Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Good News About Race And Crime In America

with 2 comments

Radley Balko writes in the Huffington Post:

The death of Trayvon Martin and subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman has given rise to particularly cynical, pessimistic public discourse about race, crime, and violence in America.

Civil rights leaders and progressive activists have cited Zimmerman’s acquittal and the proliferation of robust self-defense laws as evidence of a “war on black men” — or, similarly, that it’s now “open season on black men.” Meanwhile, Zimmerman supporters and many on the political right have used the case to bring up old discussions of black-on-black murders in places like Chicago, and to argue that violence in black America is spiraling out of control. Both positions are cynical, and both tend to pit black and white America against one another.

But both are also wrong on the facts.

First, about the alleged “war on black men.” The argument here is that laws like Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” are encouraging white vigilantism, and moving white people to shoot and kill black people at the slightest provocation. But there just isn’t any data to support the contention. Black homicides have been falling since the mid-1990s (as have all homicides). Moreover, according to a 2005 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, more than 90 percent of black murder victims are killed by other black people. And if we look at interracial murder, there are about twice as many black-on-white murders as the other way around, and that ratio has held steady for decades.

However, it also isn’t true that black America is growing increasingly violent. Again, black homicides, like all homicides, are in a steep, 20-year decline. In fact, the rates at which blacks both commit and are victims of homicide have shown sharper declines than those of whites. It’s true that Chicago has had an unusually violent last few years, but this is an anomaly among big American cities. The 2012 murder rate in Washington, D.C., for example, hit a 50-year low. Violent crime in New York andLos Angeles is also falling to levels we haven’t seen in decades.

The odd thing is, even in the face of encouraging data, media outlets still manage to find ways to make people afraid. One good example is this 2012 Scripps Howard study of interracial crime, which ran in 2012 just as racial tension was heating up over Martin’s death. The news service analyzed 30 years of data on interracial homicide. The resulting headline: “Interracial murder rate growing in U.S.” The problem is that the data shows precisely the opposite.

To get to the more sensational conclusion, the article considers interracial homicide as a percentage of total homicides. And indeed, measured that way the “rate” of interracial murder has gone up. But it’s an odd way to measure. The vast, vast majority of murders are intraracial. And, as noted, those murders have been dropping considerably. The interracial murder rate has been dropping, too. According to the Scripps Howard review, the raw number of black-on-white and white-on-black murders combined was about the same in 2010 as it was in the early 1980s. But the United States population has grown considerably in that time, from 227 million in 1980, to 315 million today. So if you measure it the way all other crime is measured, the interracial murder rate has dropped, not increased.

It is true that the rate of interracial crime hasn’t dropped nearly as much as intraracial crime. Why might that be? Believe it or not, the news here is encouraging, too.

We aren’t seeing the same rate of progress with interracial killings as we’re seeing in the overall murder rate because the country is becoming more integrated. That’s a good thing. You’re much more likely to be killed over someone you know than by a stranger. So as blacks and whites are increasingly living together and interacting, there are more opportunities for feuds over money, love, and whatever other sorts of quarrels lead to violence. This, too, is suggested in the data: “In the 1980s, about 47 percent of white-on-black killings occurred between people who were strangers. That figure dropped to 40 percent since 2000.” So not only is the rate of interracial killing going down, the rate of interracial killing among strangers — murders more likely to be brought about by raw racism — is dropping even faster.

The Scripps Howard piece also takes a regional approach: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2013 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law

2 Responses

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  1. What is your background? I love your posts. I wish I were retired so I would have the time to keep up with your blog. Keep up the good work. Peace. Mark.


    Mark MacGregor

    24 July 2013 at 1:18 pm

  2. By my age, background fairly extensive. BS in liberal arts from St. John’s College in Annapolis MD (the so-called “Great Books Program,” 4 years with no (stinkin’) electives, MS in Math from U of Iowa, where I originally went for graduate study in the Writers Workshop. Jobs in educational testing, teach, directing admissions (SJC), and software pretty much filled out the rest. Retirement for me has been quite enjoyable, but I’m getting out of here before global warming really hits, and I expect that will be unpleasant, especially given how dysfunctional the US has become, sinking before every challenge.



    24 July 2013 at 2:27 pm

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