How You Get the Left to Talk Honestly About Black Crime

A disturbing look at the FBI’s data on race and animal-cruelty offenses.

Discussing black crime in America isn’t easy. For decades, the FBI has collected all kinds of race and crime data from state police, so we have the information. But due to a ton of negative black disparities showing up in the data, the mainstream media pursues a policy of silence on the issue, turning it as a result into a taboo topic.

But as progressives say: “silence is violence.” Like any policy area, when you refuse full and frank discussion about crime, bad policies get implemented and good people get hurt. Take as an example the reckless driving-equivalent of the “Ferguson Effect” Tucker Carlson recently revealed. Tucked-away in a Department of Transportation (DOT) report from last year was a short series of data points showing that black traffic fatalities surged an astounding 40 percent from 2019 to 2020. This means over half of all vehicular homicide-victims that year were black. Needless to say, this was a giant deviation from the norm; one which deserved, you would have thought, a pro-active, open discussion from police and the DOT. Instead, it was completely ignored. 

Interestingly, the data showed the increase largely taking place after George Floyd’s death in May 2020. As Carlson’s report claimed, during this period, police in many parts of the country were instructed to stand down when it came to arresting reckless black drivers so as to reduce the potential for violent altercations. While the fatality figures soon came down, they stayed lofty for months, meaning the police's policy of intentional inaction persisted well after the spike in killings became known. As a result, likely thousands of needless deaths occurred, the majority being black. Again, silence is violence. 

So, can it be done? Can progressives, liberals and tepid conservatives be pushed to engage with whatever part of black culture that is at the source of high black crime-rates? Likely yes, and here’s how. 

Animal Cruelty and Pet Ownership

Few in the world adore their pets like Americans do. In 2020, US pet owners spent $103 billion on pet care. Sixty-nine million US households, over 3/4s of them all, currently own a dog—the Labrador retriever being the long-time favorite. A whopping 76 percent of millennials own a dog or a cat; the highest among all demographics.

Likewise, few people condemn animal cruelty like Americans do. All 50 states have had laws prohibiting it for decades (with Maine apparently being the strictest), and, in 2019, the federal penalty against animal cruelty was graduated from a misdemeanor to a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison. 

And consider the dizzying array of animal-rights groups in the US. Although typically composed of progressives and the more compassionate among us, legal academic Justin Marceau notes how these groups have been at the forefront of ratcheting up animal-cruelty laws, including the pursuit of mandatory minimums, increased felony prosecutions, prosecuting young offenders as adults, and the establishment of offender registries. Interestingly, this has set up a clash with fellow progressives in the “criminal justice reform” movement and those who impugn America’s “carceral state” as an apparent expression of its institutional racism and entrenched white supremacy. 

As Marceau writes, apparently so driven is this part of the progressive camp, they are even willing to pause their general xenophilic tendencies and attack certain foreign cultural practices such as Japanese dolphin hunts, indigenous whaling, and the consumption of dog meat and shark fins in Asian cultures. Consider also 1993’s Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah case in which the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court arguing against the religious freedom of the West African Santeria adherents to sacrifice animals. The animal rights battle puts them in direct conflict with progressives’ biggest shibboleth of race.

Also noteworthy is their refusal to back down. Take the Michael Vick case of 2007, in which the NFL star (pictured above) was convicted of multiple Pit Bull killings linked to an underground dogfighting ring he led. As Marceau recounts, groups like the Animal Law Defense Fund (ALDF) condemned calls to forgive Vick and allow him to return to society after his 14-month sentence, calling it mere “hollow rhetoric.” The ALDF even condemned the much-vaunted NAACP when the latter called for empathy for Vick on account of his childhood poverty and early exposure to dogfighting—“ridiculous” excuses, they said

ALDF's then-executive director Joyce Tischler firmly rebuked the famed black advocacy group, saying their “active embrace of Vick appears to be a classic case of the good old boys circling the wagons to protect one of their own”—a tone which almost no conservative would dare take up. Further, the ALDF and others called on the NFL to ban Vick permanently, while one enterprising company even created a Michael Vick dog chew toy

Most would agree this is not a typical reaction from progressives when it comes to black criminal behavior, and you would be hard-pressed to find another area of crime so sternly (and fairly) treated.

So, if we can’t have frank talk about the widely varying levels of rape, violent crime, and hate crime within black communities, perhaps we can at least discuss black animal-cruelty rates? After all, those rates within black society are just as disproportionate. And chances are the toxic cultural traits that lead to such disparities are similar.

FBI Statistics

Unlike other crime datasets, the FBI has only reported animal-cruelty information for a few years. The data also could be more comprehensive, as a minority of states still don’t report. Still, what’s available demands attention.

