Mapping The Unmentionable: Race And Crime
climactic final scene of
Michael Moore`s Oscar-winning documentary Bowling
for Columbine, the highest grossing documentary
before Moore`s own Fahrenheit 9/11, the rotund
Charlton Heston, the elderly president of the
National Rifle Association, to his lair, and asks
Moore: But you don`t
have any opinion as to why we`re the unique country, the
only country that does this? That kills each
other at this level with guns.
Heston: Well, we have, probably a more mixed
ethnicity, than other countries, some
Moore pounces on
Heston`s shocking faux pas:
…So you think it`s an ethnic thing?
gaffe, Heston paddles desperately upstream:
Heston: Well, I
don`t think it`s—I wouldn`t go as far as to say that. We
had enough problems with civil rights in the beginning.
For mentioning ethnicity`s connection to crime, Heston
was trashed in the press as a
racist. However, his announcement that he was
suffering from Alzheimer`s led many critics to recommend
pity rather than censure—he must have been
senile to say such a horrible thing.
Yet everybody knows
Heston was telling the truth.
I`ve only met
one man in my life who adamantly argued in private
conversation that there are no racial differences in
crime rates. An Oregonian, he told me it was racist to
assume blacks are
more likely to be muggers than whites are.
to him a thought experiment:
"Say your wife`s car runs out of gas in the middle of the night in
a desolate neighborhood. She has no idea which way to
walk to find a gas station. However, if she walks one
way she has to pass by a half dozen black youths
lounging on a corner. If she walks the other way, she
would have to pass by a half dozen Indian immigrant
youths. Which way would you prefer she went?"
"I would be completely indifferent,"
"Well, then, for your sake, I`m glad you live in Grant`s Pass."
"Where I live is irrelevant!"
he responded triumphantly. "I`ve already been mugged
The ethnic gap in crime proclivities is one of those
subjects that everybody accepts when discussing real
estate (which is all about
location, location), but nobody writes about.
To test this, I looked in the search engine of
Slate.com, the pioneering public affairs webzine
that combines a slightly snarky attitude with
Establishment respectability. I checked to see how many
of the thousands of articles it has published since 1996
include the words "race
There was only one
article with a strong match, but this 1999 essay was
surprisingly blunt: "Janet Reno`s
Justice Department flatly states that `blacks
are 8 times more likely than whites to commit
"Wait a minute. This
article seems strangely familiar,"
I thought. "Oh, of course, it`s by … me."
And that may explain why I haven`t been invited back to
write for Slate since!
Russian immigrant called me up once to ask why
almost no other American journalist ever mentioned the
racial patterns he had seen with his own eyes
everyday since he`d come to America. When I explained
that the average writer was just lying, he replied:
Vladimir (audibly relieved): "You mean, he`s hypocrite?"
Me: "Yeah, exactly. It would hurt his career to write for the
public what he thinks in his private life."
Vladimir: "Thank God!"
Vladimir: "Hypocrite I understand. I grow up in
Soviet Union. Lying to save your job, that`s life.
No, I was very worried smart people in America
weren`t hypocrites. You know, this country is
supposed to be land of free, home of brave. I was scared
that smart Americans weren`t hypocrites, but instead
were hallucinating. I am very happy to hear they`re just
hypocrites. Hypocrisy much less scary than mass
the government makes much detailed information on crime
rates by race available. But almost nobody ever tries to
learn anything from it.
there`s been this frustrating problem: In
crime statistics, Hispanics are often lumped in with
non-Hispanic whites. This has the effect of narrowing
the gap between the black and white crime rates by
inflating the white rate. It also obscures the
relatively high rate of Hispanic crime.
Bureaucrats are normally very scrupulous about breaking
out data by
Hispanic ethnicity. It`s impossible to avoid the
conclusion that this is done to make
diversity in general, and
current immigration in particular, look better.
Fortunately, a liberal activist group called the
National Center on Institutions and Alternatives
crunched state-level data for a 2001
report that managed to break out the number of
Hispanic prisoners in most states. The
data is from 1997, but it appears to be
the best we have.
graphed 1997 imprisonment rates per 100,000 people for
non-Hispanic whites, blacks, and Hispanics, all using
the same scale with yellow as low and purple as high.
Here`s the non-Hispanic white imprisonment map:
As you can
see, in all states,
white imprisonment rates are relatively low, so the
whole map comes out in shades of yellow. The largest
percentages of whites are imprisoned in old Wild West
states: Alaska, Oklahoma, Nevada, Arizona, and Texas.
