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Americans are a murderous sort

In the past, I often wondered why America had a high murder rate compared to other Westernized nations. I eventually stopped wondering and began assuming that we Americans were just generally prone to killing. After all, this land was taken by killing the natives. Our country’s independence was gained by killing folks. I just figured that’s how Americans were and stopped wondering.

I’ve ruled out access to guns, because other countries with fewer guns have higher murder rights. And other Western countries where gun ownership is generally banned have higher violent crime rates. And some countries with access to more guns (or where owning military weapons is mandated by law) have a lower murder rate.

Then, I read this post by Kim du Toit. He was commenting on Kevin’s homicide stats. Kevin opined:

It suggests that the homicide by firearm problem is concentrated in a small, identifiable group. It suggests that homicide is heavily concentrated in the overall black demographic, and especially in young black men.

Kim stated:

The United States has always had a higher murder rate than other countries, not because there are more guns around, but because we are a nation of immigrants. When people have few or no ties to a community, their propensity towards lawlessness is much higher. (It’s why, for example, small-town sheriffs had a habit of telling strangers to leave town—they were playing the odds.)

I began to think that was nuts. Then, as the day wore on, that thought kept coming back to me. And I realized that it made a sick sort of sense. The nation of immigrants factor is just about the only thing we don’t have in common with other comparable western nations.

But what that doesn’t explain is why, in our country, the homicide rate is heavily comprised of murders of black people by other black people. After all, black people share a heritage and do have ties to the black community. I suppose another factor in that equation is the proximity to drug dealing and concentrated areas of poverty.

It’s very clear that America has a problem with black on black violence. But it will never be given the attention it deserves because examining the cause would be viewed as racist.

30 Responses to “Americans are a murderous sort”

  1. cube Says:

    Just as a side note, i think that is one reason why crime rates are rising in certian countries in Europe and why it is lowering in the US. Our immgratns are most coming from mexico and can drive home to see their parents if they need to.

    While most of Europeans also left for america, now Europe is reciving immgrants from the middle east and former russia areas.

    IMO section

    I also think americans are more violent and bigger risk takers. I belive it is encoded in our genes, because most of our ancesterors left their home for a better life.

    I think that is a reason why Europe hates us so much. The ones that like us came over here and the ones that did not stayed behind.

  2. wrangler5 Says:

    I wonder if the black on black violence was as high (proportionally) 40-50 years ago? I have read that, up until the beginning of the “Great Society” welfare programs, black families (and communitites – no ghettos in the USA, of course) were relatively stable insitutions, with lower-than-white average incomes but a growing middle class. Once the welfare programs drove males out of the households as a condition of the females being paid for their babies, the community began to deteriorate. Now, 2 or 3 generations of black males have grown up in a community where there have been no stable adult males in the household and the females were either out working multiple jobs to make ends meet, or sitting around waiting for welfare checks. The only adult males with any focus in life are likely to be the local pushers and pimps, and these are not the folks to teach (or show) a young black man anything healthy about respect for other people and their property.

    The results we see today are largely the (presumably unintended) consequence of the do-gooders’ “compassion” for the black community. Of course the do-gooders want to be praised for their good intentions, while they more appropriately should be vilified for their wholesale destruction of an entire culture.

  3. Kevin Baker Says:

    Wrangler has a good point.

    There is evidence (scant, I admit, since no one seems to want to actually study the question) that black-on-black crime is related to the rise of the Welfare State, both here and in the UK. It seems to be an unintended consequence of trying to “help the disadvantaged,” and it is related to the destruction of the traditional family unit. Both countries share that problem. If the culture strongly supports the nuclear family (Asian, Indian-subcontinent, Pakistani, etc.) the problem of youth violence is greatly reduced. Here, the black culture does not support the nuclear family, and we end up with lots of fatherless boys. In the UK, where a lot of their black-on-black violence comes from Jamaican gangs, the same is true.

