A rare perpetrator’s memoir described one such recent crime in Virginia. The author, at the time a teenager, was hanging out on his neighborhood corner with his friends one afternoon when they saw “a white boy, who appeared to be about eighteen or nineteen years old… pedaling a bicycle casually through the neighborhood.” One of the black fellows pointed him out to the others, called him a derogatory name, and suggested that he must be crazy to have come there. … They ran after the white boy, knocked him, and beat him unconscious while cars drove past. They kicked his head until blood gushed from his mouth… one of his comrades continued “like he’d gone berserk” and even topped off the episode by picking up the bicycle and smashing it down on the victim as hard as he could. …
“Fucking up white boys like that made us feel good inside,” he wrote, adding that as they walked away they laughed… He said that when his older brother got his driver’s license, the gang would cruise around nearby white neighborhoods, picking out vulnerable targets and beating them close to death. — from Evil: Inside human violence and cruelty, by Baumeister
According to the Tuskegee Institute, 3,446 blacks and 1,297 whites were lynched between 1882 and 1968. The Equal Justice Initiative counts 3,959 blacks lynched between 1877 and 1950. (I don’t know if this includes the 1868 election massacres.)
Wikipedia estimates that about 50-100 lynchings occurred per year between 1868 and 1923, with a peak in 1892 of 161 deaths.
Most of the folks lynched in the US South had been accused of violent crimes such as rape, assault, and murder; many had already been arrested and were awaiting trial when they were dragged out of jail and killed. Lynching functioned, therefore, not like random crime–a bunch of serial killers run amok–but as a form of extra-legal law-enforcement.
A posse of random citizens stringing up horse thieves makes sense in rural, frontier areas where prisons and courts hadn’t yet been built and the nearest police officer might be hundreds of miles away, but 1890s Georgia was hardly the frontier. Neither can we assume that the mobs were afraid that these (mostly black men) would have been acquitted had they gone to trial–the South’s all-white juries tended not to be favorable to black defendants.
If your desire is simply to get accused criminals off the streets, lynch mobs and courts probably returned similar results. (Note: I am not passing judgment on whether or not the accused were actually guilty.)
But court proceedings are banal; prisons are hidden from sight and executions–at least these days–tend not to be public spectacles. Lynchings were public, almost communal events–people even made postcards out of photographs of lynched bodies.
I have said before that intra-racial killing is crime, and inter-racial crime is war. People who commit crimes are entitled to a lawyer, a fair trial, a jury of their peers, and a chance at rehabilitation if they are not clearly psychopaths. People who commit war (or treason) do not get trials; they get rounded up in a counter-raid and executed back.
We like to think that we enlightened moderns can rise above the level of the raw, primal chimpanzee bashing another chimp’s brains out with a rock for daring to wander near its territory, but much of the time we don’t.
(Really, one wonders how the North thought this would all turn out.)
The media is great for whipping up this kind of sentiment, as seen in the targeting of whites during the recent Milwaukee riots over the death of a black man at the hands of a black police officer.
Furthermore, lynching–or beating random whites who happen across your protest–sends a loud, visceral message to the other side that merely arresting lawbreakers does not: We will kill you.
In 1968 my father was walking home from work through the alley off of Ohio street in downtown Chicago. He had done this for years.
At the time he was 60 years old. One day a group of 7 black teens and young men decided that they wanted to beat a white man to a pulp. He told my mother that they surrounded him and started calling him racial slurs and then proceed to beat him. They did not rob him. Someone found him and took him to the hospital where they had to cut into his eyelid to release the pressure and blood. He had bruises and cuts all over his body, face, and head. …
He made it through, but that was after being in a coma for three weeks and having to have brain surgery to relieve the bleeding on his brain. … He had small seizures and grand mall seizures all of the time until at the end, one took his life. — “Letter from a Dead Father“
I bet people in ISIS-controlled territory are very careful about how they act.
I couldn’t find the percent of blacks who were lynching victims, so I used data from the Tuskegee Institute + census to calculate it myself. I went into some detail on my methodology in the previous post.
