Let's take a run through the news and statistics you rarely hear mentioned.
When Daniel Patrick Moynihan zeroed in on the disintegration of the nuclear family as the root cause of African-American poverty and crime in the mid-1960s, the out-of-wedlock birth rate for black Americans was 25 percent.
Today, after a civil-rights revolution (culminating in the election of the nation’s first African-American president) and $15 trillion spent on a feckless war on poverty (the official poverty rate hasn’t budged), more than 70 percent of black babies are born out of wedlock.
Consequently, unemployment and poverty remain far higher for blacks than for the rest of Americans. More disturbing, however, is the elephant in the living room that no one in the public eye seems interesting in addressing — appalling levels of crime committed by young African-American males.
One reason the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin affair garnered so much attention was the unusual nature of a white man (“white Hispanic” according to CNN) allegedly accosting a black teen. Sadly, when it comes to interracial crime, the reverse is anything but rare. To wit:
• New York City law enforcement confirms that a 62-year-old man has died from injuries suffered at the hands of a suspect who declared he was “going to punch the first white man that I see.”
• Two women, aged 24 and 32, are gang-raped by a dozen youths in a Delaware park known for such brazen crimes.
• An 88-year-old veteran of World War II is brutally beaten to death with flashlights outside a Spokane, Wash., lodge by two men between 16 and 19 years of age.
• Three wannabe gang members, two of whom were black, shoot down Australian college student Chris Lane “for the fun of it.”
• St. Paul resident Ray Widstrand is nearly beaten to death via flash mob-style violence on the city’s chaotic East Side.
• A 13-year-old boy is brutally beaten by three other teens on a Florida school bus, all captured on video.
• Another 13-year-old is doused in gasoline and set on fire by perpetrators in Kansas City telling him, “You get what you deserve, white boy.”
• 22-year-old Jody Patzner is murdered in cold blood by three teens for his bicycle in north Minneapolis — with hardly a mention of the suspects’ race by authorities or local media.
These acts of unspeakable violence perpetrated by black offenders on white victims rarely get much media attention, for fear of “subjecting an entire group of people to suspicion,” as one well-known newspaper editor recently put it.
Yet they are no statistical anomaly. While most violent crime is indeed intrarracial, 26.7 percent of homicides where the victim is a stranger are interracial. And in 2008, the offending rate for blacks (24.7 offenders per 100,000) was seven times higher than the rate for whites (3.4 offenders per 100,000), according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).
Accounting for population differences, whites are simply far more likely to be victims of interracial crime than blacks. That, of course, didn’t stop Jesse Jackson from telling the Los Angeles Times at the height of the Zimmerman frenzy that “targeting, arresting, convicting blacks and ultimately killing us is big business.”
The data, once again, suggest something quite different.
In the mid-1990s, the Center for Equal Opportunity analyzed 55,512 felony cases filed in state courts for the 75 largest counties, representing 37 percent of the U.S. population. The weighted data, taken from the BJS, revealed that juries actually acquit blacks at a higher rate than whites for 12 of the 14 types of crime studied — including murder, rape, robbery and assault. The only category that had a higher conviction rate for African-Americans was felony traffic offenses.
To be sure, poverty is still a significant problem in urban America, and a failed war on drugs does have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. But neither can fully explain the troubling trend in black criminal behavior that only genuine leadership — and a little honesty — can eventually solve.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.