The Implicit Racism of Ezra Klein December 16, 2012Posted by geoff in News.
Ezra Klein leaps proudly into the gun control controversy, claiming that he’s just presenting a list of 12 “facts” to help inform the debate. There are many things wrong with his list, but in this post I want to focus on just two:
5. America is an unusually violent country. But we’re not as violent as we used to be.
6. The South is the most violent region in the United States.
To support his statements, he refers to Kieran Healy, a Professor at Duke who works in a completely different area of sociology, but doesn’t hesitate to butcher statistics to reach the conclusion he wants. He produced this pair of charts, showing the occurrence of assault victims for the US vs. the other OECD nations, and for different regions of the US.
|“America is a Violent Country“||“the South is more violent than the rest of the country“|
Since you’re smarter than Professor Healy, you’re undoubtedly wondering why he picked deaths to indicate violence, rather than number of assaults. You may also be wondering why he picked victims instead of offenders. Finally you may wonder, after reading through his posts, why he found it difficult to break out deaths due to firearms from all assault deaths, when the data is readily available via the FBI.
But let’s lay those mysteries aside, since I owe you some racism.
Klein baldly tells us that America is an unusually violent country, and that the South is its most violent region. But he doesn’t tell you why. He doesn’t tell you that among cases where the race was known, blacks committed 5,486 murders in 2011, while whites committed only 4,729. So when Klein says that America is an unusually violent country, he’s really saying that blacks are an unusually violent race.
Similarly, if you look at the prevalence of murderers vs. black population on a state-by-state basis, you find a strong correlation between the two.
So when Klein says that “The South is the most violent region in the United States,” he’s really saying that “Blacks are the most violent race in the United States.” Sounds racist when you put it that way, doesn’t it?
Of course, that’s not a fair characterization – not at all. There’s certainly a big problem, but making a statement like “Blacks are the most violent race” is not justified or productive.
And that’s exactly the sort of statement that Klein made about the South and the United States. By slapping some lame statistics on the web with no context or data-mining, he’s smeared them with a sloppy and unfair characterization.
And when you conduct your research like that, it’s easy to be a racist.