I know, I know. I’m a few days late with my third installment of “The Week in White Deviance,” but never fear, my tardiness is hardly related to a lack of compelling material. Oh no, there’s plenty of evidence yet again this week that white culture, the white family, and perhaps even white America, writ large, is in a full-scale moral free-fall! It’s just that I’ve been so busy responding to the typical right-wing blah-blah-blah about the social dysfunctions of black people, and how it’s the black community that we really need to fear (projection isn’t just for the movie reel!), that I haven’t been able to finish up the weekly supplement of white cray-cray until now.
Now, once again, let me point out, I do not actually believe that the criminal and pathological acts of individuals can reasonably serve as indicators of group traits or tendencies; but to the extent the right insists on making those interstitial leaps in the case of black and brown miscreants, it’s only fair that we turn the lens back around on ourselves. After all, that’s what “personal responsibility” requires, no?
So, for instance, ever since my essay from a few days ago went up — the one where I broke down, in painstaking detail, how the notion of a widespread black-on-white crime spree is a statistical absurdity — I’ve been receiving one after another e-mail, in which case after case of crimes committed by blacks against whites are chronicled, usually with links to the news items discussing said crimes.
So far, I’d say, I’ve received about 150 such news items, all from people who insist that these incidents somehow trump the hard data presented in my original column. So if the data say, and they do, that less than seven-tenths of one percent (0.7 percent) of blacks will violently victimize a white person this year and that only about one-quarter of one percent (0.25 percent) of all whites will be violently victimized by a black person this year, that isn’t what matters. What matters is that some little old lady in so-and-so community was beaten by a black man, and so, therefore, we know black people are dangerous, to be avoided, and possibly separated from white people altogether.
If the data say, and they do, that only a ridiculously infinitesimal percentage of whites will be murdered by a black person in a given year (as we’ll see below), this doesn’t matter. What matters is that there was a white family in so-and-so place, who were killed by two black home intruders, and therefore, we know that black people are dangerous, to be avoided, and possibly separated from white people altogether. Read the rest of this entry »
My appearance on MSNBC’s NOW With Alex Wagner (Joy-Ann Reid hosting), to discuss the right-wing freakout over the so-called “racial double standard” in crime reporting between the shooting of Trayvon Martin and Australian baseball player Chris Lane.
NOTE TO THE READER: Because the below essay involves a lot of data, and some occasionally confusing terminology (and because it’s hard to explain statistical analysis in a reader-friendly way), I am putting the key points in bullets here at the beginning of the piece. For the details as to how these conclusions were reached, and for the links to sources used, please read the full column.
Also, please note that there is some variation in the data claims in this piece, regarding homicide, and the more recent essay on my site, “Nazis Can’t Do Math.” The reason for the discrepancy is that for this piece, I was relying on FBI Homicide data, which is far less complete than the state-by-state data upon which I relied for the newer piece. I was unaware of the more comprehensive data until after this essay had been published, and rather than re-write this essay, I would simply direct persons to that newer article for the most extensive breakdown of interracial homicide data.
Despite claims by right-wingers (both mainstream and overtly white supremacist) that violent crime by African-Americans is out of control — and that blacks are criminally victimizing whites at massive and disproportionate rates — the facts say otherwise. As I show in the below analysis:
* Only about 1 percent of African Americans — and no more than 2 percent of black males — will commit a violent crime in a given year;
* Even though there are more black-on-white interracial crimes than white-on-black interracial crimes, this fact is not evidence of anti-white racial targeting by black offenders. Rather, it is completely explained by two factors having nothing to do with anti-white bias: namely, the general differences in rates of criminal offending, and the rates at which whites and blacks encounter one another (and thus, have the opportunity to victimize one another). Once these two factors are “controlled for” in social science terms, the actual rates of black-on-white crime are lower than random chance would predict;
* No more than 0.7 percent (seven-tenths of one percent) of African Americans will commit a violent crime against a white person in a given year, and fewer than 0.3 (three-tenths of one percent) of whites will be victimized by a black person in a given year;
* Whites are 6 times as likely to be murdered by another white person as by a black person; and overall, the percentage of white Americans who will be murdered by a black offender in a given year is only 2/10,000ths of 1 percent (0.0002). This means that only 1 in every 500,000 white people will be murdered by a black person in a given year. Although the numbers of black-on-white homicides are higher than the reverse (447 to 218 in 2010), the 218 black victims of white murderers is actually a higher percentage of the black population interracially killed than the 447 white victims of black murderers as a percentage of the white population. In fact, any given black person is 2.75 times as likely to be murdered by a white person as any given white person is to be murdered by an African American.
Now for the full essay:
As soon as news began to spread about the horrific and utterly senseless murder of an Australian-born baseball player in Oklahoma at the hands of three young black males (or at least, that’s how they were first described in the media), I knew what would be coming; specifically, into my e-mail inbox and all around the internet. And even though one of the three implicated in the killing is actually white, and so the supposed racial angle of the crime is incredibly convoluted, if indeed race had anything to do with it at all, I had no illusions that this would somehow change the reaction from certain quarters. Whenever something like this happens, white supremacist groups make sure to blanket the web with vitriol in which they seek to remind white folks how endangered we are at the hands of black people. Knowing that many whites are anxious about the changing demographics of the nation — which portend that around 2043 we will no longer be the absolute majority of persons in the U.S — playing upon fears of criminal victimization by people of color is seen as a great way to win new recruits to the white nationalist cause.
