Black Murderrnby Steven GoldbergrnImagine the devastating effect, even on the mass of youngrnblack men who successfully resist the temptation to violence,rnof Gwen Guthrie’s song Ain’t Nothin’ Coin’ On But The Rent:rnBoy, nothing in life is free / That’s why I’m asking yournwhat can you do for me / I’ve got responsibility / So I’mrnlookin’ for a man who’s got some money in his hand . ..rn/ I’ve got lots of love to give, but I will have to avoid yournif you’re unemployed . . . /You’ve got to have something,rnif you want to be with me . . . / Life’s too serious,rnlove’s too mysterious, a black girl like me needs securityrn. .. / We’re only wasting time if your pockets are emptyrn.. . / No romance with no hnance.rnPerhaps this moves some young men m the direction ofrnemployment (“You’ve got to have a J-O-B if you want to bernwith me”), but for many—for whom any employment possiblernin practical terms would clearly be insufficient to satisfy thernwoman in the song—the song can be only a taunt that makesrncrime alluring. It is astonishing that more of the deprived andrnunemployable do not turn to violent crime. I would.rnFor many it is received wisdom that America’s catastrophicallyrnhigh murder rate is explicable in terms of a tradition of violencerninherent in American culture. This belief persists despiternthe fact that such an “American tradition of violence”rnrequires invocation of an obscure and dubious explanation ofrnviolent crime where an obvious and cogent explanation suffices.rnThe blunt truth is that a disproportionate rate of murderrnby a small number of young black men (whatever its causes) ac-rnSteven Goldberg is chairman of the sociology department atrnCity College, The City University of New York.rncounts for the shocking level of violent crime. This may wellrnbe what white America deserves for inflicting slavery and thernresidue of slavery on a people (or it would be were the victimsrnof black murderers not overwhelmingly black). Be that as itrnmay, the reality is that the six percent of the American peoplernwho are black males commit half of all murders in America andrnthat most of these murders are committed by the small portionrnof the six percent who are young.rnThe causation of the black homicide rate is a complex amalgam.rnThe familiar contributing factors include but are not limitedrnto: family instability (particularly illegitimacy and the absencernof a father); educational deprivation in a time whenrnextensive education is a necessary condition for a minimalrnability to compete; a milieu in which success becomes associatedrnwith crime in the young black mind and in which gratificationrnthat is not instant is dismissed as unachievable; therntaunting of those who have nothing by television families thatrnseem to have everything; the assault on black males’ hopefulnessrnand self-esteem that all of these engender; a system of lawrnenforcement that makes violent crime rational; and, of course,rnjoblessness, prejudice, and drugs. All of these generate an attituderntoward educational and occupational pursuits that precludesrnsuccess.rnFor many black males these facts greatly increase the likelihoodrnthat they will soon be in prison, on parole, or on probation.rnTo be sure, most young black males do not encounter arnconfiguration of factors capable of overcoming their resistancern(what we used to call “character”), and most of those who dornare able to resist the temptation to violence. But for murderersrn—and that is the subject—such factors are sufficient.rnThere are other sides to the problem, not the least of whichrnis the black crime caused by black crime: manslaughter by arn20/CHRONICLESrnrnrn