A remarkable irony of the modern American conversation is that while race relations have empirically never been better, many members of different races are terrified of one another. Perceptions of crime are a primary source of this tension. The center-left mainstream media run stories almost daily about tough whites attacking blacks and other people of color for trivial reasons, while a substantial cottage industry on the far right focuses on sensational depictions of black crime. In reality, however, incidents like these, which make for almost weekly viral news stories, are quite rare; so, too, is serious interracial crime in general. According to the 2019 Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) crime report, blacks made up only 15 percent of those who criminally attacked whites in the United States in 2018. Whites attacked blacks even less often, 11 percent of the time. For good or ill, the person most likely to kill you remains your husband or wife, not an exotic stranger. It is well worth unpacking the actual U.S. national crime data as a means of tamping down tensions among countrymen.
The media’s sensational fixation on interracial crime has grown steadily in recent years. A black friend has joked with me that 2018, in particular, was “the year of whites with crazy nicknames.” Major media outlets ran story after story about obnoxious Caucasians attacking blacks for the flimsiest of reasons. On June 29, 2018, “Pool Patrol Paula”—actually named Stephanie Sebby-Strempel—made headlines after allegedly shouting at and striking a pleasant young black man attempting to use a South Carolina public pool, telling him he didn’t belong in the water. When police officers attempted to arrest her for misdemeanor assault, she bit one of them.
Sebby-Strempel did not police the waters alone. On July 5 of the same year, a man named Adam Bloom was dubbed “Pool Patrol PAUL” after getting into a heated argument with a black woman who was using his condo complex’s swimming facilities. When Bloom asked to see her resident ID, she replied: “This is textbook racial profiling.” Multiple officers had to be called in to resolve the situation. On Facebook, her video recording and breakdown of the incident went massively viral.
On July 15, 2018—barely a week later—Chicago CVS manager Morry Matson got famous as “Coupon Carl,” following his decision to contact the police and accuse a black female customer of using a counterfeit coupon. The fact that Matson, a gay man, is not only himself a member of an “oppressed” minority group but also a leader of the moderate and all-LGBT Log Cabin Republicans did not suffice to save him from the scarlet “R” of alleged racism. He was fired days later, and the story became a cautionary tale for both blacks and whites.
But the Queen of them all was BBQ Becky. On April 29, 2018, “Becky”—real name Jennifer Schulte—became internationally famous as a symbol of “the everyday racism black people face,” as USA Today put it, after she confronted a black family that was holding a cookout in a no-charcoal-grilling area of Oakland’s Lake Merritt. Schulte asked the family to leave, and they refused. The ensuing confrontation lasted several hours, during which family members accused Schulte of harassing them and several hostile park attendees followed her out of the park. Oakland Police eventually defused the situation, but a photograph of Schulte calling them on her cellphone trended online not long afterward and eventually became one of the most iconic memes of the past decade. Many laughed at the meme, but the legacy of incidents like these extends well beyond Internet in-jokes. According to Pew Social Trends’ analysis “Race in America 2019,” fully 71 percent of African Americans now see race relations as “generally bad,” and 56 percent think they have worsened under President Trump. It is impossible not to see epidemic media coverage of situations such as those mentioned above as a factor contributing to this malaise.
While the mainstream media lean left and tend to focus their race-baiting on stories of white-on-black crime and harassment, a growing right-wing alternative media take the opposite tack, sensationalizing virtually every prominent story of black-on-white crime. The alt-right website American Renaissance literally maintains a “Black on White Crime Archive,” chock-full of stories such as “Anti-white Mob Cuts Off 18 Year Old’s Hand Following Road Rage” (this happened in the UK) and “The Porch Pirate of Potrero Hill: Inveterate Thief Blames Her Woes on Racism.” Similar content can be found at VDARE, World Net Daily, Info Wars, the Unz Review, the Stuff Black People Don’t Like blog, and a dozen similar outlets.
Gonzo journalist Colin Flaherty runs an entire website devoted to stories about black-on-white crime. One tab on the site promises the “top 200 Black mob violence videos,” while another invites readers to “Make a Difference” by contacting Rush Limbaugh or Alex Jones and recommending Flaherty’s book on race-related crime. While content like this is generally at least somewhat less widely distributed than mainstream media stories about white rowdiness, this is not for want of trying. A quick Google search reveals that one of the most popular pieces ever to appear on Flaherty’s website is headlined: “Five Cases (of Black Crime) People Want on National TV.”