Obviously lynching was not reserved exclusively for African Americans. In the aftermath of the Civil War, angry Southerners lynched many whites suspected of helping helping the Union. Asians, Hispanics, and Indians were also lynched. In one of the largest lynchings, 13 Italians were lynched by New Orleans Irish after an Italian guy killed an Irish guy. But these lynchings died down relatively early, while about 100-50 blacks continued to be killed each year through about 1922.
At the height of the violence, just over two blacks per 100k were lynched every year (or 0.002%.) To put that into perspective, the homicide rate in the US (as of 2013) is 3.9 people per 100k. Japan’s homicide rate is 0.3 per 100k, Canada’s is 1.4, Mexico’s is 15.7, and Honduras’s is an astonishing 84.6.
The “Great Migration” is a little-known part of American history in which millions of black people headed north. Wikipedia, like many others, asserts that lynching was one of the prime motivators that inspired blacks to move:
In the Great Migration, particularly from 1910 to 1940, 1.5 million African Americans left the South, primarily for destinations in northern and mid-western cities, both to gain better jobs and education and to escape the high rate of violence. From 1910 to 1930 particularly, more blacks migrated from counties with high numbers of lynchings. …
The industrial buildup to World War II acted as a “pull” factor in the second phase of the Second Great Migration starting in 1940 and lasting until 1970. Altogether in the first half of the 20th century, 6.5 million African Americans migrated from the South to leave lynchings and segregation behind. Unlike the first round, composed chiefly of rural farm workers, the second wave included more educated workers and their families who were already living in southern cities and towns. In this migration, many migrated west from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas to California in addition to northern and midwestern cities, as defense industries recruited thousands to higher-paying, skilled jobs. They settled in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland.
To unpack this for a second, we can identify three important economic factors that prompted the Great Migration:
- The continuing mechanization of agriculture meant that fewer workers were needed to produce the same quantity of crops, and wages for agricultural workers in the South subsequently dropped;
- WWI and WWII triggered the creation of massive numbers of manufacturing jobs in the North;
- And the Immigration act of 1924, which massively cut the number of immigrants allowed into the country (particularly from southern and eastern Europe,) forced factory owners to pay their workers better wages.
(We may also add that the hookworm eradication campaign started around 1910 improved the health of Southern whites, who who were more vulnerable to the parasite than blacks, making them better workers.)
By 1910, the lynching rate had fallen bellow 1 per 100k, and by the 20s it had fallen to less than 0.25 per 100k, which suggests to me that people were more motivated more by the overall unpleasantness of Jim Crow and segregation than the lower-than-your-chance-of-being-murdered-in-Japan chance of lynching.
Unfortunately, the Great Migration appears to have triggered its own crime wave:
According to Baumeister’s book on Evil:
The lynch mob is still the most vivid symbol of hate crimes in America, but lynchings are largely a thing of the past. There are still plenty of hate crimes today, but they take a different form. Indeed, the very racial direction of hate crimes has seen a fundamental reversal. According to an FBI report on violence during 1993, black people were four times more likely to commit hate crimes than white people.
NYC had 7.3 million people and 2,605 murders in 1990, or a homicide rate of 35.7 per 100k. If NYC were a country, it would have been one of the most violent places in the entire world, but “white flight” remains a mysterious phenomenon wherein evil white people, for no rational reason, suddenly become afraid of black people moving into their neighborhoods and move away.
Few people today seem to remember that Detroit was once one of the country’s richest, most innovative cities. Employment in Detroit’s auto and war-production factories created economic prosperity for millions of people. According to Barry Bluestone, co-author of The Deindustrialization of America:
In the 1950s and ‘60s, when I was growing up in Detroit, it was one of the richest cities—if not the richest—not only in the United States but in the world. The city had the most powerful industry in the world—the auto industry. The General Motors Corporation itself was so huge that its total annual revenue in the mid-1950s was larger than the gross domestic product of Belgium. That made it the 18th largest country in the world—not just company. … That created tremendous wealth and then that wealth was spread at least somewhat more equally because of the powerful auto workers’ union, the UAW, which was able to win at the bargaining table both wage increases and benefit increases—pensions and health care and life insurance—that made auto workers some of the highest-paid workers in the world. The gains made by the UAW not only benefited white workers but also provided black auto workers with the ability to join America’s middle class.
