Blame Bad Decisions for Crime, Not Structural Racism and Colonialism
If I were to buy a Tesla, because I thought it was the best car in the world, but had trouble making the payments for it and for my mortgage, and in the end lose my car and my house, who is responsible: the Tesla advertisers, the banks that extend credit, my boss who does not pay me more, or my wife and children who consume much of my income? If I decide it is the fault of my wife and children, and I “discipline” them physically, who is responsible for the abuse they suffer: credit givers, those who do not pay me more, or is it violent television programs and video games? The answer, both morally and legally, is that I am responsible for my actions. If I make bad decisions, it is no one else’s fault.
Of course, no one likes to take responsibility for the consequences of poor decisions. My son, when he was a pre-teen and teen, and had gotten up to some abuse of the trust given to household members, would always say, “not my fault.” The tendency to blame others for our problems or errors or bad habits is widespread. In my geographical area of specialized study, the Middle East, difficulties are commonly explained by the deleterious influence of outsiders. For example, in Saudi Arabia, even such a quotidian problem as a toaster not working is blamed on “the Jews,” although there are no Jews in Saudi Arabia. For geopolitical problems, as well as internal ones, it was common in the Arab World to blame the British and French, until Israel took Britain’s place as the go-to source of evil.
But there was interest in Canada in identifying accountability for the murdered and missing Indigenous women, which was spurred by the horrible serial killings of Robert Pickton, and which led to the official Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry (MMIWG). However, the preferred explanation turned out to be, not individuals who killed, but rather general historical events, such as “colonialism” and “residential schools,” construed in the MMIWG report as an ongoing “genocide” perpetrated by all Canadians.
In our feminist times, no one cares about what happens to boys and men, Indigenous or otherwise. Canadian Indigenous men are murdered at more than double the rate of women: 329 Indigenous males murdered, versus 141 Indigenous females, for the period 1997-2004. That the MMIWG inquiry was framed as it was, is itself a bold display of misandry. But let us leave this issue aside, to return to the question of the murdered and missing Indigenous women.
There should be no debate about the injustice and tragedy of the murdered and missing Indigenous women. The MMIWG Inquiry’s two-volume report focuses on these aspects, conveying the loss and suffering for those remaining. The report does not, however, focus on whose actions led to the murders or disappearance of these women. And there is a good reason for that, because the authors and other Indigenous leaders and advocates do not want Indigenes identified as the authors of most of these crimes.
As would surprise no seasoned police officer or criminologist, Indigenous women are murdered most often by spouses, relatives, and other known members of their communities, as are all other victims of murder of all races and cultures. The RCMP states that in 62 percent of the cases, aboriginal females who were victims of homicide were killed by a spouse, family member or intimate relation (the number was higher – 74 percent – for other Canadian women who are murdered), and that 70 percent of the aboriginal women who are murdered in Canada meet their fate at the hands of someone of their own race. Some judicial authorities believe (personal communication) that the percent of women and girls killed by other Indigenes is closer to 95 percent.
These findings were met with incredulity and Indignation by Indigenous leaders and activists, who rejected them, claiming that the findings were “fabricated evidence” and “false, and relies on inaccurate data and racist assumptions.” It is allegedly based on “sloppily collected RCMP data that doesn't examine the actual problems underlying violence against Indigenous women, and is grounded in racist assumptions about Indigenous people.” Furthermore, “The final report included an entire section devoted to debunking the 70 per cent figure: ‘The often-cited statistic that Indigenous men are responsible for 70 per cent of murders of Indigenous women and girls is not factually based,’ it concluded.” The so-called academic wisdom of today alleges that underlying the spread of the 70 percent myth is a racist assumption that Indigenous people are inherently violent or uncivil, said Robert Henry, an assistant professor at the University of Calgary who studies Indigenous justice issues. It allows people who believe it to blame Indigenous men rather than examining their own roles in colonialism as it manifests today — something that must happen if society is to change in any meaningful way, he added.
Even though the RCMP statistics about who kills whom in Indigenous murders are in sync with the pattern of murders in all populations and races, somehow it is “racist” to mention the facts.
However, the incidence of murder, the rate for Indigenous women is much higher than for non-Indigenous Canadian women, around four and half time higher. This is a disturbing figure. Does not a high murder rate uncharacteristic of Canada as a whole, and largely attributable to internal community violence, indicate a social and cultural pathology? (Before anyone slaps the label of “racism” on this question, note that social and cultural pathology has to do with social relations and cultural understandings, and has nothing whatever to do with race.) How can we explain such a social and cultural pathology in the Canadian Indigenous community?
Looking at Canadian Indigenous peoples historically, it is easy to see that they have faced serious dilemmas, and have followed a hard road. Pre-contact, Canadian Indigenous peoples, generally speaking, were heavily dependant on hunting, trapping, gathering, and fishing, and lived in small communities, many nomadic. Once in contact with larger, more complex, and ultimately more powerful societies, small-scale societies in Canada and elsewhere around the world, tend to transform. In a seminal article entitled “Tappers and Trappers: Parallel Process in Acculturation,” anthropologists Robert F. Murphy and Julian H. Stewart, draw on the Canadian Algonkian and Brazilian Mundurucu cases to illustrate the transformation:
When goods manufactured by the industrialized nations with modern techniques become available through trade to aboriginal populations, the native people increasingly give up their homecrafts in order to devote their efforts to producing specialized cash crops or other trade items in order to obtain more of the industrially made articles.
