The race problem is a thing. Stop acting like it’s not.

Social Issues

Black people face real disadvantages and difficulties when it comes to crime and law enforcement. As soon as some people – usually white people – hear those words, they begin to switch off and act as though they are not interested in the problem, or in even admitting that there is one sometimes. But there is one, and if you’re a person who, like me, wants to be a follower of Christ in the world, then you should care because people are hurting over this.

I’m talking about the United States, where I have never lived. I’m not immediately affected by this, but it’s an issue that has come to the public attention a lot of late. I care about it because (I think!) I care about people, and because a lot of people I have encountered who do live in America need to examine the way they think about this.  Online social media has made the world a much smaller place. Some people, in true collectivist style (just the kind of collectivism, unfortunately, that breeds racism), have told me that I shouldn’t be commenting or have strong views on this, because I’m “not even from this country.” I hope nearly everyone sees that kind of ad hominem attack for what it is. Besides, maybe the fact that I’m an outsider means that I am less inclined to be partial or to protect any group in the situation from condemnation.

So, to the point: All other things being equal, black people are more likely to be poor, which is associated with higher crime rates (for some types of crime, e.g. theft) for a variety of reasons (e.g. greater need and desperation). Coming from a poor family is obviously a huge factor in this, and it is not one that can be controlled by a person born into a poor family. Social inequality has been demonstrated to have a clear correlation with many social ills, including crime. Black people are more likely to have violent crimes (including theft) committed against them. Due to being less wealthy, they are more likely to live in areas where other unwealthy people live (many of them black, since black people are more likely to be unwealthy). This creates neighbourhoods where poverty is endemic. In the United States where higher education is less subsidised than in New Zealand, poverty has a major impact on future education opportunities, and the effects of poverty on young people also affects the opportunities for development while at school, which in turn contributes to future poverty, or at very least markedly lower income than that enjoyed by other demographics.

The existence of neighbourhoods with a high concentration of this sort of socio-economic demographic results in a different approach to those who live in these neighbourhoods on the part of law enforcement, and by extension a different attitude to those who are relevantly like those who live in these neighbourhoods (which, let us be honest, will often mean associating people on the basis of colour). That low wealth is a contributor to crime means that a natural attitude to take is that those from this demographic are more likely to commit crime or to be guilty, meaning that even if in fact the person standing in front of a police officer is not guilty of anything, he is more likely to be treated as guilty than somebody from another demographic. This means that rates of arrest for this demographic will be higher than the rates of arrest for demographics that are not thus affected in a ratio that outstrips the actual difference between the likelihoods of guilt in the different demographics.

All of this and more (I trust my readers to fully appreciate how very brief this summary is) is the background to what I am talking about when I say that young black men are at a concerning risk of being suspected, harassed, harmed and sometimes killed by law enforcement.

And yet, when I have voiced these concerns in any measure at all in public, the responses that I get have suggested to me that many people have not given much, if any, thought to the background issues here. Instead, I get responses like:

My head wants to explode when this sort of hasty retort comes from people who think that they are using the facts to silence race-baiting troublemakers (yes, those words were actually used today).

“Black men commit more crime, so of course black men get shot dead more by police.” This will not do. On even casual inspection this turns out to mean: Black men get arrested at a higher rate, so of course they get shot dead more. No kidding, they get more police attention and so that’s why they get shot more (and charged more). That is part of the problem being complained about and we are not just talking about shootings in the first place! My head wants to explode when this sort of hasty retort comes from people who think that they are using the facts to silence race-baiting troublemakers (yes, those words were actually used today). We are reassured, in the same conversation, that the rate of “arrest related death” among white men who are arrested is not insignificant, even though the issue was not “arrest related death.” What is more, even if the black men who were dying in the sights of police guns were all guilty of a crime (something not established by citing such numbers), in the first place that doesn’t show that the shootings were justifiable, and in the second place that is compatible with the very problem I am describing; namely that black men are more at risk of negative outcomes through factors that are not their own making (and hence those factors are crying out for our attention), and that due to the problems described above an officer may well be more inclined to suspect, harass, assault, arrest or shoot (many times, as it turns out) a black man on the assumption that it is likely to be necessary.

Not all of the cases that matter involve shooting. That should be obvious. Eric Garner, regardless of whether or not his physical condition made him more vulnerable, was choked, causing his death while he pleaded with the officer, “I can’t breathe.” The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.

Rodney King wasn’t killed at all, but was beaten by a posse of officers as he lay defenceless on the ground (an action defended to me by some because King led police on a car chase.

Well clearly, the officers had no choice but to beat him more than fifty times with their batons). In fact the King beating is a classic case of a black man actually being guilty of a crime (King was on Parole) but the violence he suffered not being directly related to that crime at all. One of the officers in that case notoriously referred to blacks as “gorillas.” So the problem is larger than the problem of “unarmed black man shot by police” (and in some cases the victim might not be unarmed, like 12-year old Tamir Rice who had a BB gun on his body, but was shot dead within a couple of seconds of police arriving on the scene and certainly without being warned, told to get to the ground, or even showing his gun).

This list does not make pleasant reading.

  • Rumain Brisbon. He was killed because police assumed he had a gun, when all he had was a bottle of pills
  • Tamir Rice (see above)
  • Akai Gurley. The officers don’t really know what happened. Lol, they just shot him.
  • Kajieme Powell. Video footage shows that police blatantly lied and claimed that Kjieme approached them with a knife in an overhand grip. He did not approach them, and his hands were at his side when he was slain.
  • Yvette Smith. Police were called to a domestic disturbance. Ms Smith opened the door for them when they arrived, and they shot her dead. Officers falsely claimed that she had a firearm, but this statement was later retracted.
  • Aaron Campbell. Campbell was reported as suicidal and armed with a gun. When police arrived, Campbell was not armed. They walked him backwards with his hands behind his head. When he was ordered to put his hands straight up in the air and did not comply, he was shot dead.

Examples like these show us why many young black people are less gleeful than other people about any involvement at all with law enforcement and are more likely to feel the need to scape.