Obviously many factors contributed to Detroit’s decline, but today we’re concerned with crime. According to Wikipedia:
Ethnic whites enjoyed high wages and suburban life styles. Blacks comprised 4% of the auto labor force in 1942, 15% by the war’s end; they held their own and were at 16% by 1960. … a large well-paid middle class black community emerged; like their white counterparts, they wanted to own single family homes, fought for respectability, and left the blight and crime of the slums as fast as possible for outlying districts and suburbs. …
The Model Cities Program was a key component of President Lyndon B. Johnson‘s Great Society and War on Poverty. Begun in 1966, it operated five-year-long experiments in 150 cities to develop new antipoverty programs and alternative forms of municipal government. The ambitious federal urban aid program succeeded in fostering a new generation of mostly black urban leaders. Detroit was one of the largest Model Cities projects. … Detroit received widespread acclaim for its leadership in the program, which used $490 million to try to turn a nine-square-mile section of the city (with 134,000 inhabitants) into a model city. … The Model City program was terminated in Detroit and nationwide in 1974 after major race riots in most of its target cities. Detroit witnessed growing confrontations between the police and inner city black youth, culminating in the massive 12th Street riot in July 1967. Governor George W. Romney ordered the Michigan National Guard into Detroit, and President Johnson sent in U.S. Army troops. The result was 43 dead, 467 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed. Thousands of small businesses closed permanently or relocated to safer neighborhoods, and the affected district lay in ruins for decades.
Coleman Young, Detroit’s first black mayor, explained the long-term impact:
“The heaviest casualty, however, was the city. Detroit’s losses went a hell of a lot deeper than the immediate toll of lives and buildings. The riot put Detroit on the fast track to economic desolation, mugging the city and making off with incalculable value in jobs, earnings taxes, corporate taxes, retail dollars, sales taxes, mortgages, interest, property taxes, development dollars, investment dollars, tourism dollars, and plain damn money. The money was carried out in the pockets of the businesses and the white people who fled as fast as they could. …
Scholars have produced many studies documenting the fall of Detroit from one of the world’s premier industrial cities in 1945 to a much smaller, weaker city in the 21st century, struggling to survive against the loss of industry and population, against crime, corruption and poverty. …
While Detroit was still 55 percent white according to the 1970 census, by 1980 whites only made up 34 percent of the population. The population shift was even more stark considering that Detroit was 83 percent white at the time of the city’s all-time population high in 1950. The migration of whites to the suburbs left blacks in control of a city suffering from an inadequate tax base, too few jobs, and swollen welfare rolls. According to Chafets, “Among the nation’s major cities, Detroit was at or near the top of unemployment, poverty per capita, and infant mortality throughout the 1980s.” …
Several times during Young’s tenure Detroit is named the arson capital of America, and repeatedly the murder capital of America. Often Detroit was listed by FBI crime statistics as the “most dangerous city in America” during his administration. Crime rates in Detroit peaked in 1991 at more than 2,700 violent crimes per 100,000 people. … the arson rate in Detroit was 6.3 times the national average in 2003 and the murder rate was 5.1 times the national average. …
Around Halloween, a traditional day for pranks in late October, Detroit youth went on a rampage called “Devil’s Night” in the 1980s. … Over 800 fires were set in the peak year 1984, overwhelming the city’s fire department. Hundreds of vacant homes across the city were set ablaze by arsonists….
In September 2008, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (who had served for six years) resigned following felony convictions. In 2013, Kilpatrick was convicted on 24 federal felony counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud, and racketeering, and was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison.
In July 2013, Michigan state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr asked a federal judge to place the city of Detroit into bankruptcy protection.
In March 2014 the indebted Detroit Water and Sewerage Department began cutting off water to customers homes with unpaid bills over $150, or if the payment was more than 60 days overdue. As of the 15th of July, more than 15,000 homes had been cut off.
Whew. Sorry that quote was so long; I just couldn’t decide what to cut.
Apologists are quick to present excuses for crime, but I note that Kentucky has also been facing economic difficulties, and yet Kentucky’s homicide rate is far lower than Detroit’s.
