Since the George Zimmerman verdict sparked national protests and pushed President Obama to address the racial disparities prevent in American culture and justice system, conservatives have begun pointing to the high rates of crime within the African American community, suggesting that the law enforcement is justified in profiling black youth.
This line of reasoning echoed throughout mainstream and conservative news outlets, including Bill O’Reilly, host of the highest rated program in all of cable news.
Responding to Obama’s remarks about the Zimmerman verdict, O’Reilly told his audience this week that Americans profile Blacks “because young black American men are so often involved in crime.” “The civil rights industry and our leadership in Washington will not take on the black crime problem because in order to do so, black culture would have to change,” he complained.
Fox was so impressed with O’Reilly’s claims, it broadcast excerpts of his commentary at least four different times throughout the day on Tuesday and O’Reilly hosted Marc Morial, the president and CEO of the National Urban League, to respond to him on Tuesday night.
“[T]he first solution is, you’ve got to stop young black women from having babies out of wedlock. You’ve got to discourage that actively,” O’Reilly informed Morial. “And the second thing is, you’ve got to demand discipline in your public schools in the inner cities, particularly, get the unions out of there. Have the kids in school uniforms and demand standards in discipline.” “I don’t hear any of that from Jackson or Sharpton, or from you or from President Obama,”
Obama did note that “African-American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, that they’re disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence” during his remarks Friday and he has repeatedly called for black men to step up and act as positive role models to black youth.
But the real cause of high crime isn’t black culture; it’s a long history of systematic economic disadvantage.
Many African Americans grow up in segregated communities with little economic opportunity or development, decreased employment opportunities, long term unemployment, and failing public schools. Statistics show that African Americans and Latinos disproportionately commit certain crimes, but neighborhood-level studies have consistently found that larger economic disadvantages “explain the overwhelming portion of the difference in crime.” And since police only “find drugs where they look for them,” law enforcement’s disproportionate targeting of African Americans — Whites and African Americans use and sell drugs at the same rates, but Black men in 2003 “were almost 12 times as likely to go to prison as White men” — only increases the perception that Blacks are criminals.
That, after all, is exactly what O’Reilly and Fox are insinuating to avoid a substantive discussion about the structural causes of crime and poverty.