Michael Levin, “Responses to Race Differences in Crime”
“It is widely agreed that young black males are significantly more likely to commit crimes against persons that are members of any other racially identified group.”
Question: What explains black hyper-criminality?
Question: What do cross cultural studies suggest?
1 in 4 black males is incarcerated at some point for the commission of the felony.
Blacks are 12% general population but they commit 1/2 of all assaults and rapes and 2/3 of all robbery.
“Some criminologists use the rule of thumb that a black male is ten times more likely than his white counterpart to be a criminal.”
The “Fear of Black Crime” and “Race Consciousness”
“Black crime is obviously a problem for both blacks and whites.”
“The data are thus consistent with a greater preference for white victims on the part of black criminals, and to that extent warrant greater white than black apprehension about black crime.”
Moral Frameworks and Proof and Refutation in Ethical Argumentation
Epistemic and Moral Warrant
“My central claim is that a white (or black) encountering a young black male in isolated circumstances is more warranted in believing himself in danger, and in taking precautions, than when encountering a white in similar circumstances.”
Decision Theory, .05 Confidence Intervals, and .25 Felon Rates
“Relative to your state of knowledge, he is a typical member of a class one fourth of whose members are felons, and the probability to be assigned to a random member of that class being a felon is .25.”
Private Actions vs. State Actions
Getting from Justified Individual Race Consciousness to Justified State Race Consciousness
Private Case: The Flight from Perceived Danger
“You are avoiding a statistical probability he represents.”
Insult vs. Safety: A Simple Calculus?
Governmental Action and the Legitimacy of the Political State
Security as the State’s Raison D’Etre.
Strict Scrutiny and Race as a Suspect Category
Protecting Citizens as Compelling State Interest
“Stopping acts which, as a matter of objective fact young black males are more likely to commit, by perhaps an order of magnitude, is a ‘pressing public necessity’ if anything is.”
Test Case: Affirmative Action
The Burden of Proof: Levin claims the burden belongs with opponents of racial profiling.
Is he right about this?
- Basing treatment on race is racist. Levin’s reply: “racist: shouldn’t be used in question begging way.
- The rights against screening by race override the possible benefits of screening. Levin’s reply: The issue is rights (of potential black suspects) vs. rights (of potential victims)
- The Slippery Slope argument. Levin’s reply: All practices and the principles that undergird them are subject to abuse.
- Race is not a causally relevant screening criterion—e.g., probable causes like guns and stacks of car radios vs. race. Levin’s reply: “Standard criteria are used because they carry information, whatever the course of this informativeness.”
- Race is a biological trait that is not chosen by its members. Levin’s reply: Contrast this with how we treat age and gender.
- Racial screening will strengthen stereotypes and mistrust of blacks. Levin’s reply: “Whether racial screening will cause rights violations comparable to those it prevents, and encourage private acts of injustice as whites become irrationally mistrustful of blacks, is an empirical issue which cannot be decided by quasi-a priori speculation.” Yet, Levin speculates nonetheless…and suggests that stereotypes exist for a reason.
- Because racism and poverty are often taken to be the root causes of black criminality, society has a special responsibility to address the causes of black crime. Levin’s reply: On the one hand, he believes that the debate about the legitimacy of racial profiling is orthogonal to the issue of whether they state has a special obligation to address the causes of black crime. On the other hand, Levin points out that the “root causes” objection opens the door to other possible causes of black criminality—e.g., genetics. Read extended passage on p. 450. “Does the world look as if blacks and whites are equally behaviorally restrained but for white racism?” Short Answer: Yes!
- People should be treated as individuals, not as members of groups. Levin’s reply: This is inconsistent with the practice of affirmative action.
“But race-conscious safety-seeking measures remain proper even if white racism, or stereotyping, or some combination of the two, is the cause of black crime. So much seems unarguable in the case of ‘private’ safety seeking.”