Let Criminal Faces Be Shown

"Police release images of suspects in Iverson Mall shooting."  As is often the case, the images were of athletic young black men wielding powerful weapons, firing at close range, apparently with intent to kill.

I often check the images of perpetrators, and often they tell me more than the accompanying story, which conceals the most important clue for apprehending the criminal.  But often the images are not published with the initial reporting, especially if the perpetrator is black.

Media wasted no time in posting photos of the Monterey Park presumed shooter, a 72-year-old Asian-American, and images of the accused killer of four in Moscow, Idaho, are widely available, perhaps overly available.  But four recent shootings in Durham, N.C. have drawn no national coverage, and to my knowledge, no photos have been posted, not even of the victims (the perpetrators are at large).

Lying has consequences.  In terms of the media depiction of blacks, the consequence is that society is less likely to face the problem that exists in the upbringing and childhood conditions of a large number of black Americans.  Blacks commit murder at a rate of seven times that of whites, according to one source.  But among young black males, murder rates are far higher, because 90.3% of homicides are committed by males, and because we are speaking of young men.  Young black males between the ages of 14 and 35 constitute some 3% of the U.S. population, but this small demographic is responsible for nearly 50% of the murders.  The demographic could be whittled down further by specifying location and income level.  Middle-class blacks residing in affluent suburbs are generally not criminals.  Nor, for that matter, are regularly employed working-class blacks.

Government has only two crucial functions: to defend the country in time of war and to protect its citizens at home.  But government has not been protecting us very well lately.  According to International Business Times, murder rates have been spiking in the past few years, "and the majority of them were in the nation's largest cities."  If the public realized the extent to which young black men are involved in murders, rapes, assaults, burglaries, break-ins, and drug-dealing, they might insist on a government response instead of the kind of excuse-making that's been going on for decades.

Society must face the problem, but the first step toward doing so is to admit that a problem exists.  If we were to admit that young blacks commit crimes at much higher levels than whites and Asians, we would ask what could be done to change the situation.

First of all, the public must be protected. This means that offenders at all levels and of all races must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law — and must be held pending bail when applicable, and that bail requirements must be raised.  In other words, accused offenders must be taken off the streets.  And when convicted, they must be kept off the streets for a long time.

Long prison sentences and capital punishment act as deterrents.  To begin with, an offender in prison or executed cannot repeat the offense, as a large majority of released criminals do.  The recidivism rate among criminals is as high as 85%, dependent on how and where it is calculated.  (This is another fact that is difficult to obtain and is certainly not widely reported in the media.)  It's also important to understand what recidivism actually means: it means that 85% of those released from prison commit another offense and are caught within a certain period of time (often calculated as being within one year).  Obviously, the actual rate of recidivism is higher than what is officially recorded.

Admittedly, long prison sentences are not a solution; they are a Band-Aid, but they are the only Band-Aid that exists.  Long sentences are not just protective of the public; they are also merciful to offenders, who at least are spared the dangers of a criminal life on the streets.  Prison may be unpleasant, but it is relatively safe compared to the daily violence of gang life and eventual confrontation with armed citizens or the police.

The real solution is for blacks to become assimilated into middle-class American society, as large numbers already are. The great impediment to assimilation is liberal support for identity politics as manifested in affirmative action, BLM, woke politics, and other policies based on racial distinctions.  Only when blacks are treated exactly like white, Asians, and other successful groups will they develop the qualities of those groups.  And only when the media and general culture admit and widely proclaim that bourgeois culture is superior to so-called black culture will this change really take place.

In fact, bourgeois culture is superior.  It produces a more stable home life (though not stable enough, what with white divorce rates of 46%), suppression of violence, emphasis on education and work and material benefits accruing from that higher level of education and work, church attendance and civic involvement, refinement of manners, healthier behavior and environment, and in general a higher quality of life.  Surely, that bourgeois lifestyle is superior to childhood in substandard housing, participation in gang violence and crime at an early age, a marriage rate of only 30% for blacks (in contrast to 52% of whites and 58% of Asians), and a popular culture of rap music that glorifies violence and raw sexuality.

Many black Americans (roughly 3 million out of a population of 44 million) have now become middle-class and have taken on these beneficial middle-class traits.  We should be hopeful about America's future because so many black and Hispanic residents have assimilated to the national culture.  Latinos, for example, are "the fastest growing small business owners in America ... with $500 billion in annual sales," according to USA Today.

But the large black underclass living in what used to be called "the ghetto" — the violent and crime-plagued sections that still exist in every American city — does not aspire to suburban living or to becoming accountants or dentists.  As of 2019, the poverty rate among black Americans had fallen to 19%, less than in the past but more than twice that of others (7.3% for both non-Hispanic whites and Asians).  Most black Americans belong to the working class and middle class, but nearly one fifth live in poverty.  Obviously, this is no excuse for engaging in criminal behavior, but nonetheless, a strong correlation exists between poverty, especially in public housing areas, and violent crime.

One part of that process is for media to publish, and even highlight, photographs of offenders.  I know the faces of America's criminals because I take the time to look them up, but most readers do not.  If they did, they would recognize the common profile of offenders: resentful, alienated, defiant, smug, willful individuals unafraid of punishment, as indeed they have every reason to be at present.  Let the faces of offenders be shown, and let the public decide what needs to be done about the problem.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

Image via Pixabay.

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