Editor’s Note: Nation columnist Katha Pollitt took issue with Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn’s recent assertion that Ron Unz had published groundbreaking research on Hispanic crime rates. Cockburn’s response to Pollitt’s criticisms can be read here; Pollitt’s initial response to Cockburn is reposted below and can also be found on her blog, And Another Thing.
A couple of weeks ago I did a Nation column on Hispanic crime rates, citing a big piece by Ron Unz, publisher of the American Conservative, going through the statistical data and concluding on the basis of age-weighting and other considerations that contrary to popular belief, Hispanic crimes rates are at least the same as whites and–given the unknown number of illegal Hispanic immigrants in the country–could be considerably lower.
Probably naívely, I thought it encouraging that a magazine founded by Pat Buchanan should devote its March cover and a substantial number of pages to a persuasive assault on right-wing hysteria about the supposedly astronomic crime rates of Hispanics in America. At the end of this column I had a couple of paragraphs in which I recorded Unz’s surprise that liberal foundations had not exerted themselves more energetically in this area to refute ignorant prejudice, with a couple of thoughts of my own on liberal racism.
This little coda is what sent Katha Pollitt scurrying to her laptop. It’s “annoying,” she snapped, “when conservatives take credit for work liberals have been doing for much longer and far more seriously. It’s even more irritating when a leftist [that’s AC] is so eager to bash liberals, he joins the parade.”
Then she listed a number of papers from the liberal end of the spectrum on the topic of Hispanics and crime, plus some testy comments from academics working in this field, claiming that Unz was reinventing the wheel and that what the American Conservative was trumpeting on its cover was old news, known to all, or at least to liberal communicators such as Pollitt, though not Cockburn, all too eager to take yet another whack at the pwogs.
The trouble is that Katha–to judge from this piece at least–doesn’t actually know anything about the topic of Hispanic crime, therefore doesn’t know what’s widely known, what’s not widely known and what’s completely mistaken. Even the very limited research she references is on the topic of “immigrant Hispanic crime,” not “overall Hispanic crime,” and these studies are sometimes are highly misleading for that reason.
For example Katha quotes Reuben Rumbaut at UC Irvine as saying patronizingly on the phone to her that “I’m amused by [Unz’s] ‘discovery’ of something I’ve been writing about since the last millennium.” She encourages Nation readers to peruse a 2007 paper by Rumbaut. Actually, this paper claims–wrongly–that Mexican crime rates skyrocket 700 per cent in the generation after immigration. According to a Rumbaut chart, American-born Hispanics are 250 percent more likely to be imprisoned than American-born whites–a result which would be grim news for America’s future if it were correct. Here’s a link. Scroll down a bit to Figure 3, and Nation readers can discover where Tom Tancredo may have got his ideas about Latino crime rates.