"Abetting the concealment campaign is the feeling shared by many whites that it is unfair, inflammatory and even un-American to talk about Negro crime. This feeling is reflected in the widespread newspaper practice of not mentioning a criminal's race unless he is at large and the fact would help in identifying him.
In hiding the facts about Negro crime, the "conspiracy of concealment" helps blur the causes of it. Negro leaders themselves often put forward explanations that are oversimple. Some hold that Negro crime is largely the result of migrations from the South: in the unfamiliar environment of the North, the argument runs, Negroes tend to be more crime-prone, just like white immigrants from abroad. But in fact, some studies have shown that, contrary to popular conviction, crime rates among foreign-born whites were lower than among U.S.-born whites.
Most often, Negro leaders point to poverty as the No. 1 factor in Negro crime. As Editor Louis Martin of the Chicago Defender sees it, the main cause is poor and crowded housing. But the moderate crime rates among European immigrants, subject to similar stresses of poverty and bad housing, suggest that other factors may be more important.
Providing better housing for impoverished Negroes is a necessity, but it would not solve the problem of Negro crime. Crime rates run high in the Negro slums of Harlem and South Side Chicago, but they also run high in the Negro districts of Los Angeles and San Francisco, where the houses are comparatively decent. As many a public-housing official has learned to his dismay, better housing does not automatically bring about the improvement in character and conduct that do-gooders used to predict. Slum dwellers who move into brand-new public-housing projects often turn them into new slums as verminous and crime-ridden as the tenements they left behind.
Negro leadership could make a start toward lowering Negro crime rates by abandoning the conspiracy of concealment and urging full disclosure of the facts to be met. Once they faced the facts, Negro leaders and organizations—including the N.A.A.C.P.—could help by wholeheartedly undertaking short-term efforts of rehabilitation, by accepting responsibility in an area where they habitually look the other way.