Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
Every group has its criminals from the Irish Mob of Boston to the Jewish gangsters of the Lower East Side, the Italian Mafia, Chinese tongs and Latin American gangs. It’s not just minorities. The lower down a group is on the American socio-economic ladder, even if its roots are white, and Anglo-Saxon, the more likely it is to have its own criminal class.
What makes a criminal class truly pervasive though is the social approval of its community. That approval is what keeps a group lower down on the socio-economic ladder. The more social sanction there is for being a criminal, the less functional the next generation is going to be.
The criminal class of a group operates in two spheres: organized and disorganized crime.
Organized crime is rooted in tight dynastic and familial networks overseen by clever and ruthless men who have a larger vision than knocking over liquor stores, while disorganized crime springs from broken families, poor socialization, and no useful skills. The men who are involved in organized crime have a moral code and want to pass on something to their children. They have a strong sense of loyalty and have lines that they will refuse to cross. When these things cease to be true, the ring they are part of starts to break down in corruption and mistrust.
Disorganized crime has no vision, little loyalty, and its children are bastards and orphans.
When a group moves on, its criminal class, organized or disorganized, gets left behind. That’s what happened to the Jewish gangsters or the rural bank robbers of the Depression. Glamorizing thugs as vital to the community and a source of pride can keep a criminal class, like the Mafia, around past its time. But celebrating organized crime is better than the alternative.
The most corrosive combination is embracing both organized and disorganized crime. When that happens then, as in parts of Latin America, gang members take over the culture.
Contrary to the convictions of both black and white supremacists, there’s little that is historically unique about black crime. Other minority groups have at times embraced a criminal class, and treated enforcement efforts as a form of bigotry, always to their own detriment. What is perhaps unique is the extent to which white liberals have embraced black criminals as a pet cause.
There was a time when the black community demanded a crackdown on crime while white liberals in the cultural establishment glamorized the pushers and pimps that black ministers were fighting to get rid of at any cost. Ministers like these still exist, but they have been systematically shut out of the public discourse by Democrat officials who profit from malaise, not progress, and by activist groups who have long since learned that crime is what really pays.
Democrats and leftist activists, both black and white, have successfully racialized crime.
Black Lives Matter is what happens when you reduce civil rights to the rights of criminals. And redefine the black experience around interactions with police and the criminal justice system.
The now familiar trope reduces all black people to criminals and the criminal justice system to an oppressive regime conspiring to keep black people down. The rhetoric isn’t new, but the lack of resistance to it, in the black community, among even moderate Democrats, and even a growing number of Republicans, may be truly historically unique. At least in American history.
It’s as if the Americans of a century ago had decided that Italians and the Mafia were the same thing, and that arresting mobsters was a WASP conspiracy that had to end on moral grounds.
The cost of legitimizing a criminal element and failing to enforce the law is paid for by all Americans to some degree. Those who live in major cities pay the highest price, but everyone pays, whether in taxes, insurance hikes, or the cost of doing business with urban corporations.
The cost of racializing crime is much higher and is paid entirely by the black community.
Every group has its criminals and they prey, first and foremost, on members of their own group. Organized crime depicts its predation as a service to the community. Its thugs provide protection, offer loans, and can arrange all sorts of favors and dispensations. Disorganized crime rarely bothers. The best its members can do is pretend that they’re heroes and victims.
Law enforcement plays a vital role in stopping criminals from committing crimes, but only a community can stop its members from becoming criminals. And the only way to do that is through the greatest power that a community can leverage: the moral force of self-definition.
A community defines what it is and it isn’t. It constructs its identity and uses peer pressure to compel its members to go along. It can, as Obama liked to say, decide that this is who we are.
When crime is racialized, then the community loses the power to convey that message. To be a criminal becomes not a choice, but part of being, as we are told so often now, a black man in America. That is a point on which both black and white nationalists agree. They just disagree on whether crime is a good thing. The former are defining the black community by martyr criminals.
That isn’t an original idea.
There was a time when farmers in the rural midwest celebrated the bank robbers who struck at financial institutions, and narcocorridos in Mexico still pen anthems for fallen drug lords. Crime can be romantic. The Pirates of the Carribean movies were a huge hit and The Highwayman is still taught in many English classes. But it’s also a dead end practiced by people with no future.
Criminals, sociologists lecture us, are reacting to societal oppression. That can even be true to some degree. The Silician Mafia, Jewish gangsters, border reivers in Scotland, the aforementioned pirates, the Yakuza in Japan, and many other groups throughout history were reacting to some sort of foot on their necks, but they quickly became parasites and oppressors.
The fundamental truth about criminals, especially the disorganized kind, is that they’re lazy.
Civilizations are built by people, good or bad, who make things. Criminals don’t make, they take. And if organized crime occasionally provides services and can evolve into the stationary bandits who become governments, disorganized crime is a purely parasitic and destructive enterprise.
And the crime in the black community is defined not by organized, but by disorganized crime.
When disorganized crime is at the wheel, nothing gets built, only broken. One generation passes its failures on to the next. The moral codes that make civilization possible come apart.
Racializing crime isn’t the ideology of criminals. Even most criminals know it’s a terrible idea.
Corrupt politicians and ideologues racialize crime to create a permanent state of dysfunction. Even as we condemn crime, it’s important to remember that there are worse things than criminals. Criminals take possessions, bodies, lives, but politicians warp minds. Ideology can be more poisonous than criminality. Those who racialize crime do more damage than the criminals.
Crime is not a race, it’s an attitude that can become a culture. When ideologues blend crime with a belief system, the results are terrible. That was what Mohammed did over a thousand years ago when he combined banditry with Islam and the region and the world are still suffering from the consequences of what happened when crime became a civilizational identity.
Like addiction, crime is a human weakness. At the disorganized level, the criminal at first enjoys what he does and then, once the pleasure has gone, convinces himself that he has no choice. Leftists have spent over a century arguing that criminals from lower socio-economic groups have no choice. That robbing and killing is the identity and destiny that they were born into.
Leftists act as enablers for criminals, both physically and philosophically.
Their racialization of crime is an evil and racist idea. The agenda is not social justice, but an attack on social morality. The aim, like that of the welfare state, is the destruction of the black community as anything except a captive voter bloc in a permanent state of dysfunction that can be used to extract money for the corrupt agendas of the Democrats and their allies.
Republicans should reject the myth that law enforcement is racist, that the justice system is a tool of oppression, and that the best thing we can do for the black community is to dismantle both. The simple fact that this is what the Democrats want should be telling us that it will cause pain and suffering, rather than help make the inner city or the country a better place.
There’s a whole lot more to black lives and black futures than street thugs. The majority black police forces in places like Atlanta make that clear. If Democrats choose to view black people as criminals, Republicans should stand with black police officers and small business owners.
The Democrats have racialized crime. Republicans should deracialize it.
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