What are the murder rates by race? It is a contentious issue and one that we were ready to dismiss. After all, surely any privileged white person who claims that black people commit more murders is just abusing that privilege, playing to stereotypes and missing the obvious, right? Well, that’s what we believed and it’s what we were comfortable believing.
But as we dug deeper we discovered that there was some truth to this. As shocking as that was, we only had to scratch the surface a little further to discover that there were some shocking truths underlying this issue. Simply put, it’s not just as simple as stating the facts and making your point. You have to look at the reason those facts exist, and when you do that then you expose a problem that is seemingly rife in the United States.
Murder Rates by Race: Why the United States?
To determine murder rates by race, we decided to focus on the United States. Not only because this is one of the biggest countries in the world and the one that our site is predominantly focused on, but also because it is a cultural melting pot. It is a young country that was founded by immigrants and has a good mixture of different races, religions and creeds. It’s the perfect balance of humanity and it makes it a great focus to determine murder rates by race.
There are other countries with a similar mix of colors and creeds, including the United Kingdom. But nowhere has race been such a major problem and nowhere does it remain such a major problem. It’s in the news every day and it can be felt at every facet, at every level of US life. There is also the fact that the US has the highest murder rate of any first world nation, with a huge number of people being shot, stabbed or strangled every single year.
This has become a contentious issue between those with ring-wing extremist views and those who have more of a liberal stance. If certain aspects of the US government (and indeed the right-wing parties all across the west) are to be believed, then the main perpetuators are immigrants who follow Islam. And if many white, right-wing extremists are to be believed, then black males follow close below.
But what is the truth of the matter?
Murder Rates by Race: The Numbers
It is true that there are more black people in prison than those of other races. It is also true that they are 8 times more likely to be a perpetrator of a crime, but at the same time, they are 6 times more likely to be the victim in a criminal case. If you count forwards from 1980 and calculate all murder rates by race, then black people account for 52.5% of all murders, with those of a white and hispanic background accounting for 45.3%. (See our Black Serial Killers article for a more in depth look).
Recent studies suggest that close to 50% of all young gang members are hispanic, as opposed to just 35% black. These numbers have grown considerably in recent years, which may signal a future shift in the murder rates by race..
As mentioned already, black-on-black murder is more common than black-on-white, but this is also applicable with other races. Whites and hispanics are considerably more likely to kill members of their own race than to kill members of opposing races, suggesting that warnings of impending race wars are as unfounded as we all hoped.
In 2016, just 12 percent of the total number of homicides in the US were the result of black-on-white or white-on-black murder. This had increased from the year before, but not by a notable percentage.
Murder Rates by Race: The Reasons
Of course, contrary to what some people seem to believe, black people are not predisposed to crime of any kind. It’s much more likely that a combination of discrimination, racial profiling and in-group bias has resulted in these figures being so heavily inflated.
Many studies have been confirmed on this and one of them, rather worryingly, found that juries were considerably more likely to convict a black person than a white person. A black person is also more likely to be stopped and searched and more likely to be fingered for a crime.
This law enforcement bias is most evident in the stat that says a black person is three times as likely to be murdered by a police officer in the United States.
Murder Rates by Race in Other Countries
We gave you our reason for focusing on the United States. But that begs the question, Is this a cultural problem? Is this more to do with the previous oppression, the current state of police-on-black crime and the tension that has existed between blacks and whites for decades, than any kind of racial issue?
Well, in the UK, there are actually many similar statistics. In the UK, a black person is 26 times more likely to be be stopped and searched by a police officer than a white person. 26 times! But again, they are also more likely to be the victim of a crime and the perpetrator of a crime. In fact, despite the black population of the capital being just 12%, they account for more than half of all crimes in the city and for nearly 6 out of every 10 gun crimes.
So, this is not an issue that is confined to the United States, and it’s not one that has a clear and obvious explanation. It is worth noting that in the UK as well as the US, many minorities report experiences of being victimized by the police, while black youngsters are more likely to seek the protection they don’t get from society in a violent inner-city gang. This is always going to skew those figures and always going to create problems at the very foundation of society.
To see more on this subject, be sure to check with our article on Murder Rate by Country, which covers all major countries and their respective murder and crime rates.