Here’s an incomplete list, just selected examples that somebody has pulled together. There are other lists out there. It saddens me to know that the immediate response of some people to a list like this, but a response that is the proverbial basket into which they would happily place all their eggs, is to comb slowly and carefully through a list like this to pounce as soon as they see a case where it seems that the victim of the killing did not respond ideally to the police (although even a person like this would have to acknowledge the many cases where the victim was innocent in every way). If that’s you, you’re missing the point. Examples like these show us why many young black people are less gleeful than other people about any involvement at all with law enforcement and are more likely to feel the need to escape. They stand much less of a chance than I do.

Already you might be involuntarily reacting to what I’m saying. It might make you bristly. You may want to start trying to convince me that Michael Brown was no angel and that the officer had good grounds to use potentially lethal force. But I haven’t mentioned Michael Brown (pretty much everyone who has reacted to me lately has made the assumption that I am suggesting that I am denying these two things). It’s the Eric Garner case that fired me up. Actually, Mr Garner’s killing was part of the reason that people reacted so strongly to Michael brown’s killing shortly afterward. People were already outraged by the slaying of Mr Garner, so Michael Brown’s death pushed them over the edge in a way that it otherwise might not have.

You may want to convince me that rioting and looting are wrong and ineffective. I agree, so you can save your breath. That would be a distraction from the concern that I am raising.

It is as though there’s an involuntary, almost chemical reaction to the thought that black people could be treated wrongly, as though that’s an inherently “left wing” concern.

As far as the facts are concerned, there is a problem and our first instinct shouldn’t be to try to debunk it. But as somebody who is a Christian, there is a special difficulty in seeing this dismissive reaction from other people like me: White evangelicals. It is as though there’s an involuntary, almost chemical reaction to the thought that black people could be treated wrongly, as though that’s an inherently “left wing” concern. If that’s how you see things, then I’m sorry, but there is something deeply wrong with you that you need to work on putting right. There is nothing “left wing” or “right wing” about being a loving human being who is bothered by the hardship that people tell us they are facing.

Of those who are taking me to task in conversations about this lately – and I am sorry to say that with perhaps two exceptions, they are all fellow white Christians, as best I can tell none of them have even sympathetically considered that this might be a problem faced by black men (rather than being no more and no less than a problem created by black men because of their criminal tendencies). Instead they have instinctively reacted by hunting as hard as they can for a method by which they can argue that there is no problem, and that the troublemakers should stop being so uppity. I haven‘t always thought this way. When the Rodney King case was big news in 1991 and I was in high school, I assumed, because I didn’t know better and it was in my interests as a white male to assume, that there was probably no race issue here and that the officers were found not guilty, so this was just a case of ignorant, violent black people making trouble. That’s what people have been telling me lately about the whole concern about black men facing greater risk from law enforcement in the United States.

My fellow white Christians, in large part, are not only unable to relate to the experiences that their black brothers and sister relay to them because what they hear does not align with their own experience, but they are also genuinely not listening to what is described to them by those who have had these experiences.

Such reactions to a real concern are unempathetic. They come from those who cannot relate to the reality of themselves or their friends being harassed, questioned or simply frowned at and scrutinised by the police on a regular basis. The responses come from quick conclusions drawn from a surface reading of a small number of stats, taking the shortest route possible to hush the concerns. They come from a place where the wider picture is totally ignored. These are the reactions of people who are faced with claims and are trying to analyse them in a way that reaches the right sort of conclusion (i.e. one that is most comfortable and requires the least change). But that is not at all the type of calculation that gives rise to the cries for justice in the first place. Instead the cries are coming from people who would certainly much rather that their claims were false, and that the experience of their communities with law enforcement were very different. My fellow white Christians, in large part, are not only unable to relate to the experiences that their black brothers and sister relay to them because what they hear does not align with their own experience, but they are also genuinely not listening to what is described to them by those who have had these experiences.

One of the reasons that my fellow white Evangelicals are not listening enough to their black brothers and sisters is that they are not giving themselves enough opportunity to do so.

Such a lack of empathy is not helped in the church by the fact that although we profess unity in Christ – and doubtless we mean it as far as we know – that unity in many cases is not practically lived out. One of the reasons that my fellow white Evangelicals are not listening enough to their black brothers and sisters is that they are not giving themselves enough opportunity to do so. Kelly James Clark concurs:

One problem is that most white Christians have not heard the cries of the oppressed. Sunday mornings are said to be the most racially segregated moments of the week. Whites worship in white churches and blacks worship in black churches. On Sunday mornings there’s little visible evidence that we are all one in Christ.1

It is easy – very easy, and expedient, to see the havoc wrecked by some people as they react to the building frustration and the sense that they cannot change things for the better, and to, on that basis, dismiss the concerns themselves. Don’t let that be you. “Empathy” and “compassion” are words that should mark our lives. They both mean suffering with. They evoke the instruction of St James: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

Behind all the hasty, ill-though responses by gesturing to select numbers without giving a thought to the real problems that lay behind them and how you might be misusing those numbers, lies this heart issue. We don’t want to put ourselves in the position of the other and consider that some people with whom we identify might be doing wrong to some people with whom we do not identify, or that others might be suffering because of disadvantages that we do not suffer. We shouldn’t be resistant to these things, but we are.

Glenn Peoples


EDIT: For those who are not all that interested in the issue that I am driving at here, the ethic of love and empathy when it comes to people who express their concerns about how members of their community are treated, and are more interested in scrutinising claims about race and crime stats, I hope you can see that is not the focus here, but there is plenty of interesting reading that you can do to explore that issue further:

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  1. Hear the Cries of the Oppressed” []
{ 41 comments… add one }
  • Jason December 13, 2014, 1:30 am

    Although young black men are disproportionately killed by police in the United States, the police have also shot young white men for spurious reasons.

    The police in the United States are increasingly developing a “them and us” mindset, which is turning them against all the citizens of their country. Add to that the surplus military equipment they’re being given, and they’re becoming a paramilitary group with little oversight.

    Perhaps the common evangelical in the United States lacks the distrust of centralized power found among more libertarian persons, leading them to side with the police even when it should be quite clear that the police are in the wrong.

    There needs to be a check on police power, but it isn’t going to come from the top.

  • John M Davey December 13, 2014, 1:41 pm

    Glenn, have you looked at the numbers of whites killed by blacks in America?

    The knockout game that was being “played” in America was simply whites inability to understand the concept of fun and games that some blacks seem to enjoy.
    How close minded!!!

