What’s Going On? – Part VI Black Lives Do Matter, The Stereotyping Problem

In Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V of this series, we sorted out many of the grievances Blacks can legitimately lodge against US governments and Democrats for having created many of the injustices underlying their grievances. A cruel and confounding injustice experienced by the vast majority of Blacks that is not attributable to governments or Democrat policies is negative “stereotyping” (a.k.a., “racial profiling”). How it can be cruel and unjust is obvious. Why the problem is so confounding is less obvious. Alleviating a problem requires a correct understanding of the problem. A misunderstanding of negative stereotyping is why so many attempts to address it have failed. Let’s sort the confounding nature of negative stereotyping.

First and foremost, any stereotyping to advance or implement the notion that “race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” [Merriam-Webster’s definition of “Racism”] is contemptible. The way to address it is to stamp it out. While there are a few, mostly powerless miscreants who stereotype for racist reasons, virtually all laws of that sort have repealed or declared unconstitutional long ago. The focus of this post is on stereotyping that creates negative results despite the good intentions of the stereotyper.

According to Dictionary.com, a stereotype is “a simplified and standardized conception or image invested with special meaning and held in common by members of a group.” In and of itself, accurate stereotypes are benign and possibly useful. For example, believing mountain climbers are more likely to be killed from their sport than runners could be fair and useful to life insurance companies — despite the possibility of exceptions. Some people claim that Blacks are better at music than any other race.[i] Whether or not that stereotype is valid, unless the claimant is suggesting that because of their musical superiority, Blacks are, in general, superior humans or that they deserve rights or privileges not afforded to other races, the claim is not racist.

Not all negative stereotypes about Blacks are racist either. As discussed in Part IV, affirmative action creates the negative presumption (stereotype) that Black college graduates were likely not to have been held to as high a standard as non-Blacks. At a minimum, because holding Blacks to lower standards (which in my opinion is bigotry[ii]) is a feature of affirmative action, the presumption is rational. The idea is not racist because it concerns how Blacks have been treated, not their character, or the rights that should be denied to Blacks.  

BLM’s response to George Floyd’s invidious death has brought an intense focus on a particular and particularly troubling Black stereotype. It is as heartbreaking as it is valid. That stereotype is that Blacks are more likely to be violent than non-Blacks. [Arguments are also advanced that Blacks are justified in being more violent.[iii] I am not disputing that claim here.] I am pointing out that the stereotype is based on reality, and attempting to sort out the consequences and cures for that reality.

Jesse Jackson once said, “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps… then turn around and see somebody white and feel relieved.” Jackson’s reaction to that situation is common among people of all skin hues. Claiming that Jackson, a Black, is racist because he is relieved when he turns and sees a White would be absurd. The same would be true concernin an Asian or a person of any other race had the same reaction.

So, why the reaction? Human nature and crime statistics shed light on why Jackson stereotypes Blacks and Whites concerning dangerousness.

Humans must continuously distinguish between potentially harmful and harmless things. Stereotyping is an evolved aspect of humans’ innate survival mechanisms that enables them to make rapid decisions in the presence of potential danger and with little information. Humans who erred too much on the side of dangerousness did not make the evolutionary cut. Curing people of their irrational fears is often possible. “Curing” people of their rational fears is nearly impossible and is an oxymoron. Consequently, policies based on the idea that humans can or will turn off rational stereotyping are doomed to fail and typically make things worse.

Sadly, Jesse Jackson’s stereotype is rational. When he saw the White, he rationally determined that he was in less danger than he had feared.

Blacks ages 10 – 43 die of homicides at 13 times the rates of whites, and Blacks commit almost all of those homicides.[iv] In the 75 largest counties, Blacks commit roughly 60% of all murder and robberies, but Blacks comprise only 15% of that population.[v] The FBI reports that in 2016 Blacks, who are 13% of the US population, constituted 37.5%[vi] of arrests for US violent crimes and 31.4% of “other assaults,” while Whites (which includes most Hispanics), who are 73.3% of the population, constituted 59%[vii] of arrests for violent crimes and 66.2% of other assaults. Using violent crime arrests as a proxy for crimes,[1] these numbers reveal that, although Jackson may have been relieved, he was at some risk of becoming the victim of a violent crime when he turned around and saw a White. However, had he turned around and seen a Black person, the risk would have been over 3.5 times greater.

