 10). California is much worse than Utah, but California looks fairly good on many standards when compared to the strongly conservative states in the Southwest and Deep South.

I was initially confused why the above quote mentions California as having higher rates of gun death because one of the maps below shows California gun deaths to be lower per capita. The article that the gun deaths map below comes from explains the differences of data: “The map above charts firearm deaths for the 50 states plus the District of Columbia. Note that these figures include accidental shootings, suicides, even acts of self-defense, as well as crimes.” (By the way, data shows a reverse correlation between murder and suicide; in any given society, people will be more likely to either kill themselves or kill others but not usually both in equal rates; so, combining both murder and suicide rates is possibly a more accurate way of making comparisons of overall violence.) The above quote is only referring to the data on homicides (which seems to imply that California has extremely low rates of non-homicidal gun deaths). Anyway, including or excluding California, the pattern still holds with most of the states with a few possible anomalies such as Nevada.

http://www.visualizingeconomics.com/2007/07/17/united-states-income-inequality-map/

Gross Domestic Product by Industry

http://www.visualizingeconomics.com/2007/08/11/united-states-poverty-map/

% in Poverty Income Map

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/11/01/the-geography-of-gun-deaths-/69354/

preventionEDIT.jpg

http://www.usacarry.com/concealed_carry_permit_reciprocity_maps.html

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/images/newsgraphics/2011/0110-guns/permits.jpg



Here is an interesting diagram showing some correlated factors:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/11/01/the-geography-of-gun-deaths-/69354/

It’s obvious the US has a violent culture when looking at the bigger picture of comparisons between countries, although it’s also clear that certain regions of the US are more violent than others. This violence can’t be directly blamed on guns, but it can’t be denied that our worship of guns (along with general glorification of violence in the media) plays a part. The more violent society gets the more people buy guns. And the more gun laws are loosened the more shooting rampages occur. It’s a vicious cycle that will continue as long as we ignore the fundamental causes. One of these causes is the economic disparity which correlates to an increase of social problems such as violent crime and an increase of social mistrust. Research shows that this type of conflict-ridden atmosphere predisposes people toward more a more conservative and even authoritarian worldview.

So, those in favor of conservative and/or authoritarian policies have an incentive to encourage such social conflict and violence. Those who make money off of the gun industry and the military-industrial comple have a vested interest to encourage this culture of violence. The increasing economic disparity isn’t an accident but is the result of specific political agendas. I’m not saying it’s a conspiracy, but I am saying people tend to act in their own interests. When a minority gains most of the power, they will tend to create a world that conforms to their personal biases.

Here is a further problem. We can only clearly ascertain the correlations between violence and inequality by making comparisons, but I found certain comparisons being dismissed by gun advocates:

http://www.hnn.us/articles/871.html

Concomitantly, the U.S. should be compared not to Western Europe but to other high-murder-rate nations such as Russia. There, severe and severely-enforced gun bans applied to a largely unarmed population succeeded in virtually eliminating gun murders — so other weapons were substituted. In only four of the 35 years 1965-99 was Russia’s murder rate (barely) lower than ours, while in another 10 the rates were almost identical. But in 21 years the Russian rate was higher, and in seven the Russian rate was more than twice the U.S. Today it is almost four times higher.

http://www.firearmsandliberty.com/cramer.murder.html

When gun control advocates argue for banning or severely restricting gun ownership, the comparisons drawn are usually the United States vs. Britain, Canada, or Japan. The argument presented is that availability of guns causes high crime rates. Occasionally, similar comparisons are made with different American states — though usually such comparisons are made by their opponents, since state by state murder rate comparisons can be used (just as inaccurately) to “prove” that gun control laws increase crime rates.

That comparisons of such widely differing nations, cultures, and legal systems as Japan, Britain, and the United States are absurd should be obvious. But even ignoring these obvious differences, there is plenty of evidence that such comparisons are ignoring significant factors besides firearms availability. As an example, compare American and British rape rates. Unlike murder, rape seldom involves a gun. While 62% of murders in the U.S. in 1981 involved a firearm, only 7% of rapes did so. [1] Therefore, if crime rates in the U.S. and Britain can be fairly compared, we should find that British rape rates were equal to U.S. rape rates, minus the 7% of U.S. rapes committed with guns.

