The rising crime in Chicago continues to shock the nation. So far this year, over 1,100 people have been shot and nearly 250 murdered. Sadly, the trend looks like it will put Chicago on a pace for new records, though not the kind a city would want.
According to HeyJackass.com, a website “illustrating Chicago values” using publicly available data, the police have been involved in only six shootings out of 1,144. While police violence has been much discussed, the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that the police are not the threat to safety in the city.
In fact, it would appear that the police are living up to their new motto: “stay fetal”. As evidence, consider the video below of a recent street brawl with the police officer standing off to the right only capable of watching the mayhem and urging the participants to break it up. Here’s a screenshot of the police officer:
Here’s the video of the brawl, thankfully no shootings were seen in it:
At Intellectual Takeout, we noted that in Chicago in 2011 75% of those murdered were Black and 71% of murderers were Black. According to the public data available, it would appear that a similar ratio is continuing today:
For those who would argue that it is primarily racism driving the violence, there are some tough questions to answer. First of all, if it is racism how is it that Black-on-Black crime is the majority of violence? Shouldn't we expect Blacks to be the majority of victims and Whites to be the majority of offenders?
Of course, some will argue that the traditional definition of racism is wrong. Instead, we must see racism as a system put in place by the powerful (i.e., Whites) to keep minorities oppressed and poor. Forced poverty, it is argued, is therefore the main driver of violence. But the data available on race and poverty raise serious questions about the validity of that argument, too.
WBEZ, Chicago’s public media station, provides an interesting chart comparing poverty between races in Cook County:
As you can see, while there are more Blacks living in poverty, the percentage is not terribly larger than the percentage of Hispanics in poverty. According to the latest report by the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH),
“There were racial differences in poverty levels within the CCDPH jurisdiction. Less than 5% of Whites in the CCDPH jurisdiction were at or below the federal poverty level, whereas 16.7% of African Americans (AAs) and 14.0% of Hispanics lived in poverty.
The South District had the greatest percentage of people of different races/ethnicities in poverty: 13.7% of Asians, 17.8% of AAs, and 19.3% of Hispanics were at or below the federal poverty level. The North district had the lowest percentage of people in poverty but the greatest disparity, 16.5% of AAs compared to 3.5% of Whites.”
Below is a comparison of race and poverty provided by the Cook County Department of Public Health.
So if there is only a marginal difference between the rates of poverty for Blacks (17%) and Hispanics (14%), why is it that Blacks are disproportionately responsible for the homicides in Chicago? Shouldn’t Blacks and Hispanics be committing nearly the same number of murders? Furthermore, there is a greater percentage of Asians in poverty than Whites, yet Asians are barely represented when it comes to committing homicides.
Instead of racism or poverty, might there be cultural issues driving the differences? Many will quickly argue that hip-hop culture is a negative influence and use it as evidence of the cultural challenges within the Black community. Watching videos like the one below certainly seems to bolster such a case:
But what happened before those kids decided to rap about murdering and robbing? Why do they turn to such a life a violence? Is it really the fault of White racism? Can only poverty explain it?
The Cook County Department of Public Health might shed some light on cultural difference affecting family life and youth with its report on the non-marital or out-of-wedlock birthrates by race. In 2009, we find that the out-of-wedlock birthrate was 6% for Asians, 19% for Whites, 49% for Hispanics, and 73% for Blacks. During the same year, the percentages of women reporting no information about the father (a likely sign of a truly absent father) probably tells an even more significant story. 2% of Asians, 4% of Whites, 9% of Hispanics, and 35% of Blacks reported no information on the father in 2009. In light of the poverty statistics shared earlier, all of the data above reveal significant differences between the general cultures of the Black community and the other races, particularly when it comes to family formation.
Study after study has shown what an enormous influence family structure has upon children and the negative consequences of fatherlessness. Boys coming from broken, fatherless homes are far more violent and prone to various anti-social behavior. In all reality, there is a very strong argument to be made that much of the violence within the Black community is stemming from a culture that does not seem to value traditional family or put pressure upon its men to fulfill their responsibilities as fathers.
As an old saying reminds us, “As the family goes, so goes the nation.” In the case of Chicago, “As the family goes, so goes the neighborhood.”
Devin is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Charlemagne Institute, which operates Intellectual Takeout, Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and the Alcuin Internship. He is a graduate of Hillsdale College where he studied history and political science. Prior to co-founding Charlemagne Institute, he served as the Director of Development at the Center of the American Experiment, a state-based think tank in Minnesota.
Devin is a contributor to local and national newspapers, a frequent guest on a variety of talk shows, such as Minneapolis' KTLK and NPR's Talk of the Nation, and regularly shares culture and education insights presenting to civic groups, schools, and other organizations. In 2011, he was named a Young Leader by the American Swiss Foundation.
Devin and his wife have been married for eighteen years and have six children. When he's not working, Devin enjoys time with family while also relaxing through reading, horticulture, home projects, and skiing and snowboarding.