3.5 times a minimal risk is a small risk. However, as we have seen with the tiny risk of harm that COVID-19 presented to most people, when the stakes are high (e.g., death or severe injury), tiny increases in minimal risks can make huge differences — for good reasons.[viii]

These realities have severely adversely and unfairly[ix] affected Blacks. In 2016, Blacks were arrested for violent crimes 153,341 times, and some of them were arrested more than once, i.e., the number of violent Black criminals is fewer than their number of arrests. That means that less than 0.38% of the country’s Blacks population were arrested for violent crimes, i.e., all but a tiny fraction of Blacks are not violent criminals. Yet, the “more violent” stereotype unavoidably applies to the average Black because, on average, Blacks are more violent. Why is it unavoidable? For the same reason that even though fruits are safe on average, some fruits will kill you.[x] Humans who are wise enough not to gobble a whole fruit on their first encounter with an unfamiliar fruit tree are the ones who survived the evolutionary cut.

Note that 153,341 violent crimes are somewhat comparable to the country’s COVID-19 deaths in 2020. This is another example of how the fallout, including massive fear from small risks, can be monumental. Huge responses to personally catastrophic risks is a part of human nature that is here to stay.

Consequently, after the (1) warranted wailing and gnashing of teeth, (2) needed reforms to police forces, and (3) the current civil unrest based on to false or irrelevant narratives have fizzled out (or the revolution is accomplished), the rational stereotypes described above and their attendant problems will persist until the prevalence of Black violent crimes is roughly comparable to that of non-Blacks.

Ridding police forces of racists cops would only make a dent in the problem. Ridding police forces of cops with human nature is impossible.

The harms these stereotypes inflict on Blacks are many. Perhaps the most pernicious and tragic consequence of the stereotyping is the most topical. It is that when stopped by police, many Blacks presume that they would not have been stopped had they not been Black. Indeed, cops pull over Blacks disproportionately more than Whites. While Blacks’ disproportionate propensity to violate traffics laws accounts for some of the disparity,[xi] much of it is due to the stereotype that Blacks are more likely to be engaged in serious criminal conduct (stereotyping). [xii] As if that wasn’t problematic enough, because such stereotyping is so unfair to the vast majority of Blacks (exacerbated by the despicable practice of declaring the cause of the disparity to be racism — which is very rarely applicable), the stereotyping plus the false belief that racism is the cause for the police encounter induces indignation in detained Blacks. All too often, that indignation turns into anger, then disobedience of police orders, chaos, and then tragedy.

Many will claim that the above line of thinking is racist. It is not. Jessie Jackson’s rational stereotypes are not racist. His relief at seeing White people when he turns around was not because he believed that Blacks are inferior to others or that Blacks deserved fewer rights. Quite the contrary, over his long life in the public eye, Jackson has argued Blacks are capable of success, and they deserve more rights than those to which others are entitled.[xiii] The fact that those stereotypes are harmful to Blacks is horrible, but the stereotyping is a result of racism.

While Jackson’s stereotypes are natural, rational, and not racist, the existence of those stereotypes is terribly and heartbreakingly unfair and harmful to Blacks, especially the 99+% of Blacks who are law-abiding. That 99+% of Blacks have to live with the negative consequences of a tiny fraction of Blacks being disproportionately dangerous is astoundingly sad and in great need of redress.

To address this astoundingly sad problem, the public must not continue to be confounded by the multiple misdiagnoses of the nature of the problem. Hopefully, this post will help us turn away from the false characterization of the problem — there enabling us to eschew policies that have no chance of working to ones that might have a chance.

[1] Take this analysis based on arrests with several grains of salt. Because no racial demographics are available concerning the likelihood that an arrest will result from a crime, a ratio based on arrests could be far from the mark. Moreover, because no universally accepted metric exists to determine the multiple with any precision, a precise multiple is unknowable and would vary significantly from place to place. The following analysis is offered to show that the multiple is much higher than 1.0, and the stereotype is rational. The fact that the stereotype exists among all races also lends credence to its validity.

[i] Coleman Hughes Reacts To African-American Stereotypes Portrayed In Hollywood | Your Take

[ii] See “Biden’s Bigotry

[iii] They’ve been saying it [advocating or condoning violence] all along…

[iv] Id. @9:00

[v] Id. @9:45 and Police Go Where the Crime Is

[vi] FBI 2016 Crime in the United States

[vii] Uniform Crime Report – Crime in the United States, 2016

[viii] The Logic of Risk Taking

[ix] Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) on Race Relations – FULL SPEECH (C-SPAN) [While I disagree with Sen. Scott’s assertion that the problem is the justice system (because even the law cannot overturn human nature), he eloquently describes the unfairness of reality human nature creates and why the wounds will not heal until the nature of the problem is understood.]

[x] The most dangerous fruits in the world

[xi] 7 Statistics That Show That ‘Systemic Racism’ Doesn’t Exist In Policing: “black drivers studied in 2001 sped at twice the rate of white drivers (with speeding defined as traveling at 15 mph or more above the posted limit) and traveled at the most reckless levels of speed even more disproportionately.”

[xii] e.g., stealing vehicles, firing guns from cars, and fleeing in cars from crime scenes.

[xiii] Jesse Jackson visits The City defending affirmative action

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