The 1984 British Crime Survey reported 2,288 rapes in England and Wales — an area with a population of 49 million people! This gives 4.67 rapes per 100,000 people. [2] By comparison, America’s rape rate for 1987 was 73 per 100,000 females [3] , or 36.5 per 100,000 people. Subtracting the 7% of U.S. rapes that are committed with firearms gives 34 rapes per 100,000 people — far higher than Britain’s rate. Britain’s very low rape rate must be more than just the absence of firearms — much more.

Similarly, there were 662 murders in England and Wales in 1984 [4] . This gives 1.35 murders per 100,000 people. The U.S. murder rate in 1987 was 8.3 per 100,000 people [5] . Even if we assume that:

1. In the absence of firearms, not a single murderer using a firearm in the U.S. would have used another weapon to commit murder (very unlikely);

2. further assuming that not a single privately owned firearm was used to prevent a murder from happening in the U.S. (very unlikely);

3. assuming that not a single murder in Britain involved a firearm (not true);

subtracting out the 59% of murders committed with firearms in the U.S. in 1987 [6] still gives a rate of 3.4 per 100,000 – – two and a half times higher than Britain. How valid is it to compare British and U.S. murder rates?

We shouldn’t make comparisons with countries that are better than the US based on a wide variety of data because such comparisons would be ‘unfair’. Give me a break! That is the whole point. These countries don’t have the problems the US has and so we should look to why those countries succeed where the US fails. Of course, such data would undermine the rightwing arguments. It’s just ‘unfair’ that reality has a liberal bias.

Another correlation can be made with the military. It’s conservative policies (which are supported by most Republican politicians and many conservative Democrats as well) that have been the major factor behind the rising inequality. And it’s conservative ideology that has always presented the Military-Industrial Complex as a patriotic institution that must be promoted no matter the cost (in lives or taxes). The far left has always been against these things, but you rarely see leftwingers in mainstream media and mainstream politics (a rare exception being Bernie Sanders).

So, besides the problems of inequality, what are some of the other problems of the culture of violence? The most obvious result is the growth of the Military-Industrial Complex, the militarization of the police, a failing War on Drugs, the highest per capita prison population in the world, and the creation of a system of powerful gangs, cartels, and smugglers. Here is an example of how this plays out in the real world:

My complaint of the rightwing vision of society is that it can end up as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/04/14/far-rights-self-fulfilling-prophecy-secessionism-militias-paranoia-violence/

Maybe I’m being unfair to conservatives. However, my criticisms are mostly limited to the far right. My criticisms only seem to apply to all conservatives because the far right has come to dominate and define conservatism. Nonetheless, the data I’ve seen shows that even most NRA members and most gun owners support gun regulation.

http://www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/html/media-center/pr012-09.shtml

Here is a major confusion to this debate.

The liberal/conservative divide is often a urban/rural divide. This is particularly clear with the gun issue. Research shows that when you have highly concentrated populations violence tends to increase… no matter what laws and regulations are in place. Conservatives will point out that liberal urban areas have high crime rates, but the liberalism doesn’t cause the crime rates. Liberalism and crime rates are both caused (or contributed to) by concentrated populations (or, at least, there is some kind of correlation, causal or not). An example of this is research showing that people who grow up around diverse cultures (i.e., urban areas) tend to be more socially liberal as adults (I’ve seen this research a number of times but I was unable to locate it; I think I might have included it in a previous blog). More importantly, the liberal desire for gun regulation is in response to gun violence and not the cause of it. Highly concentrated populations with high economic disparity will inevitably have high rates of violence. It makes no sense to blame the solution as the cause. Gun regulation is desired when gun violence is out of control. It’s like blaming Progressivism for causing the Robber Barons.

Part of the confusion comes from comparing states without controlling for all variables.

Conservative states tend to be more rural and rural regions tend to have less gun crimes or less reported gun crimes (although it should be pointed out that rural areas have equal rates of gun deaths as urban areas, but they tend to be different kinds of gun deaths: suicides, ‘accidents’, et cetera). Liberal states tend to be more urban and urban areas in general tend to have higher rates of gun violence. So, there is an urban/rural divide when it comes to gun regulation. However, if we just compare urban areas in liberal states to urban areas in conservative states, liberal urban areas (which tend to have comprehensive gun regulation) have lower rates of gun violence. I assume this has to do with liberal urban areas tending to have lower income inequality than conservative rural areas.

