Five out of six white people murdered in the United States are killed by a white person. That’s according to the most recent FBI crime data report, which provides demographic information of the race of victims and offenders, for all known murders that occurred in the US, in 2012. There were 3,128 white murder victims that year. Out of all of those murder victims, less than 500 were killed by minorities. The other 2,628 were killed by other white people.
We often hear about black on black killings, and we know that the rate of black people who are killed by other black people in the US is far too high. What we don’t often hear about is the shocking number of white people who are killed by other white people. But when you look at the statistics in light of the most recent US population data, you find that the rate of white on white homicide is entirely out of line with the racial makeup of the country as a whole.
Looking just at the FBI statistics, which are the most common statistics used to examine the racial background of victims and offenders, it’s clear that almost 84 percent of white homicide victims are killed by white people. Yet white people only make up 63 percent of the population.
On the other hand, white victims are killed by minorities only about 16 percent of the time. Yet minorities make up 37 percent of the population of the country.
If murders of white Americans were falling inline with the demographic makeup of the country, then you would expect to find that about 63 percent of white people are murdered by white people, while about 37 percent are murdered by members of a minority group. But the statistics don’t reflect that. Instead they show that a white homicide victim is five times more likely to have been killed by another white person, as opposed to a member of a minority group.
What’s more, if minorities were more violent than white people – as the obviously racist right wing suggests – then we would expect to find that white people are killed by members of a minority group more than 37 percent of the time. Instead what we see is that the percentage of minorities who kill white people is much lower than the percentage of minorities living in the US. On the other hand, we also find that the rate of white people who kill other white people is much higher than the percentage of white people living in the United States. So, no, you can’t explain the alarming number of white on white murders simply by saying there are more white people in the United States than people from other minority groups.
I used the FBI statistics for two reason. First, they are the most readily available statistics for identifying the race of offender and victim in homicides. Unfortunately these statistics only include those homicides that are reported to the FBI’s universal crime reporting system. I also used them because they are the statistics most often used by the right wing media to claim that the rate of black on black killings means that black people are scary and far more violent than white people.
It’s important to note that there are serious problems with the FBI uniform crime reporting system. I addressed some of those problems in a previous article, including the fact that reporting crime data to the FBI is voluntary, rather than mandatory, the fact that the database doesn’t accurately keep track of officer involved killings or killings found to be ‘justified’ by the police, and the fact that the numbers in the FBI database do not correlate with the numbers provided by the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) or The US Department of Justice.
For example, in 2011, the most recent year that statistics are available through the NVSS, the agency reports that there were 16,730 deaths attributed to either homicide or ‘legal intervention’. Yet the FBI data only reports 6,131 deaths by homicide for the same year. That’s a a massive difference.
A discrepancy that large means that all the data is suspect. Missing data regarding officer involved killings or killings that were otherwise found to be ‘justified’ is just one set of problems with the FBI statistics. It’s important to realize that there are thousands of citizens in the US who are murdered each year, whose race in unknown, and whose killer is never identified. There are thousands of people who are simply reported missing. No-one knows what happened to them and no-one knows if they are alive or dead. Every day in the US, 2,300 people disappear without a trace. While only 37 percent of the population is made up of minorities, a full 60 percent of those who are reported missing are minorities.
While it’s clear that we don’t have an accurate picture of murder in the United States, it’s also clear that the right wing promotes a hysterical, irrational and completely mythical narrative regarding the dangers that minorities present to white people. A white person is five times more likely to be killed by another white person, yet I haven’t heard white people accused of committing white genocide, nor have I heard them accused of being murderous animals.
For the right wing to claim that minorities killing white people is a real problem, they have to overlook five out of every six white murder victims. The five white people that kill another white person isn’t the problem, it’s the one black person, or Hispanic person or Asian person, that’s the real problem in their demented minds.