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Anchorage Daily News
October 13, 1997, Monday

Voice Of The Times

Black Community Must Rise Up Against Crime

By Walter E. Williams

Professors Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom have just published ''America in Black and White.'' Its discussion of race is far more level-headed and useful than anything the president or his recently appointed commission on race has said or is likely to say. The Thernstroms' 700-page volume covers race from the Jim Crow days right up to California's Proposition 209, but I want to highlight their chapter on crime.

Most violent crime in our country is committed by blacks. According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, blacks commit 54 percent of murders, 42 percent of forcible rapes, 59 percent of robberies and 38 percent of aggravated assaults. For the most part, the victims are black. Ninety-three percent of murdered blacks were murdered by a black.

In fact, most victims of violent crimes report having been victimized by a member of their own race. However, in the case of interracial violent crime, blacks are 50 times more likely to commit violent crimes against whites than whites against blacks. Bureau of Justice victimization reports show that 89 percent of interracial crimes involved black perpetrators and white victims.

Crime is a major problem and lies at the heart of other major problems faced by blacks. High crime translates into low rates of businesses formation in black neighborhoods. That translates into fewer resident employment and shopping opportunities. Unsafe schools compromise black education and create incentives for the best teachers and students to go elsewhere. Crime drives upwardly mobile residents out, and the neighborhood loses stabilizing influences.

During the 1980s, for example, 50,000 blacks left Washington, D.C. Nationally, for at least two decades, the black suburban migration rate has been higher than that of whites. As middle-class people and businesses leave, cities lose their tax base.

Experts love to blame crime on poverty. That's nonsense! From 1900 to 1929, the nation's murder rate rose from 1.2 per 1 00,000 of the population to 8.4. However, during parts of the 1930s, when the unemployment rate stood at 37 percent, the murder rate had fallen to 6.3 per 1 00,000 and to 4.7 per 1 00,000 by 1960. After 1960, violent crime rates shot up. By 1993, the murder rate was 9.5 per 100,000, falling to 8.2 in 1995. Rather than poverty causing crime, one might more easily make the case that crime causes poverty.

Survey polls show a high degree of black fear of crime. However, crime is an uncomfortable subject for black people. Given our history, this is understandably so. But when crime puts progress on hold for a third of the black population, we can no longer be silent and deny its widespread, devastating effects. We have to do something about it.

Part of doing something requires the recognition that politicians, black elite and civil-rights organizations are virtually useless. If anything, their excuse-making gives aid and comfort to criminals.

Citizens in high-crime neighborhoods must adopt a zero-tolerance of crime. They must privately organize and send the message to criminals: Crime is hazardous to your health in this neighborhood. If school authorities can't prevent students who are alien and hostile to the education process from making education impossible for everyone else, black parents should privately organize and show up on the school premises to create order.

Defending oneself, family and communities against predators is a natural or God-given right. Just because those to whom we've delegated authority to defend us are derelict does not mean we don't have the right to defense. Most Americans wouldn't begin to tolerate the horror that's daily fare in black communities—why should blacks?

Walter E. Williams is a professor at George Mason University at Fairfax, Va. His column is distributed by Creators Syndicate Inc., 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045; (310) 337-7003.

© 1997 Anchorage Daily News

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