Born in a Cadillac in Beverley Hills
Raised on gin and vitamin pills,
Robbed him a bank, when he was only three
Now he’s locked up in the penitentiary,
Willie, Willie Sutton..
Someone taught me this parody of “Davy Crockett,” when I was ten years old, I am not sure I remember the concluding words correctly. As I recall (and I hope someone can correct me), they are: “The man who knows no fear.”
I thought immediately of America’s great bank-robber when I read that the Justice Department is going to proceed against the Ferguson, Missouri police department. Eric Holder has convinced himself that there is sufficient evidence to indicate that the Ferguson police are guilty of racial profiling, that is, they have been systematically discriminating against black people. The evidence? The fact that blacks are stopped more often than whites and are more often to be manhandled or abused.
Holder is, of course, shocked, that blacks are disproportionately arrested for crimes, and today on NPR a “scholar” at the University of Nebraska went on and on about the sin of racial profiling without ever even hinting at what nearly everyone in America—including Jesse Jackson and the FBI—knows. The simple answer to the question, “Why are so many black people arrested or questioned by the police or convicted of felonies or sitting on death row?” is as simple as the answer Willie Sutton gave when he was asked why he robbed banks. “Because that’s where the money is,” replied the notorious bank robber. Willie could tell the truth, because any bank robber is likely to be more honest than politicians and academics, more honest and more fearless.
Then, why is the black community targeted in felony investigations? Because that’s where the felons are.
I had been tracking, albeit casually, crime statistics since the 1970’s but eventually gave up. It is always the same answer. Basically, if by some miracle blacks and Mexicans disappeared from the United States, our rates of violent crime would be on par with Scotland and Norway. The myth of America’s “strain of violence” inherited from frontier days is simply a lie concocted by academics. Depending on the category of crime, black people are 10-12 more likely to commit a violent felony than whites, and, despite all the films and TV shows depicting blacks as innocent victims of violent rednecks and white suburban thugs, white on black violent crimes are a true man-bites-dog story.
The real question is not why do blacks get stopped so often by the police, but why are they responsible for over half the violent crime in our country? If leftists do ever tackle this question, they inevitably invoke the “legacy of slavery” and the effects of poverty. Neither have a particle of truth. If the legacy of slavery argument had a leg to stand on, then blacks in 1900 would have been more violent than blacks today, but the reverse is true. And, if poverty were the cause, we should have to explain why other poor ethnic groups do not necessarily have high crime rates.
Whatever the merits of racialist explanations of black violence, we also have to face the reality that it is positively encouraged and subsidized by government. We pay black men and women not to work in order to give them all the time and resources they need to take drugs and commit crimes. We subsidize illegitimacy in school and teach the products of casual fornication that none of their problems is the result of indolence, drug-abuse, irresponsibility, and criminal behavior. No, it is only white oppression that prevents a lazy adolescent criminal from pursuing a career in medicine. If you are willing to listen to the Holders and Obamas, they had to work twice as hard as anyone else to achieve the successes they so manifestly do not deserve. In fact, as we all know, the reverse was true. In one of the most massive wealth-transfer boondoggles in history, people like Holder and Obama were given elite educations, while the taxpaying majority was impoverished and humiliated.
There is nothing we can do about any of this. The Republicans are as much responsible as the Democrats, for the Civil Rights Act, the welfare state, and Affirmative Action. If there were a particle of willpower or intelligence in the political class, we would hear cynical opportunists like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz calling for an end to subsidies for illegitimate children and the construction of orphanages to take care of the children whose lives are being ruined by the inner-city parents—hardly the right word for people collecting bounties for delivering children—who bring them up in an atmosphere of filth, violence, promiscuity, and crime. We would hear calls for an immediate termination of all race-based “minority opportunity” programs and the dissolution of the public school monopoly that imposes equality by forever dumbing down not only academic standards but the students themselves.
Try talking to a 20-30-something professional today—a doctor, lawyer, or college professor. They sound as ignorant, illiterate, and inarticulate as NPR announcers or the academics they interview. We can’t blame them, any more than we can really blame black looters sporting t-shirts that say, “We deserve this.” As Charles Manson said of the institutions in which his character had been formed: “You made me.”
Don’t waste time picking on Obama or Holder or your kid’s civics teacher. They are the face of an American system that has been entrenched since the 1950’s. Of course it is worse now—just as blacks are more violent the longer they have out of slavery—than it used to be, and for the same reason. In the 50’s, at least, there was still a residue of civilized and rational people in the professions. There were even politicians who could speak standard English, preachers who could deliver sermons that were both orthodox and coherent, novelists who could tell a story without piling up bodies or inventing super-intelligent canines, women who could be charming without acting like tarts, and black teachers and businessmen who did not want to stir up racial hatred. Now, as zeks in this great gulag of institutionalized America, these people—black and white—have little to live for but the cultural anesthesia of movies and pop music and sports.
Ferguson is not important in itself. It is only that annoying little sore that won’t heal. When you finally do get serious and go to the doctor, it turns out to be a fatal cancer.
By the way, I was devastated by the death of Joan Rivers, and I sure hope Michael Sams gets to play in a big game to show the world that gays can be as brutishly stupid as straights.
Thomas Fleming is the former editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of The Politics of Human Nature, Montenegro: The Divided Land, and The Morality of Everyday Life, named Editors' Choice in philosophy by Booklist in 2005. He is the coauthor of The Conservative Movement and the editor of Immigration and the American Identity. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the Rockford Institute, he taught classics at the University of Miami of Ohio, served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, and was headmaster at the Archibald Rutledge Academy. He has been published in, among others, The Spectator (London), Independent on Sunday (London), Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, Classical Journal, Telos, and Modern Age. He and his wife, Gail, have four children and four grandchildren.