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Marketwatch posted a piece today listing the American cities where violent crime is most prevalent. The worst of the lot is Detroit, which was, 65 years ago, the wealthiest city per capita in the United States. Then comes Oakland, Memphis, St. Louis, Cleveland, Little Rock, Baltimore, Rockford in Illinois, Milwaukee, and Birmingham in Alabama.
The piece is an honest attempt to find what unites these cities. But it is skewed by its trust in the standard liberal cliches. So after specifying the crime rate, the population of the city, and the number of murders in 2013, it specifies the poverty rate — as if to imply that poverty is “the root cause” of crime. No other common denominator is mentioned.
And yet, apart from poverty, there is one other common characteristic uniting these communities — a characteristic that we are not allowed to talk about.
Early on in his tenure, Eric Holder called for a national conversation about race and he described us as “a nation of cowards.” Although I doubt very much whether he in particular could stomach a genuinely frank conversation on this subject, I do believe that he is right that we as a people are afraid to speak up — and I regard this as a serious defect, for it prevents our even thinking about how we might address a grave problem.
The truth is simple and sad. While violent crime is by no means restricted to inner-city African-American neighborhoods, it is more prevalent there than anywhere else.
We have been treated in the last couple of years to astonishing nonsense concerning the “rape culture” that is supposedly pervasive on America’s campuses — when the statistics based on crimes reported to the police suggest that rape is exceedingly rare at our universities and exceedingly common in inner-city black neighborhoods. If our President and his Attorney General really cared about the mistreatment of women, these neighborhoods would be their focus.
If we were to have an honest national conversation on race or, for that matter, on rape, we would have to attend to the near collapse of the black family, to the fact that only 17% of African-American teenagers aged 15 to 17 live in a family where both parents are present, and to the impact this has on the likelihood that young black men will turn to crime. If Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown were victimized, it was not by the likes of George Zimmerman or Darren Wilson. It was by parents who did not stay together and keep their sons on the straight and narrow.
This really is a serious problem — and it is much more of a problem for ordinary African-Americans than it is for white men such as myself. For by and large black people are the ones who are victimized. They live in the dangerous neighborhoods. They are the ones threatened by violent crime. They are the ones most apt to be raped.
One would think that, with a black President and a black Attorney General, we would be witnessing an attempt to think through this problem and to deal with it. But in the last six years, neither Barack Obama nor Eric Holder has said a word on the subject.
The problem, they imply, is white racism. The problem is poverty and oppression. Never do they ask whether the poverty might not be a symptom — a function of family breakdown. Never do they tell us how it can be the case that white people are to blame for black-on-black crime.
I do not doubt that something needs to be done. I feel for the young people who grow up in such neighborhoods, who are drawn into criminal activity, or who suffer violent attack.
But before one can deal with a problem, one has to do what Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and the party they represent resolutely refuse to do — which is to admit that there is a problem and to acknowledge that it is due to patterns of conduct endemic in such neighborhoods and not to anything done or not done, said or not said by white Americans as such.
It would, for example, be good to begin by admitting that these neighborhoods need rigorous policing on a scale not elsewhere required. If whites have failed blacks in these 10 cities, it is in part because the Democratic machines that control each and every one of them have left African-American neighborhoods in considerable measure unpoliced.
Rigorous policing of the very sort now under attack in New York and elsewhere would be a good beginning. But unless something can be done to promote family formation and family stability, it will, I fear, be of little avail.
The sad truth is that the black family was once in far better shape. What we are witnessing is not the legacy of slavery. It is the legacy of patterns of conducted promoted by the social welfare programs created by the New Deal, which rewarded women for becoming single mothers.
How — and even whether — this development can be reversed is a puzzle, and it needs addressing. It is arguably our greatest social problem — for it is by no means limited to inner-city African-American neighborhoods, and it is gradually becoming prevalent among every ethnic population in the land. At the moment, only 54% of white teenagers aged 15 to 17 live in families where both parents are present, and that is an all-time low.