    Read my three-part essay beginning with “It’s Most Important That All Potential Victims Be as Dangerous as They Can.” It’s on that topic specifically.

  4. Lyle Says:

    Wrangler nailed it. It’s not a racial phenomenon in the strict sense. It’s borne of the fact that black Americans were sold a deadly bill of goods – socialism.

    And I completely reject the notion that the socialists were trying to “help” anyone but themselves. That was their claim, I understand. I submit however, that they were simply trying to make minorities beholden to Democrats. It worked for many years, but now there are more and more blacks leaving the Democrat plantation, realizing they do have a good shot at the American Dream.

    And if you’re going to make comparisons of various countries murder rates, lets include citizens murdered by their own governments. China, North Korea, former Soviet Union – these take the cake, by a factor of at least 100.

  5. Manish Says:

    Canada is also a nation of immigrants and has a lower murder rate than the U.S. I think poverty might have something to do with it. It seems as though in the U.S. the rich are richer than they are in Canada and the poor in the U.S. are poorer than the poor in Canada. Canada has its own problems with black-on-black problems.

  6. _Jon Says:

    On the plus side, however, I think the diverse immigrant structure of the US lends itself to a less likely chance of genocide. Most of the immigrants left their drudges behind.
    Unless a fanatical group gains significant traction, we are ulikely to see a ‘cleansing’ as has been done in other cultures. Probably because we all know and care about someone who is not “like us”.

    Thomas Sowell has written extensively about the black problem and ghettos. His research shows that much of it stems from immigration from the UK and neighboring areas. His column can be found at

  7. Brass Says:

    I just recently saw a map that showed the number of murders by state. I noticed that if you overlayed that on a map of illegal immigrant populations they pretty much synched up.

  8. Brutal Hugger Says:

    The immigrant theory is pure lunacy. If your believe that black Americans are killing each other at an abnormal rate, you can’t look to immigration because these aren’t immigrant communities. Look at first-generation immigrant communities all across the land– they have poverty with all the attendant social problems, but not so much murder going on.

    And a map of immigration only syncs up to a map of murder because the immigrants are concentrated in the cities and so are the murders. The notion that immigrants cause those murders is absurd if you consider that the vast majority of murders don’t involve immigrants, illegal or otherwise.

    The worldview that would lead somebody to think this theory is plausible eludes me.

  9. Concordbridges Says:

    Just remember that the relationship between crime and poverty is always causative.

    Crime creates poverty.

  10. tgirsch Says:

    I suspect that black on black violence is so high because blacks are disproportionately poor, and poverty and violent crime seem to walk hand-in-hand. There are other, social factors, of course. And there’s the elephant in the room that nobody seems to want to talk about, which is that generally speaking, handguns are a lot easier to get here and a lot more commonplace here than in most other places.

    As to the whole “welfare state” thing, I highly doubt it. For one thing, I don’t think the move away from the “nuclear family” has anything at all to do with the welfare state; it has a lot more to do with women’s liberation. In the cultures Kevin Baker lists, women are often viewed as inferior and/or treated as property. So if you’re going to rail on something as a cause of the breakdown of the nuclear family, you have to rail against women’s lib. [Tongue-partially-in-cheek] Although that would reclassify you from a racist jerk to a sexist jerk. [/Tongue-partially-in-cheek]

    I do think that more attention needs to be paid to racial differences and the underlying reasons for them. But I think what we’ll ultimately find is that race has no inherent effect at all, and that the difference that exist are socially driven.

    Otherwise, what Brutal Hugger said.

  11. Kevin Baker Says:


    Read the essay. It has nothing to do with “women’s liberation.” Nor does it have to do with immigration.

    “Blacks are disproportionately poor.” The question is why? Recent immigrants from Africa and the Carribean tend to be well educated and get good jobs. Why do “inner city” poverty-stricken youths fail? Can they not get a good education? Or does the culture they live in denigrate the idea of getting a good education? (At this point I’d tend to believe the former, but it was not always so.) You cannot convince me that poor black Americans are dumber than poor white Americans or poor Asian immigrants. But the difference between these three groups is primarily the concentration each puts on discipline and education. Who’s succeeding financially? And is it “racist” to notice the difference?

