Do black people commit more crimes than white people?
The simple answer to this question is: yes.
The black population of the United States is approximately 13% and the white population is approximately 62%. These are the FBI crime statistics for 2014.
In 2014, blacks accounted for 27.8% of the total amount of arrests for that year, an obviously disproportionate amount for a population of 13%. The overall level of arrests of black people is higher than might be expected in almost every category except for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Black people accounted for most of the arrests for murder (51.3%), robbery (55.9%) and gambling (58.9%). They were also significantly above the average in several other categories: weapons crimes (40.7%), prostitution and commercialised vice (41.8%) and aggravated assault (33.1%).
A common criticism of these figures is that they are based on arrests by police officers who may be disproportionately targeting black neighbourhoods due to racial bias or profiling.
However, these statistics seem to be corroborated by the National Crime Victimisation Surveys performed by the Department of Justice. The latest NCVS data is from 2008 and is collected by a random survey of 90,000 households.
Blacks are consistently disproportionately represented in these surveys, correlating closely with the arrest figures. In addition to this, the number of black police officers has remained steady since 2007 at 12%, while being 13% of the population. There has been a marked rise in non-black ethnic minority officers, but despite police efforts, recruiting blacks into the police force has been challenging due to criminal background checks and a cultural attitude towards the police as an institution.
Naturally, murder and non-negligent manslaughter is the category missing from the National Crime Victimisation Survey, and is also most focused on most heavily by the media.
Homicides by victim and perpetrator are often presented as percentages of perpetrator and victim by race, which gives a chart that looks like this:
Most murders are committed by a perpetrator of the same race as the victim. This obfuscates the severity of the problem by making the number of murders look spread evenly between both racial categories, with a small crossover of black-on-white or white-on-black crime.
However, displaying the number of murders brings the issue of disproportionate violence committed by black people into focus.
When someone says “black lives don’t matter to Black Lives Matter”, this is what they mean.
Black men are responsible for murdering other black men at a rate that is near parity with the murders of white men by other white men, when white men are five times as numerous as black men. These murders are usually committed with a handgun.
As Aristotle said in Politics: “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.”
There are many studies that positively correlate poverty with non-violent and violent crime, but I have chosen to use the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime performed by researchers from the University of Edinburgh. I have used this study because the black population of Edinburgh is approximately 1% and the United Kingdom is a modern, industrialised, English-speaking, Christian-heritage first-world democracy.
This study has been done predominantly on white British people, and I want to showcase this to demonstrate that poverty has a distinct effect on people regardless of any inherent biological differences and to remove the possibility that these results are due to racial discrimination.
As Aristotle recognised two thousand years ago, poverty breeds criminal behaviour. The Edinburgh study came to an interesting conclusion as to why this behaviour would involve violence.
It follows that poverty will create increased levels of non-violent crime such as theft, burglary or drug-dealing, but in the absence of available wealth as a symbol of status, impoverished young people use capacity for violence instead.
Poverty in the United States
According to Pew Research Center data from 2013, black children are 27.3% of the black population but 38.4% of those living in poverty.
US Census Bureau data from 2014 shows that while overall 18% of families in the US with children under 18 live in poverty, this number rises to 32.1% for black families.
The poverty rate for black families with intact marriages drops to 10.8% but rises dramatically in the cases of unmarried single parents. 31.2% of single fathers with children under 18 are impoverished, as are 46.1% of single mothers with children under 18.
These figures follow the trend of economic hardship for single parents throughout the rest of the United States, albeit slightly more exaggerated. This has resulted in the black children living in poverty outnumbering white children living in poverty, in spite of white children outnumbering black children by three to one.
US Census Bureau data shows that over half of black children do not live with their biological fathers.
Unmarried black mothers with children under 18 are the most impoverished demographic in American society, and they are the most common type of family structure in black communities.