  • Glenn December 13, 2014, 2:09 pm

    John, that remark just says to me: “I don’t want to think about this unpleasant issue, so I will distract by talking about something black people do.” You don’t have to talk about this issue, but keep red herrings out of it.

    I am not interested in discussing this other issue. In your own time (and not at this blog), I do encourage you, however, to do a small amount of research about the sensational, racist myth of the “knockout game,” which is a trend that does not exist. This will get you started. (Again, that’s not a topic for this blog.)

  • John December 13, 2014, 3:29 pm

    Glenn, there are serious problems with your article, both in logic and the accuracy of some of the facts.
    First, the insinuation that the violence is the product of endemic poverty: Meet Appalachia, where endemic poverty is rampant and crime is well below the national average:

    “There’s a great deal of drug use, welfare fraud, and the like, but the overall crime rate throughout Appalachia is about two thirds the national average, and the rate of violent crime is half the national average. ”
    I’ve been poor all my life and I have yet to rob a store, assault cops, or even do as little as shoplift even on days when I was stuck eating 50 cent a box mac and cheese. Apparently, a lot of Appalachians are the same.

    Then there’s the issue of correlation vs causation. You imply poverty causes crime, but it’s unclear in how many of these instances it’s not the other way around. I could just as easily claim that crime causes poverty: because blacks are so much more likely than whites to shoot, murder, rape and rob, nobody wants to invest in their neighbourhoods, so they become poorer and poorer as the cost of doing business with them rises. Detroit is a good example of this, where black violence drove out most of the white people and the city collapsed into the most famous example of African American dysfunction in the country.

    Here’s the real problem though: poverty doesn’t account for even half the crime rate disparities. Even if your dubious argument regarding poverty was true, we’d still be left with a much higher average crime rate among blacks. And last but not least, even if the crime rates were purely a product of poverty, so what? They still commit the crimes, so they still get in conflicts with the justice system. Where’s the racism?

    Moving on: police brutality.
    First, you quote the Garner case, where there was no police brutality (he was forcibly restrained because he resisted arrest, which is not police brutality) and the operation was overseen by a black woman. What does that have to do with racism? It’s unfortunate the guy died over nothing, but it’s not the cops who made the stupid laws and there’s no race issue here. Do you really want the police to choose which laws to enforce?

    I mentioned Garner due to the high profile fraudulent attempt to turn it into another case of fake racism, but anecdotes are just anecdotes, they don’t necessarily point to a pattern. In an actual controlled study it turns out that cops are less likely to shoot black suspects:

    The reason for that is obvious: you shoot a black guy, you have to deal with potential racism accusations ruining your life on top of whatever else you’d have to deal with when you shoot somebody.

    Word limit. This’ll have to do.

  • Glenn December 13, 2014, 5:28 pm

    John, you say there are serious problems with “the logic” I have used here. But I fear that your reply suggests that rather than finding genuine fault with the way I have reasoned, you are actually just replying with logical faults. For example:

    I note the association between poverty and crime. Your response indicates that you do not believe there exists such a connection, because there is a place where poverty is high but crime is low. Now of course this does not falsify the association I have referred to, but evidently you think it does. As far as logic goes, you’re drawing an invalid inference, and it’s an important one. So you didn’t really offer a reason to reconsider the association between poverty and crime, even though you seem to think you did.

    You add, “Even if your dubious argument regarding poverty was true, we’d still be left with a much higher average crime rate among blacks.”

    You have offered no considerations that make me think I have said something dubious in this regard. But setting that aside, you also didn’t give any explain of how you know this statement of yours to be true. Indeed, your statement presupposes that there is a measurable influence of socio-economic factors such as poverty on crime, you know how large that influence is, but you also know that crime in the black community is at a rate that outstrips these factors. Why believe this? And secondly, where did I say that such factors make 100% of the difference in terms of crime?

    So I hope you can see why I can’t regard claims like this as falsifying what I’ve said here, much less giving me a reason to reconsider my call to compassion, empathy and unity. It is disappointing to hear somebody say “And last but not least, even if the crime rates were purely a product of poverty, so what? They still commit the crimes, so they still get in conflicts with the justice system. Where’s the racism?” If you have a quick scan through my article again you will see that I carefully avoided playing the “racism” card, so I don’t have a lot of interest in playing it now. I do wonder if you saw the point here.

    As for brutality, given that you don’t think choking a peaceful man to death as he cried out that he could not breathe is brutality, I doubt there is much room for a fruitful dialogue, and in all honesty that makes me motivated to not have one with you. Take care, John.

  • Kenneth December 13, 2014, 6:37 pm

    John linked to a fairly unique study – unique because of its conclusion, as far as I have been able to tell. As Lois James, one of its authors, pointed out in her doctoral dissertation, numerous prior studies came tot he opposite conclusion (e.g. Plant et al., 2005; Plant and Peruche, 2005; Correll et al., 2006; Correll et al., 2007).

    There is a tendency sometimes (often, I would wager) to select and proclaim the truth of only those studies that reach the conclusions we’d like them to. Be careful.

    Besides all that, Glenn, I think the pastoral point you make (or at least which I took from the article) is always going to be a worthwhile one. If you’ve got a community witnessing and experiencing things that they take to be hurtful, unfair and oppressive to them, the empathetic / compassionate loving reply is to listen to them and love them, rather than our first reaction being to refer them to a debate between studies.

  • John December 13, 2014, 7:30 pm

    Glenn, my actual argument is that no link between the disproportionately high black crime rates and poverty was demonstrated in this particular instance. I doubt there is no correlation whatsoever, but I have no way of knowing it because you don’t expand on that argument with data. The point of comparing low income white areas was that if there was a consistent correlation between the two it should show up when controlling for race (which is what a white area does). I’m not saying there is no connection, I am saying you have a burden of proof to meet in this particular case (that high black crime rate is primarily a problem of poverty) that goes beyond assertion, as there are demonstrable examples where the opposite is true. I further note that you made no comment with regards to the idea that you are taking a correlation and proclaiming causation without additional evidence. Why not? My logic, that crime drives away prosperity, is just as valid on its face as your idea that poverty causes violence. Moreso perhaps, since I don’t see why, say, rape rates would go up because of poverty.

