The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Is Black-on-Black Crime a ‘Myth’?

Posted on | May 6, 2021 | Comments Off on Is Black-on-Black Crime a ‘Myth’?

Eugene Volokh seemed to be puzzled by another law professor’s claim:

An article by a criminal law professor [April 22] in the Columbus Dispatch included this assertion:

“The reality is that Black-on-Black crime is a myth, and that Black and white people routinely commit crimes at similar rates, but Black people are overwhelmingly targeted for arrest.”

Yet I think this is not the reality, at least as to violent crimes of the sort that are usually labeled “black-on-black” when committed by black criminals against black victims.

That Volokh post was linked April 24 by Instapundit, who linked it again on Monday, suggesting how important this question is. But of course, it’s not actually a question at all — we know for a fact that black-on-black crime is real, not a “myth,” and that however “similar” the crime rates may be across racial lines, violent crime is a much more serious problem in the black community than anywhere else in America. These are facts which anyone can ascertain easily by reference to data published annually by the federal Department of Justice, so the real question is, why would anyone make the false assertion that black-on-black crime is a “myth”?

The simple answer: Southern Poverty Law Center.

You see, the university professor whose column caught Volokh’s attention linked to a 2017 SPLC “HateWatch” item by Dave Neiwert who, in turn, linked to a Department of Justice report, the contents of which he badly misrepresented. But before I get into that, some relevant history . . .

As I’ve sometimes mentioned, I was born and raised a “yellow dog” Democrat and never in my life voted Republican until 1994. Both political events and personal experience influenced my repudiation of my native partisan allegiance to the Democrats. If you lived through the 1990s, you can probably remember the series of events — the 1991 Gulf War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Rodney King incident, the L.A. Riots, the election of Bill Clinton, the Waco disaster, the Yugoslavia civil war, etc. — which did much to make me begin thinking seriously about politics and policy. These were years when I did a lot of heavy reading of history and philosophy, seeking to remediate a deficit from my collegiate years, which were spent in the party-hearty haze of a rock-and-roll lifestyle.

In 1992, I was still a Democratic Party loyalist, and proudly plastered a Clinton-Gore bumper stick on my old Chevy Impala. But I’d abandoned my youthful hedonism by then and had become a more-or-less respectable petit bourgeois — married to a fine Christian woman, working a suit-and-tie job as a small-town newspaper writer, with three young children and a mortgage on nice little home. My bourgeois way of life gave me a vested interest on one side of what Pat Buchanan, in his speech to the 1992 GOP convention, had called the Culture War. That is to say, as a married Christian parent, the issue of “family values” now concerned me more directly than they had during my youth as a rock-and-roll party animal, and there was also the matter of economics. I was beginning to read the Austrian economists (Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek) and their heirs (particularly Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams), from whom I discovered that my vaguely Keynesian views on economics were a pathetic error. Anyway . . .

Having briefly recounted some of the influences that led me to abandon my Democratic Party birthright and embrace conservatism, I have to explain that my venture into conservative thought was like an explorer venturing into an uncharted continent. This was terra incognito to me, and I had little appreciation of the various camps and factions within the Right. However, many of those who sought to mentor me on this journey were decidedly in the paleoconservative camp, so that by 1996 I was regularly reading Chronicles (where Sam Francis was a monthly columnist), and was therefore quite sympathetic to the critique of the Republican Establishment as a bunch of phony sellouts. Also, I was well aware that neoconservatives were accused of trying to monopolize influence over the GOP, and to steer policy in a direction symbolized by the failures of George H.W. Bush’s “New World Order.”

It was during this period, circa 1996, that I encountered a remarkable book, Paved With Good Intentions: The Failure of Race Relations in Contemporary America, first published in 1992 by Jared Taylor. If there is any one person in America most hated by the SPLC, it’s Jared Taylor, who became publisher of the American Renaissance and who has probably done more than anyone else to call attention to facts about race relations in America that liberals don’t want anyone to know about. Long before sites like Breitbart and Daily Caller were chronicling some of the kind of stories about race (“hate crime” hoaxes, for example) that conservatives now take for granted as part of their regular journalistic diet, Taylor was finding such news items and compiling them in his monthly American Renaissance newsletter.

