Michael Bloomberg, the former Mayor of New York perhaps best known for taking fizzy drinks, and now a Democratic presidential aspirant, has just caused a bit of a kerfuffle by suggesting that minorities be disarmed to keep them alive.
I think the real problem with Bloomberg’s remark is not that it reads as shockingly racist, it’s that reading it that way leaves us unable to deal with the truth he is telling. Because he’s right; close to 95% of all gun murders are committed by minority males between 15 and 25, and most of the victims are minorities themselves. That is a fact. What should we do with it?
It’s the 21st century and pretty much everybody outside of a handful of sociopaths and Affirmative Action fans has a moral sense that it’s wrong to make laws that discriminate on the basis of skin color. On the other hand, Bloomberg is broadly correct about the effect of disarming minorities, if it could actually be accomplished. (He might be optimistic by 5% or so, according to my knowledge of the relevant facts, and disarming minorities is effectively impossible, but neither of these objections are relevant to where I’m going with this.)
I think it is quite unlikely that Bloomberg has classically racist intentions in what he said. Sure, it’s fun in an Alinskyite sort of make-them-live-up-to-their-own-rules way to pillory a lefty like Bloomberg over this sort of remark, but let’s get real. This is not a man with a particular desire to oppress black or brown people. What’s obnoxious about Nanny Bloomberg is that he thinks he has the moral standing to oppress anybody in the name of whatever cause du jour currently exercises him.
So once we’ve stopped flogging the (rather risible) idea that Bloomberg is a racist, where are we? How do we use the statistical truth he pointed out without being racist ourselves?
There’s nothing magic about the amount of melanin in somebody’s skin that makes them so much more more likely to be a violent criminal that Bloomberg’s 95% figure is almost true. Dark skin can’t be the problem here; it has to be something else that is correlated with dark skin, predicted by it, but not it.
I don’t think there’s any mystery about what that is. Criminals are, by and large, stupid. American blacks have an average IQ of 85. Hispanics average 88. People with low IQs are bad at forward planning; this makes them impulsive and difficult to deter with negative consequences. It’s a safe bet that black and Hispanic criminals are, like white criminals, largely drawn from the subnormal end of their populations’ IQ bell curves.
If Bloomberg had said “We ought to disarm everyone with an IQ of 85 or below”, he would actually be more statistically correct than he was. That would still be pretty near impossible. But it wouldn’t be racist.
UPDATE: Upon further investigation, it turns out that I misinterpreted what Bloomberg said, steelmanning his remarks in light of my own knowledge. What he actually seems to have meant is far less defensible than I made it out to be. Not in a racist way, he was simply quite wrong about the crime statistics.