Recently I have been involved in a number of discussions about the protest movement “black lives matter”.
I have seen this group as a movement with legitimate claims, amongst controversies surrounding their tactics and rhetoric. I typically don’t see as not reflective of a greater whole, a standard which can be applied to numerous groups.
Others have pushed back on this, characterising BLM as a “hate group” or “mob” against police, stirring racial animus and making the job of the cops all the more dangerous. I took part in a Google hangout with a cop who expressed his thoughts that BLM are anti-cop writ large, and that police are merely doing their best in difficult circumstances.
This is a valuable point of view because it allows me to see how it looks from the perspective of the police, especially in a country (the USA) where guns are extremely prevalent, producing an ever elevated climate of fear.
So in typical useful internet-person fashion, somebody said “Tim, why don’t you crunch the numbers, look at the data, sort this thing out”.
He was being a sarcastic asshole, but despite this person’s general stupidity I thought: “why NOT look at the facts and data? Why not try to look at this in as objective a way as possible?”.
I’m interested in these subjects, and in facts, so from the mutterings of a sarcastic douchebag, this blog post was born.
So there are two aspects to looking at this issue. The first is just hard data and facts. This is the place where some congregate and never leave, they say it’s important to look at the data ONLY, and then just arbitrarily conclude it’s “black culture” and “thugs” etc.
Attempts to add to this equation are denounced as apologising for the actions of criminals, and covering up how black people are “insanely more criminal” (quoted from a dickheaded YouTuber).
I don’t agree with stopping at hard data, so that will lead to the second part of this post: pointing out “mitigating factors”, placing some context on these crimes, and reaching tentative conclusions as to why.
These conclusions might not be exact, but they will be reasonable.
Part I – The Hard Data
I will be taking all of my statistics from the most reliable source I can find: the FBI.
On the FBI website, they describe their statistical reports as: “…the most comprehensive analysis of violent crime and property crime in the nation”. The data I will be using is collected through the UCR (Uniform Crime Reporting) program, which collects data from “…over 18,000 city, university/college, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies”.
If you can think of more reliable data set me know, but this appears to be the most comprehensive American crime data set on the internet.
For starters, in 2013, out of 30 categories of major and minor crimes, the FBI documents 9,014,635 arrests (Table 43A). Keep in mind then, I’m making no comment on whether these arrests were justified.
6,214,197 of these crimes were committed by white people. 2,549,655 were committed by black people. 140,290 by American Indians or Alaskan Natives. 105,109 by Asian people. 5,384 by Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.
Breaking down these statistics into percentages with no “mitigating factors” included, that means 68.9% of crimes were committed by whites, 28.3% by blacks, 1.6% by American Indians, 1.2% by Asians, and 0.1% by Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.
It is my desire to present the data here as unvarnished as possible, but there is one necessary adjustment that needs to be made, which is adjusting the data based on the size of the populations in question. This by itself is not entirely satisfactory, so I will also break the crimes in question down somewhat by race.
With whites arrested for 3,799 murders (out of 6,214,197 crimes (0.0006%)), and blacks for 4,379 (out of 2,549,655 (0.0017%)), the fact that the black rate is so much higher is extremely alarming.
The category where whites fared the worst was “driving under the influence”, 766,440 out of 6,214,197 (12.3% of arrests) vs. 113,928 out of 2,549,655 for blacks (4.4%).
According to the U.S Census, at July 2014, there was 318,892,103 people in the USA. The white population made up 79.96% (254,986,125) of that population. 12.85% (40,977,635) black, 4.43% (14,126,920) Asian, 0.97% (3,093,253) American Indian and 0.18% (574,005) native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander.
Based on these figures, I can make a (semi) scientific mathematical equation to describe a rough (non-contextualised) “criminality rate”. The equation is the number of arrests of each race, divided by the population size of each race.
One thing I need to note is that the FBI excludes citizens who fall outside the age group of the criminal justice system, like babies, children or juveniles, etc. So, minus the people outside the bounds of the criminal justice system, the FBI lists the population as 245,741,701 in 2013.
Based on this, the arrest rate of whites is 0.0316. The rate for blacks is 0.085, Asians is 0.044, American Indians is 0.0589, and native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander is 0.0122.
This is a rough number I’ve derived myself, but it’s useful to compare who is being arrested the most.
We can see from this, black people are being arrested for crimes at over twice the rate of whites, and native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have by far the lowest arrest rate.