A related factor is that rural conservative states with loose gun laws often are the source of illegal or unregulated gun purchases that are behind the large number of unregistered guns in urban liberal states. An example is that many unregistered guns in Chicago come from Indiana.

http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/article_7b3c4234-e066-5c7d-b8f7-877667c35f69.html

http://newsbusters.org/node/13958

Gun advocates will sometimes point out that the data is complex. If they can’t prove their own preferred conclusions based on the data, they’ll claim that no conclusions at all can be made. So, they think we should just throw out all the data and go back to first principles (which reminds me of two previous posts: Conservative Mistrust & Ideological Certainty (part 1) and (part 2)). They assume their own ideology is the default position. They argue that the data and analysis is just a distraction from our Second Amendment rights. This simpleminded view misses the point that even the Second Amendment is complex. There is no refuge for the simpleminded. The complex can be denied by embracing ignorance and ideology, but that doesn’t make the complexities go away.

Let’s look at the entire wording of the Second Amendment:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The first few words clarifies the original intention of the founders. First, they realized it was the role of the government to regulate guns. Second, they supported a militia because they were originally against having a standing army. Combined together, they wanted a “well regulated Militia” meaning they realized having unregulated militias and unregulated gun use was dangerous. The founders did worry about an oppressive government and so so a well regulated militia serving the role of protecting the population from abuse of power, but the founders also worried about populist revolt. They didn’t want what happened to the French to happen to them. They were the business and intellectual elite of their day. If a populist revolt were to happen, they knew they’d be among the first targets of violence. For this reason, they made sure to clarify that regulation was centrally important, i.e., law and order. The founders were far from being radical gun rights advocates.

Obviously, we no longer live in the world the founders lived in. Even the founders had to backtrack on their dislike of a standing army. It was in their lifetime that a standing army was created and has existed ever since. However, if were to go by their original wording and intentions, we should immediately dismantle the entire military and create a “well regulated Militia”. What this would mean is that those who are trained militia members would have the right and responsibility to own a gun and these militias would be under the authority of (i.e., regulated by) the government (both state and federal).

The Second Amendment, however, doesn’t inherently give the right for every person to carry any and all weapons they want without any government regulation.

http://www.newsweek.com/blogs/the-gaggle/2011/01/18/assault-weapons-ban-would-not-violate-second-amendment.html

There is a lot of bogus invocation of the Second Amendment going on right now. But there is no ambiguity in the judicial precedent: the assault-weapons ban does not violate the Second Amendment. When Kim Strassel of The Wall Street Journalcomplains that “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has piped up, again, in favor of expanding the sort of burdensome restrictions his city places on the Second Amendment to the nation as a whole,” she is using weasel words to invoke the Constitution on a subject with no relevance to it. Even the most conservative jurists held for decades that the Second Amendment was meant to protect state militias rather than an individual right to own weapons. More recently, the Supreme Court overturned total bans on all gun ownership, such as the Washington, D.C., law overturned in Heller v. District of Columbia by a 5-4 decision. But Heller did not establish an individual right to own all weapons. Members of the narrow majority on the Supreme Court who believe that the Second Amendment establishes an individual right to bear arms would not hold that the Constitution protects one’s right to own a nuclear submarine. So it is not true that any gun ban automatically “burdens” the Second Amendment. The question is whether it affects the limited right to self-defense that the conservative majority now says the Founders intended. Banning any possession of handguns by law-abiding citizens, even in the home, is so far the only law that the high court has held violates the Second Amendment. Such extreme bans are only passed in large liberal cities such as D.C. and Chicago where crime is a persistent concern. No federal law that could ever actually be passed by the U.S. Congress approaches such a level of restriction. There is simply no precedent to support the claim that laws preventing civilians from obtaining weapons that can fire 30 bullets without reloading would violate the Second Amendment. This does not mean that one cannot have a valid concern that even constitutional laws place an undue burden on one’s freedom, but that is a question of values and public-policy tradeoffs, not constitutionality.

I don’t claim to have it all figured out. The more I look at the data the less certain I am. For example, I noticed John Lott coming up a lot in my websearches, especially his book More Guns, Less Violence. Looking at the Wikipedia page, there is tons of research that either supports or challenges his conclusions (although there apparently is more research on the side of challenging).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/More_Guns,_Less_Crime

Trying to make sense of the data is difficult, but I think it’s worth the effort because otherwise we will just be arguing past eachother based on our various biases. I do think we need to take the data, all the data seriously… and not dismiss it because it’s inconvenient or too confusing to fit our preconceived ideologies. But it seems like rational debate is next to impossible. I try to remain intellectually humble and openminded, but I find myself polarized and frustrated by all the rhetoric.

