I forget which book it was (I know Thomas Sowell has written about it some but I think there was someone else that did a better job) that I read a couple years back that talked about the culture of the southern United States and how it affected violence. Thanks to rhodeskc I have another, shorter, source for the equivalent information. I have some relatively minor disagreements with the author on some points but the following I have no quibbles about:
… immigrants, who populated what I call Greater Appalachia, came from “an economy based on herding,” which, as anthropologists have shown, predisposes people to belligerent stances because the animals on which their wealth depends are so vulnerable to theft. Drawing on the work of the historian David Hackett Fisher, Nisbett maintained that “southern” violence stems partly from a “culture-of-honor tradition,” in which males are raised to create reputations for ferocity—as a deterrent to rustling—rather than relying on official legal intervention.
More recently, researchers have begun to probe beyond state boundaries to distinguish among different cultural streams. Robert Baller of the University of Iowa and two colleagues looked at late-twentieth-century white male “argument-related” homicide rates, comparing those in counties that, in 1850, were dominated by Scots-Irish settlers with those in other parts of the “Old South.” In other words, they teased out the rates at which white men killed each other in feuds and compared those for Greater Appalachia with those for Deep South and Tidewater. The result: Appalachian areas had significantly higher homicide rates than their lowland neighbors—“findings [that] are supportive of theoretical claims about the role of herding as the ecological underpinning of a code of honor.”
Another researcher, Pauline Grosjean, an economist at Australia’s University of New South Wales, found strong statistical relationships between the presence of Scots-Irish settlers in the 1790 census and contemporary homicide rates, but only in “southern” areas “where the institutional environment was weak”—which is the case in almost the entirety of Greater Appalachia. She further noted that in areas where Scots-Irish were dominant, settlers of other ethnic origins—Dutch, French, and German—were also more violent, suggesting that they had acculturated to Appalachian norms.
But it’s not just herding that promoted a culture of violence. Scholars have long recognized that cultures organized around slavery rely on violence to control, punish, and terrorize—which no doubt helps explain the erstwhile prevalence of lynching deaths in Deep South and Tidewater.
Honor/shame based societies tend to be violent. Muslims will kill their own daughter/sister if they bring dishonor to the family. Certain African-American cultures will get violent if they are “dissed”. In the book I read it said they acquired it from the slave-holder culture they evolved from. The majority of the slave holding white culture dropped that attribute in the last 150 years but a large proportion of the former slaves have not. What clinched the argument for me was that certain language patterns related to the honor culture could be shown to exist in Scotland and Ireland then traced to the Southern slave owners and still exist in “black English” long after they had disappeared in the U.K. and whites in the U.S.
The anti-gun people like to point out the higher rates of violence in the south and claim it is higher rate of gun ownership that accounts for this. Of course they ignore the high rate of violence in places like “gun free zones” Chicago. The truth is that it’s the culture that creates the violence, not the guns. And as long as there are those that insist all culture is equal and that we respect diverse culture, as long as it isn’t that yucky gun culture, we will have violence cultures and have to deal with the problems.