Whites are least likely to be locked up in the District
of Columbia, Minnesota, New Jersey (much to the surprise
of Sopranos fans), North Dakota, and New York.
also worth keeping in mind that the average age of a
state can affect the crime rate. North Dakota, for
instance, is an older state that has a hard time hanging
on to its young folk. In general, that`s bad, but it has
the good side effect of lowering the crime rate, since
crime is a young man`s profession.
moderate correlation (r = 0.44) between a state voting
for Bush and having a higher white imprisonment rate.
the black crime rate:
As you can
see, for blacks, many states reach the color scale`s
maximum of 3 percent of the population in jail. So they
show up as solid purple.
with the highest rate of black imprisonment, with 4.8
percent of the black population—male and female, young
and old—behind bars, is Iowa. (Bet you didn`t guess
that.) It`s followed by Wisconsin, Rhode Island,
Oklahoma, and Connecticut.
two states with less than 1 percent of their black
population imprisoned are Hawaii and North Dakota. I
suspect that many of their blacks got there via the U.S.
military and are thus pre-selected for discipline and
striking feature of this map is relatively low rate of
black imprisonment in the Old South.
Hispanic imprisonment rate map. Unfortunately, the data
were either completely missing or obviously inadequate
for ten states, which show up in black.
Hispanics fall between whites and blacks in their
tendency to be incarcerated.
Northeast has the worst-behaved Hispanics in the
country, followed by the Southwest. Florida, of all the
states with a large Latino population, has the
There is a
racial aspect to this. Northeastern Latinos have
traditionally consisted of mulatto islanders, such as
Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. Southwestern Hispanics are
mestizo Mexicans and
Central Americans. Florida Hispanics were
has low numbers of Latinos in prison relative to their
could be an artifact of the currently exploding Hispanic
population there. A state`s imprisonment rate tends to
lag its immigration rate. Someone who has been in a
a only a short time has had less chance to get caught
and jailed than someone who has been there his whole
hard to say what the future holds for the South.
vary in laws and zeal of enforcement (although the
federal sentencing guidelines have narrowed some of
the differences in recent years). That`s why it`s useful
to also map the ratio of black to white imprisonment
rates. In the following map, ratios of more than 20
blacks imprisoned for every white (on a per capita
basis) show up as bright red. Less than 3 blacks
imprisoned per white shows as a bright green.
Nationally, blacks are imprisoned on average 9.1 times
as often as whites.
high rate of black imprisonment was caused by anti-black
conservatism, then the ratio of blacks to whites
imprisoned should be highest in Republican strongholds
like the Old South. But instead, it is lowest
there of any major region.
Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina are only
about six times more likely to imprison blacks than
whites—just two-thirds of the national average.
contrast, by far the greatest racial disparity was found
in the most liberal spot on the map: the
black-run District of Columbia, where Bush won only
nine percent of the vote. Blacks in Washington D.C. are
56 times more likely than whites to wind up in the
biggest gap was 31 to 1 in
Minnesota, which has normally been quite a bit more
liberal than the typical heartland state.
the two regions with the biggest racial differences in
black-white imprisonment rates are the Old Northwest and
with relatively high black vs. white imprisonment rates
tended to vote for Kerry—the correlation was a strong r
the discrimination explanation for the racial gap does
not hold water.
popular theory, put forward by New York Times
reporter Fox Butterfield in his 1996 book
All God`s Children is, in the words of an
"… that the primary origin
of black violence is the tradition of
white violence that was transferred to them from
their former slave owners."
Of course, looked at from an international perspective,
this theory requires
Occam`s Butterknife at its dullest. It would requite
a local rationalization for each of the many countries
with violent black communities.
Thus, presumably, the extreme crime in the
black favelas of
Brazil, as seen in the terrific 2003 movie
City of God, is in imitation of the Portuguese;
the sometimes genocidal violence in Ethiopia was learned
Italians during their five brief years of
Shaka (1785-1828), King of the Zulus,
would have been a pacifist if not for those vicious
vibrations emanating from white men somewhere over the
But Fox Butterknife`s hypothesis makes little sense even
within the U.S. As we have seen, the most crime-prone
blacks are in Iowa and Wisconsin, where whites were
traditionally quite law-abiding. In contrast, the most
honest blacks tend to be found in the Cotton Belt, where
the Butterfield-Marshall theory predicts they should be
most contaminated by white duelists.
Hispanics? Here is the Hispanic to white imprisonment
Nationally, Hispanics are on average 3.7 times as likely
to be imprisoned.
worst ratio is in the Old Northwest, where whites are
Mexican-Americans are found most in the Southwest,
where the white crime rate is above average.
Hispanic crime rate is lower than the African-American
mark. But at the current pace of immigration, legal and
illegal, the number of
Hispanic criminals should exceed the current number
black criminals within a few decades.
may not have built America, but they are certainly
building its prison population.
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and