So, I could be wrong about what makes sense to me at the moment. As far as I can tell, gun violence and gun regulation don’t necessarily have a causal connection, although there does seem to be some correlations related to economic disparity (which, in turn, is correlated to the degree of conservatism of a state). I have no absolute conclusions based on such confusing statistics and demographics… and, for that reason, I’m dissatisfied and annoyed by those who are satisfied with absolute conclusions (and absolute ideologies). Regulation might not solve the problem, but at least some basic regulation seems like a necessary ‘evil’ until (if ever) the more fundamental problems in our society are remedied.


Anyway, for the apparent minority of people who care about the complexity of the facts and issues, here are some interesting and helpful links:

http://social.jrank.org/pages/1257/Violent-Crime-Guns-Plenty.html

http://social.jrank.org/pages/1255/Violent-Crime-Guns-Gangs.html

http://social.jrank.org/pages/1250/Violent-Crime-Century-Murder.html

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/01/12-0

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/01/the-psychogeography-of-gun-violence/69353/

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/070628/dq070628b-eng.htm

http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2003/07/0728.php

http://www.crab.rutgers.edu/~goertzel/mythsofmurder.htm

http://islandia.law.yale.edu/ayers/Ayres_Donohue_article.pdf

http://home.uchicago.edu/~ludwigj/papers/IJLE-ConcealedGunLaws-1998.pdf

http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/nfortin/econ495/dugganjpe98.pdf

http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/LevittUnderstandingWhyCrime2004.pdf

http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Academic/drugs_and_violence/Drugs_and_violence.html

http://www.protesteasygunslies.com/kates_mauser.pdf

http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1017&context=john_donohue

http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1065&context=john_donohue

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/jan/10/gun-crime-us-state

http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/27/2/214.full.pdf

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/01/sudan-vs-the-united-states-cultures-of-gun-violence/69655/

http://www.tampabay.com/news/politifact-us-has-more-gun-deaths-than-other-large-countries/1145669

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/221032/international_gun_laws_show_firearm.html?cat=17

http://www.shmoop.com/right-to-bear-arms/original-meaning-of-the-second-amendment.html

http://www.spectacle.org/996/2d.html

http://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/common.htm

http://www.bsos.umd.edu/gvpt/lpbr/subpages/reviews/Williams404.htm

http://extremehonesty.tribe.net/thread/7d6b44ae-7394-40f9-85c5-4ae32f120235

http://www.thomhartmann.com/forum/2010/11/negative-rights-bill-rights

Tucson Shooting: Videos & Letter to Palin

I have many thoughts on this topic. I could write a long post analyzing it, but I don’t feel like it. Most of the responses from conservatives depress me. So, I’ll just share some videos that I found interesting or insightful. But, first, let me share some quotes from a few articles and a letter that one of Giffords’ cousins wrote to Sarah Palin (if you want to see my own reflections on this incident and my own commentary on gun rights and regulation, I wrote another post that can be found here):

http://www.fair.org/blog/2011/01/10/violent-rhetoric-and-false-balance/

Yes, there are people who called Bush a “modern Hitler,” or believed he had some role in the 9/11 attacks. Those people are generally not given talkshows, and cannot be found in positions of power in the Democratic Party.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/georgepacker/2011/01/tucson-revisited.html

In fact, there is no balance — none whatsoever. Only one side has made the rhetoric of armed revolt against an oppressive tyranny the guiding spirit of its grassroots movement and its midterm campaign. Only one side routinely invokes the Second Amendment as a form of swagger and intimidation, not-so-coyly conflating rights with threats. Only one side’s activists bring guns to democratic political gatherings. Only one side has a popular national TV host who uses his platform to indoctrinate viewers in the conviction that the President is an alien, totalitarian menace to the country. Only one side fills the AM waves with rage and incendiary falsehoods. Only one side has an iconic leader, with a devoted grassroots following, who can’t stop using violent imagery and dividing her countrymen into us and them, real and fake. Any sentient American knows which side that is; to argue otherwise is disingenuous.

http://www.fair.org/blog/2011/01/12/a-whole-lot-of-lone-nuts/

These individuals no doubt have a range of relationships to reality, and their ideologies may likewise vary from Tea Party orthodoxy to idiosyncratic conspiracy mania. (One person on the list appears to be a genuine ecoterrorist.) But it’s hard to deny that this seems like a remarkable amount of political violence in a little more than two-and-a-half years. (This impression is bolstered statistically by reports that the Secret Service has had to deal with a 400 percent increase in threats against the president, that U.S. Marshals are facing double the number of threats against judges and prosecutors, and that Capitol Police found that threats against congressmembers tripled in the first quarter of 2010.)

