Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Telling the Politically Incorrect Truth About the Zimmerman/Martin Affair

From Richard Cohen, in The Washington Post:
I don’t like what George Zimmerman did and I hate that Trayvon Martin is dead. But I also can understand why Zimmerman was suspicious and why he thought Martin was wearing a uniform we all recognize. I don’t know if Zimmerman is a racist. Yet I’m tired of politicians and others who have donned hoodies in solidarity with Martin and who essentially suggest that I am a racist for recognizing the reality of urban crime in America. The hoodie blinds them as much as it did Zimmerman.

One of those who quickly donned a hoodie was Christine Quinn, the speaker of the New York City Council. Quinn was hardly a lonesome panderer. Lesser politicians joined her and, like her, pronounced Zimmerman a criminal. “What George Zimmerman did was wrong, was a crime,” Quinn said before knowing all of the facts and before the jury unaccountably found otherwise. She was half right. What Zimmerman did was wrong. It was not, by verdict of his peers, a crime.

Where is the politician who will own up to the painful complexity of the problem and acknowledge the widespread fear of crime committed by young black males? This does not mean that raw racism has disappeared and some judgments are not the product of invidious stereotyping. It does mean, though, that the public knows that young black males commit a disproportionate amount of crime. In New York City, blacks comprise 23.4 percent of the population yet they represent 78 percent of all shooting suspects — almost all of them young men. We know them from the nightly news.

Those statistics represent the justification for New York City’s controversial stop-and-frisk program, which amounts to racial profiling writ large. After all, if young black males are your shooters then it ought to be young black males that the cops stop and frisk. Still, common sense and common decency — not to mention the law — insist on other variables such as suspicious behavior, but race is a factor, without a doubt. It would be senseless for the cops to be stopping Danish tourists in Times Square just to make the statistics look good.

I wish I had a solution to this problem. If I were a young black male and was stopped just on account of my appearance, I would feel violated. If the cops are abusing their authority and using race as the only reason, that has got to stop. But if they ignore race, then they are fools and ought to go into another line of work.

The problems of the black underclass are hardly new. They are surely the product of slavery, the subsequent Jim Crow era and the tenacious persistence of racism. They will be solved someday — but not probably with any existing programs. For want of a better word, the problem is cultural and it will be solved when the culture, somehow, is changed.

In the meantime, the least we can do is talk honestly about the problem. It does no one any good to merely cite the number of stops and frisks made on black males and not cite the murder statistics as well. Citing the former and not the latter is an Orwellian exercise in political correctness. It not only censors half of the story but suggests that racism is the sole reason for the policy. This mindlessness, like racism itself, is repugnant.

Crime where it intersects with race is given the silent treatment. Everything else is discussed — and if it isn’t, there’s a Dr. Phil or an Oprah saying that it should be. Crime, though, is different. It is, like sex in the Victorian era (or the 1950s), an unmentionable but an unmistakable part of life. We all know about it and take appropriate precaution but keep our mouths shut.
We don’t doubt that Zimmerman profiled Martin partly because he was black.

But as Reuters reported:
Though civil rights demonstrators have argued Zimmerman should not have prejudged Martin, one black neighbor of the Zimmermans said recent history should be taken into account.

“Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I’m black, OK?” the woman said, declining to be identified because she anticipated backlash due to her race. She leaned in to look a reporter directly in the eyes. “There were black boys robbing houses in this neighborhood,” she said. “That’s why George was suspicious of Trayvon Martin.”
Of course, it’s also the case that Martin was apparently acting suspiciously. Zimmerman said “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.” In other words:  had Martin been walking purposefully back toward his father’s house, Zimmerman would not have found him suspicious.

This disproportion of black offenses applies nationwide, and certainly to Milwaukee. For example, if we look at “violent crimes” (as defined by the FBI) the average black person in Milwaukee is 7.99 times as likely to commit an offense as is the average white. Underneath these averages, however, is the fact that young males produce the most crime in any racial category.

Liberals somehow insist on shouting “racist! racist!” when anybody points out that blacks (especially young black males) commit more crime than any other demographic group.

But they won’t flatly deny it, because they know it’s true. They will just try to shut up discussion of the issue, because it contradicts their narrative of black oppression at the hands of a white majority.

But you don’t, unfortunately, help any social problem by refusing to tell the truth about it.

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Blogger jimspice said...

Come on professor. Don't you have an obligation to inform your readers that once you control for socio-economic status -- income, education, occupation -- the relationship between race and crime practically disappears?

Perhaps you believe that small remaining difference actually IS the result of skin color. Do you think, perhaps, that the darker the skin of a person, the greater their ease of blending into the shadows? Or maybe you believe that the chromosome which dictates skin melanin is actually the same which leads to deceipt, aggression and violence.

Or, just maybe, that tiny difference could be the result of generations of unequal and unfair treatment of one segment of society against another. Heaven forbid you consider such an outlandish idea!

7:20 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

You are evading the point, Jimspice.

My own research shows that SES matters, but so does culture. Blacks living in the central cities of metropolitan areas are more likely to commit crime than blacks living in rural areas or suburbs.

And no doubt, being born out of wedlock matters greatly.

But all these things correlate with race. So the simple fact is that young black males are far more likely to commit a violent crime than any other demographic group.

7:27 PM  
Blogger jimspice said...

Well why not say that poor, urban, fatherless boys are more likely to commit crime? You can't say skin color is a factor unless you believe criminality is genetic! Is that what you believe? There are many on your side that do -- Richwine, D'Souza and Murray representing Heritage, American Enterprise and Bradley respectively (and I read a bit about Chagnon today, though I foresee that ending badly if you guys try to hitch your horse). Or perhaps you believe skin color is a proxy for something else. But then you must explicitly state what that thing is! But skin pigmentation affects little directly beyond sunburn.

8:19 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...


You actually have your answer in my earlier comment, but you didn't seem to understand.

A black skin is a proxy for:

1. Being poor
2. Being born out of wedlock
3. Being part of an urban culture that is supremely dysfunctional and encourages criminality.

So yes, young black males are particularly prone to crime.

But as Cohen said, simply profiling people for being young and black and male is not fair. But adding those thing to other behavioral factors (clothing, demeanor, etc.) you have a fair basis for thinking that somebody is "supicious."

9:31 PM  

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