Race and Violent Death in America

One of greatest myths progressives push is the lie that violent white oppression is the bane of the black community. The public is constantly subject to scaremongering about white supremacy, accompanied by rhetoric about slavery and lynching, historic events portrayed as occurring only yesterday. We are told that, not only are racist whites the major threat to domestic tranquility, but that white supremacy is woven into the fabric of American civilization. But when it comes to interracial patterns of homicide, the direction of the relation lies opposite of what elites tell you. Whites are at much greater risk to be murdered by a black person than the other way around.

Before moving to the analysis, I have to note the effort to paint those discussing this matter as racist. Antiracists point out the vast majority of homicides are intraracial, meaning that blacks are more likely to murder other blacks, while whites are more likely to murder other whites, and that this fact somehow negates the importance of understand interracial character of crime—this coming from the crowd that dwells daily on the alleged threats whites pose to blacks.

The intraracial character of homicide (and many other serious crimes) is well-known and expected for reasons I explain in this blog. Raising the matter is an obvious attempt to obscure the reality that, when it comes to interracial crime, whites are at much greater risk—several times greater, in fact. What is significant about this fact is that it contradicts the narrative that the United States is a country where blacks have to live in fear of whites. And that is why the accusation of racism is leveled: antiracist want to stop Americans from hearing facts that undermine the false narrative that white people represent a threat to black people.

It must also be recognized that, when the problem of black-on-black homicide was raised by liberals like Heather Mac Donald in 2016 in the context of a moral panic over fatal police shootings, discussing the matter was also racist. (Disclaimer: Back in 2016, I was one of those who was blasting Mac Donald for raising the matter of black-on-black crime. See my essay Changing the Subject From the Realities of Death by Cop, published by by TruthOut in June of that year.)

Here’s the formula behind the thought-stopping: when the subject turns to interracial homicide, those who discuss it are smeared as racists; when the subject turns to intraracial homicide those who discuss it are smeared as racists. The only side that is allowed to raise the matter of black-on-black crime are those who appeal to those statistics to obscure the facts about black-on-white crime.

Now on to the analysis.

The United States population is mostly comprised of white people. Estimates of the proportion made up by whites range from around 67 percent if Hispanics are excluded to as much as 75 percent if white Hispanics are included (two-thirds of Hispanics are racially white). Blacks comprise around 13 percent of the US population. Based on data from the US Census Bureau in 2020, the sex ratio (the number of males per 100 females) for non-Hispanic whites was 95.1. For the demographic category of non-Hispanic blacks, the sex ratio was 88.6. (Due to Hispanic male immigration to the US, the sex ratio disparity is washed out if ethnicity is included.)

The prevailing narrative, organized and peddled by the elite apparatus of cultural and intellectual production, is that the white majority oppresses blacks and that while racism is in most walks of life subtle it is obvious in its effects. Among the most obvious effects of entrenched white supremacy are the demographic patterns in criminal justice. Two facts stand out. First, despite the reality that cops kill twice as many whites as blacks every year, blacks, representing a quarter of these deaths, are overrepresented in lethal police shootings relative to population. Second, despite constituting only 6 percent of the US population, black men comprise around 36-38 percent of state prisoners. These two facts propel the rhetoric of antiracist organizations such as Black Lives Matter.

I have debunked both of these claims on Freedom and Reason. The first is dismissed by the large body of scientific literature showing that, controlling for benchmarks and situational factors, the unexplained variation in racial patterns of lethal police shootings indicates that cops are more likely to shoot white suspects than black ones, with close examination of these studies suggesting that cops are more reluctant to shoot black suspects than white suspects because scrutiny will be greater the costs to their careers and reputation are too great if they shoot a black suspect. (See my June 2020 blog The Myth of Systemic Racism in Lethal Police-Civilian Encounters for a review of the literature.)

The second is dismissed by statistics indicating the overrepresentation of blacks in serious crime. Blacks perpetrate most homicides and robberies, as well as a disproportionate amount of other crimes, including aggravated assaults and burglary. For the most part, the demographics of crime statistics align with the prison statistics, which is to say that there is no evidence supporting the claim that prison demographics reflect systemic racism in the criminal justice process. Consider that, according to the latest statistics, more than 60 percent of state prisoners were convicted of violent index crimes, e.g., murder and robbery. (See my August, 2019 blog Mapping the Junctures of Social Class and Racial Caste: An Analytical Model for Theorizing Crime and Punishment in US History.)

