White peo­ple should be more afraid of other whites

Los Angeles Times - - OP-ED - Mike Males is se­nior re­searcher for the Cen­ter on Ju­ve­nile and Crim­i­nal Jus­tice in San Fran­cisco. By Mike Males

Pres­i­dent Trump would have us be­lieve that white Amer­i­cans are en­dan­gered by im­mi­grants drug deal­ers and gang­sters, and the lib­eral politi­cians who abet them with so-called sanc­tu­ary cities.

At a re­cent rally in Ohio, Trump used lurid lan­guage to claim that gang mem­bers “slice and dice” beau­ti­ful girls like “an­i­mals.” Last week, his ad­min­is­tra­tion strength­ened its crackdown on sanc­tu­ary ju­ris­dic­tions, an­nounc­ing a new pol­icy that re­quires lo­cal gov­ern­ments to ei­ther co­op­er­ate with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents or lose fund­ing.

It’s ob­vi­ous to any­one who’s lis­ten­ing that when Trump talks about this ter­ri­fy­ing other he’s re­ally talk­ing about non-white peo­ple, not just any old for­eigner; and in­deed, Trump sup­port­ers in sur­veys con­flate their fears of im­mi­grants and dark-skinned peo­ple.

Th­ese fears are not founded in re­al­ity. White peo­ple should be more afraid of other whites than they are of peo­ple of color.

I ex­am­ined Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol statis­tics on mur­der, gun killings and il­le­gal-drug over­doses among white Amer­i­cans. My anal­y­sis shows that the white Amer­i­cans who are most at risk of dy­ing from th­ese causes are those who live in pre­dom­i­nantly white coun­ties.

The CDC statis­tics cover 2011 through 2015, the most re­cent five years for which data are avail­able, and en­com­pass 2,962 coun­ties and 99% of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the data, rates of homi­cides, gun killings and il­lic­it­drug fa­tal­i­ties are high­est in coun­ties where nine in 10 res­i­dents are white and where Pres­i­dent Trump won in the 2016 elec­tion.

Such coun­ties are not lim­ited to one ge­o­graph­i­cal re­gion. They in­clude Boone County, W.Va.; Wash­ing­ton County, Utah; Bax­ter County, Ark.; and Brown County, Ohio.

Cor­re­spond­ingly, the white Amer­i­cans who are safest from such deaths are those who live in racially di­verse ar­eas such as Los An­ge­les, New York and Chicago, where two-thirds of res­i­dents are non­white, where mil­lions of im­mi­grants live, and where vot­ers fa­vored Hil­lary Clin­ton in 2016. Non­whites also are safer in th­ese ar­eas over­all, though rates vary by lo­ca­tion.

White Amer­i­cans are nearly eight times more likely to die from il­licit-drug over­doses than mur­der, the CDC statis­tics show, a pro­por­tion that un­doubt­edly re­flects the heroin and il­le­gal opi­ate epi­demic. But ac­cord­ing to FBI data for 2015, when whites are mur­dered any­where in the coun­try, the mur­derer is five times more likely to be white than non­white. (This ra­tio counts only mur­der cases in which in­for­ma­tion about the of­fender is known by law en­force­ment.)

Over­all, white Amer­i­cans who live in pre­dom­i­nantly white and Trump-vot­ing coun­ties are 50% more likely to die from mur­der, gun vi­o­lence and drug over­doses than whites who live in the most di­verse and Demo­cratic-vot­ing coun­ties. The more white and Repub­li­can a county is, the greater the risk for white Amer­i­cans.

Whites are so much safer where there are fewer whites and Repub­li­cans, in fact, that it raises the ques­tion of what ex­actly un­der­lies this strong cor­re­la­tion between white safety and vot­ing pat­terns.

It may ap­pear log­i­cal that white Amer­i­cans are more at risk where they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the most eco­nomic pain and sup­posed ne­glect by Demo­cratic politi­cians. Af­ter all, much has been made of the role that eco­nomic anx­i­ety played in white sup­port for Trump, es­pe­cially in pre­dom­i­nantly white ar­eas.

But cen­sus data do not back up such a cor­re­la­tion. White Amer­i­cans en­joyed the largest real in­come and em­ploy­ment gains of any race dur­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, par­tic­u­larly in Rust Belt states, where fed­eral eco­nomic stim­u­lus was strong­est.

Per­haps Trump’s sup­port­ers are at­tracted to his macabre rhetoric and prom­ises of dra­co­nian crack­downs pre­cisely be­cause they are most at risk of dy­ing the kind of vi­o­lent death he de­scribes. But in this case, they are se­ri­ously mis­taken about what en­dan­gers them — namely, them­selves and other white Amer­i­cans.

Cal­i­for­nia can serve as an il­lus­tra­tive ex­am­ple of how safety in­creases with greater di­ver­sity. Five out of six white Amer­i­cans in Cal­i­for­nia now live in coun­ties where whites are a mi­nor­ity. (Na­tion­wide, this is true of only one in six white Amer­i­cans.) White res­i­dents of Cal­i­for­nia are gen­er­ally safer from mur­der, gun killings and il­licit-drug over­doses than whites else­where. Over­all, the state’s crime rate is near a his­toric low.

Cal­i­for­nia ex­pe­ri­enced po­lit­i­cal up­roar over de­mo­graphic change in the 1980s and 1990s, and the state gen­er­ated the same anti-im­mi­grant, tough-on-crime, racist panic that Trump and some Repub­li­can politi­cians are now fo­ment­ing.

Cal­i­for­nia’s been-there-donethat ad­vice to the rest of the coun­try: Skip that stage. Safety comes with di­ver­sity.

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