Are Black Americans at a Higher Risk of Murder?

After the horrific mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, which killed nine people, President Obama made a statement saying, “We as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”

As the country reels over yet another instance of violence against Blacks in America, it’s important to understand this epidemic not only sociologically, but also statistically. While some vehemently deny our race problems and attribute them to external factors, the data shows this is a uniquely American issue.

According to FiveThirtyEight, Black Americans are far more likely to be homicide victims than White Americans, and are 12 times more likely to be killed in the U.S. than in other developed countries.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recently published a study on global homicide rates. Conferring to the CDC’s WONDER database, 5.2 out of every 100,000 Americans were murdered on average, from 2010 to 2012 – which isn’t particularly high compared to other countries – with the median rate being 4.6 homicides per 100,000. The country with the highest homicide rate in the world is Honduras, with 87.9 murders per 100,000 persons. What makes the U.S.’s stats strange is when we break down the statistics by race.

The yearly murder rate among White Americans was 2.5 per 100,000 people between 2010 and 2012 – that’s 40,000 White Americans killed each year – while Black Americans are killed at 19.4 per 100,000 persons annually (1 in 5,000 people per year). Meaning, Black are about eight times more likely than Whites to be homicide victims.

But amid “advanced,” wealthy, developed countries, the U.S.’s rate of homicide is easily the highest. For context, Canada’s homicide rate is three times lower than ours. There is no other “advanced” country with a similar murder rate to the one Black Americans experience. Black American’s homicide death rate, 19.4 per 100,000 persons, is about 12 times higher than the average rate among people in all other developed countries.

One would have to compare the U.S. to developing nations like Mexico (22.0), Brazil (23.6), Nigeria (20.0), Rwanda (23.1), or Myanmar (15.2) to find a similar rate.

The Charleston shootings were odd in that it was a mass murder where the suspect was of a different race than the targets – both black and white murder victims are more likely to be killed by a perpetrator of their own race. In the end, the menace Black Americans face from homicide is profoundly different from the one whites do. Racial tensions have not subsided after electing a Black president, and incidents like Trayvon, Ferguson, and now Charleston are proof you can’t erase centuries of oppression within a decade.


Have you, or anyone you know, been racially profiled? 

Additional images: Atlanta Black Star



Zara Zhi
Zara Zhi
Zara is a freelance writer and filmmaker who has worked for numerous magazines and news sites. When not coming up with puns or writing screenplays, she enjoys having blind children read to her and donating plasma TVs. Follow her on Twitter: @zarazhi