See, the Problem with Black People Is…

If you lean to the political left, you attribute the woes of Black America to external things: racism, poverty, and guns.

If racism is the cause, how? Even if we admit historic racism, what quantifiable percentage of black people today is denied work, housing or education simply because they are black, especially since these things are prosecutable under law?

The left has lately had to invent a new kind of racism, “structural racism” AKA “double-super-secret-racism” which is invisible but if you doubt its existence it only proves that you are racist. This sounds stupid (and of course I am caricaturing) but it isn’t done out of stupidity. While the arguments are usually employed with dishonesty and malice (always heads I win tails you lose) I don’t think malice is the main motive. It is rather a result of an intellectual aporia – if the cause must be racism, yet we can’t see it, it must be invisible racism that can’t be empirically proven but only hypothesized.

If you lean towards the right (like me) you attribute problems in the black community to interior causes, that is, to something internal to urban black culture. Of course it is easy to criticize what you don’t know from the inside. It is also easy to see specks and ignore beams, i.e. complain about gangster rap while listening to Johnny Cash sing Cocaine Blues. It is also far too easy to look for a facile explanation – e.g. the problem with Black America is a lack of father figures – rather than ask why are there no fathers.

Right or left you pretty much sound like an asshole.

Rather than try to lecture one another what the true problem is, it would probably be better to reexamine the basic situation.

Whatever the situation was fifty years ago, the dysfunctions and travails of poor black America today are for the most part not unique. Poor rural white Americans display very similar patterns of drug abuse, petty crime, unemployment, welfare dependency and illegitimacy. (Donald Trump tells them that it is all the fault of the Chinese and Mexicans just like Black Lives Matter goes on about white people and their structural super-double-secret racism… more facile explanations, and politically convenient ones too.)

About the only thing unique to black American problems is the violent crime rate, and the only thing that has proven successful in controlling that is proactive policing of the sort that drove down the murder rate of New York City during the Giuliani days. (The wise man is always open to a technical solution.)

So the situation of poor black America is that it is an urban version of white Appalachian America with lots of homicide thrown in. It ceases to be a discussion about race, and suddenly looks much more like a discussion about economics and cultural isolation. These are not easy problems to define either but at least it starts to bring the discussion out of the realm of historical grievances and political point-scoring.




  1. The cause is racism and you can see it. It’s the ever-decreasing circles of people starting in poverty, most not making it out, some turning to crime, their ‘type’ being profiled as criminals, other people not trusting them based on this profile, reduced opportunities, doors closed, more poverty, more crime, more profiling, less trust, even less opportunities and doors closed, even more poverty, even more crime, even more profiling ….

    It happens everywhere to some sort of underclass, the disenfranchised who have more obstacles (poorer education, distrust, less status and confidence, fewer opportunities). The striking difference between the USA and, for example, Scotland, is that given your history, your class divide going back to inception was based on race. And how do people get out of an underclass when they can’t escape the bias and prejudice that comes from a glance?

    People that live in poorer areas here in Scotland, that are more likely to commit violent crime, have drug problems, more teenage pregnancy etc can live in generational cycles just as much in some respects, BUT the key difference is there are easier ways to do something different, because people can’t judge so much on looks – our underclass is white, like 95% of the population.

    I know you can’t see the difference, because I know you don’t want to. You want to blame the people who have lived in these areas their whole lives for not being like you because you assume if it were you, you would pull yourself up by the bootstraps and behave more like … you.

    “About the only thing unique to black American problems is the violent crime rate”

    Now you see, I could say the same thing about Glaswegians:
    “Glasgow has been ranked as the UK’s most violent area in a new report. .. Describing the city as was one of the poorest areas in the UK, it said there was a strong link between crime and poverty. Scotland had the highest homicide rate of any of the four UK nations, as well as the highest violent crime rate, at more than 1,500 per 100,000 people, the report said.”

    But I know that would make me an idiot. Why do you not know that you’re an idiot? For some reason in the minds of many people in the USA it’s become okay to blame black people for being born into poverty generation after generation, it’s become okay to blame crime on the ‘black’ and not on the ‘poverty’. It’s not okay. It’s racism.

    1. All true- but as you explain very eloquently in the first part of your comment, we’re looking at a cycle. A negative that triggers a negative, that triggers a negative, that triggers a negative. And the solutions being proposed aren’t always the most productive.
      I thought #BLM was going to be a productive movement. But all this time later and they still haven’t proposed a single concrete policy. Their website is all hope and unicorns.

      1. I think as an awareness raising campaign it has been productive. If answers were easily found in concrete policies, the cycle would have been broken decades or centuries ago.

      2. But there are many things we could/should be discussing. Like what the role of the police should really be in the 21st century. Why is a taser not enough for a traffic stop? Is a traffic stop for a broken tail light really necessary?