    It’s all about culture – and the culture of black youth is ignorant and violent. Young black men are killing each other at epidemic rates. They’re violent because they’re poor? They’re poor because they’ve been taught that the State will take care of them, cradle to (early) grave, no muss, no fuss, no effort. If they want to get rich they can be a star athelete, or deal drugs, not become a business owner, or doctor, or lawyer or engineer.

    Poo-pooh the “welfare state thing” all you want, but it has contributed to the dissolution of the family structure, and young males will find male role-models to emulate. If a strong father figure isn’t there, then someone else will do. After six, eight, ten generations of this, what do you end up with?

    Take a look at downtown Chicago. There’s a lot of really good basketball players there, who don’t quite measure up to the NBA’s requirements. There’s damned few business owners, doctors, lawyers, and engineers. And a lot of gang-bangers.

    And a lot of graves.

    But I’m a [tongue partially in cheek] racist jerk for noticing.

  12. David Codrea Says:

    I see you’ve noticed the elephant in the room we dare not speak of…

  13. Kevin Baker Says:

    Yes. I made note of it a couple of years ago.

  14. tgirsch Says:

    Kevin Baker:

    Umm, if the welfare state is the problem, then how come socialistic Canada isn’t covered in blood from sea to shining sea?

  15. Kevin Baker Says:


    Because “the problem” is NOT “the welfare state” – It’s the CULTURE. “The welfare state” contributes to the culture. It is not solely responsible for it.

    Tgirsch, there is no one cause, and there is no “magic bullet” (no pun intended) to cure the problem. But denying that the welfare state is a contributing factor doesn’t help.

  16. tgirsch Says:

    Actually, I’m not denying that the welfare state is a contributing factor per se, but I suspect that has more to do with it being poorly implemented than with it being inherently deleterious to society.

    My beef isn’t with identifying the “welfare state” (or, as you claim, the type of culture created in part as a result of the welfare state) as a contributor to the problem; it’s with ignoring obvious larger problems in doing so. For example, many people, conservative and liberal alike, are happy to ignore the ongoing effects of past institutional racism and discrimination, or to pretend that those only existed in the distant past rather than barely a generation ago. That’s the type of discussion on issues of race that we need to be having.

    I don’t think anyone argues that there’s just “one” cause, but that doesn’t mean that some factors aren’t much bigger contributors than others.

    As to your linked essay, I don’t see where it says anything about the welfare state culture, or about black-on-black violence, or about the deterioration of the nuclear family; it only seems to complain about the “pacifict” view of violence. Interesting, if founded on some straw-manish assumptions, but not incredibly relevant here, as far as I can see.

  17. tgirsch Says:

    And as to the Canadian example (or, perhaps even better, the Swiss example), you need to make a case for what’s different about our culture from theirs, and why those differences contribute to the dramatically different violent crime rates.

  18. Kevin Baker Says:

    Tgirsch, you use the phrase “our culture” pretty flippantly – and that’s a problem. You see, we don’t have a culture, we have a lot of cultures, all living alongside each other. That is much less true of the Canadians, and very much less true of the Swiss.

    The epidemic of violence – not just gun violence, but all kinds of violence – is found in the inner-city black culture of the U.S. It does not exist in, for example, the recent African or Carribean immigrants who come here with good educations and no exposure to “past institutional racism and discrimination.” It is far lower in suburban professional black families who do not belong to that culture.

    So the problem is the culture. Now we can pay all the attention in the world to “past institutional racism and discrimination,” but I don’t see how that directly affects the violence. The pertinent part of the essay is this:

    Very nearly all the violence that plagues, rather than protects, society is the work of young males between the ages of fourteen and thirty. A substantial amount of the violence that protects rather than plagues society is performed by other members of the same group. The reasons for this predisposition are generally rooted in biology, which is to say that they are not going anywhere, in spite of the current fashion that suggests doping half the young with Ritalin.

