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Interracial Crime and “Perspective”
Why you sometimes need to tell uncomfortable truths
The topic of black crime has taken over Twitter. It all started when Elon Musk responded sympathetically to a Tweet that presented data showing black-on-white crime is the most common form of interracial violence. The original tweet was completely correct, and you can see Noah Carl for some of the sophistry that has been used to try to deny or obfuscate on the underlying facts.
I personally don’t have the patience for taking part in these kinds of arguments, at least in the way that Noah is engaging here. It’s like the people who spend all their time arguing with trans and feminists by pointing to *scientific studies* showing that boys have penises and girls have vaginas. Men have more grip strength. Scientists just proved it! I guess someone has to do it, and I’ve run into some actual human beings (on the internet anyway) who tell me that they accepted the blank slate view of sex until they looked at the data. This makes me sad. But since the data does convince some people, I guess I’m glad someone is providing it.
Race and crime is similar. The numbers are there if you need them. I suppose foreigners might. But I grew up just outside of Chicago, and data on black criminality is to me just as unnecessary as sex comparisons of grip strength. Chicago is about a third black. Like many midwestern cities, it is extremely violent, with nearly all of the crime concentrated in black neighborhoods. When crime does spill over into the nicer areas, it’s committed by the people from those neighborhoods.
I knew many family friends who were Middle Eastern immigrants and store owners in the city. Every now and then, some distant relation or acquaintance would get their store looted or, in at least one instance I remember, shot and killed. Michael Jordan’s greatness was much appreciated and respected but its consequences used to fill the community with fear, because another championship tended to create another possibility that stores would go up in flames. The Arabs would speak in shorthand. “What happened to Walid’s store?” “You know, the blacks…” “Ah.” Actually, they would say “the slaves,” if you want to really know how Arabs talk.
Here’s the thing: while only immigrants and white proles explicitly discuss this aspect of their reality, every single person within the orbit of the city behaves as if they know the truth. No matter who you are, unless you’re one of the residents of those communities, your life is organized around avoiding the pathologies of the inner city. If you’re a desperate immigrant, you might open up a store, put up a “We Take EBT” sign, and take the risk of being shot. White Americans are less inclined to do this, so they instead just flee black neighborhoods and do what they can to get their kids out of black schools. They’ll make any commute or pay whatever tuition is necessary. No one is confused about this — liberals are correct that entire swaths of a major city don’t end up with zero white people by accident. They just attribute this to “racism” rather than the desire not to be sexually assaulted or physically harmed.
I’ve been talking about Chicago, but the same things are true for Milwaukee, Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland, Baltimore, and countless other major cities. It’s also true for the cities where American elites and policymakers live like Washington, DC, which is why I’m always amused by theories that say they are actually acting in their own interests by coddling criminals. Other than blacks themselves, no group would benefit more from solving our crime problem than wealthy urban whites.
We can therefore ignore those who deny the reality of black crime. They’re either too stupid or dishonest to engage with. Among others on the left, there has been an acceptance of reality combined with pleas to simply frame the issue differently.
When liberals talk about perspective here, what they usually mean is that the likelihood of a white person being victimized by a black person is small in an absolute sense, so why worry about it? It would be a fine argument, except that we are constantly told to obsess over the harms done by police shootings, white supremacist violence, and vigilantes falsely accusing innocent black men of crimes.
I thought about showing you NYT and CNN headlines implying that blacks have to live in constant fear due to racism. But you’ve probably seen them, and instead I’ll share this clip showing how the topic was addressed a few years ago on a major network TV show.
As a digression, I would recommend checking out a few episodes of A Million Little Things if you want to see the horror that is the PC therapeutic slop that normies are being fed these days, but that’s a discussion for a different time.
So the crime debate has been going something like this.
Conservatives: Look at all the black-on-white crime.
Liberals: Get some perspective man. It’s nothing compared to the chances of being murdered by your own race. Not to mention heart attacks or covid. These are very small numbers.
Conservatives: You guys are the ones telling us blacks are living in constant fear. Stop doing that.
Now, when having these debates, what’s frustrating is that people are usually talking past one another. There’s not like one guy named “conservatives” and one guy named “liberals.” The liberals who are telling you to have some perspective on black crime often aren’t the same ones pushing the narrative that blacks should live in fear of whites. It’s easy to “own” the other side by putting together views of different people and finding contradictions.
That being said, the myth of substantial white-on-black violence is so deeply embedded in the culture that it’s a storyline in network TV shows. I think it’s fair to ask people to take a position on it. If you dislike racists on Twitter focusing too much on black-on-white crime, know that they are closer to the truth than the race obsessives on the other side, and have a lot less power.