Looks like a lot of it.
By the way, if all of those stabbed and shot people died, as would be more likely if you were shot in a third world country with little medical care, our homicide rate would shoot over 20/100k.
(How much of our soaring healthcare costs are trauma-related?)
According to Color of Crime:
- In 2013, a black was six times more likely than a non-black to commit murder, and 12 times more likely to murder someone of another race than to be murdered by someone of another race.
- In 2013, of the approximately 660,000 crimes of interracial violence that involved blacks and whites, blacks were the perpetrators 85 percent of the time. This meant a black person was 27 times more likely to attack a white person than vice versa. A Hispanic was eight times more likely to attack a white person than vice versa. …
- In 2015, police killings of blacks accounted for approximately 4 percent of homicides of blacks. Police killings of unarmed blacks accounted for approximately 0.6 percent of homicides of blacks. The overwhelming majority of black homicide victims (93 percent from 1980 to 2008) were killed by blacks.
- Both violent and non-violent crime has been declining in the United States since a high in 1993. 2015 saw a disturbing rise in murder in major American cities that some observers associated with “depolicing” in response to intense media and public scrutiny of police activity. …
New York City, for example, does not participate in NIBRS but it records the races of arrested offenders, and consistently distinguishes between whites and Hispanics. In 2014, 374 people were arrested for murder. Their races were as follows:
White: 2.9 percent
Black: 61.8 percent
Hispanic: 31.8 percent
Asian: 2.7 percent
Other: 0.8 percent …
Given a population (page B1 of report) that was 32.8 percent white, 22.6 percent black, 28.9 percent Hispanic, and 13.0 percent Asian, a black was 31 times more likely than a white to be arrested for murder, a Hispanic was 12.4 times more likely than a white, and an Asian was twice as likely.
Approximately 12.5% of modern Americans are black and 63% are white. If an equal percent of whites and blacks were criminals, and if criminals chose their victims at random, we would expect about 12.5% of white victims to have been harmed by a black criminal, and 63% of black victims to have been harmed by a white criminal.
In 2013, there were 4,091,971 violent crimes against whites and 955,800 against blacks. A rate of 12.5% and 63% would result in 511,496 black on white crimes and 602,154 white on black crimes.
In reality, there were 560,600 violent black on white crimes, and only 99,403 white on black crimes. And as noted above, this means that 85% of b-w crime is committed by the group that is only 12.5% of the population.
When whites commit violence they target other whites 82.4 percent of the time, blacks 3.6 percent of the time, and Hispanics 7.8 percent of the time. In other words, white violence is directed overwhelmingly at other whites. When blacks commit violence only a minority — 40.9 percent — of their victims are black. Whites are 38.6 percent and Hispanics are 14.5 percent. Hispanic assailants also attack their own group less often than they attack others. Their victims are: Hispanics — 40.1 percent, whites — 50.7 percent, and blacks — 4.7 percent.
Finally, interracial crime can be expressed in terms of the greater or lesser likelihood of a person of one race to commit violence against a member of the other. In 2012/2013, the actual likelihood of attack was extremely low in all cases, but statistically, any given black person was 27 times more likely to attack a white and six times more likely to attack a Hispanic than vice versa. …
The Department of Justice keeps national records on murder. In 2013, it reported 5,621 single-offender, single-victim cases in which the race of the murderer was known. Like most federal statistics, there is no clear distinction between whites and Hispanics, so the only meaningful racial categories are black and non-black. Blacks killed 2,698 people — 48 percent of the total — and non-blacks killed 2,923 or 52 percent. Since blacks were just 13.3 percent of the population, it meant a black was six times more likely than a non-black to commit murder. Although most murders are within the same race, blacks were 13.6 times more likely to kill non-blacks than non-blacks were to kill blacks.
And don’t give me some bollocks about poor people being more likely to commit crime. I know homeless people who don’t commit crime. No one here is committing violent crime to save themselves from starvation.
If the Great Migration was a sensible response to lynching, then White Flight is a sensible response to black homicide.
Edit: an astute reader pointed out that some of the quoted data was wrong and I have removed it.