A dialogue on race has no winners and losers.

I wrote in my previous post that next out I would defend Richard Cohen against charges of being a “racist,”but maybe I bit off more than I can chew. Cohen made himself too easy of a target with his muddled July 15 editorial  Racism and Reality.   He made too much of Trayvon Martin’s hoodie being the uniform of dangerous urban black youth and stretched too far tying urban crime in New York to that of the suburban area in Florida where Martin was shot.

Using the image of the hoodie, Cohen was applying his  biases about poor urban black youth to the Martin suburban situation and the connection does not hold up well.   However, my question remains:  Why can’t we speak of Cohen’s bias or even prejudice concerning inner city young black males instead of his racism?   What does calling him a racist add to the conversation?

Do you think he harbors the same concern when in predominantly black neighborhoods that are middle class?   Do you assume he does not have cordial relations with a number of black people and nary a black friend or two?  I do not know, but I doubt his prejudice encompasses all black people and if it does not, it is not accurate to call him a racist.    Again, as I wrote in my previous post, the traditional definition of racism is;  the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

The tendency these days to imply that racial prejudice is the same as racism does not illuminate issues, it obscures them.   To be prejudiced does not rise to the level of racism.   For one thing, our biases and prejudices usually contain grains of truth which need to be examined and clarified.  Racism has no defense.

Those who charge others as being racists seem to imply that they themselves do not have biases and prejudices of their own, that they see reality clearly while those they accuse are blinded by racism.

One of the people who excoriated Cohen as a racist for his editorial was Elspeth Reed in the Atlantic Wire in which she begins:  “Richard Cohen Shows Why Racism Makes You Do Dumb Things.”

Among those “dumb things” according to Reed is Cohen’s assertion that:  “…the public knows young black males commit a disproportionate amount of crime. In New York City, blacks make up a quarter 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.”

Reed characterizes this as “the myth of black on black crime” while gathering support from an editorial by Jamelle Bouie in The Daily Beast the day before Cohen’s editorial.   Reed takes what Bouie says at face value, but I see Bouie marshaling facts in a misleading way when he asserts:

“There’s no such thing as “black-on-black” crime. Yes, from 1976 to 2005, 94 percent of black victims were killed by black offenders, but that racial exclusivity was also true for white victims of violent crime—86 percent were killed by white offenders. Indeed, for the large majority of crimes, you’ll find that victims and offenders share a racial identity, or have some prior relationship to each other.”

In other words, according to Bouie, blacks killing blacks is at a percentage not so different than whites killing whites.  Both whites and blacks are murdered mostly by members of our own race.

Only a racist would think there is much of a difference.

However, the question that came to me is:   Is the murder per capita rate the same for both races, i.e. does either race proportionally kill a lot more of their own  than the other does?   I Googled around a bit and came up with a statement by a conservative blogger who wrote that he looked through 2010 FBI crime stats and came up with stuff  “the left and others don’t want you to know”:   However, one stat Bouie shouldn’t mind is:  “Did you know that 90% of blacks are murdered by blacks, and 83% of whites are murdered by whites?”   That basically mirrors Bouie’s point.

But this does not:   “Did you know that there are 14.82 murders per 100K by blacks versus 2.17 per 100K for whites?  Per capita there are 7x more murders committed by blacks than whites.”

I don’t know who this guy is, so I do not take his assertions at face value.  But they did indicate I might be on to something and later I found a more substantial source, a 2002 Rutgers study that, generally speaking, makes the same points:   “Recent figures indicate that young African-American males have eight times the victimization and offending rates of their white counterparts, and incarceration rates for violent offenses of the black population are about five times those of the white population (U. S. Department of Justice).”   Also, “Homicide remains the leading cause of death for black males between the ages of 15 and 24…..”

In short, this 2002 academic study’s estimate of 8 times the murder rates committed by blacks as compared to whites fits well with the 7 times the murder rate in 2010 suggested by the aforementioned “rightest” blogger.  Further research would be needed to pin down the trend, but the two sources suggest to me that Bouie assertion of “black on black crime” being a myth is overstated, to say the least.    If he had a stat that showed a major drop in the per capita murder rate by race, he would have shown it.  And that makes me doubt the intellectual honesty informing the other stats he presents.

Meanwhile Reed’s uncritical acceptance of whatever Bouie writes makes me question her ability to separate truth oriented research from political advocacy.   She assumes Bouie is right because they think a like.

What I find galling in both cases is the attitude that their own perspective on reality is somehow elevated, so free from bias and prejudice that they can easily make a judgement as to who is racist and what that means.  I suggest both ponder this Biblical quote:  “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”


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