    You ask why I believe that crime outstrips the socio-economic factor. I didn’t post any data because I was pressed for space, but income level data isn’t too hard to find. Average black income is considerably lower than white income, but it’s not 6-7-9-10 times lower, it’s more around 40-50% lower. Poor blacks also don’t outnumber poor whites at those rates. And that doesn’t include the small but extremely rich number of white people that skew these statistics. This is probably the kind of research you should have done before writing this article.

    With regards to the racism card, if blacks are being discriminated against by the justice system, then it’s racism. You may not call it that, but that’s what it is. Racism need not be intentional. I have no problem with calls for unity. We should all stand united for truth in these matters.

    Finally, I think we can have a very productive conversation on Garner. For starters, I can correct some of your errors. Garner was not choked to death, he died of a heart attack resulting from neck and chest compression, as well as his prone position, compounded by his poor health, as per the media reports of the medical examiner’s report. Garner also wasn’t choked. When you are being choked you can’t scream “I can’t breathe”. You need to be able to breathe to talk. It’s physiologically impossible. So what we actually have is what I said: some cops brought down a guy who resisted arrest and forcibly restrained him. The force used induced a heart attack, which was not intended nor could have reasonably been predicted. All under the supervision of a black woman. There was no reason to put this incident in an article about race problems.

  • Glenn December 13, 2014, 8:02 pm

    “You ask why I believe that crime outstrips the socio-economic factor.”

    Well not exactly (or at least, not simply that). You claimed, using an example, that actually there wasn’t any real explanation of crime to be found in poverty. And next you said that the disparity of crime rates outstripped the socio-economic differences, as though we do know what the impact on crime of socio-economic factors is after all, and we also know that crime rates outstrip those factors. This doesn’t seem like a coherent collection of claims. The explanation you now offer, with respect, is too shallow to consider: “Average black income is considerably lower than white income, but it’s not 6-7-9-10 times lower, it’s more around 40-50% lower.” But who says there’s a linear relationship of income to crime? I did not dig up any demonstration of the association between poverty and crime here, I merely appealed to it.

    I continue to basically ignore, with respect, your language of “playing the racism card.”

    I understand the rhetorical pleasure had by calling another person’s claims “errors” to be corrected, but you are mistaken in the example of Mr Garner. Eric Garner was choked to death. You have described some of the results of him being choked, and used that to justify the claim that he wasn’t choked to death. With respect, that is absurd. What is more, you are wrong to say that a person who is being choked cannot call out “I can’t breathe.” Choking makes it very hard to inhale, but not as hard to exhale. You may wish to introduce the word “scream” to make it sound like Mr Garner, while he was being choked, was making loud noises, freely breathing. That is not true, however. I have supplied the video footage, which you may review if you wish. The NYPD Patrol guide, which was quoted in the video, defines a choke hold, and under that definition, the video is absolute proof that a choke hold was used. It is cynical to say that Eric Garner’s health was such that he was much more vulnerable to this treatment than a healthier person would be. That may be true but is not morally relevant.

    So with due respect, you are saying things contrary to fact. Eric Garner was choked to death by a police officer, even though he made it clear that he could not breathe. He said it 11 times. The officer choked him and killed him. As you know, the medical examiner ruled his death a homicide by one person or multiple persons.

    We’re entitled (within limits) to our opinion of what the facts suggest. But you don’t get your own version of the facts.

  • Johnny December 13, 2014, 8:02 pm


    The study is no longer free and I have no way to access it but the results weren’t the only difference, the methodology was different (as in, superior) too. For example, the study I cited used actual cops. Plant and Peruche used undergrads, as did Correll. So the studies you cite don’t actually study police bias in shootings.

  • Kenneth December 13, 2014, 8:15 pm

    Johnny, I shall assume that your comments are being made from memory and that you have either forgotten about or not read about many of the prior studies. I have a copy of Lois James’ PhD dissertation, in which she discusses some of the previous studies. Plant, Peruche and Correll used a number of types of participants including civilians and police officers. Other researchers used police incident reports.

    Now, I don’t presume to and do not expect you to try to reproduce that work here, that wasn’t the point. My point is just that we know there are other studies that don’t reach the same conclusion, and one thing I do know is that human nature will push us to those studies that reinforce our beliefs, prejudices, desires and so on. It’s good that you’ve at least looked at a study though (it’s more than must have done).

  • Sharon December 13, 2014, 8:28 pm

    There are many social forces aligned against the black community that feed into their unhappy relationship with authority. One of those is the destruction of the black family.

    In 2012 there were more black babies aborted than born. ( That is mind numbing to me. A population being killed off. You might want to sit back and blame it all on them and say that this proves how bad they are, Johnny, always making those bad choices. But this is a culture of death that had always been aimed at them more than at others. See some of the hideous background of Planned Parenthood and its founder, Margaret Sanger. See a snippet of that here:

    It is naive to think that this is just a case of black folks making dumb black choices ad their community going down the gurgler because of it.

  • Glenn December 13, 2014, 8:42 pm

    Sharon, I saw that statistic the other day – It is simply incredible and heart wrenching. I thought things were getting really bad in New Zealand where, overall, we had just over 1 abortion for every four live births (the rate is now declining). But a rate where abortion outstrips birth, that is so terrible.

    And yes, Margaret Sanger’s views on race are fairly well documented. I agree that this is another fabric in the many-faceted difficulties faced by the black community. Greater access to abortion is also not just a force that reduces the size of the black family, but it’s part of a culture where sex is further divorced from consequence, which has other negative effects as well.

  • John December 13, 2014, 9:30 pm

    (sorry about name deviation in previous comment, it got autofilled and I didn’t notice but it’s still me)


    “You claimed, using an example, that actually there wasn’t any real explanation of crime to be found in poverty”

    Well, no I didn’t actually claim anything in that post, I provided counter-evidence to your assertion that black crime rates are the product of poverty.

    I subsequently verified your (still unsubstantiated) assertion and found that the poverty rates between whites and blacks don’t diverge to nearly the same extent as crime rates do. Hence the “you asked”, it was your assumption, which I verified and found lacking. I still don’t know what the relationship is between crime and poverty (if any). There probably are, as I think a poor person is more likely to, say, steal, out of necessity, but I could still be wrong. And now we have a new issue to contend with, that the relationship between crime and poverty may not, 0r rather, clearly is not, linear, if it exists at all. Ok. What is the relationship then? There’s no linear or exponential relation, as there are many white areas with endemic poverty that have lower than average crime rates. What is it then? Describe it, as well as the mechanics through which it operates. Otherwise there is literally nothing to discuss, as your argument rests entirely on the idea that black crime rates are incidental and a product of poverty rather than race (no other causes aside from poverty are given in the original post), an idea to which you provide no support and for which I can find no clear evidence.