But this is only the start: local political authority structures disappear in favor of trader-seller relations, traditional groups no longer function; traditional residence patterns are abandoned, often for settlement around trading posts; and the society becomes socially fragmented, individual families going their own ways. The authors conclude:
When the people of an unstratified native society barter wild products found in extensive distribution obtained through individual effort, the structure of the native culture will be destroyed, and the final culmination will be a culture-type characterized by individual families having delimited rights to marketable resources and linked to the larger nation through trading centers.
Later government arrangements such as reserves or reservations sometimes establish new collective institutions in the attempt to re-establish communities.
But the reality, for many Indigenous communities in Canada, particularly those in the north, is that their traditional way of life living off of the land through hunting and nomadic mobility is gone. In its place, is widespread welfare dependency, unemployment, alcoholism and fetal alcohol syndrome, substance abuse, and violence. To a degree at least, the preference for remaining separate and avoiding integration with the larger society, without a viable local way of life, opens the door to anomie, anger, and violence. Apartheid has not proven to be a fruitful choice.
In the face of social and cultural pathologies, Indigenous leaders and advocates have said, in effect, “not my fault.” Any attempt to place the fault within the Indigenous community is denounced as “racism” and “colonialism.” If we cannot blame the people who commit murders for the murders, who can be blamed? The answer, from the MMIWG report is that all non-indigenous Canadians are at fault: Ravinder Singh from BC, David Cohen of Manitoba, Alexander Tattersall of Ontario, Giles Levesque of Quebec, all pulled the triggers, or thrusted the knives, or swung the lumber, because all Canadians are engaged in a genocide against Indigenous women!
By far the worst thing about the accusation of a Canadian genocide against Indigenous females is not the semantic crime of stretching the concept of genocide so far it loses meaning, or that the memory of those people who have actually suffered genocide is besmirched, but that the real and dangerous social and cultural pathologies that generate Indigenous victims are denied and ignored in favor of blaming everyone else in the entire country. This is not just deeply irresponsible; it is deeply immoral.
Similar problems of social and cultural pathology are found among African Americans. According to FBI statistics, although African Americans make up no more than 14 percent of the U.S. population, they are victims of 43 percent of the murders, and, of those murders, 90 percent are committed by other African Americans. The murder rate within the African American community is over three times what one would expect on the basis of population numbers.
This information must be a secret, because you would not know about the black-on-black crime rate from reading the literature of the most influential African American movement, Black Lives Matter, lionized by no less than the Democrat Party. We learn that “The Black Lives Matter Global Network is a chapter-based, member-led organization whose mission is to build local power and to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.” (Emphasis added.)
We also learn that BLM “affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, undocumented folks, folks with records, women, and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.” Finally, that “We are working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise.” There is no mention that, in 90% of the cases, it is other blacks who are targeting blacks for demise. BLM prefers to identify and target police as the source of killings among the African American community, although research shows that “racial disparities in police conduct found that differences in offending by suspects, not racism, explains officers’ responses.” In fact, in 2017, 46 police were murdered in the line of duty, 36% by African Americans, well above double what would be expected by population size.
Nor is murder the only social and cultural pathology apparent in the African American community. Seventy percent of African American children are brought up outside of marriage in single-parent families, usually headed by a female. This has been shown to be highly detrimental, especially for boys, putting them at high risk for poor educational performance and for likely incarceration. Black activists have nothing to say about these pathologies. They content themselves with pointing the finger at the alleged racism of the white majority.
We have been taught by sociologists that everything wrong is the result of structural flaws, such as structural racism, structural sexism, structural heteronormality, structural inequality, etc. So, we are advised to change the rules, rejig the “structure” to advantage the disadvantaged, then everything would be fine, although this violates basic human rights (such as equality before the law) and American and Canadian values (such as judging individuals on their merits).
What sociologists and advocates have not told us is exactly how slavery and colonialism centuries ago, causes a man in the 21st century to shoot his wife or stab his daughter or bludgeon his neighbor. How exactly does “structural racism” compel an individual to attack and murder his fellows? If all Indigenes and African Americans suffer from these historical and allegedly continuing ills, how come the incidence of murder is not higher, with all suffering victims murdering their spouses, children, relatives, and neighbors?
Contemporary sociologists have tended to lose sight of culture, both beneficial and detrimental aspects, and of individuals with their hopes and dreams, motivations, and characters. Individuals are in fact held responsible for their acts in law, and to pretend that they may be excused from responsibility for “structural reasons” is both irresponsible and counter-productive. Some unpopular minorities have been highly successful in North America. We also know that there is a large and successful African American middle class, so “structural racism” does not explain why many succeed even while pathologies exist in the African American community.
Addressing those pathologies directly are more likely to free more African Americans than excuses about “structure,” or, in the case of Canadian Indigenes, “colonialism” and “genocide.” It is an inviolable principle that individuals are responsible for their own acts, and that communities are responsible for their own pathologies. Blaming others never solves problems. Addressing these problems might be best guided by drawing on the experience of more economically successful and better integrated Indigenous groups, and of the millions of successful middle-class African Americans.