And sure enough, it didn’t take long. As soon as I turned on my computer yesterday morning, there it was: an e-mail from an angry and rather blatantly racist white male, spouting all the same nonsense as I’ve come to expect in moments like this. More savvy than most though, he made sure not to rely on data and arguments from neo-Nazis, but rather from well-known black conservative Walter Williams, who just about a week ago penned a column in which he parroted the line of the white racists, inveighing against the supposed epidemic of black-on-white crime. For Williams, it wasn’t the first time he had done this. Several years back, and taking his cues and information straight from the work of white supremacist and separatist Jared Taylor, he had made the same arguments.
As Williams noted, and as many a white nationalist has over the years, 83 percent of the time when violent crime is interracial, the perp is black and the victim is white. So although most criminal violence may be intra-racial (that is to say, black-on-black and white-on-white), when the offender and victim differ racially, it is typically the case that someone black is doing the crime and someone white is suffering the consequences. As the sender of yesterday morning’s e-mail put it, what do I have to say about that?
The answer, of course, is quite a bit, actually. Williams’s claim — which he makes upon the basis of Justice Department data from the National Crime Victimization Survey — suggests an incredible imbalance, almost as if blacks were deliberately targeting white people in a veritable orgy of hate! And yet, upon closer inspection the number isn’t nearly as meaningful as Williams, or the white supremacists who first began circulating it many years ago, take it to be.
Let’s look at the data, so as to better understand the logical fallacy in Williams’s position.
Well, another week has gone by, and once again we have a treasure trove of evidence to suggest that there is something seriously wrong in Pleasantville, by which I mean white America of course. Now I don’t mean all white people, mind you, or the entirety of white America, so don’t think I’m being racist. I don’t hate white people. I mean, some of my best friends are white, my wife is white, my kids are white…hell, I’m white; but seriously, when it comes to the broader, you know…white culture, well, something has gone seriously off the rails
Unfair you say? What’s that? It’s wrong to generalize about an entire group based upon the anecdotal examples I’m about to share with you? But that can’t be true, seeing as how white racists are always so quick to point to various destructive behaviors, or dysfunctions, or misdeeds in the black community, or Latino community as evidence of some larger cultural rot. Surely, if the crimes and pathologies of people of color are linked indelibly to their race, either biologically (as Nazis think) or culturally (as Bill O’Reilly and most every conservative in America does) then so too must there be something about whiteness that explains crazy shit like this…
If there is one thing I’m sure of after about two years on Twitter it is that none of us, myself included, do a particularly good job of advancing persuasive ideological or philosophical points in 140 characters. In part, this sad fact owes to the simple truth that, given the platform, it’s just not possible. Twitter is pretty much tailor-made for folks who don’t see the value in compound words, prepositional phrases or substantive content. Which is why it was always the favored mode of communication for the late Andrew Breitbart, who couldn’t be bothered to think very deeply about subjects — and showed no desire to do so, by his own admission — but rather, preferred to just call people names like “cocksucker” followed by various invitations to #blowme or some such manner of vulgarity.
And so, given the perfectly imperfect nature of the medium, I try (though sadly sometimes fail) to cut slack to others when they make arguments that seem facile; after all facile is the nature of the Twitter beast, and any of my tweets could easily sound just as bad or worse than the ones I might criticize.
That said, there are some tweets which, because they don’t come close to the 140 character limit, suggest that their authors really think they have made a meaningful argument, perhaps even said something profound. I sense that such was the case today when someone tweeted something to the effect that white antiracists like myself should stop taking money for our work. The suggestion — and it’s been made plenty of times by others — is that if we were really sincere we’d do our writing, lectures, organizing or other forms of activism for free, and that by receiving income of any kind from the work, we show ourselves to be frauds.
I understand the argument. And on some level I can respect the impulse whence it comes. I’ll admit that at first blush, white folks getting paid to do antiracism work might seem odd. Perhaps it strikes one as even vesting the person being paid with a stake in actually maintaining racism, as a function of simple job security. It’s something I’ve thought about often over the years, and indeed gave serious consideration before I ever decided to throw myself into various forms of antiracism activism, full-time.
But upon close inspection, this argument really does fall apart, rather embarrassingly. Though there are very valid concerns about how we as white folks challenge racism in our professional capacities — issues of accountability, for instance, or making sure to hold up the work of persons of color in our own efforts, and to help empower black and brown voices whenever possible — the idea that it is unethical for whites to be paid for antiracism work is neither a philosophically nor practically logical position.
Every week it seems as though we get more and more evidence suggesting that something is seriously wrong with white culture and the white community that keeps on reproducing it. And sadly, white leaders seem reluctant to address the problems. They would rather point fingers at others, shifting blame for various social crises onto black folks, forgetting that personal responsibility — the right-wing mantra — means personal responsibility. As in, ya know, you. In other words, it is time for white conservatives, in keeping with the notion of personal responsibility to toughen up and have the courage to face the myriad pathologies in our own communities and to figure out what it is about white culture that can explain them.
Hilarious and on-point segment from All In with Chris Hayes, lampooning the black-culture-bashing antics of Bill O’Reilly and others on the right by flipping the script and examining signs of white cultural decay…