Sunday, October 25, 2009

Blacks and the subculture of violence:  In Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Thomas Sowell argues that the South developed a violent culture because of Scotch Irish immgrants.  Blacks supposedly absorbed these values from their white neighbors and still have them, regardless of what region of the country they now live in. Among the values is a touchiness on matters of honor and manhood. If someone offends you, you don't walk away. You teach him a lesson. Sowell points to culture and thus avoids any biological explanations for the higher rate of violence among blacks.

General Social Survey data, however, don't back up his assertion.  Of course, it would be nice if respondents were asked a long list of questions about the appropriate use of violence, but we have at least one question: is it okay--yes or no--for a man to hit a drunk who bumped into his wife on the street?

A violent orientation among white Southerners should be most concentrated among the lower classes, and I would expect attitudes to differ from American norms most in the East South Central (ESC) part of the South which includes Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee.  15.5% of these people agree with the statement about hitting a drunk man.  It's 18.9% if only men are included.

How does that compare to low-status blacks who live anywhere in the country? Only 7.9% of them said yes to the question, and the number for males is only 9.1%.  The number for all blacks does not differ significantly from the estimate for all Americans: 8.6%. By contrast, low-status whites from the ESC region are significantly more likely (at the 95% confidence level) to hold this violent attitude when compared to other Americans or to poor blacks.

So, it's possible that white Southerners are more prone to assault than Northerners because of their views toward the appropriate use of violence, but how do we explain the high level of violence among blacks? Liberal researchers will instruct us that a racist society makes blacks angry, and anger leads people to vent physically.  A biological explanation is an obvious possibility--I mean, racist whites, and the Scotch Irish for that matter, don't live everywhere blacks do around the globe--but it hasn't been investigated much because it might be true.        


  1. Interesting header image. I like it.

  2. If I remember correctly, per capita incarceration rates for Blacks in the South are lower than for Blacks living in more predominantly White regions, particularly the Midwest. While that doesn't necessarily refute the "Black Redneck" hypothesis -- perhaps violent crime in the South is simply less likely to be severely punished -- it does call it into question, as one would otherwise assume that the farther geographically that Blacks were removed from White Rednecks, and the longer they were separated from them, the more their behavior would approach the norms of the society around them.


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