    Regarding Gardner,

    Which results of being choked? Being in a prone position is not a result of being choked, though it might be a cause of choking, as would neck and chest compressions. They could also cause the formation of blood clots and induce a heart attack in this manner, for example, no choking necessary. As far as I know the medical report is not public so I don’t know the exact mechanics of his death, other than that the cause of death was “heart attack” and not “asphyxia” which is what I would expect if he had been choked to death. Anyway, thanks for your suggestion to watch the video again. I did, and caught a detail I missed previously: He says I can’t breathe at least 8 times. The problem is… he says it after the cop releases the hold. IE: he is still conscious and complaining after the choke hold. So the claim he was choked to death is even more apparently spurious to me now.

  • Glenn December 13, 2014, 10:33 pm

    John, since posting your first comment the same issue remains: Firstly you claimed that you had provided counter evidence, yet it is not counter evidence. It looks to me that you’ve rejected the association between socio-economic conditions and crime, but in doing so you’ve assumed that we know what the impact would be of one on the other and that it would be linear and based on income. But you still think I’m the one simply drawing on assumptions. This just tells me that you’ve generally ignored the possibility of such a connection, and now when thinking about a connection you’re throwing it together in a simplistic way and rejecting a straw man.

    Regarding Mr Garner (his name is not “Gardner”), with respect you’ve made no advances on your previous comments. Your earlier denied that he was choked, because of the findings. But as I noted, those findings are compatible with being choked. What’s more, the video demonstrates that he was, in fact, choked.

    I believe you may actually be having a bit of a game with this now. I suggested that you watch the video as proof that he was choked. The video I supplied does not show him passing out. A person does not just suddenly pass out and die because they have asthma, nor do I find any theory that he just spontaneously had a heart attack because of his weight to be believable. He was choked on the ground, and he pleaded that he could not breathe. Even if he was released after he had been held in a choke hold, it is not worth taking seriously that these actions didn’t kill him, because hey, he made a noise after they released the hold. It is depressing to see people try to make us believe that we didn’t see this.

  • John December 13, 2014, 10:46 pm

    No, I googled the studies. I was right about the Corell one, he uses nothing but undergrads, but I made an error in assuming Plant and Peruche used undergrads for all of their experiments (I only read the info about the first one and erroneously assumed they used students for the other two).

    Regardless, the reason why I cited the study is because it’s still the best (and most recent) one of its kind that I am personally aware of.

    Sanger was pro life. She peddled birth control to blacks, not abortion, which she found abhorrent. Doesn’t seem like it worked all that well with those abortion rates that high. On top of that white fertility rates are worse than black fertility rates so her eugenics didn’t work out either. Either way, with a few exceptions (like our host), the people peddling abortion are the same ones peddling the racial problem that doesn’t actually exist (at least not as they claim it does). Maybe we shouldn’t get our information about problems and solutions from these people, huh?

  • Glenn December 13, 2014, 11:28 pm

    My understanding is that legal abortion wasn’t an option in Sanger’s time, so there’s something historically accidental about the fact that she promoted birth control and not abortion. She was, however, interested in decimating the black population, and the organisation she founded, Planned Parenthood, is doing that. An abortion rate that is higher than the birth rate for blacks in NY leaves me reeling.

  • John December 13, 2014, 11:39 pm

    No Glenn, what happened is:

    1) You claimed a connection between crime and poverty is what produces the disproprtionate black crime rates. You give no alternate or additional causes, so as of right now your entire case is built on the idea that high crime rates are an incidental product of poverty rather than a specifically black issue. Furthermore, you make no effort to substantiate this, and make the amateurish error of assuming that correlation = causation. So far you’ve yet to even attempt to address this latter point (by my count this is the third time asking).

    2) I do your work for you, and look for this connection. I find that there are white areas with endemic poverty and violent crime way below the national average. I find that income disparities are not big enough to explain more than a fraction of the crime rate differences (again, this is assuming your causation argument is true), to which you reply, without explanation or substantiation, that maybe the increase is not linear. I asked you to tell me what the relationship is then, which you continue to ignore, prefering instead to play a game of “ha ha, you actually agreed with me because you did my work for me”. Your claim that I’ve never considered this connection is absurd, and shows how little you know about this issue if you think you have some great original argument. The poverty argument is pretty much the first (and usually only) argument brought up by your side. It’s virtually impossible to debate this issue and not run into it.

    Right now the situation is this: your article will probably persuade absolutely nobody informed. That’s because there is literally no effort being made to substantiate the premise on which the rest of it is built. You spend most of your reply attacking what you think is my position, even though I haven’t really presented one, when you should be substantiating yours.

    With regards to Garner
    I denied he was choked, because I thought he talked while being choked, not because of the findings. I was wrong, it was possible that he was briefly choked, but it’s clear from the video that he did not die or even lose consciousness while beind held in the choke. I denied he was choked to death (not the same thing) based on the findings. The findings are theoretically consistent with the possibility of being choked, but are inconsistent with the usual cause of death (asphyxia). The video also dispels any doubt that he was choked to death as he talks after the choke is released and the medical report says there was no damage to his throat. The rest of your post is just putting words in my mouth. Where did I say the cops didn’t kill him? I said the opposite: “The force used induced a heart attack, which was not intended nor could have reasonably been predicted.” I don’t see the cops using excessive violence, they quickly restrain him then leave him alone. What else should they have done?

  • Glenn December 14, 2014, 12:52 am

    I claimed a sole cause somewhere now? In this blog post? Your claim that I assume correlation = causation makes it so? You just repeat arguments again and I should forget that I responded to them (e.g. your Appalachian argument)? You did my work for me? “Ha ha”?

    OK John, my guest, I can recognise when a dialogue has lost its value. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m happy with what I’ve already said, and I don’t think you’ve gotten as much out of it as you could have. Take care. I’ll leave your last post as the last say.