I have also blogged about the problem of the interracial character of crime (see my August 2020 blog Why are there so Many More White than Black Victims of Interracial Homicide?), which, if the claim that whites oppress blacks were true, should find that blacks are more likely to be the victim of white violence rather than the inverse, a perception reinforced by media-hyped cases of white-on-black violence portrayed as racially-motivated. But the facts show the opposite. I want to dwell on this fact for most of the remainder of this blog. However, I will close with a set of statistics that raise profound questions about where American civilization been for the last fifty years and where it will go from here.

First, on the question of interracial crime, which you will have heard phrased as “black-on-white” and “white-on-black” crime, you will find below a chart showing the yearly estimates of homicide, the most serious form of violent crime in America, from the years 1968 to 2021. Homicide is a frequent occurrence in America; hundreds of thousands of Americans have been the victims of homicide since 1968—nearly 700,000, in fact. It is important to recognize that homicide is one type of violent death. Another is suicide, a matter that I will turn to in closing.

Sources: US Data on Murderers by Race, Sex and Age in the 2020s. From FBI UCR 2021 (NIBRS), CDC WONDER 2022 NVSS (National Vital Statistics System), Mar 15, 2023 h/t datahazard @fentasyl

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, between 1968 and 2021, there were 697,952 homicides. Among the 194,500 interracial homicides that occurred during that period recorded by the FBI, there were 145,500 white victims of black-perpetrated homicide. Contrast this with 48,000 black victims of white-perpetrated homicide. This means that black-on-white homicide comprised 75.3 percent of the total. In other words, comparing the relative frequency of these types of interracial homicides, for every black victim of white-perpetrated homicide, there are approximately three white victims of black-perpetrated homicide.

When we consider the sex of the victim in the numbers, we find that the ratio is worse when the victims of murder are women. Blacks murdered 35,000 white women compared to 6,000 black women murdered by whites. This means that 85.4 percent of female murder victims were killed by blacks. Put another way, for every black female victim of white-perpetrated homicide, there are approximately 5.83 white female victims of black-perpetrated homicide.

When the occasional story appears in the media suggesting a disparity (e.g., here, in which US News & World Report examines the period 2001-2015), the story quickly fades. The statistics are hidden in plain sight; the elite know most people don’t have the training to locate them, let alone interpret them. It’s enough that the media doesn’t dwell on them. They’re hidden in this way because they contradict the narrative of a racist nation that thrives on the oppression of blacks. But you can find them (all my sources are provided in this blog).

What explains these ratios? There are probably lots of reasons; however, I am convinced that one of them is the narrative I am debunking. When blacks are repeatedly told that white people are the cause of their misery, that blacks as a group have been subjected to centuries of white oppression, that whites owe black people a debt they won’t pay, individual whites come to be seen as representatives of a collective target of retribution, their alleged crimes serving as a technique of neutralization that diminished the moral concerns one human might have for another.

Put bluntly, the disparity is in part explained by a pervasive anti-white prejudice that has been cultivated over the course of several decades by the elites who control the means of cultural and intellectual production. Some blacks target whites out of a desire for retribution. Blacks target white-owned businesses in acts of street-level reparations. It is, as Karl Marx and Frederich Engels conceptualized it a century and a half ago, primitive rebellion—in this case against a situation that doesn’t materially exist, but is rather the product of elite manufacture, the function of which is to disorder proletarian consciousness.

We had an explicit case of this recently in the racist murder of Lawrence Herr.

“If the risk of homicide were random, given de facto patterns of residential segregation and the routine activities of humans,” I wrote in an August 2020 blog, “one should not expect these numbers. It might follow then that, based on the logic we see in arguments concerning implicit bias and systemic racism, the numbers suggest systemic anti-white prejudice.” I have in the meantime become convinced that this it the case.

I also noted in that blog that this argument should not be objectionable to progressives one can expect will object to the argument even if there is no evidence of anti-white prejudice in these crimes. “Keep in mind, according to antiracists, for the argument of systemic racism to work, we don’t need explicit race prejudice. We need only disparate patterns to make the call.” However, I think it’s clear that we have quite a lot more than merely aping the rationalizations of the antiracist. One will find no shortage of videos of blacks attacking whites with clear racist intent.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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