"Blacks represent 13% of the population but commit 50% of the murders; 90% of black victims are murdered by other blacks," writes Time's Joe Klein, calling for "provocative" thinking on race in America. "The facts suggest that history is not enough to explain this social disaster."
Yet the disturbing truth, according to the FBI's most recent homicide statistics, is that the United States is in the wake of an epidemic of white-on-white crime. Back in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, a staggering 83 percent of white murder victims were killed by fellow Caucasians.
This is not to say that white people are inherently prone to violence. Most whites, obviously, manage to get through life without murdering anyone. And there are many countries full of white people — Norway, Iceland, France, Denmark, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom — where white people murder each other at a much lower rate than you see here in the United States. On the other hand, although people often see criminal behavior as a symptom of poverty, the quantity of murder committed by white people specifically in the United States casts some doubt on this. Per capita GDP is considerably higher here than in France — and the white population in America is considerably richer than the national average — and yet we have more white murderers.
To understand the level of cultural pathology at work here, it's important to understand that 36 percent of those killed by whites are women — a far higher share than you see with black murderers.
Clearly, the social disaster of white violence has complicated roots. But the beginning of an answer is to admit that we have a problem. It's striking that President Obama, who's frequently found time to comment on the height of black men's waistlines, seems oblivious to this torrent of white killing. To be fair to the White House, however, it would be uniquely difficult for Obama to address this delicate issue. The real tragedy is that none of Obama's 43 white predecessors have addressed it either. Indeed, looking back on America's political iconography, there are disturbing trends toward the glorification of white violence. Peer inside the US Capitol building, and you'll find a monument to Confederate President Jefferson Davis — the leader of an insurgency that caused an unprecedented quantity of violent white deaths.
But whatever the causes or past mistakes, the important thing is to confront this important subject in the future. As we look ahead to a 2016 matchup that should give us two Euro-American major party nominees for the first time in a decade, perhaps America can finally get the debate about white violence it deserves.