  • Kenneth December 14, 2014, 1:10 am

    “All other things being equal, black people are more likely to be poor, which is associated with higher crime rates (for some types of crime, e.g. theft) for a variety of reasons (e.g. greater need and desperation).”

    I agree that this association is generally accepted (and well enough known by sociologists), especially where there is marked socio-economic inequality. This is nowhere here claimed to be anything like a sole cause. I can’t see what John is reacting so strongly to.

  • Glenn December 14, 2014, 1:23 am

    No argument from me, Kenneth. Other than in a couple of comments in this thread, the association is not particularly controversial.

  • Sharon December 14, 2014, 12:04 pm

    “the people peddling abortion are the same ones peddling the racial problem that doesn’t actually exist (at least not as they claim it does). Maybe we shouldn’t get our information about problems and solutions from these people, huh?”

    I am not accustomed to being offered such fallacious reasoning. People who peddle abortion (you assert) are also raising concerns about racial inequality or disadvantaged relationship with authority, and therefore we should dismiss the concerns about race? What a strange ad hominem argument!

    In truth, those people are inconsistent, claiming that they care about vulnerable people when it comes to race, but killing them in the case of abortion. Perhaps the solution is more consistent love.

  • Glenn December 14, 2014, 12:14 pm

    There is some sobering, saddening reading on the wider issue here. You do not need to be a “racist” to contribute to the problem (which is why I refuse to play that card). A friend shared this with me yesterday, which drives the point home again:

    “The new threat: ‘Racism without racists'”

  • John M Davey December 14, 2014, 2:28 pm

    Glenn, you brave social justice warrior.
    You’re aware that there are videos of black youth even saying that there is a thing called the knockout game.

    I’ve seen violence for young blacks towards whites here in milwaukee, wi. In one year there were numerous instances of this. Some fair minded fellow simply needs to google “white girl bleed a lot”.

    No, but for Glenn it’s simply the intolerance of whites to not be patient with fun as conceived by some blacks towards whites.

    I’d like to see your change of opinion after riding around in the city bus system. But from your tower in NZ I’m sure you can conjure a reason that justifies the action and somehow finds a way to blame the white person.

    A more likely reason for black violence in America is the fractured family structure in black families in America.

    A systematic reason that aids black women to have numerous children with numerous men. The inability of the public voices to even say this is a problem without being labeled the damning term racist, by folk with a mindset much like that of Glenn’s.

    A complete unwillingness to call out the real problem lest that person be labeled a racist.

  • Glenn December 14, 2014, 2:46 pm

    John, I provided evidence in regard to the sensational stories about the “knockout game.” If you want to talk about the alleged knockout game rather than deep social problems concerning race, this probably isn’t the place.

    I have also not made any claims here about the state of black families, other than in reply to Sharon where I agreed that there are social forces working to undermine them. So you may be going after a straw man there.

    That aside, I’ve touched an issue that causes people to lose a bit of civility. Please resist the urge. I don’t presume to be “brave” or a warrior and I certainly don’t live in a proverbial “tower.”

  • Mark December 15, 2014, 9:30 pm

    I denied he was choked, because I thought he talked while being choked, not because of the findings. I was wrong, it was possible that he was briefly choked, but it’s clear from the video that he did not die or even lose consciousness while beind held in the choke. I denied he was choked to death (not the same thing) based on the findings.


  • J Farris December 16, 2014, 12:31 pm


    If all you are arguing is that the “white” “evangelicals” need to think more carefully about race (what is that exactly, anyway? Its not clear in your article) or cultural differences (this is better), then thats fine but it seems you are saying more than that. Having said this, I am not even clear on what is being argued here. Why are you picking on “whites” anyway? Lets press a little deeper into your conceptual hard core otherwise its hard to make sense of what is being argued. Statistically, there seem to be far more crimes against whites, and, potentially, this is because of the recent and perpetual story-telling that blacks are discriminated against and whites are privileged. Maybe my “whiteness” is disallowing me from understanding the issues. Anyway, by saying this, I don’t think I am deflecting the issues. And, I am fine, in principle, with someone like you, “an outsider”, critiquing our culture just like I am fine with a person of a particular color making claims about our own cultural issues. But, why box whites into one collective group as if there is some metaphysical connection tying us to the sins of others in that same “group”? This is wholly mysterious. Furthermore, why not see both supposed groups as discriminating against the other? I will grant that cops in America seem to have abused their power one too many times, but this happens to both whites and blacks (the abuse of power is the unfortunate consequence of the particular legal system). Maybe the issue is more fundamental than: “blacks are discriminated against” and “whites are privileged”–if thats what you are assuming. You seem to be assuming as much, given your condemnation of white evangelicals. However, the problematic construct seems to go both ways. Does it not? At the end of the day, I am not entirely sure what to make of what you have advanced here. You have entered into very murky waters where the target seems to be moving all the time.

  • Glenn December 16, 2014, 3:31 pm

    J, then be mystified no more! It’s not that “some metaphysical connection tying us to the sins of others in that same “group”.” But there are cultural ties between people who share aspects of a common culture. Specifically, being a white Evangelical is something that I have in common with other white Evangelicals. We can meaningfully talk about “white evangelicalism” as a thing. I suppose there’s some metaphysical significance to it (in the sense that everyone who is a white evangelical is an instance of the general category of being a white Evangelical), but there’s nothing about transmission of sin or anything like that.

    The unwillingness or inability, even partially, of people who share things in common to consider the perspective and difficulties of those with whom they do not share those things is a general feature of the human condition. What I’ve said here is that there really are such difficulties, and I’ve made some very scant descriptions of some of them: Social conditions in which black people are just more likely to find themselves, conditions that have harmful consequences.

    The truth is that I really have no problem with people on the “white evangelical” side of the fence questioning the details of those difficulties, but too often I’m finding that this is their first reaction, as though we are motivated to deny that these are problems – and that’s a problem. I feel far more comfortable addressing those who are in my “camp,” namely white Evangelicals, about possible shortcomings in our approach to others, our love for them, our willingness to empathise with them, our pursuit of real unity with them and so on. In fact I think that social groupings really do need voices from within to offer correction about these sorts of things – which is why I’m not chasing up ways in which black people in particular need to get their act together. We can have a freedom to criticise our own in a way that doesn’t require the same sort of sensitivity. I do think that white privilege is huge and I do think that there’s discrimination against the black community. Those precise things don’t go both ways, but sure, there are things that go the other way. Others are welcome to attend to them, preferably those who can do so from within.

