Williams: Academics, Media Wrong to Blame Crime on Poverty, Discrimination

“No one bothers to ask why crime was falling in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, when blacks faced far greater poverty and discrimination.”

Academics and the media are wrong to blame the abysmal, and ever rising, inner-city crime rates on poverty and discrimination, says economist Walter E. Williams. In fact, they are ignoring the facts completely.

“Academics and the media blame poverty and discrimination for today’s crime,” writes Williams. “No one bothers to ask why crime was falling in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, when blacks faced far greater poverty and discrimination.”

One of Williams’s colleagues, fellow economist Thomas Sowell, posted these statistics:

Homicide rates among black males went down by 18 percent in the 1940s and by 22 percent in the 1950s. It was in the 1960s, when the ideas of Chief Justice [Earl] Warren and others triumphed, that this long decline in homicide rates among black males reversed and skyrocketed by 89 percent, wiping out all the progress of the previous 20 years.

Yet, those riots in the ’60s were blamed on poverty and discrimination. However, as Williams notes, the South was suffering in those categories worse than in other parts of the country, yet, “riots were not nearly so common there.”

“Detroit’s deadliest riot occurred at a time when the median income of black families in Detroit was 95 percent of their white counterparts, plus the black unemployment rate was 3.4 percent and black homeownership was higher than in other major cities,” Williams adds.

When it comes to the breakdown of the black family, academics blame “the legacy of slavery and discrimination.” But that’s just not true, as Williams points out:

In 1950, 72 percent of black men and 81 percent of black women had been married. Also, only 17 percent of black children lived in single-parent households; today it’s close to 70 percent. Every census from 1890 to 1950 showed that black labor force participation rates exceeded those of whites. During the late 1940s, the unemployment rate for black 16- and 17-year-olds was less than that for white teens.

According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year 11 percent of black children and 3 percent of white children were born to unwed mothers. Before 1960, the number of teenage pregnancies had been decreasing; both poverty and dependency were declining; and black income was rising in both absolute and relative terms to white income. As late as 1965, 75 percent of black children were born to married women. Today, over 73 percent of black babies are born to unwed mothers. Again, so much for the “legacy of slavery” argument.

Now, on to school integration and its effect on minority achievement. The typical leftist argument is actually a racist one: “Blacks, their logic implies, cannot achieve academic excellence unless they go out and capture a white kid to sit next to their kids.” Progressives like to speak out against white privilege until their above logic is exposed. 

What is actually happening in many public charter schools that are nearly all minorities are a bit of a success story. An example Williams gives is Crown Heights Success Academy, which enrolls 90% blacks and Hispanics. There, 100% of the students score on the level of “proficient” in math, something that only 39% do in racially mixed New York state schools. This kind of success is why charter schools have extremely long waiting lists. However, Williams states that teachers unions, as well as the NAACP, don’t like anything that isn’t public education. One sure reason is that members of the race organization are public education professionals and teachers.

And that's where the hypocrisy begins:

In Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, 25 percent of public school teachers send their children to private schools. In Philadelphia, 44 percent of teachers send their children to private schools. The percentages are similar in several other cities: Cincinnati, 41 percent; Chicago, 39 percent; and Rochester, New York, 38 percent. This demonstrates the dishonesty, hypocrisy, and arrogance of the elite. They effectively say, “One thing for thee and another for me.”

Williams concludes: “Some are puzzled by the dishonesty, lack of character, and sheer stupidity of many people in the media. But seeing as most of them are college graduates, they don’t bear the full blame. They are taught by dishonest and irresponsible academics.”