This is the sixth in my series of "Letters to a Trump Supporter," from correspondence with a family friend who supports Mr. Trump.
Continuing our conversation about race, he sent me a video about violent crimes committed by black Americans. I cannot stress this enough: This video will be extremely offensive to many of you. Please use your discretion in choosing whether to watch it.
Below is my response.
Dear Mr. ----,
As always, you send thought-provoking stuff. But I'm astonished that the guy in the video doesn't ask the obvious question: Why are so many homicides committed by black Americans? There are really only two logical possibilities: Either they are innately more homicidal, or something has happened to them to put them in such a position.
The first possibility is, by definition, racism. It assumes that blacks are biologically different. Of course, any decent scientist can tell you that that's not true, as can anyone who spends any time with black people.The second possibility is supported by ample evidence. Blacks have faced systemic discrimination throughout American history, forcing them to live disproportionately in areas of concentrated poverty, where people are most likely to commit crimes. One of my colleagues at USC recently wrote a couple excellent blog posts on this history:
- The Black History of Housing in America: How the Dream Was Deferred
- When Your House Is Not a Home: The Tragedy of Concentrated Poverty
Somehow, the man in the video thinks "white liberals" use these facts as an excuse for crime. I've never heard any "white liberal" say such a thing. Everyone is in favor of prosecuting violent crimes. But it's pretty simple logic that you can only prevent crimes if you understand why they're happening. And blaming it on a person's race is both incorrect and immoral.
The deeper problem with the argument in this video is that it reinforces the very discriminatory behavior that caused the problem in the first place! If everyone acts the way this man is telling them to -- calling black people "savages" or worse, avoiding them when they walk down the street, generally thinking of them as a threat -- then good, decent, law-abiding black Americans will continue to be unable to get jobs, homes, mortgages, education, or anything else of any value in society.
This is an unjust way to treat any person who hasn't done anything wrong, and it's an irrational way to go through life.
Every year, the number of whites killed by blacks is one-tenth the number of whites killed by other whites. The vast majority of black people, just like the vast majority of white people, pose no threat to you or me. It would be ridiculous for us to assume otherwise. Statistically, "you have more reason to be afraid of your own swimming pool than any young black man you see in a hoodie."
And it's completely insane to compare a black person to a wild animal, as the man in the video does. You and I cannot fathom how injurious such a comparison is to a black person (although, as empathetic human beings, we certainly should try). I have black friends who have to hear such comparisons all the time, and it makes them think that the world doesn't understand them. It makes them think that the world is working against them. It makes them think that the world hates them.
And who can blame them? If you and I were told such things from the moment we were born, we would think the exact same things, and we would have to work immensely harder to become confident and successful because we'd be working against those stereotypes.
Also, contrary to what the man in the video says, black communities consistently express outrage at black-on-black crime, but when black people kill other black people, they usually go to prison. The system prosecutes the offender. When white cops kill black citizens, that often does not happen. Black Lives Matter is protesting this injustice, especially since it is an injustice perpetrated by the very people who are supposed to protect them.
You may have seen these protests and thought this injustice was the black community's only concern, but that's not even close to accurate. Within the black community, polls show that people are more worried about black-on-black crime than about unjust policing, not less.
Finally, I will wrap up this letter with the absolute dagger in the heart of this video: Poor urban whites are statistically more likely to commit violent crimes than poor urban blacks.
And with that, the man's entire argument falls apart. It has literally nothing to do with race.