  • Donovan Regner December 16, 2014, 5:21 pm

    You know in the US this isn’t that unusual to come across things like this:

    What sense do you make of it?
    I really think you’re out of your depths with how it is in the US.
    You’re cherry picking times in which the police have acted very poorly towards blacks.
    But those instances are by far, far, far, far, far overshadowed by the times in which whites are targeted by blacks.

  • Glenn December 16, 2014, 5:43 pm

    Donovan, see above. I intentionally am not talking about the other issue you raise. I am speaking especially to my fellow white evangelicals, and I’m not certain how helpful it would be to tell them about the sins of black men. Thanks for sharing your view on me being out of my depth. I respectfully disagree when it comes to the things I have said (and I make no comment on the things I have not attempted to say).

  • Donovan Regner December 17, 2014, 9:00 am

    Hi Glenn,

    I just want to apologize. My post was entirely knee jerk reaction to your thread (which I didn’t even read in its entirety).
    This is embarrassing to admit, but it’s the truth.

    I’m sorry and hopefully next time I don’t do that.

    Also, I posted under the name John M Davey. I did this so as to bolster my position and increase the amount of people disagreeing with you. Why? Simply an angry, uncharitable, knee jerk reaction on my part to squelch someone holding an opinion that I’m ignorant about.

    This is no lie.
    I just don’t like the fact that I did that.

  • Glenn December 17, 2014, 12:08 pm

    Hi Donovan. Thank you for that. I really appreciate it, and it shows more grace than I often show.

    (And just to put the fear of Glenn into you, I can query IP addresses at the blog and see all the names a person has used!)

  • J Farris December 17, 2014, 1:01 pm

    Ok, I think what you have stated helps clear some things up a bit. “It’s not that “some metaphysical connection tying us to the sins of others in that same “group”.” But there are cultural ties between people who share aspects of a common culture.” Good, so you are not really affirming that it is a “thing”, but a culturally conditioned construct. Very well. There may be some truth there. I don’t think it is wise to use the “white” “black” language. Those are loaded terms. Later on you say there is no transmission of sin. Good, so you are not affirming the fuzzy notion called “white guilt”. It sounded as if you may have been pressing us “whites” to see that we are culpable for the way things are in the “race” thing. Maybe the issue has more to do with our concern for those who are not well off (african-americans, hispanics etc.). As evangelical christians, certainly we have a responsibility (from the gospel; not in terms of rights or natural law) to care for them–even if we are not to blame for the situation. There are certainly some problems in our society that we, as Christians, need to attend to more carefully. The exact problem of “race” and the details therein are a bit more challenging to grasp, however.

  • Glenn December 17, 2014, 3:17 pm

    To clarify: When I say that the problems black communities face or the uneven playing field many of them find themselves on are a “thing,” I don’t mean that these things are objects or entities. I just mean that they are real, rather than imagined, phenomena. Many phenomena are things constructed by culture.

    I just add that lest anyone think I’ve backtracked on it. And yes, pinning down all the contributors to and the boundaries of problems of “race” is messy at best, if it is possible at all.

  • Joel December 19, 2014, 2:59 pm

    Glenn, I appreciate your blogs very much and usually find them thought provoking, even when I disagree with your arguments. That being said, I think you have swallowed the leftist propaganda on poverty that has little to no relation to reality. The first leftist myth is that poverty is a major contributor to crime. The idea that people commit crimes because they are impoverished and have bad housing is just nonsense. Just as terrorists don’t commit crimes because they live in poverty, and many suicide bombers in the Middle East are highly-educated and come from privileged middle class families, people with bad roofs, no heating, and minimal income are not motivated by their condition to steal and murder. People commit crimes because they are selfish human beings who lack basic respect for other people. I agree that in the distant past, when it was possible for poor people to starve to death, and in countries in Asia and South America where poverty often equates with starvation, this is indeed so. But the reality of the situation in wealthy, western nations is quite different, since even low-income families have food, shelter, clothing, access to medical care and so on. Poor people live like kings in wealthy countries compared to the poor in North Korea, and I just don’t think we have the right to complain about our situation and demand the government steal from someone else who is better off so that I can improve my economic status even though I haven’t earned it. And that seems to be what you are saying here.

    If you doubt what I’m saying, consider the fact that the worst period of poverty in the modern history of our country, the period following the collapse of the stock market in 1929, was not a period of high crime and terrorism. People were much more restrained and considerate back then, and it was mostly peaceful, safe, and crime free. The decay of the family and the cultural revolution that began in the 1960s, are more likely the culprits in the rise in crime, not just in the black community, but for crime in general.

  • Glenn December 19, 2014, 7:25 pm


    I do not believe that this view (of a relationship between poverty and crime) is a myth of the left. The relationship is not as simplistic as some might depict (so as to discredit it altogether), and it is the convergence of opinion of people who have invested significantly more work than I in investigating it. If you click on the link in the article you’ll see what people see when they go looking online (which has its pitfalls, of course). I see nothing “leftist” about either the claim itself or the methods that were used to justify making it.

    I don’t want to come across in a tit-for-tat manner, but it actually strikes me that making this claim is far less politically driven than denying this claim. I would not identify with the left. However, the only people I have personally encountered strongly asserting that this association does not exist are those who quite pointedly oppose the left and identify with the right. For that reason I am more suspicious, on political grounds, of the denial than I am of the association between poverty and certain types of social ills, such as crime.

    As for the example of the depression, yes that is a good point to make. However, as I have said in the article, it is not poverty alone that has the association with poverty. It is poverty in the context of socio-economic inequality. When everyone is doing badly, things may not look this way (e.g. the depression). But where there is significant socio-economic inequality and some are poor while other groups are less so, then the association rears its head. Inequality is bad in real terms.

    There are no left wing facts.

  • Joel December 20, 2014, 7:51 pm

    Why should you be suspicious of a claim just because it is associated exclusively with either the left or the right? I think you should be suspicious of a claim if it is not substantiated by good evidence, not because of who is making the claim. I don’t think it would matter if the only people denying the causal relationship between poverty and crime were conservatives. All that matters is the evidential bases for such claims.