    The question is how to move these young men from the first group (violent and predatory) into the second (violent, but protective). This is to ask: what is the difference between a street gang and the Marine Corps, or a thug and a policeman? In every case, we see that the good youths are guided and disciplined by old men. This is half the answer to the problem.

    That’s cultural.

    (And I wish you had a “Preview” function on this, Uncle.)

  19. tgirsch Says:


    You see, we don’t have a culture, we have a lot of cultures, all living alongside each other. That is much less true of the Canadians

    And with that statement, you’ve told me that you obviously haven’t spent any appreciable amount of time in any major Canadian city. From personal experience I can tell you that if anything, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver have far more diverse populations than typical medium-to-large US cities.

    And I don’t deny that the problem is partly (even largely) cultural, but it’s also largely economic, and those things do tend to go hand-in-hand. And the mistake I think you make is in comparing poorly-educated, economically disadvantaged blacks with well-educated, better-off blacks (although this does nicely illustrate that race has nothing inherent to do with it), because the same argument holds for pretty much all people.

    The other problem with your logic here is that with your professional suburban black example is that a great many of them came from the culture you claim they don’t belong to. And a good number of those got there thanks in large part to the very welfare state you decry (not to mention with the help of other conservative gripes like affirmative action). Make no mistake, the economic disadvantages (and yes, the cultural forces in play) make it much harder for someone from that demographic to work their way to success, but when they do, they leave. And as hard as it is to overcome, I contend that it would be even more difficult withouth those social programs. Do some people milk it and abuse it? Of course they do, but that’s far from limited to the inner-city, or to blacks, or even to the poor. (Look at the epidemic of abusive corporate welfare, for example).

    But honestly, your argument here seems to be a moving target. It’s difficult to figure out what you’re getting at, and as a result if this, it’s difficult to agree or disagree. It seems you’re saying that cultural forces are the prime driver of violent crime (in particular, inner city violent crime), and that these cultural forces are worsened by the advent of the “welfare state.” But I don’t see anything in the numbers to back this up. Looking at crime rates (and, in particular, murder rates), they started to increase about the time of the civil rights movement, peaking in 1980. With the exception of a spike in the early 1990’s (which coincides quite nicely with an economic recession), the murder rate has come steadily downward in the 25 years since, and is now just over half what it was in 1980.

    If the welfare state were a driving force here, I would expect these crime rates to worsen with time, but the numbers simply don’t back this up. They do seem to align quite nicely, for the most part, with economic peaks and valleys, with the economic slump of the early oughts being the lone notable exception.

  20. tgirsch Says:

    One more thing:

    Now we can pay all the attention in the world to “past institutional racism and discrimination,” but I don’t see how that directly affects the violence.

    Well, that’s part of the problem is that it isn’t exactly direct. There are plenty of good data to suggest that violent crime increases with economic disadvantage. There are also plenty of good data to suggest that economic disadvantage tends to be self-perpetuating, i.e., the cycle of poverty is very difficult — although certainly not impossible — to break. It’s also well-documented that minorities in general and African-Americans in particular are poor at disproportionately high rates.

    Now let’s connect these dots, shall we? Violent crime is especially pervasive among the poor. The majority of poor people are poor because they come from poor families. Why are their families poor? The reasons vary, but in the case of many minorities (again, African-Americans in particular), it’s because the opportunities available to them to get good jobs and break the cycle of poverty were artificially limited to them by policies of enforced segregation, institutional racism and discrimination, etc. The economic deck was severely stacked against them, and that’s really only started to change with my generation.

