John on April 11, 2007 at 11:09 pm
I was writing the post below about the US murder rate, which I believe is the result of a broken ghetto culture and not high levels of religious faith, when Tony Blair entered the discussion unannounced and with both feet:
Tony Blair yesterday claimed the spate of knife and gun murders in London was not being caused by poverty, but a distinctive black culture. His remarks angered community leaders, who accused him of ignorance and failing to provide support for black-led efforts to tackle the problem.
One accused him of misunderstanding the advice he had been given on the issue at a Downing Street summit.
Black community leaders reacted after Mr Blair said the recent violence should not be treated as part of a general crime wave, but as specific to black youth. He said people had to drop their political correctness and recognize that the violence would not be stopped “by pretending it is not young black kids doing it”.
No doubt Blair will be castigated and forced to apologize over the next 24 hours, but should he?
Before I answer that, I should explain my interest here. Regular readers know that I’ve had a long time argument, you might almost call it a theme, running on VS about the crime rate in the US vs. other more secular countries. Recently I did a fairly detailed post comparing the crime rate in Sweden with that in the state of Georgia (they are nearly identical in terms of population size).
While Europe often has higher rates of burglary, rape and assault, the US gets a reputation as a high crime nation because of its curve-breaking murder rate. I have argued before that this murder rate is not a function of American’s religious beliefs, but this is difficult to prove, not least because it necessarily raises the issue of crime and race.
In the wake of the Duke rape case dismissal today I found this article over at NRO which contains some statistics that one doesn’t see very often. For instance:
Here in Los Angeles, for example, there were 481 murders investigated by the LAPD in 2006, but almost half of them occurred among the 18 percent of the city’s population living in South and South-Central L.A. These areas are almost exclusively black and Latino.
Looking at the numbers more closely, blacks are about 11 percent of the city’s population, but in 2006 they were 36 percent of its murder victims and 40 percent of its known murder suspects. Latinos make up 46 percent of the city’s total population and were about half of its murder victims and suspects. Whites are about 29 percent of the population in Los Angeles but last year were only 4 percent of the city’s murder victims and 2 percent of its known murder suspects.
Jack Dunphy, author of the NRO piece, points his readers to this article by Heather MacDonald making similar statements about the New York crime rate:
Though blacks, 24 percent of New York City’s population, committed 68.5 percent of all murders, rapes, robberies, and assaults in the city last year, according to victims and witnesses, they were only 55 percent of all stop-and-frisks…any given violent crime in New York is 13 times more likely to have a black than a white perpetrator.
For the national picture, the best source of data is the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which notes that in 2004 black males aged 14-24 were 1.2% of the population yet committed 26.1% of the murders in the US. Pretty astounding.
Of course 1.2% of the US is roughly 3 million men, the vast majority of whom aren’t killing anyone. It’s really only 5,000 individuals doing the killing in a given year. Still, the questions remains: Why are the 5,000 killers (26% of the US total) found in this particular group? Why do black offenders kill more, not just as a percentage, but in real numbers than their white counterparts (while males 14-24) even though there are about six times as many whites in that demographic segment.
I suspect the answer is a combination of drugs, unemployment and, at the deepest level, fatherless households. Of the three, I think fatherless households is the factor driving the other two. We know for certain that fatherless households are far more prevalent in inner city minority neighborhoods where murders occur most regularly than in any other segment of the US population. Currently almost 3 out of 4 black children are born out of wedlock. Numerous studies have shown that children (of whatever race) who grow up without a father in the home are far more likely to be involved in gangs, drugs and crime later on in life than those who grow up in stable families. The issue, in my opinion, isn’t race per se, it’s immoral sexual behavior, which just happens to be rampant in black neighborhoods.
While I don’t think I can demonstrate in absolute terms that illegitimacy is at or near the root of the tremendously high US murder rates, I do think we can rule out religion as a major factor. Common sense says that those young men committing gang violence and drug related murders in inner cities are not likely to be attending church regularly. And in fact, the age group committing most of the murders among all races (14-24) is the demographic least likely to attend church or to pray weekly accordng to George Barna.
Furthermore, this study makes the case that church involvement has a significant buffering affect on serious crime in black neighborhoods. Here’s the key finding:
[F]or those who reported high levels of religious involvement, the average level of serious crime among those living in neighborhoods of high disorder is lower, instead of higher, than among those living in neighborhoods of low disorder.
The problem behind the unusually high US murder rate isn’t too much faith but too little. Hip hop culture’s glorification of crime, misogyny and violence has made marriage a thing of the past in many black neighborhoods. This in turn has led to further crime, misogyny and violence which makes neighborhoods unattractive to businesses and increases joblessness. It’s a terrible cycle, but pretty clearly the problem is a broken culture, not a violence prone faith. The idea — eagerly put forth by some atheists — that the unusually high US murder rate is a function of too much Christianity is just absurd.