    I cannot see how any conservative could accept the modern myth that poverty leads to crime. I am sorry but it is a myth, and one of the most pernicious in American culture today. Such thinking is antithetical to conservative thought. Conservatism is based on a Christian understanding of human nature, which recognizes that men are sinful and that no amount of wealth and material comfort can change human nature. The fundamental mistake of Marxism and other leftist doctrines was in thinking that human nature could be transformed through economic leveling. If we’ve learned anything from the Soviet experiment and other similar economies, I think we have to admit that this has been a failure.

    I understand that you are not coming from a Marxist point of view, but I think that the same error is being made in this case. If you are saying that people would be less wicked if they had more economic and social equality, then you are trying to substitute social and economic welfare for adherence to a moral order. Our twentieth-century world has experienced the collapse of the moral order and the terrible consequences that flow from it. Just like ancient Greece in the fifth century B.C, the ruin of great nations in our time comes about when we fail to see that the problem is fundamentally a moral one.

    In regard to the race issue, I think anybody who isn’t completely vulnerable to propaganda can see that the whole idea that these oldfangled conservatives are anti-black is another liberal myth. The number of white supremacists in America is probably around 200. I have personally never met a conservative evangelical who held views which were anti-black in anyway. The only people who are bringing this issue of race up in this context are political propagandists on the left whose sole purpose is to make conservatives look as bad as possible.

    There is a disturbing trend of polarization in my country that I fear will lead to a loss of liberty. We are now half a century on from the Civil Rights Act of 1964. African Americans have risen out of poverty, and they have enjoyed success as actors, athletes, executives, artists, journalists, scholars, and so on. Yet if the hate that we saw in Ferguson just recently, where there was blatant anti-white rhetoric and carnage in protest of the Michael Brown case, doesn’t indicate that there is another side to this story then I don’t know what does. These things are usually downplayed by the media since they don’t fit into the usual stereotypes of racism.

  • Glenn December 20, 2014, 8:46 pm

    Joel – You raised a concern that something was a claim of the left. It looks like you now agree that even if true, this is not relevant. That was part of my point.

    “If you are saying that people would be less wicked if they had more economic and social equality”

    The consequences of my thinking that need not be explored, because I have not suggested that and I do not think it. This claim is not suggested by the fact that major social inequality is associated with a number of social ills.

    Some of the evidence for this fact is briefly discussed here:

    The evidence is explored in more detail in the book The Impact of Inequality.

    The state of the evidence is such that calling it a “myth” doesn’t cut it, to put it mildly.

    I am also concerned that you are using phrases like “conservatives are anti-black,” as though somebody here (least of all I) has suggested anything like this. With respect, Joel, your responses (which are common, they are not uniquely yours) are the stereotypes.

  • Joel December 21, 2014, 2:19 pm

    I did not raise a concern that your position was left wing. I simply claimed that is was a myth of the left that has no bases in reality. You are the one who said you are “suspicious on political grounds of the denial”. I think that a political opinion should be judged on its merits, not on its associations. To say that an opinion is left-wing and is therefore automatically suspect would indeed be wrongheaded, which is why I never did say that. I think your position is left-wing, but I never used this as a reason to reject your position.

    Things may be different in New Zealand, but in America the left has a tendency to play the race card. There is a constant attempt by the left to try to make conservatives seem like bigots, and conservatives are quite frankly tired of it. The most recent example of this I’ve seen is when Rand Paul, a senator from Kentucky who, after refusing to acknowledge in his interview with MSNBC that the criminal justice system is racist, was accused of having “white supremacist tendencies” by leftist writer Matt Yglesias. Conservatives are constantly the victims of such rhetoric, and rarely is the shoe on the other foot. I have many problems with the conservative party and am ready to admit its many failings, but indifference to blacks is not one of them.

    You never made any ad-hominem attacks, nor did I suggest that you did. But my point was that most of the incendiary racial rhetoric and hostility comes from the left, and the left is curiously selective about which instances of alleged racism it chooses to emphasis. There is an increasing hostility in the black community itself that is simply being ignored. I think that is the issue you should be focusing on since it is a much more seriously problem. When we have people ready to denounce police officers like Darren Wilson based on the color of their skin, and before any of the relevant facts are known, I think we have a right to be concerned. And when we have mob protests and lawless behavior that is simply excusable for anyone to engage in, even for a just cause, and protesting the results of trials that were decided lawfully, I think we have to step back and ask the obvious question that no one asks: why are we focusing on dead issues like the treatment of African Americans when there is increasing hostility in the other direction?

    I don’t want to believe this, but I am afraid it is the reality. In a supposedly post-racial cultural, where everyone is equal under the law, why are these protests happening? And why won’t the left condemn such behavior? These are much more interesting and relevant questions, because the idea of deciding people are guilty based on the color of their skin has been done for centuries, and it was done in America in the days of the Jim Crow South. I thought we had finally come to reject this legalized lynch law.

  • Glenn December 21, 2014, 2:31 pm

    “I simply claimed that is was a myth of the left that has no bases in reality.”

    Well, that looks obviously to me like a “here’s what the left think / here’s what the right think” type of argument. It’s not important to me and I won’t dwell on it further. I think what I’ve said is supported by evidence, and it looks to me like you’re concerned that acknowledging any truth to the claims I’ve made could undermine virtues like responsibility and admission of sinfulness. I don’t think that’s necessary, and it’s up to us to uphold virtue in the real world. Naturally, I am concerned that anybody would denounce a police officer because of the colour of his skin (and nothing I have said here lends support to such behaviour).

    Thanks for your thoughts Joel. I appreciate them.

  • Joel Allen Nelson December 21, 2014, 3:23 pm

    Some final thoughts. Please don’t think that I meant to suggest that you agreed with any of the lawless attitudes that are now endemic in American politics. I know that those are not your views. I am simply pointing out that too much effort goes into criticizing fellow evangelicals, while much more disturbing views that are undermining our republic and justice system, and which are being accepted by the culture at large, are simply glossed over. Too many are ignoring the elephant in the room. I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one, but, as always, I appreciate your civility in this discussion. Most blogs would not live up to your standards of civility, especially in a discussion this divisive.

  • Glenn December 21, 2014, 6:55 pm

    Now that I see your full name, Joel, I realise you are not the Joel I had assumed you to be! 🙂

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