Democratic accusations that America is endemically racist are becoming ever more frequent and strident. At the last presidential debate, Pete Buttigieg announced that “systemic racism” will “be with us” regardless of who wins the presidency; Beto O’Rourke claimed that racism in America is “foundational” and that people of color were under “mortal threat” from the “white supremacist in the White House”; Julián Castro denounced the growing threat of “white supremacy”; and Cory Booker called for “attacking systemic racism,” especially in the “racially biased” criminal-justice system.
At the same time, the allowable explanations for racial disparities have shrunk to one: that self-same racism. During this month’s debate, Joe Biden tried to suggest that some poor parents could benefit from instruction regarding optimal child-rearing practices: “We [should] bring social workers into homes of parents to help them deal with how to raise their children. It’s not that they don’t want to help, they don’t want — they don’t know quite what to do,” he said. Biden was invoking one of the Obama administration’s key anti-poverty initiatives. Home-visiting programs pair nurses and other social service workers with pregnant women and new mothers to teach them parenting skills. Progressive activists have demanded and won hundreds of millions of federal dollars for such programs, yet pundits have denounced Biden’s “horrifyingly racist answer,” in the words of The Intercept, and called for him to pull out of the presidential primary because of it. Buttigieg sniffed that Biden’s statement was “well-intentioned” but “bad,” since it ignored the fact that “racial inequity” in this country was “put into place on purpose.”
In today’s political climate, Barack Obama’s 2008 Father’s Day speech in Chicago would be deemed an unforgivable outburst of white supremacy. “If we are honest with ourselves,” Obama told his audience in a South Side church, Americans will admit that too many fathers are “missing—missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men.” In the current frenzy of intersectional rhetoric, any such reference to personal responsibility brands the speaker as irredeemably bigoted.
Yet key parts of the intersectional narrative are not born out by data. It is now a standard trope, implanted in freshmen summer reading lists through the works of Ta-Nehesi Coates and others, that whites pose a severe, if not mortal, threat to blacks. That may have once been true, but it is no longer so today. Just this month, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released its 2018 survey of criminal victimization. According to the study, there were 593,598 interracial violent victimizations (excluding homicide) between blacks and whites last year, including white-on-black and black-on-white attacks. Blacks committed 537,204 of those interracial felonies, or 90 percent, and whites committed 56,394 of them, or less than 10 percent. That ratio is becoming more skewed, despite the Democratic claim of Trump-inspired white violence. In 2012-13, blacks committed 85 percent of all interracial victimizations between blacks and whites; whites committed 15 percent. From 2015 to 2018, the total number of white victims and the incidence of white victimization have grown as well.
Blacks are also overrepresented among perpetrators of hate crimes—by 50 percent—according to the most recent Justice Department data from 2017; whites are underrepresented by 24 percent. This is particularly true for anti-gay and anti-Semitic hate crimes.
You would never know such facts from the media or from Democratic talking points. This summer, three shockingly violent mob attacks on white victims in downtown Minneapolis were captured by surveillance video. On August 3, in broad daylight, a dozen black assailants, some as young as 15, tried to take a man’s cellphone, viciously beating and kicking him as he lay on the ground. They jumped on his torso like a trampoline, stripped his shoes and pants off as they riffled through his pockets, smashed a planter pot on his head, and rode a bike over his prostrate body. On August 17, another large group kicked and punched their victim until he was unconscious, stealing his phone, wallet, keys, and cash. In July, two men were set upon in similar fashion. Such attacks have risen more than 50 percent in downtown Minneapolis this year.
The Minneapolis media have paid fleeting attention to these videos; the mainstream national media, almost none (CNN blamed the attacks on police understaffing and ignored the evident racial hatred that was the most salient aspect of the attacks). This year’s installments of the usual flash mob rampages on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile and in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor have also been ignored. If the race of perpetrators and victims in any of these incidents were reversed, there would be a universal uproar, with public figures across the board denouncing “white supremacist” violence and calling for a national reckoning regarding white racism. But because the violence does not fit the standard narrative about American race relations, it is kept carefully off stage.
In 2008, Barack Obama was able to connect such lawlessness to family breakdown. “Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison,” he pointed out in his Chicago speech. Today’s taboo on acknowledging the behavioral roots of criminal-justice system involvement, multi-generational poverty, and the academic-achievement gap is not a civil rights advance. To the contrary, it will ensure that racial disparities persist, where they can be milked by opportunistic politicians and activists seeking to parade their own alleged racial sensitivity and to deflect attention away from the cultural changes that must occur for full racial parity to be realized.
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