    The bigger fish is how you fix that, and it’s not a trivial problem to solve. I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers, although I’m reasonably confident that the two extremes — with one end pretending that the problems either never existed or no longer exist, and the other end demanding radical (IMO) remedies like reparations — are wholly counterproductive. So we’re left with half-assed “solutions” like affirmative action, which I support mainly because as bad as it is, nobody has come up with a viable better solution. And as evidenced by your suburban well-to-do black professional example, to a certain extent affirmative action has worked. I’d prefer a solution that doesn’t discriminate for or against anyone based on ethnicity, but until I or someone else comes up with something that will correct for those past injustices without creating new (if much lesser) injustices, we’re stuck with what we’ve got.

  21. Kevin Baker Says:


    You’re right. I’m not expressing myself as well or as clearly as I would like. It’s difficult to do so in a comment section where I’m trying to be brief, I can’t spend the time necessary to consider precisely what I want to say, and can’t edit after I hit “submit.” I’m going to try to write a post this weekend on the topic in more detail. Perhaps we can discuss it further there.

  22. tgirsch Says:


    Fair enough.

  23. Lean Left » Violence, Culture, Economics, Race, Etc. Says:

    […] Some good discussion on these topics and how they are interrelated over at SayUncle.   […]

  24. EgregiousCharles Says:

    Poverty doesn’t cut it; poor American whites are much less violent. American vs. Canadian doesn’t cut it; Canadian blacks are as violent as American blacks, and Canadian whites are more violent than Canadian whites. Canada’s low rate of violence therefore seems related to their much less racially mixed population.

    I found this explanation highly plausible:

    The money quote: “Almost all crime against strangers in a healthy society is commited by people who deliberately hold themselves apart from the productive mainstream of society.” Nobody in the US makes a point of holding themselves apart from the productive mainstream like young blacks, exactly the most violent demographic in the US. It’s not about having a subculture; Asian-Americans have subcultures, but still participate. It’s about for example considering productive work that benefits the community “selling out”.

  25. tgirsch Says:


    Usually, you’re better than this, so I’m a bit disappointed. First and foremost, I’d like to see numbers backing up your blanket assertions. Second, I’ve already covered the “less diverse” argument above. In particular:

    Poverty doesn’t cut it; poor American whites are much less violent.

    But even if true, the question becomes is that a black-vs.-white thing, or an urban-vs.-rural thing? My money’s on the latter.

    As to the anarchangel’s essay, it’s crap. While there are certainly some groups who exist as he describes, he grossly overestimates the ease of “integrating with society,” grossly underestimates the extent to which racism and prejudice continue to stain our society (in more than just personal ways), and ignores the fact that not every poor family has a well-to-do grandfather to lean on when the going gets tough.

  26. tgirsch Says:

    Interestingly enough, I did some looking, and if the numbers I found are accurate, in 2003 the overall violent crime rate in Canada was about double what it is in the US, while the murder rate in Canada was only about a third of that in the US. So it seems that Canadians beat each other up twice as often, but kill each other two-thirds less often…

  27. SayUncle Says:

    Same in England, btw.

  28. SayUncle Says:

    And some folks have said that is due to the fact that crime stats in the US come from police and in the UK they come from the people (i.e., compare police reports to crime surveys). Obviously, some crime goes unreported.

    Not sure aboot Canada, eh.

  29. Kevin Baker Says:

    I’m at work (dammit) so I won’t be able to write my essay on this until later tonight or tomorrow (probably tomorrow, depending on what my wife wants to do Sunday) but I did want to add something here.

    A lot of people are surprised by the fact that both England and Canada (and Australia, too) are more violent than the U.S. – but have far less homicide.

    What’s changed in the last few decades is that those Anglosphere countries have all become far more violent than they traditionally were, but because homicide didn’t go up significantly, nobody (except the residents) really noticed.

    Uncle, we measure crime two ways; the National Crime Victimization Survey, and the FBI reported crime stats. The NCVS numbers are (unsurprisingly) higher, but both show definite declining trends.

  30. Kevin Baker Says:

    I might get it posted, that is, if Blogger gets their shit together. The service has been up and down like a yo-yo for the last couple of days.

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