Keep in mind, this is based off the arrest rates. It is very difficult to determine, as it would require an incredibly detailed breakdown and analysis of the entire justice system, police procedures, racial biases, social trends, etc. to figure out which of these arrests were justified, and lead to rightful convictions, and how they reflect the actual crime which is occurring.
It is however the nearest estimate to “actual” crime we might be able to find, for the sake of this discussion. It’s important to note the limitations to this approach (the unknown guilt or innocence of the people arrested).
A good analogy might be an “effective tax rate” versus an official tax rate. Due to loopholes and special circumstances, an “effective tax rate” is often considerably different or lower than an official tax rate.
In this analogy, the effective crime rate is the actual crimes being committed from an objective standpoint, the “official” crime rate is reflected in the number of arrests, coupled with the clearance rate. (The FBI’s UCR itself states that it does not extensively reflect “later adjudication”)
Part II – Important Factors
Now this is where it becomes tricky. For some the analysis essentially ends at the close of the “hard data” phase. When we end our coverage here, there are a few conclusions that seem to consistently emerge.
One of them is that “black culture” is violent. Kids grow up learning through violent rap music and depictions of “thug” life, that violence is a normal way of expressing themselves. Their role models are pimps, drug dealers, alcoholics, hustlers, criminals and angry black rappers. Rather than a form of simple expression, violent rap music is seen more as a manifesto, a howto guide in how to commit crimes.
With all of their peers believing the same, there are no role models, and mass media pushes the narrative that gang violence and drug dealing is the way to move forward. Movements like Black Lives Matter also demonize the police and encourage hatred towards cops. This is the “black culture” argument.
This argument is countered sometimes by the violence of “white culture”. Gangster movies like Goodfellas and television shows like The Sopranos ALSO normalize and glorify violence and white “thuggery”.
Video games are full of white people committing acts of violence. The Russian mafia, the KKK, the Neo-Nazis etc. Violent white militia groups like Posse Comitatus, The Oathkeepers and the Timothy McVeigh’s of the world cling to guns and religion, and preach violence against law enforcement and the government. The kids who did the Columbine shootings were influenced by the video game Doom.
However, the counter-counter argument is that “white culture” is significantly more broad, less focused, and that there is less crime by white people, so this is irrelevant anyways. It’s merely a deflection. “Black culture”, and the violence it normalizes, is clearly more pervasive.
The next argument is, to put it quite frankly, the racist argument.
This argument is that there is something inherently lazier, more violent, less intelligent, driven or determined to succeed about black people, although proponents of this view never put it so blatantly for fear of (rightfully) being labelled as racist.
This view is historically rooted in eugenics (but proponents may not be aware of this), which is often dismissed as a pseudo-science, and is based on a view where the colour of your skin and the roots of your genetic line literally determines the height of your human abilities, a standard which is (to racists) inapplicable to superior, more potential-imbued whites.
The counter argument is that this is non-scientific, ignorant garbage that downplays social, behaviourial and contextual development in favour of a value judgment , and the counter-counter argument is some random shit that isn’t really worth further discussion.
So here we are at the crossroads. This is the spot where certain people will want to turn away.
But it is important to cover the rest of the arguments being made. Now I will be accused of being an “apologist” for black criminals, giving excuses for rapists or robbers, somehow saying what they are doing is justified.
I’ll be accused of having “white guilt”, or maybe of “white saviourism”, or a range of other charges.
Yes I am going to do it.
I’m going to commit the ultimate regressive sin, and put black crime in societal and historical context. All I’m going to do is report facts, and provide a reasonable determination of the implications of these facts. I’m a monster.
Just read with an open mind before you decide that I love rape and violence, so long as it’s done by black people.
According to US Census data, the average earnings of an African American household in 2013 was $34,598. From the 1960s to the 2010s black income has fluctuated, but risen in the aggregate (blackdemographics.com).
In the current phase, black income has been somewhat stagnant, with a slight recovery after the 2008 economic crash, before a current slow decline.
In contrast, the average median household income for whites was $51,939, and $67,065 for Asians.
Already we can see an incredible disparity in income and poverty rates between blacks and whites. The racist, or simply racially focused person, might say it is indicative of an inherent black culture or character, that they don’t work as hard, don’t share the ambitions of white people, are lazy, or focused on things other than work, like drug dealing, or collecting benefits.
If that were the case however, it is somewhat contradicted by some facts laid out by the Bureau of Justice Statistics:
- 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).