What made Paved With Good Intentions such a remarkable book was that Taylor used the Lexis/Nexis database to compile a vast amount of news items from regular sources (New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, etc.) so that the endnotes contain hundred upon hundreds of undeniably factual citations. You may disagree with the opinions Taylor expresses, or the arguments he makes, but when it comes to compiling facts relevant to America’s racial problems, he is simply without equal. Taylor’s excellence in this regard was demonstrated in a monthly feature of his American Renaissance, “O, Tempora! O, Mores!” This was a digest column of news items and, in the era before the Internet made possible other means of publicizing stories that the national media would like to ignore, the “O, Tempora! O, Mores!” column was an amazing source of information that contradicted the liberal narrative.

All of this I relate by way of explaining, in part, how I came to be smeared as a “white supremacist” by the SPLC, who did not fail to notice my byline on a 1999 story at The Washington Times about Taylor’s study, “The Color of Crime: Race, Crime, and Justice in America.” That study has been revised and updated several times since and, because they can’t dispute the facts Taylor references in this study, instead the SPLC has spent years huffing about his “racist” interpretation.

Let me say something very clearly: It doesn’t matter.

Whether or not Jared Taylor is a racist, or whether his interpretation of crime data is tendentious, are trivial matters when viewed in comparison to the actual facts about race and crime in America. And the main point of his “Color of Crime” study was that so-called “hate crimes” are a tiny drop in the vast bucket of violent crime in this country. The habit of liberals, certainly as much now as in 1999, is to scream constantly about “racism,” an allegedly pervasive problem for which “hate crimes” are cited as proof, while ignoring the amount of violence perpetrated by black criminals, most of which is inflicted on black victims. In contrast to Jared Taylor’s opinions about race, the facts actually do matter.

If you believe the SPLC, the main problem with Taylor’s analysis is that he ignores the role of poverty as a cause of crime in the black community. But anyone familiar with basic methods of sociology immediately understands that you cannot look at the correlation between three variables — crime, poverty, and race — and leap to a conclusion about cause and effect. If Taylor asserted that racial differences are the cause of variations in crime rates, I must have missed that part, but I think one may be agnostic on this matter of causes and still find oneself astonished by the absolute size of differences between groups in terms, for example, homicide rates. Anyone who thinks black-on-black crime is a “myth” must ignore incontrovertible evidence in homicide statistics.

In 2019, according to the FBI, there were 13,927 murders in America. In 7,484 cases — 53.7% — the victim was black. According to the Census Bureau, the U.S. population is 13.4% black, so that black murder victims are about four times the share of the total population. Furthermore, of the 11,493 murder cases in 2019 where the race of the offender was known, 6,425 — 55.9% — of the perpetrators were black. How is black-on-black crime a “myth,” if black people are more than half of the murder victims and perpetrators in a country that’s less than 15% black?

No honest person can look at these facts and deny that violent crime in the United States disproportionately involves the black community. If it’s “racist” to say so, then facts are now racism.

Well, if the facts about race and crime are so obvious, how was it that Ohio State University law professor Sean Hill could believe “that Black-on-Black crime is a myth” and that violent crime rates are “similar” for whites? Because his source for that claim was Dave Neiwert’s SPLC article, and Neiwert seems to be unable to understand the data presented in that 2017 Department of Justice study. Neiwert’s headline — “White supremacists’ favorite myths about black crime rates take another hit from BJS study” — makes sense only if you failed to carefully read the statistics in Rachel Morgan’s DOJ report, “Race and Hispanic Origin of Victims and Offenders, 2012-15.”

The first thing to notice is that Morgan’s study only looked at “nonfatal violent victimizations,” i.e., not including murder. Morgan lumped together into a single category four separate types of crime: rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault, but excludes homicide. Why does this distinction matter? Because homicide is a crime where you get numbers that can’t be fudged easily. I mean, sure, some victims’ bodies might get dumped in a swamp full of alligators or otherwise concealed, and sometimes a murder can be made to look like an accident, but such cases are rare enough that they don’t affect the bottom-line figure — i.e., nearly 54% of murder victims being black. On the other hand, many sexual assaults are never reported to police, and a lot of simple assault cases might not make into the official tally for one reason or another, so that the numbers for “nonfatal violent victimizations” probably aren’t as reliable as the homicide body-count.