Looking at today’s dueling headlines, it is tempting to ask: “So, do we have an epidemic of horrifically racist white-on-black crimes or an epidemic of brutish black-on-white crimes?” The answer is “neither.” Moreover, the statistics so thoroughly refute popular fear-mongering that Americans of all colors should take the media to task for the divisive false version of reality they so often present. In September of this year, the Trump administration’s Department of Justice released the 2019 Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report, entitled “U.S. Criminal Victimization 2018,” a comprehensive breakdown of U.S. crime data for the year in question. The reality of interracial crime revealed within the pages of this thorough report is far indeed from the “race war” fantasies of extremists on either side.
According to the report, only 15.3 percent of the 3,581,360 violent crimes against whites in 2018 were committed by blacks, who make up 12 to 13 percent of the U.S. population. These percentages are, needless to say, almost directly proportional. And whites were even less likely to commit racist crimes: Only about 11 percent of the 563,940 violent crimes against blacks were committed by whites. Significantly, no third group—say, Latinos—made up for these positive findings. During the study year, persons of Hispanic or Latino descent made up only 7.9 percent of all those who attacked blacks and just 10.2 percent of all those who attacked whites. The massive majority of crime in 2018 was intra-racial, with 62.1 percent of all attacks on white people coming from other whites (non-Hispanic whites make up 61 percent of the U.S. population) and 70.3 percent of all attacks on black people coming from other blacks. For good measure, nearly 50 percent of all attackers of Hispanics were themselves Hispanic. All told, only about 2,000,000 crimes, out of 5,061,940 violent crimes and roughly 12,000,000 total crimes, involved any interracial use of force whatsoever.
It is true that, as alt-righters are fond of pointing out, there are more black attacks on whites than white attacks on blacks in a typical year: Generally about 500,000 of the first and 100,000 or fewer of the latter (59,777 in 2018). However, this fact taken alone is, in debater’s parlance, “true but meaningless.” The honest math around the topic gets more complicated than this, but it’s worth noting as a starting point that there are five times as many white people as black people in the United States. Even an utterly anti-racist black criminal would thus find himself confronted with 500 to 600 percent more white targets than black ones. It is also true that, on average, whites have more money than blacks do, making the former more tempting targets for such crimes as robbery. And the black violent-crime rate overall, as per the BJS, is roughly 2.4 times the white rate, making blacks statistically more likely to be involved in crime against members of all groups.
Once variables such as these are adjusted for, we see that blacks attack whites less than would be mathematically predicted, even in a default scenario where no racial hostility whatsoever existed on either side. In that scenario, we would expect blacks to make up around 30 percent of attackers of whites (12 percent multiplied by 2.4 percent), but blacks in fact make up only 15.3 percent of those who attack whites. At an even more basic level of analysis, whites make up 61 percent of the population but only 46 percent of those attacked by black criminals. Whites return the favor, attacking black citizens—again, 12 percent or more of the population—roughly 3 percent of the time.
The absolute absence of an American race war is most obvious in the context of that most warlike of crimes: murder. Figures from every recent year indicate that roughly 85 percent of murders of whites and an astonishing 91 to 95 percent of murders of blacks are intra-racial. In the representative year of 2015, there were only 500 black-on-white murders and 229 white-on-black murders reported nationally, according to the International Business Times. To put these figures in context, the Homicide Data Tables of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for the same year indicate that 5,854 whites and 7,039 blacks were murdered. For good or ill, social scientists almost universally note that the person most likely to kill you is a current or former lover and not five strangers from a different ethnic group.
There certainly are some interesting heterodox nuggets to be mined from the BJS and other major data sets, which might advance the agenda of one group or another. For example, it is hard not to notice that Asian Americans apparently take it on the chin from everyone else in terms of criminal victimization. While blacks committed 70 percent of all acts of violence against blacks in 2018, and whites committed well over 60 percent of violent acts against whites, Asian Americans committed only 24.1 percent of all violent acts against Asians. Whites (24.1 percent), blacks (27.5 percent), and Hispanics and “others” combined (21.4 percent) all attacked Asians roughly as often as other Asians did. The report also showed an unusually high percentage of attacks against Asians (2.9 percent) in which one Asian was assaulted by “multiple offenders of various races.” This is well ahead of the corresponding findings for blacks (1.9 percent) and whites (2.1 percent) and rivaled only by that of Hispanics.