    2. For starters how about you don’t try to read my mind, know my assumptions, and guess my biography, since you are wrong far more often than not.
      You claim racism is the problem but if I examine how black problems are different from white problems, well, that makes me a racist.
      I pointed out a fact, that black issues are pretty much the same as Appalachian issues with the exception of violent crime rates. I didn’t blame anyone, offered no explanation, mentioned no possible cause.

      1. Sigh. Your problem is you identify first and foremost these problems to be somehow exclusively rooted in race. It’s a ‘black’ problem being your opener. I’m telling you it’s a poverty problem, exacerbated by the fact that people are isolating ethic background, naming it as a ‘black problem’ and thereby intensifying the prejudice within the cycle. Why’s it a black problem? It’s a problem for your whole society, and it’s roots are poverty and the horrible prejudice that comes attached to that.

        Can you take a step back, breathe, and think about what I’ve told you. Imagine Scotland – imagine all the problems you see in terms of violent crime, unwanted pregnancies, drug wars – all happening in poorer areas where other white people live. Can you even acknowledge that these things become cycles and it’s much more difficult for people to work their way out of poverty and get away from crime? You attach race to it as if it’s a key characteristic influencing the behaviour, or some kind of descriptor of that racial background! I mean, yikes, really?

        Recognise how poverty works and acknowledge the history of your country. Look at parallels within other countries. What does calling this a ‘black problem’ to do the millions of law abiding black citizens who have worked their way out of poverty (or were never born in poverty)? It attaches the problems of crime, the problems of drugs, directly to them. Your national narrative ensures you do maximum harm to all black people, and further drive them down the scale. It’s shocking.

      2. You are accusing me of 1) saying things I never said, 2) saying things that were said in obvious sarcasm (the title of the post), or 3) of making a factual statement that everyone knows to be true, but from which you infer my opinions of the causes of that fact, opinions which I never stated, but which you are pretty sure are a sign of my wickedness.
        As if this is not enough, you then accuse me of keeping the blacks down.
        The best I can say is that you are not on your game today.

  2. I’m nothing if not open minded … as well as a skim reader. 🙂

    You’re right in one respect, I’ve read through your post again and I see we’re partly talking about the same thing, in that we do seem to agree that the main problem is root in poverty, not rooted in race as a characteristic (but presumably you agree significant chunks of your fellow countrypeople do believe it is, hence the clarification? which in itself is surely an admission that racism exists).

    Where we branch apart:
    1. You’re mocking the idea that institutional racism exists! Bloody hell, what a cheek. In fact, you’re mocking the notion that any kind of racism exists in the USA. I just don’t know what to say to that. Is that sarcasm I’m missing? If it is, your point has gone way over my head.
    2. You think history should be swept under the carpet as if it has no relevance. I don’t see how you can possible understand any problem without getting to the roots. The roots of disadvantage in black populations within the USA clearly lie in being brought into the country primarily as slaves. – both in a hugely disadvantaged starting point and in changing attitudes.

    1. The reason why I ignore history in this post is not because I don’t think it is a factor but it is less of a factor than we tend to imagine. The same with racism. I think it would be more helpful to stop thinking primarily in those terms, just like I think it would be helpful to stop preaching about causation in general (which is a bit condescending) and just try to look at it in a new way.
      I would not define poverty as a simple lack of material goods but in terms of habits. You should read an article called The White Ghetto by Kevin Williamson which made quite a stir a few months ago – it is brutal but it illustrates that what we tend to imagine are “black problems” probably aren’t “black”, or that if there are “black problems” they might not be what seems obvious.

      1. You should have linked to the article in the post. The very fact that it made a stir and that people in your country need a story like that to illustrate that what you call ‘black problems’ aren’t rooted specifically in being black, shows the huge level of racism. Which you are blind to because you think it’s invisible (and even have the audacity to suggest it’s imaginary).

        Now you can remove ‘black’ from the equation in terms of understanding that you can’t blame problems related to poverty on race (which was the point I was making in my original comment). But, where you are getting very confused, you cannot remove ‘black’ from the equation in terms of recognising the ongoing discrimination that black people face, the impact racism has, or in terms of racism being the key player in making these cycles of poverty tighter and more vicious.

        I apologise for being condescending. It must grate terribly on such a delicate soul as yourself. 🙂

      2. The people who claim poor black problems are about the black and not the poor are generally either of the left or are the race-realist kooks of the Alt-right. If you want to call the Obamas and Sharptons of the world racist, I’ve no complaints, but it is father than I’d go with it.
        I was not complaining about condescension directed at me. I think it is condescending towards blacks to sit back and act like we know all about black problems when we are just speaking from ideology.

      3. Yeah, I don’t think you’ve understood me at all. I’m not sure how else to word it. Point taken about being condescending. And from overseas at that! 🙂

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