With that in mind, the “good news” in Morgan’s study is that black people were only 14.5% of victims of “nonfatal violent victimizations,” are roughly the same as their percentage of the U.S. population, even though they’re vastly overrepresented among murder victims. The problem with this, beyond what I’ve noted about the probability that these numbers for “nonfatal” crimes are less reliable than homicide statistics, is that (a) the categories of crimes Morgan has lumped together are so vastly different, and (b) she doesn’t disaggregate these crimes in reporting the race of victims and offenders.

All these caveats aside, however, Morgan’s study still doesn’t constitute evidence that higher black-on-black crime rates are a “myth.” If you’ll look at Table 3 in her study, Morgan provides rates (“per 1,000 persons age 12 and older”) for “Total violent crime” (excluding homicide) and for “Serious violent crime” (i.e., excluding simple assault). Narrowed down that way, excluding homicide and simple assault, the rates of victimization for “serious violent crime” (rape or sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault) are:

White-on-white ……….. 3.7
Black-on-black ……….. 6.7
White-on-black ……….. 0.8
Black-on-white ……….. 1.2

“Holy statistics, Batman! That’s amazing!”

The per-capita rate for black-on-black “nonfatal serious violent crime” is 81% higher than the white-on-white rate. (Basic arithmetic: Subtract 3.7 from 6.7, and divide the difference by 3.7.) Furthermore, the per-capita rate of black-on-white “nonfatal serious violent crime” is 50% higher than the white-on-black rate. If you were trying to debunk “white supremacist myths,” these are not the statistics you’re looking for.

I guess maybe Dave Neiwert didn’t pay attention in math class, or maybe he was so desperate for evidence to disprove a “myth” that he overlooked the actual numbers that even Jared Taylor would consider proof of his own theories about race and crime. And, as I say, it doesn’t matter what theory Taylor might derive from his analysis; what really matters are the underlying facts. We can argue about what the numbers mean — and, indeed, I have directly told Taylor where I disagree with his opinions — but differences of opinions don’t change the reality, namely that black-on-black crime is a serious social problem, accounting for more than half of U.S. homicides and, in terms of other “nonfatal serious violent crime” accounting for an 81% higher rate of victimization among black people.

In fairness to Dave Neiwert (who at times has done some very good reporting about actual “hate crimes”), the way Morgan expressed her data in that 2017 DOJ study made it difficult to locate the relevant comparison of crime rates. And I suspect that Professor Hill at OSU didn’t dig down far enough into the numbers in the DOJ study to realize that Neiwert had misinterpreted it. This explains why Professor Volokh was so puzzled. In order to find the truth, you had to (a) get past Professor Hill’s claim based on (b) Neiwert’s faulty analysis of (c) Morgan’s DOJ study, which didn’t express the relevant data points in a very accessible way.

However, the entirety of this 2,100-word exploration, including the digression to recount my personal connection to this story, is merely a preamble to a related discussion about the media and “myths”:

A basic tactic of political propaganda is to brand your opponents as dishonest or stupid. No one trusts a known liar, and no one wants to be associated with beliefs they consider stupid. Unfortunately, propaganda is generally a tool of liars, and many people are too stupid to recognize the difference between propaganda and news.
Skepticism toward the news media has increased in recent years because intelligent Americans recognize how much of what is reported as “news” is actually political propaganda. But not enough people have devoted the time necessary to understand the vast arsenal of deceptive tactics employed by the media liars who claim to be practitioners of journalism. Consider, for example, how the media use the word “myth.”
Since November, CNN and other liberal media outlets have devoted endless hours to assuring their audience that election fraud is a “myth.” No one has ever won an election by cheating, CNN viewers are encouraged to believe, and these viewers are incited to reject as a dangerous fringe “conspiracy theory” any suggestion that Joe Biden’s election was tainted by voter fraud. . . .

Read the rest of my latest column at The American Spectator.

And please, hit the freaking tip jar. It’s been a long week already.



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