The large majority of reported cases are for animal neglect and, more disturbingly, direct abuse and torture. According to FBI records, 75 percent of them take place in people’s homes with another 12 percent occurring on roads, sidewalks, and parking garages. In 2016, the FBI’s first reporting year, offenses linked to blacks was 25 percent of the total—a rate double their demographic. In 2019, the FBI’s last reporting year, the figure was about the same. 

One obscure 2009 survey seems to concur with these findings. When asked to admit to having animal abuse in one’s past, blacks answered in the affirmative, again, at twice the rate of their population. Further, from the results, survey analysts concluded blacks were 30 percent more likely to harm an animal than whites were. 

These figures are even more glaring when one considers pet-ownership rates. If blacks owned pets at rates double their own population, their cruelty offense-rates would be less of a concern. But this is not the case. White ownership rates have been shown to be double, even triple, that of blacks, meaning the latter’s propensity for animal cruelty is actually far higher than what’s showing in the FBI’s figures. 

The (“Too White”) Animal Rights Movement

Animal-shelter volunteerism, animal-rights activism, and veganism are clear indications of a heightened compassion for animals. I am unaware of any data showing the racial breakdown of each, but there’s plenty of black commentary saying the general area is a “white person’s thing.” That this is so almost always gets defensively reframed through a prism of victimization. As Aph Ko writes for Everyday Feminism, it’s no surprise that whites are disproportionately vegan “given that most mainstream representations of veganism are dominated by white bodies and most of the activism revolves around prioritizing theories born from white people and their perspectives.” Yes, blacks aren’t into veganism as much, but it’s not their fault.

Elsewhere, it’s claimed whites care “too much” about animals. In reaction to the outcry following the killing of Cecil the Lion in 2015, black feminist and New York Times columnist Roxane Gay wrote: “I’m personally going to start wearing a lion costume when I leave my house so if I get shot, people will care”—the hunter in that case was white and had to hire armed guards after receiving multiple death threats.

Similarly, when complaining about whites’ supposed penchant for bringing animals into malls and on to airplanes, The Root’s Michael Harriot took this as an indication that whites care too much about animals generally, concluding Black people love pets, too, just not as much as white people… White people love dogs. Black people love their dogs.” Unlike whites, blacks “simply understand the difference between an animal and a person,” writes one Medium contributor. 

Then there’s the fallback on historical racism. Part of the alienation blacks face towards the animal rights movement, we’re told, is due to the history of whites “animalizing” blacks; that is, whites quite literally treating blacks like animals in order to justify “abusing,” “raping,” and using blacks ‘for labor without concern for their well-being.’ 

Similarly, blacks are said not to own as many dogs as whites because of America’s history of black slavery in which dogs were apparently widely used to police plantations. Aph Ko again: “Dogs have always been a part of whiteness, as well as a part of racism.”

Citing more up-to-date “racist” history, when Ethnic Studies professor Heidi Nast admitted dogfighting within black communities is a relatively common phenomenon, she pinned it to white-driven welfare reform in the 1980s, as poorer black communities needed to supplement their income with drug-dealing and this required using pit bulls for protection.

More present still, anti-black racism today apparently helps explain racial variances in animal care. One black PETA activist said it’s “difficult for communities like mine who live in oppressive environments to see past our own suffering enough to recognize the suffering of other animals.” Again, yes, blacks are relatively unconcerned with animal welfare, but that’s white people’s problem; not theirs.

Conclusion

Why the FBI’s data hasn’t been raised by animal-rights groups is, of course, a good question. It is possible, even given their demonstrated stridency, there really is a collective reluctance rooted in wanting to foster a positive black group-image. Although not an express animal-rights activist, one academic writing about the FBI’s animal-cruelty data collection methods avoided publishing any details on racial disparities in the data. She claimed there was ‘an error in the 2019 Excel file’ obtained from the FBI which made racial figures in particular for that year unclear, even though I managed to locate it on PDF as well and for more than just one year. She didn’t respond when I probed her about this via email.

But on top of the data being quite new, it’s actually extremely difficult to find online (unlike the FBI’s other race and crime data). And nowhere does the FBI promote it. Without being proactive about finding this data, I doubt anyone would come across it naturally. It’s safely assumed then that animal-rights groups are indeed unaware of it (but should be pushed to engage with it).

Given what we’ve seen from animal-rights groups, it might really be that what passes as an excuse on this issue from black commentators fails to carry as much truck as it does when silencing discussions about black crime-rates elsewhere. For whatever reason, animal cruelty-denialism presents a greater moral challenge to many Americans. At least, compared to, say, ignoring or dismissing the wildly disproportionate figures surrounding black and white interracial crime. It is likely then that white (and black) animal lovers might be the most willing to step into this breach. After all, if the central question for them is, how can we challenge animal cruelty and reduce practices like animal torture, it’s hard to see how they couldn’t.

John Kline is an attorney in Virginia. His writing has appeared at The American Spectator, Russia Today, and Law & Liberty. Visit him on Twitter: @JohnJKline99.

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