- Poor urban blacks (51.3 per 1,000) had rates of violence similar to poor urban whites (56.4 per 1,000).
Although a direct correlation is difficult to definitively prove, it is curious to note that the poverty rate for blacks (27.4%) is incredibly higher than that of whites (9.9%), and that poor urban blacks and whites commit crimes at very nearly the same rate. This could mean that adjusted for poverty, we could slash the black “crime rate” effectively in half (which is to say, if we lifted them out of poverty).
Remember, I am assuming a correlation…some may disagree.
When you live in poverty a life of crime is more appealing, when you lack prospects or hope because your role models have also felt the sting of hopelessness, lack of jobs, crumbling neighbourhoods, and been corrupted accordingly, nobody will be able to give you any guidance.
It’s not “in your nature” to commit crimes, you simply have no hope of better alternatives, and your peers share a similar sense of corrosive pessimism. The reader can decide which is argument more compelling.
Out of this milieu, Black Lives Matter (BLM) has arisen. To some people, most pointedly some police officers, BLM is a hate-group dedicated to tearing down law enforcement.
BLM began in 2013 as a hashtag inspired by the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by over-zealous neighbourhood watchman, George Zimmermann. It soon grew into a movement combating a perceived epidemic of shootings of black people by police.
Another complaint of BLM is that blacks are being pulled over at a much greater rate than whites.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2008 blacks were 3 times as likely to be pulled over than whites (12.3% vs. 3.9%), and twice as likely as Hispanics (5.8%). With their arrest rate being twice as high (without analyzing whether these arrests were justified) as whites, this means blacks are pulled over at a rate higher than their arrests for crimes.
This could reflect conscious or unconscious racial profiling. Based on arrest statistics vs. rates of traffic stops, it’s clearly a valid concern.
According to 2015 U.S Census figures, in 2015 police killed 102 unarmed black people. Obviously this figure doesn’t describe the circumstances surrounding these shootings, but it is what it is. 37% of the unarmed people killed by police were black.
If we map this to the arrest rate of blacks, and assume somehow these shootings were totally justified, there’s still a 8.7% disparity between the rate at which blacks are arrested, and the percentage of unarmed blacks being shot by cops, which means it’s fair to assume a decent chunk of those people were not only unarmed, but not committing any crimes at all, but somehow got in a situation where they ended up being shot, or killed in some other way.
It’s also curious to note that FBI figures I cited above include 30 different types of crimes, so people are potentially being shot during encounters for crimes considerably less serious than murder or assault.
Already I can sense some people getting irked about this. “But maybe they rushed the cops”, “they may have been resisting arrest”, etc etc.
Sure, and I suppose some of them may.
I’m merely noting the disparity, and also noting that this number of people being killed by cops must be less than reasonable. There are surely ways to do things better, or ways to reduce the escalation to a deadly situation.
But, that’s for a different article.
In my personal opinion, the main driving factor of this violence has to be the ubiquity of guns. Guns make the streets unsafe, put cops in a state of heightened, even excessive reaction, and make America considerably more dangerous both for the police, and the offenders.
So how about violence against police ?
According to FBI statistics, 51 police officers, all male, were killed in the line of duty in 2014, a particularly deadly year. 31 of the officers were killed while on assigned vehicle patrol, which is a pretty frightening statistic. 46 of the 51 officers were killed with guns.
- 59 offenders involved in the killings of these officers were identified. 42 were white, 13 were black, 2 were American Indian/Alaskan native, 1 was Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1 unidentified.
- In 2013, 27 officers were killed. Of the 28 identified offenders, 26 were male and 1 female. 15 were white, 11 were black, and 2 not reported.
- In 2012, 48 officers were killed. Of the 51 alleged offenders, 30 were white, 16 were black, 1 was Native American/Alaska Native, 1 Asian/Pacific Islander, and 3 not reported.
Of course, in all three years, the majority of officers were killed with guns.
Any loss of a police officer is a tragedy, but the numbers of officers killed were lower than I anticipated, considering (what seems to me) the coverage it receives. Still, any loss of life is too much, and as we know BLM receives plenty of attention too.
Based on the 2014 figures, which being the most deadly year, is right to pick from the three, 71% of the killers of police were white, vs. 22% being black. When we compare this to the number of crimes committed by each race overall, that means in 2014 there was a rough parity between crimes committed, and percentage of officers murdered by race (68.9% of crimes vs. 71% of police murders for whites, 28.3% of crimes vs. 22% of police murders to blacks…slightly less atrocious actually).
