The Corner

Politics & Policy

Let’s Talk About Race and Violence

In these years of black men getting shot on a daily basis, the national conversation on race has ranged far and wide. Amazingly, however, the conversation seldom touches on the root of the problem: The insane disparity in the level of violent crime in the black community. I have heard many educated people acknowledge the disparity and claim that it just proves racism in the justice system, which is the same as saying that the statistics are misleading, and all things being equal the tendency to commit violent crime is spread uniformly throughout the population. If that’s what you think, you are living in a fantasy world, where urban blight and broken families either don’t exist or don’t make any difference.

Racism in the justice system may explain disparate results in marginal cases, but it obviously can’t explain the astonishing disparity in crime — victims, suspects, and arrestees — by racial category in the U.S. The disparity is beyond astonishing. Here are the NYPD crime statistics for 2014, take a look, and while you do, consider that in NYC whites outnumber blacks something like 1.6 to 1. The disparity is not quite this dramatic in many places, and is significantly flatter when normalized for socioeconomic status, but a dramatic disparity holds throughout the country. As the report shows, the disparity is also wider for violent crime than for petty crime, an interesting and depressing fact in and of itself.

As you consider the statistics, recall that the night the grand jury’s decision was announced in the Michael Brown case, blacks protested “no justice no peace” and rioted in Ferguson, notwithstanding the grand jury’s conclusion that Michael Brown was not an innocent “unarmed teenager” but in fact had committed multiple violent felonies without provocation, including strong-arm robbery in a convenience store and then the assault (and attempted murder) of officer Darren Wilson in his car.

Amazingly, these facts didn’t make any difference at all to the protesters, and make no difference at all to Black Lives Matter. Why is that? As far as I can tell, Black Lives Matter would have it so people would be able to break the law, defy police, assault police, run away, etc. — and not risk getting harassed or injured by the police. Here’s why that’s a problem:

When America is ready for a real conversation about race, it will start here. It will ask honestly what the causes are. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that race has absolutely nothing to do with crime rates, and that government policies such as welfare are the real culprit, creating the urban blight and broken families that lead directly to crime. Until then, however, our national conversation on race will remain a source of much agitation and little progress, focused on matters that are secondary or completely irrelevant, such as loose gun laws in areas of the country where the crime isn’t. Obama thinks that “what’s ultimately going to make the job of being a cop a lot safer” is for cops to acknowledge the problem of police brutality. Maybe that’s one problem that needs acknowledging. But a more basic problem looms vastly larger, and until that one is acknowledged by all sides, none of this will be solved.

Mario Loyola — Mr. Loyola is a research associate professor and the director of the Environmental Finance and Risk Management Program at Florida International University and a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. From 2017 to 2019 he was the associate director for regulatory reform at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.


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