A 2005 study from the University of California called The Effects of Poverty and Economic Hardship across Generations found that:
Instability is another key factor in the emotional well-being and intellectual growth of a child. A 2013 study called The Negative Effects of Instability on Child Development: A Research Synthesis describes the effects of poverty and instability.
Poverty is bad for children’s emotional and cognitive development and poverty is more likely to be the consequence of single parent households.
The next factor to consider is the subculture many of these young people are inculcated into. It should be no surprise that large numbers of delinquent, impoverished young men with poor education and lacking in fatherly role models would find acceptance within criminal gangs.
In 2012 it was estimated that there were 30,000 gangs operating within the United States with over 800,000 members.
Blacks make up over 35% of these gangs, while whites make up less than 12%.
These gangs are predominantly young men.
And they are mostly located in large cities.
Gang violence accounts for a hugely disproportionate amount of violent crime.
As covered earlier, black people accounted for most of the arrests for murder (51.3%), robbery (55.9%) and gambling (58.9%). They were also significantly above the average in several other categories: weapons crimes (40.7%), prostitution and commercialised vice (41.8%) and aggravated assault (33.1%).
These are all common gang activities and are without a doubt raising the resulting statistics for black crime.
You may have noticed that the statistics on black crime have often been juxtaposed against Hispanic crime, with Hispanics having a higher rate of poverty and criminal gang membership, but a lower propensity for violence.
I think this can be adequately explained by a lower rate of single parent families (31.2%) and a strong cultural tradition of deep familial ties, but I do not have any data or studies to validate this.
So, why do black people commit more crimes?
To be specific, young black men commit more crimes – far more – than other racial demographics. They are much more likely to come from an unstable, impoverished single-parent matriarchal household. They are more likely than young white men to lack a strong male role model. They are much more likely to seek acceptance in gang culture, leading to the acquisition of a criminal record, reducing employment prospects and putting the individual into a downward spiral of poverty which further incentivises criminal behaviour as a source of income.
If you will allow me to speak in more generalised terms and give my opinions on the matter, it seems to me that these people are victims of circumstance. For many black men, the deck has been stacked against them from their earliest days. They suffer from many societal handicaps that are beyond their control that directly affect their cognitive abilities and emotional wellbeing and find themselves with reduced options from social stigma attached to poverty before any other factors need to be introduced.
Is this the white man’s fault?
No. There is no one group at which the finger can be pointed with any reliability to say “you did this”. If I may conjecture, I think that the fact that black people can be visually distinguished from white people has provided an intellectually lazy trap in which to fall.
It’s very convenient to self-validate by inventing excuses for one’s own poor choices to project the responsibility for them on to mythical concepts like “white supremacy”, and dismiss other successful black people as “Uncle Toms”. Not only does it allow one to place the blame on an entity that can never refuse it, but it also allows one to ignore inconvenient facts regarding the inconsistency of this white supremacy and its apparent concern with the welfare and social advancement of black people.
How can this be fixed?
The good news about all of this is that it is completely within the power of black people to solve the problems plaguing the black community. The first, and in my opinion most important, step is to begin the process of rebuilding the nuclear family.
This will provide emotional and financial stability to black children and their parents, it will provide incentives for parents to achieve and set a good example for their children to follow.
It will require black parents to take personal responsibility for themselves and their children. Subsequently, in time, this will improve the reputation of these communities through the improved moral character they will display.
To put it simply: I am recommending the empowerment of the black community through their own force of action. The barrier to this is little more than the will to change on the part of the members of this community.
Are you saying there is no racism in the United States?
No. Racism will always exist on an individual level, and some individuals who are racist will always end up working in structures of power. However, to clumsily paraphrase Thucydides, I think the current state of black communities can be explained without recourse to placing the blame on a remote and abstract concept such as racism when there are so many direct temporal explanations for the current state of affairs.
This is not a dismissal of the many instances of police brutality and racial discrimination. These events occur with alarming frequency, however, they are also not a barrier to the solutions required to the current problems facing the black community in the United States.