And, of course, American Jews are another small, successful group who are subjected to inter-racial attacks with disproportionate frequency. The New York City area, in particular, has witnessed an astounding wave of anti-Semitic attacks, almost all committed by people of color, during the past few months. On December 28, 2019, a bearded black man wielding a machete stabbed five Orthodox Jews inside Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s in-home shul in the New York suburb of Monsey. The sole suspect in the attack had previously Googled phrases like “Why did Hitler hate the Jews?” on his home computer. This incident occurred less than a month after six people were killed during a shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey, apparently carried out by acolytes of the racialist Black Hebrew Israelite movement. These were far from the only anti-Semitic attacks in and around New York during this period. New York City police have cited “at least eight anti-Semitic incidents” between December 13 and December 31 of the past year. In one case, an African-American woman, Tiffany Harris—who was arraigned on December 28 for slapping and cursing at three ultra-Orthodox women in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights—was charged again, on December 30, for punching a Jewish woman in the face in front of her two young children. Notably, Harris was released from custody without paying bail in either case, courtesy of “bail reform” laws championed by current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
New York does not appear to be an extreme outlier. It would be virtually impossible to determine how many attacks against Jews have been subsumed into the “white” category of interracial crime statistics and thus estimate the percentage of all crime directed specifically at them. It definitely can be said, however, that American Jews—who, with an estimated population of 6,829,000, represent 1.7 percent of the total U.S. population—were the targets of at least 11.7 percent of all U.S. hate crimes (835 out of 7,120) and almost 60 percent of hate crimes motivated by the victim’s religion (835 out of 1,419) in 2018. In contrast, American Muslims, with a population very similar in size to that of Jews, reported only 188 total hate crimes in 2018, while blacks experienced slightly more than twice as many hate crimes as those against Jews (1,943) despite having a population more than six times as large. As with Asian Americans, Jews are attacked by members of multiple ethnic groups. In 2018, 179 of the 835 attacks on Jews were perpetrated by whites, 41 were described as black, and there were at least 14 incidents involving multiracial groups who attacked Jews. Two hundred and fifty-eight perpetrators were not definitively identified in racial terms. Three-hundred forty-three police/FBI reports apparently did not include a racial description of the suspect.
Analysis of patterns of interracial crime in general, and of the Asian and Jewish case studies in particular, lends support to a point frequently made by conservatives: The presentation of interracial crime by the center-left mainstream media dominant in the United States is more than a bit dishonest. While there is little serious interracial violence, black-on-white crimes make up about 80 percent of violent criminal incidents involving whites and blacks in a typical year. It’s fair to say, based on empirical analysis, that mainstream media coverage of interracial crime slants in almost exactly the opposite direction: Rare incidents of white-on-black violence receive far more coverage than more common black-on-white assaults. At the most basic qualitative level of review, every single one of the incidents of white-on-black harassment discussed in this piece became a national or international story, while the black-on-white cases received mostly local coverage.
More broadly, entire storylines that characterize American criminal justice, such as the epidemic of diverse and minority-generated violence against Asian Americans and Jews, are frequently missing from the national headlines. In a remarkable piece headlined “Is It Safe to Be Jewish in New York ?” Ginia Bellafante of the New York Times largely admits that the legacy media underreport East Coast anti-Semitism because of the diverse racial backgrounds of those brutalizing Jews. To quote directly: “The varied backgrounds of people who commit hate crimes…make combatting and talking about anti-Semitism in New York much harder.” This blunt statement by Bellafante, who deserves credit for her honesty, caused David Marcus of the Federalist to point out the obvious: If dozens of Jewish taxpayers were being beaten bloody by white men in MAGA hats or Pepe the Frog T-shirts, this “would not be hard to talk about—it would be a clear cut case of bigotry.”
Similarly slanted media coverage is not uncommon as regards other important issues involving race and violence. When, for my book Hate Crime Hoax, I conducted in-depth quantitative analysis of how police shootings are covered, I found that non-blacks make up 70 percent of police-shooting victims but receive perhaps 20 percent of national media coverage of police shootings. A Google search for the phrase “well-known police shooting” turned up four white cases, four Hispanic cases, and 32 black cases in the first 10 pages of search results, with all cookies and trackers that might affect these results having previously been deleted.
But the big picture of interracial crime—and ethnic conflict more broadly—in the United States is a surprisingly positive one. There certainly are small groups that are targeted with disturbing frequency, and the mass media have certainly failed in reporting honestly on these trends. However, there is no current or upcoming race war, or indeed general epidemic of interracial violence.
Given the actual statistical demographics of violent crime in America, the best advice for most of those who are terrified by its specter is this: Get out of the house, go to your gym or library or place of worship, and mingle with your countrymen.
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