Even more strikingly, this violence corresponds to a period that has seen a major change in the boundaries of political rhetoric from both pundits and politicians. A major media figures like Glenn Beck (Fox News2/20/09) can now fantasize about “citizen militias in the South and West taking up arms against the U.S. government”–and he could declare that government officials bent on forcibly vaccinating his children are going to “meet Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson.” People with regular slots on major networks didn’t use to talk this way. Nor did major-party Senate candidates declare that “people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.” (See the Coalition’s complete list for many other examples of media and political figures evoking violence in explicit, non-metaphorical statements.)

People who insist that the Tucson massacre has nothing to do with any of this are engaged in a desperate and dangerous denial.

http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2011/01/11/dear-sarah-palincousin-cong-giffords-speaks

Dear Sarah Palin:

I am writing today about how you are responding to and how you will respond to the assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the murders of six other people.

By way of introduction and background, I am a cousin of Congresswoman Giffords. I am also an ally of Dr. George Tiller, the Kansas doctor who provided abortion services and who was assassinated on May 31, 2009.

When the Congresswoman’s offices were vandalized after her vote on healthcare reform, I wrote to her. As I recall, I congratulated her on her strong spirit in the face of that attack and other threats. I told her that I was proud of her courage on behalf of health care reform and sorry that she had to show the same courage as those who provide health care to pregnant women who need abortions and other reproductive health care services. Both have been the subjects of hateful, vitriolic language. Both have been put in rifle crosshairs.

In the aftermath of the murder of Dr. Tiller and the attempted murder of Congresswoman Giffords, many have spoken out about the role that hateful language played or might have played in encouraging these acts of violence. Immediately after Congresswoman Giffords was shot, many people voiced concern about such things as your “Take Back the 20” map targeting congressional districts of those representatives, including Congresswoman Giffords, who voted for health care reform by placing their districts in the crosshairs of a gun sight. Commentators have also noted your advice to people disappointed in the outcome of the 2008 elections to “lock and load” and “don’t retreat, reload.”

As I am sure you are now aware, Congresswoman Giffords herself had expressed concern about your map in particular. She said: “We need to realize that the rhetoric, and the firing people up and … for example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, the way she has it depicted, we’re in the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize that there are consequences to that action…”

Your response so far, has been to defend the images and language you use. In an e-mail to Mr. Glenn Beck you said, “Our children will not have peace if politicos just capitalize on this to succeed in portraying anyone as inciting terror and violence.”

Ms. Palin, the moment calls for more than this. I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment and of your right to defend your words and to challenge those who seek to connect them to the assassination attempt and murders in Tucson, Arizona. I also know that there is often a very long distance between words and actions.

But even if your map and your language had nothing to do with these murders or any others that might occur in the future, a compassionate response would acknowledge that possibility and indicate a willingness, in her honor, in honor of the people who died, to consider this concern.

Whether or not you are willing to take this concern seriously, it is, nevertheless a critical moment to clarify your beliefs and principles. Now is the time to answer these questions and lead.

Do you believe it is appropriate to bring about political change in America through the use of or threat of violence?

When you suggest targeting candidates, use gun-sight crosshairs to do so, and speak repeatedly about guns, locking and reloading do you mean that violence is or could be properly used to encourage or ensure certain outcomes of elections or legislative votes?

If you do not mean literally that elected officials should be targeted with rifles and threatened by political activists armed with loaded weapons, whatdo you mean? What should politically frustrated Americans do when their views are not prevailing?

Throughout the course of history people have demonstrated that the most effective change comes through non-violent action. Many of us believe that the most courageous leaders and activists are those who are willing to be attacked for their beliefs not those who threaten to attack.

Ms. Palin, if you are among those who believe that political change can come about non-violently, without hate, violence, or the threat of violence, now would be an excellent time to say so.

