Yesterday was Thursday, and as on every Thursday, we got our issue of our little weekly newspaper.
And, interestingly enough, there was actually some news in it–the cops in a local town had made one of their very infrequent serious drug busts; and a guy in a parking lot of a 7-11, seeing a police car pull in, took off backwards at high speed and nearly ran down an officer before he was apprehended.
This is a lot of serious crime for our area, but it has to be balanced by the rest of that newspaper’s first page.
There was a story about how another local town really hopes it’s going to get a new gas station.
There was also a story about the Touch a Truck program, which had appeared at a local library, so that kids could get to walk around inside ambulances and other…vehicles.
That second thing appeared above the fold.
Unfortunately, the rest of my news day was not so strikingly…rural.
The unrural news was, of course, not local, or even close to local–although the thing about the firefighter who’d threatened another firefighter with a gun inside the firehouse happened in New Haven, and the town that won a discrimination lawsuit because it rejected a candidate for its police force as too smart seems to have been New London.
Those were not the two big stories.
The two big stories were, first, the killing of an Australian college baseball player by three “teenagers” who declared that they’d done it because they were just bored.
And second, killing an 88 year old veteran of WWII by two other teenagers who beat him to death outside his favorite lodge hall in Spokane, Washington.
There’s a lot going on with these stories that is disturbing as hell, not the least of which is the fact that both killings seem to be the modern equivalent of joy riding.
They haven’t found the perpetrators of the second crime as I write, but they do have security camera video of them, and they don’t look like anybody the victim could be connected to.
In other words, the second crime looks at least as “random” as the first.
But as disturbing as sociopaths are, there’s more going on here than that, and worse news.
In the first case–the Australian college student playing baseball for a university in Oklahoma–it looks as if the choice of victim was not entirely random.
One of the two perpetrators had posted messages to FB and several tweets declaring that all white people are nasty and he hated them.
It’s almost assuredly the case that, if the assailants had been white and the victim black, the assailants would be being charged with a hate crime as we speak.
This would also almost assured been the case in a third incident, this one if Florida, where three black kids beat up a white one while the bus driver sat still and waited for help to come.
The fact that no hate crimes charges have been filed in either of these cases has become an enormous deal on the right, with Fox news and Rush Limbaugh and other predictable players beating the drums over Media Bias and even Prosecutorial Bias.
Also Presidential Bias and Al Sharpton Bias and…you get the picture.
But none of our media here is actually talking about the racial aspects of any of these cases, and one of the weirdest things about the reporting is the way the words and the pictures clash.
The text always focusses tightly on “teenagers,” with no other descriptive allowed anywhere near the word. The pictures, on the other hand, are unambiguously racial. You spend three minutes reading about “teenagers” and look up to find yourself staring into a solid wall of black faces, minus one (the kid who drove the getaway car in the Oklahoma case is white).
In the meantime, the Australian press is talking nonstop about the racial issue in these cases, although it’s also talking about US “gun culture,” complete with irrelevant statistics.
And that includes suggesting that the death of the Australian baseball player was the result of a kind of pay back for the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case.
It’s not that I think the Australians are right in thinking there might be a connection between these random killings and the Trayvon Martin case.
It’s that I think almost everybody here is thinking the same thing but refusing to talk about it.
Let’s leave the gun violence thing for a moment. Two of the three incidents involved barefisted beatings, with no guns in sight.
I presume that for at least some reporters, and some outlets, the reason not to face the race question here boils down to a desperate attempt not to feed into white stereotypes about young black men.
But although that impulse is laudable as an intention, it’s really a bad idea in actual practice.
No matter what these reporters and websites and news outlets want, the one thing they cannot have is a world in which nobody notices the race of the perpetrators involved.
Race is going to get noticed, whether anybody wants it to be or not. Playing pretend that it isn’t there doesn’t lower the levels of anxiety in white, Asian and other Americans about young black men, it increases it.
It’s like surpressing any other kind of fear–when you won’t talk about it, or think about it, or look at it, or discuss it, what you do instead is to exaggerate it.
There is very little else that you can do, because exaggeration becomes the only option open to you.
If we are at a point where relations between the races are such that young black men are targetting whites for being white and young white men are targetting blacks for being black–then we need to say something about it. And if there is more targetting being done on one side rather than the other, we need to say that, too.
We’re not going to fix anything if we refuse to face it.
We may find, of course, that what’s going on here is something else entirely, only tangentially related to race.
But we can’t know anything unless we look at reality plainly and deal with what we see there.
If we leave everything up to our imaginations, our imaginations will produce for us an updated version of Apocalypse Now.
And that’s not going to make anything any better for anybody, ever.
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