Friday, November 28, 2014

Does America Have a Racism Problem?

Writing at CNN in the wake of the decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown LZ Granderson states that we have a real problem with racism in this country.

He quotes Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP, who claimed that "What we have continued to see linger is the perception of young African-American men as dangerous and criminal. Until we begin to reverse this perception, and until all Americans -- white Americans in particular -- believe in the humanity of black people, we will continue to have these incidents of violence."

In other words, it wasn't Brown's actions which resulted in his death, it was the racism of the cop who shot him. She may be right, of course. Wilson may have done what he did because he was a bigot. It's possible, but who knows what was in his heart at the time he pulled the trigger? I certainly don't and I doubt very much that Ms Ifill does either. Why is it assumed that Mr. Wilson wouldn't have acted in the same manner had Brown been a white kid who punched him in the face? How does Ms Ifill or Mr. Granderson know that white Americans don't "believe in the humanity" of black people? Well, Granderson cites statistics:
A USA Today study found at least 70 police departments nationwide arrested blacks at a rate 10 times higher than nonblacks. Furthermore, "only 173 of the 3,538 police departments USA Today examined arrested black people at a rate equal to or lower than other racial groups." This isn't a coincidence or a fluke. This is a problem too many whites don't see, and too many blacks are besieged by.
We can agree that there's surely a problem here (although given that so many police departments operate in areas where the population is largely comprised of blacks, I'm not sure how significant that second statistic is), but I think it's simply nonsense to say that "too many whites" don't see it. I think they see it all too clearly. The problem is that blacks like Granderson, and many white liberals, are simply oblivious to what whites see.

What many whites see in their daily newspapers and evening newscasts is a minority group that commits crime out of all proportion to its size as a percentage of the population. They see a minority group that evidently seethes with hatred for whites to the extent that they're disproportionately inclined to victimize whites. If blacks are arrested at a much higher rate than other racial groups, then just maybe it's because they commit crimes at a much higher rate than other groups.

After reciting some of the claims made by black leaders concerning "the scourge of white-on-black violence" the editors at Discover the Networks offer some statistics on such violence:
Viewing America as a hotbed of racism, leftist civil-rights leaders and academics routinely promote the notion that white-on-black violence is a major scourge plaguing the black community. Al Sharpton once said that such violence had reached “epidemic proportions.” Professor Cornel West characterizes African Americans as our country's “exemplary targets of racial hatred.” Robert Staples, a former professor of sociology at a University of California medical school, has spoken of “a sort of genocide, targeting young black males.” Mary Frances Berry, former chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, says that “the primary explanation for racially motivated violence against blacks has been the need of a segment of the white population to preserve [its] belief in the inferiority of blacks, and to maintain the social and political subordination of an historically outcast group by any means, including violence.”

But in fact, white-on-black crime is a statistical rarity. According to data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), an estimated 320,082 whites were victims of black violence in 2010, while 62,593 blacks were victims of white violence. That same year, according to the Census Bureau, the white and black populations in the U.S. were 196,817,552 and 37,685,848, respectively. Whites therefore committed acts of interracial violence at a rate of 32 per 100,000, while the black rate was 849 per 100,000. In other words, the “average” black was statistically 26.5 times more likely to commit criminal violence against a white, than vice versa. Moreover, blacks who committed violent crimes chose white victims 47.7% of the time, whereas whites who committed violent crimes targeted black victims only 3.9% of the time.

For many years and for a wide variety of crimes, this pattern has been among the most consistent findings of criminal-justice research. Nationwide in 2010, there were approximately 67,755 black-on-white aggravated assaults, as compared to just 1,748 white-on-black crimes of the same description. Thus, blacks committed acts of interracial aggravated assault at a rate of 181 per 100,000—fully 201 times higher than the white rate of 0.9 per 100,000. Moreover, blacks guilty of aggravated assault chose white victims 44.1% of the time, while whites who committed aggravated assault selected black victims only six-tenths of 1% of the time.

Also in 2010, there were approximately 13,463 black-on-white rapes and 38,744 black-on-white robberies. Blacks guilty of rape chose white victims 50.2% of the time, and blacks who committed robbery chose white victims 48% of the time. By contrast, the number of white-on-black rapes and robberies reported in the NCVS surveys were so infinitesimal, that in each case whites were estimated to have accounted for 0.0% of all rapes and robberies committed against black victims in the United States.
If these statistics are accurate then several conclusions follow. First, we do indeed have a problem with racial violence in this country, but the problem is not primarily with white people. Second, if young black men resent being profiled by police then perhaps they should blame their fellow black males who are statistically far more likely to commit crimes than are any other group (If cops are such racists why aren't Asians the targets of police harassment and brutality?). Third, if interracial crime is a consequence of race hatred then by far the largest deposit of that hatred rests in the black community.

To be sure, whites sometimes say and do awkward, insensitive things. They sometimes tell racially-tinged jokes and indulge in stereotypes that blacks find offensive, but they rarely commit acts motivated by racial animus which actually and deliberately harm someone.

The out-of-whack statistics that Granderson cites will never be meliorated until responsible black voices stop imputing them to the phantom of ubiquitous white racism and instead start laying the blame where it belongs, in a community in which fatherlessness is epidemic and too many undisciplined youngsters enter their teen age years unequipped and unwilling to function in socially productive ways.

If we can't accurately identify the problem there's not much chance we'll ever solve it.