Wikileaks: 2007 Iraq Shooting (evidence, analysis)

“We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.”, said Gen. Stanley McChrystal on the subject of escalation of force, in little-noticed comments made this week in his regular virtual town hall from Afghanistan.

 – – –

I just came across the Wikileaks video about the shooting in Iraq. It happened a few years ago, but only now was leaked. Apparently, the military originally lied about the incident (SURPRISE! SURPRISE!).  

This first video directly below is supposedly the entire unedited version. The video is graphic.  

In all my years on earth, I’ve seen plenty of actual footage of war and of killings in general. But, dear Lord!, this video impacted me like no other. It’s impossible for me to describe how disgusted and horrified this video makes me feel. Our society has a deep, deep soul sickness. Yes, war is violence, but this incident goes beyond the everyday violence of war.   

The soldiers were in a chopper far away looking through scopes (utterly detached from the reality of these human beings as if it all were just a video game). The soldiers were looking for an excuse to shoot and the whole process was so calculated. The soldiers weren’t being attacked, weren’t in danger, weren’t simply reacting. They were just looking for an excuse. Any object those people were carrying, it didn’t matter what it actually was, might as well be guns to these soldiers. The people killed were standing around a residential area minding their own business.  

Let me add some info for context. Even if one of these guys was holding a gun, it’s legal in Iraq to own and carry a gun. As I understand it, nearly every home has a gun. Iraq is a dangerous place and so people living there often carry guns. The people shot weren’t acting suspicious. They were just people standing outside some homes. The reason they were gathered together was because a Reuters journalist was also there (one of the assumed guns apparently was just the journalist’s camera).  

Democracy Now!

“RICK ROWLEY: But yeah. I mean, the thing that was most chilling to me about this, as an independent journalist who works unembedded often, is that when the reports came out—the military investigations came out a few days later, you can read them all on the internet now—and they basically—I mean, essentially they blamed the reporters for causing this. They say they did three things wrong . First, they failed to identify themselves to a helicopter gunship flying, I don’t know, hundreds of feet above their heads. Second, their proximity to armed insurgents was reason for them to be killed . And third, their furtive attempt to take a photograph of American troops .

I mean, so, first of all, there is no reason at all to believe or to conclude that any of the people in that picture are armed insurgents. I mean, you can see two men with Kalashnikovs, but this is 2007 in Baghdad. This is the height of the civil war , when dozens of bodies a day were being picked up from the street, when sectarian militias filled the Iraqi security forces, the police and the army. Every neighborhood in Baghdad organized its own protection force. And it was legal at the time for every household to own a Kalashnikov in Iraq, and every household I ever went to did. So the presence of two men, dangling at their sides Kalashnikovs, in a crowd of civilians who have no weapons at all, I mean, is absolutely no—I mean, it’s—the whole thing is ridiculous. ”

There are other things to keep in mind.   

First, incidents like this happen all the time. As with this video, the military tries to suppress the incident and will make statements that are blatant lies. Most of the time, the military is successful in their propaganda to the American public. So, while watching this video, realize this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the horrors of war.  

GRITtv: WikiLeaks Video: Exception or Example?  

What should be shocking and disturbing about this footage is not that these soldiers are breaking the rules. It’s that they are following the rules, that they are executing calmly and coldly the rules of engagement. And that this is the reality of the wars and occupation in Iraq and Afghansistan. If you support the war, then you support this kind of killing of civilians. They go hand in hand.  

 

At Democracy Now!, Glenn Greenwald (of Salon.com) said in an interview: 

Namir_Noor-Eldeen
Namir N00r-Eldeen, Reuters photojournalist killed in the 2007 Iraq incident. Reuters.

“My concern with the discussions that have been triggered, though, is that there seems to be the suggestion, in many circles—not, of course, by Julian—that this is some sort of extreme event, or this is some sort of aberration, and that’s the reason why we’re all talking about it and are horrified about it. In fact, it’s anything but rare. The only thing that’s rare about this is that we happen to know about it and are seeing it take place on video. This is something that takes place on a virtually daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places where we invade and bomb and occupy. …And you see that this is standard operating procedure. The military was not at all concerned about what took place. They didn’t even think there were remedial steps needed to prevent a future reoccurrence. They concluded definitively that the members of the military involved did exactly the right thing. 