One odd thing about these calls for perspective is that when liberals say that intra-racial crime is more common than crime that crosses group boundaries, what they are essentially saying is don’t worry about black crime, because the victims are overwhelmingly black people. But wait! Since when are liberals uninterested in problems that disproportionately affect blacks? These are the people who write serious NYT think pieces about how national parks are too white. They now turn around and say, let’s not talk too much about murder, because blacks are the victims? It’s a very odd thing, and it’s hard for me to even steelman their lack of interest in solving this issue as they obsess over every other black grievance, real or imagined.
Some years ago I noticed that fact checkers started providing “perspective” on claims rather than simply saying whether they were true or false. Of course, what perspective to take on facts is a huge part of what political discourse is about. Do blacks commit a lot of violence against whites? Compared to the number of cancer deaths, no. But in the context of a comparison to white-on-black violence, absolutely. One can conduct a similar analysis of issues like covid, terrorism, and school shootings.
For me, I like cost-benefit analysis as the way to understand what problems are worth worrying about and what we should be doing about them.
Black-on-white violence is not the biggest issue in the world, but it is useful to talk about in order to challenge narratives that pose much more serious problems. Arguments about supposed racism committed by whites against blacks are why we can’t effectively fight crime in this country and why we can’t have freedom of association or meritocratic criteria in hiring. The belief in white racism as a major factor in American life is the force that distorts all of policymaking and culture. Any arguments that are effective at discrediting that narrative are worth making.
And no, I don’t consider acting on statistical realities to be a kind of racism society should solve. Once you remove reactions that are based on group behavior, and private preferences that are none of the government’s business in a free society, the remaining “racism” in the United States against blacks is negligible, and more than balanced out by the ways in which they are advantaged.
The truth of the matter is we have a disgraceful amount of crime in the US, and the costs are not simply a matter of the number of people robbed, raped, and killed. It’s also a tragedy that what could be some of the most valuable urban real estate in the country is basically uninhabitable. In fact, part of the reason that black-on-white violence is rare in this country is because whites have overwhelmingly fled places where blacks live due to the threat of violence.
Other pathologies of American life, like NIMBYism, which drives up the cost of housing, are also downstream of the crime issue. If you’re a resident of Tokyo, you don’t need to worry about greater density leading to a decline in public safety, the way that Americans have to.
There’s no “perspective” one can take from which a reasonable observer won’t find that inner city crime is a major problem, and something we should do our best to solve. The chart below shows the ten American cities of at least 100,000 people that have the highest murder rates, and how they compare to the most violent countries in the world. The murder rates for cities come from CBS, while the country data comes from the World Bank.
You might be saying that it’s unfair to compare cities to entire countries, since urban areas might have concentrated violence. Yet the most violent countries in the world tend to be small. For example, St Louis, which is number one in murder in the chart above, has 293,000 people. That’s a larger population than St Lucia (180,000) and St Vincent (104,000), which are shown on the graph. Detroit has 632,000 people, making it more than 50% larger than either the Bahamas (407,000) or Belize (400,000). New Orleans (384,000) and Cleveland (373,000) are close behind. So this isn’t a matter of cherry-picking areas with minuscule populations and making them look bad. These cities are the size of small countries, which means we are pretty much comparing apples-to-apples in many of these cases. And if you want to make a real apples-to-apples comparisons, try contrasting American cities to those in other first world countries, like London.
As I argue in my articles on El Salvador, any polity that has a high enough murder rate needs to make solving crime its number one priority. This was true for that nation before Bukele came along, as it is for major American cities today. It’s not a big mystery how to do this, it’s just politically difficult, because literally everything that works is considered racist. You need more cops, more prisons, and more use of DNA databases and facial recognition technology. You can’t have concerns about disparate impact in a world where crime is so overwhelmingly committed by one group. And yes, liberals are right about one thing, which is that gun laws matter too.
But the left is so out of its mind on everything touching on race that even though they’re right that gun laws matter, when it comes to actually enforcing them, they tend to shy away from doing so for the obvious reason.
While I support policies that can make incremental improvements, actually solving our crime problem to any serious extent would take a revolution in our culture or system of government. Whether you want to focus on guns or the criminals themselves, it would involve heavily policing, surveilling, and incarcerating more black people. If any part of you is uncomfortable with policies that have an extreme disparate impact, you don’t have the stomach for what it would take. And, unlike some, I’m not naive enough to think that non-criminal blacks would end up grateful towards those who took the steps necessary to make their communities safer.
Dealing with the crime issue is complicated for reasons that go deep to the heart of the American psyche, which means there’s little hope that things will change any time soon. Until they do, we should continue to at the very least push back on the most malicious lies being told about race in America.
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