Another “Elephant”?

With the outcry over the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, rhetoric, charges, counter-charges, explanations, refutation of explanations have appeared everywhere, including comments on this website, but there’s one elephant in the room that has yet to be satisfactorily explained, an elephant, if you will, that lies at the heart of what occurred in Florida.  And that elephant, for once, isn’t the far right wing of the Republican party, but one that has been overlooked by those who ought to be most concerned for more than a generation.

Why do black youths commit homicides at rates four times as high as the average of all murders committed by youths? 

Typically, many answers are given, but the one most currently in favor is that poverty and single-parent homes create conditions that result in aliened youths more likely to join gangs and kill others.  But there are more than a few problems with this simplistic explanation.  First, the largest racial group of the poor still remains white;  nineteen million whites fall below the poverty level for a family of four, nearly twice as many whites as blacks. Second, the number of white-single-mother households has been increasing over the past decade so that single-white-mother households outnumber single-black-mother-households, as well as single-Hispanic-mother households.  During this period, youth homicide rates fell across the board, but the 2010 rate for black youth still remained nearly four times that of whites and Hispanics, despite the decline in the percentage of black children living in high-poverty neighborhoods and the increase in white and Hispanic children living in such neighborhoods.

While racial tensions remain, the vast majority of black youth killings are those of young black men killing other young black men, not black young men killing whites or other minorities, and most of the other criminal offenses committed by young blacks are against or within the black community. No matter what anyone claims, this is not an interracial issue, but an intra-racial problem, almost certainly a subcultural affect, which although exacerbated by a larger problems, is not primarily caused by such.

The answer isn’t likely to be that there is a greater genetic/racial predilection toward violence or “less civilization” by blacks, either, not given history, which has shown great civilizations raised by peoples of all colors, or even current events, in which it appears the greatest violence and killing at present appears to be that committed by white Islamists against other white Islamists, if of a different Islamic persuasion.

Like it or not, such statistics suggest that the reason for the high level of violence perpetrated by young black males doesn’t lie primarily in externally imposed conditions, even if those conditions — such as prejudice, bigotry, poverty, poor education, and police “profiling” – are debilitating and should continue to be addressed, and such conditions improved.  Both large numbers of whites and other minorities have suffered and continue to suffer these conditions and, at least so far, their young males do not murder each other at anywhere near the rate and frequency as do young black males.

Might there just be some facets of the urban black culture that contribute to this situation? Facets that cannot be remedied by outsiders, no matter how well-meaning, and well-intentioned?  Facets that outsiders risk being immediately attacked as racist for even suggesting? Facets that even notable black figures have been attacked for suggesting?  

3 thoughts on “Another “Elephant”?”

  1. K. Rizer says:

    It’s been 12 hours and no comment?…

    The importance of culture, of shared habits of mind, speech, dress and behavior, is often overlooked in public discourse about this issue. My hat goes off to you, sir, for asking the unpopular questions. To these questions I answer yes, yes, yes and yes. I am an outsider myself, and so will not hazard to make any specific suggestions. However, the unwillingness of so many to discuss this is remarkable. I think this area is considered off-limits because well-meaning, ‘tolerant’ individuals are mistaken about why any given culture is valuable.

    The professedly ‘tolerant’ among us promote the idea that all cultures are equally valuable, and not to be disparaged, on account of their uniqueness, their contribution to diversity. Just as the native speaker of any language is not ‘wrong’ to utter a non-standard sentence, so a culture is not ‘wrong’ to promote an inordinate amount of destructive behavior. Any native speaker is right to combine words as he pleases, and any culture is right to exaggerate human behavior however it may. And like our mother tongue, we inherit our culture from those who go before, and will pass it on to those who follow.

    But I will justifiably protest if I am misled in some way by our non-standard speaker, for the purpose of language is to transmit meaning, to communicate. Convention is a means to this end, selfishly disregarded by many in attempts at novelty. Should I not be similarly upset when my inherited habits of thought or behavior confound my efforts and undertakings, endanger my relationships? Culture is aimed at promoting human flourishing, in bringing forth good fruit from the soil of human institutions – social, political, scientific, economic, religious, artistic. Diversity is desirable, and admirable, to the extent that it allows men and women to flourish under the variable configurations of these institutions.

    Good topic Mr. Modesitt. I admire your willingness to engage the topics you put here on the blog, even when I come to conclusions that differ from those you seem to offer.

  2. Indian says:

    Perhaps the simpler explanation is that when a group of people lose the cultural link between power and society, the resulting violence seeks love instead of order.

    One of the cruelest aspects of culture that is seldom addressed is the honesty required to uphold empty ideals by those who shape it. Crueler still are the truths of those who rebel against such honesty.

  3. Tim says:

    Hi Indian

    I will admit I read your blog four times and still am not quite sure what you mean! It could be that 5000 miles is finally making a difference in hos we use the same language 🙂 (assuming you are in the US)

    To LEM’s point, I have forwarded the text of his blog to several friends who understand or are in this culture (at least the equivalent culture in the UK), and have had no responses. Coupled with the lack of responses to this blog, I am not sure what this is telling us.


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