This is what war is. This is what the United States does in these countries. And that, I think, is the crucial point to note, along with the fact that the military fought tooth and nail to prevent this video from surfacing, precisely because they knew that it would shed light on what their actual behavior is during war, and instead of the propaganda to which we’re typically subjected.”

Most important of all, this was an illegal and immoral war right from the beginning. All the hundreds of thousands of deaths of US soldiers and innocents were entirely unnecessary. These soldiers were just young kids who made bad decisions with the lives of others. Whether or not they should face trial is another issue (the military, of course, states it doesn’t plan on investigating or punishing these soldiers). More importantly, George W. Bush is a war criminal which is further proven by other recent evidence (see my previous post: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & Gitmo Innocents). 

Here is a nice summary of info about this incident:  

Essential links on WikiLeaks video of Iraq shooting
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
  

Whistleblower site WikiLeaks has released a leaked video taken from a US military helicopter in July 2007, showing US forces indiscriminately firing on Iraqi civilians, killing 12 people and wounding two children. The dead included two employees of the Reuters news agency. There are several edited versions of the video, which can be found in its entirety here. Cryptome offers a series of selected stills from the leaked WikiLeaks video, with some visual analysis of the footage. It is worth keeping in mind that the leaked video is of substantially lower quality than what the US helicopter pilots saw, because it was converted through several stages before it was released by WikiLeaks. The website’s co-founder, Julian Assange, and Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald speak extensively on Democracy Now! about the leaked video, as well as about allegations that US government officials spied on Assange and other WikiLeaks workers and volunteers in Iceland and Norway. Greenwald is one of a handful of journalists taking  a serious interest in the WikiLeaksThe Guardian’s Joseph Huff-Hannon. Meanwhile the US Pentagon says it can revelation, as is not make a complete verification of the incident “until the original tapes have been located”.  

The first few videos below offer useful analysis. The last video is Fox News, of course, trying to rationalize it all away.  




  

Last year, I wrote about the wars Bush started. I think it’s even more relevant now than when I wrote it. So, I’ve re-posted it in its entirety below. But first let me emphasize one specific comment that is a bit prophetic:

Despite the majority being critical of the war, it often seems like there is very little outrage (or very little heard in the media) about the tragic results.  It’s largely because the government has been very controlling of the information it releases and very controlling of the media.  The media has allowed itself to be controlled (such as embedded journalists), has allowed itself to be used for purposes of propaganda (partly by self-censoring).  We don’t see the visceral images of death and destruction which were seen during the Vietnam war and which changed public opinion at that time.  Without pictures, it doesn’t entirely feel real.  Abstract data doesn’t incite the moral indignation of the public.

The Iraq War is officially no longer an abstraction. American public, welcome to the reality that your taxes paid for.

Iraq War: righteous cause?

I was thinking about righteousness as it relates to righteous causes.  Righteousness often plays out in politics in terms of patriotrism, and patriotistm often plays out in terms of war. As an example, the peace protests that were against the invasion of Iraq were the largest and fastest growing of any anti-war movement in American history, and the most widespread and most well organized in world history.  It had become well organized before the war even started which is very unusual.  It took years for the Vietnam war protests to even begin to gather popular support. 

The anti-war movement gained much support even internationally.  Many political and religious leaders (including heads of states and even the Vatican) around the world have officially opposed the war and occupation of Iraq.  Around 90% of non-Americans in the world are against unilateral action by the US without UN sanction.  Around 3 million people were caculated to be in Rome protesting the war which Guinness Book of Records claims is the largest ever anti-war rally.  In a 3 month period in 2003, it was calculated that 36 million people worldwide participated in 3,000 protests.

In America, since 2005, opponents of the war have outnumbered supporters.  But even before the war started the vast majority (around 70%) of Americans opposed going to war without allowing the UN inspections to finish.  Also, at least 64 US city councils have passed anti-war resolutions (which includes major cities of middle America such as Chicago and Detroit) and some major US religious organizations have passed anti-war resolutions (such as the National Council of Churches and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops).