Of course these numbers change from year to year, but I suspect we will see a rough parity between crime rates and police murder rates. That means there is no particular evidence at this point that blacks are killing police at a rate greater than their apparent crimes, compared to whites.
However I’ve only looked at three years here, 2012-2014, and it was difficult to find statistics about historical rates of police officer murders, so if a discerning reader has a good source, please let me know.
Therefore a cop is as likely to be as shot by a white criminal as a black criminal, based on this set of statistics.
So what can we conclude from these statistics?
As we can see, this is an incredibly complicated situation. It can be presented in a very simple way – blacks commit more crimes, the criminal is responsible for the crime. Oh, and black culture is violent and bad. End of story.
This seems to be the narrative numerous people have asked me to adopt, positing a rejection of such simplicity as “excusing criminals”.
If I mention how a rapist came to be a rapist, I am saying he is not at fault for his actions, and I’m fine with it it seems. I agree that if I didn’t advocate for arresting, prosecuting and jailing anybody that is proven to have committed a crime, including rape, this would be a fair criticism.
But I do advocate for that, so what’s the complaint? I am not substituting justice for an understanding of the factors that produce a rapist, some of which may have been unjust in themselves. I am saying, if we come to understand what factors might help create a rapist, we may be able to figure out ways to reduce their number. Simple.
Until then, prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law, whomever the are, black, white or otherwise.
The people who accuse me of equivocating and excusing not only violent crime, rape etc but also radical Islam, are also people who tend to offer zero solutions to these problems. It can be easily dismissed as self-righteous grandstanding.
Once you dig deeper and consider other factors, such as income levels and poverty rates, education and opportunities, the economic and social degradation of neighbourhoods, lack of role models in their communities, drugs, historical handicaps which resonate across generations and produced the original disparity (such as slavery), racial targeting of black people in police procedures, the prevalence of guns and the state of fear it produces (in both police and citizens), corruption in the justice system, the prison-industrial complex…the fact that they are black and committing more crimes is not sufficient unless you don’t want to think about the solutions to these problems.
“Restore the black family”, “give the kids role models”, are nice slogans, but don’t mean shit unless you figure out ways to do that. I would guess lifting the state of African-Americans across the board – economically, educationally, and socially, is the smartest path.
If any of my haters have suggestions, please educate me.
I care about black people being abused by police.
But I also care about the good cops who get caught in the mess. I care about the black people who are being murdered by other black people, and the whites being murdered by other whites. I care about the cops being murdered by black AND white criminals, and whomever else. I care about the families who suffer and struggle when their love ones are arrested, having either committed a crime or been profiled, and the families of police officers, forced to face the reality that they are not coming home.
I care about all of these issues.
Some only appear to care about one issue: black people are committing more crimes than whites.
If they cared about issues in their entirety, you might think one of them might mention that America has too many guns, that a lot of white criminals murder cops, that the southern states in America have a lot of racists who don’t even recognise the federal government, that the failed drug war has imprisoned scores of non-violent offenders, and numerous other important issues.
I’m sorry, but it’s not good enough. These issues are not something that can be explained in pathetic soundbites or pseudo-scientific or blatant racism.
This is a chaotic maelstrom of factors interacting across a shifting landscape. But that doesn’t excuse or lessen that a murder is a murder, and a rape is rape.
What we need is a system that is more capable of identifying and justifiably reacting to and prosecuting these crimes, while reducing their occurrence, and leading to a safer environment for both criminal suspects, and law enforcement officers.
Finally, is Black Lives Matter a valid movement? My only view on them particularly is that they are addressing issues which are real issues. I can’t see how anybody could fairly look at the statistics I have discussed, and say that blacks being profiled, unarmed suspects being shot, poverty rates, and so on, are not important issues, at the very least.
I am not sure if BLM is approaching these issues perfectly. I am aware that in the realm of public relations many cops might feel like they are being unfairly criticized themselves, and that at times BLM might seem extreme.
But as I’ve said, they are talking about real and valid issues. For any movement to be a movement, that is what must be at the core. It must also be able to sideline or marginalize extremists, and that is where this argument lies.
Some readers may have already decided they are an extremist group. If that is the case, it is still a fact…these are important issues that need to be addressed.
No amount of complaining is going to change that.Here's my social media! Support and follow. 🙂