What did the government do in response?  Initially, the government’s righteous rhetoric just became more loud.  The Bush administration ignored the opposition and went to war anyways.  Bush saw that his base supported it, and ignored the fact that for instance most blacks and hispanics didn’t.  Bush also ignored the UN and ignored popular opinion in the world at large.  Bush hoped the dissent would disappear if he just ignored it long enough, but it only kept growing.  And the Democrats in Washington were afraid to represent many of of those in their own base who were in opposition to Bush’s patriotic call to arms.  So, no one in power supported this large and ever growing larger anti-war movement.  Furthermore, many US news sources (Fox News in particular) tried their best to ignore and downplay the anti-war protests (even though they’ve given plenty of attention to much smaller protest movements that support the Republican party).

The Iraq war was justified for two reasons (a claim of connections to 9/11 terrorists and a claim of weapons of mass destruction) both of which turned out to be either lies or unforgivable ignorance.  We’ve torn a country a part out of a sense of vengeance at having a couple of buildings knocked down.  Millions of innocent Iraqi civilians have been killed, injured, and orphaned so as to free them from Saddam who was supposed to be somehow connected the 9/11 attacks that killed less than 3,000.  But it doesn’t matter because Iraqis are elsewhere.  Iraqis hold no great power in the world, and if it weren’t for oil no one would care about them.

Anyways, it was the American government who in the first place helped Saddam and Bin Laden gain power.  Where is America’s righteousness when morality only applies when the situation is convenient?  It’s not just Iraqis who have suffered because of the US invasion and occupation.  From this site, here are the recent statistcs for deaths in Iraq:

Iraqi troops killed [13] 30,000 Iraqi troops seriously injured [14] 90,000 Iraqi civilians killed [15] 697,523 Iraqi civilians seriously injured [16] 1,255,541 U.S. troops killed [17] 4,343 U.S. troops seriously injured [18] 31,156 Other coalition troops killed [19] 318 Other coalition troops seriously injured [20] 10,821 Contractors killed [21] 933 Contractors seriously injured [22] 10,569 Journalists killed [23] 163 Journalists seriously injured [24] unknown Total killed in Iraq: 733,280 Total injured in Iraq: 1,398,087

Although, a Reuters article argues that the contractor deaths are being undercounted and that this is important as the military is increasingly relying on contractors.

In a Wahington Post article, it was pointed out that certain improvements in the military have had unforeseen consequences.  Better armor and better medical care have saved many lives, but this means that there has been a massive increase of soldiers surviving horrific injuries.  This has led to many more veterans coming home with severe physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  A related issue is that 52% of injured soldiers have traumatic brain injuries (TBI).  Beyond the more publicized injuries, there is an even greater subtle menace.  The US troops have used massive amounts of depleted uranium in the Iraq war.  This depleted uranium is in many populated areas which leads to deaths and birth defects for Iraqis, but it also means many US veterans will end up dying from cancer later on.

Furthermore, there are some more results that I find even more depressing.  There are extremely high numbers of soldiers and veterans committing suicide, and many veterans end up unemployed or even homeless.  Among the homeless, one out of every 3 is a veteran even though veterans are only around 10% of the US population.  Most of these veterans are from Vietnam, but homeless younger veterans are increasing in numbers and no one knows how many there are.  All of this relates to high rates of crime (with the highest rates being violence and sexual assault), alcoholism, and drug addiction.  Interestingly, I was reading about how the military has made a practice of giving prescription drugs to soldiers in the field to help them deal with the stress and trauma.  Vietnam veterans used to self-medicate, but now the military keeps our soldiers drugged up so that they’ll be more properly (or at least temporarily) numbed to the horrors of war.

The Iraq war has been a very damaging war.  Despite the majority being critical of the war, it often seems like there is very little outrage (or very little heard in the media) about the tragic results.  It’s largely because the government has been very controlling of the information it releases and very controlling of the media.  The media has allowed itself to be controlled (such as embedded journalists), has allowed itself to be used for purposes of propaganda (partly by self-censoring).  We don’t see the visceral images of death and destruction which were seen during the Vietnam war and which changed public opinion at that time.  Without pictures, it doesn’t entirely feel real.  Abstract data doesn’t incite the moral indignation of the public.

The War on Terror continues, the anti-war movement has lost its momentum, and the American public have become resigned.  The Iraq War is just about to overtake the American Revolutionary War as the third longest war and the War in Afghanistan is getting closer to being the longest war in US history.  Right now Obama is trying to decide what to do next with a war he inherited, a war that is impossible to win.

So, this is where political faux righteousness leads.  My point for bringing all of that up is to show how the anti-war movement is an example of how a genuinely righteous populist movement can be suppressed.  And it’s just one of endless examples.