The story most dominating the news in the last two days is that of the special needs teen being tortured by four young adults in Chicago. As usual, race is permeating the coverage. The victim is white and the perpetrators are black. The level of coverage is so high because the attack was recorded and posted on Facebook. Many conservatives are noting that had it not been for the video, the story would not have gotten so much coverage and the coverage still pales in comparison to what it would have been if the races were reversed. I have no doubt this is true, but this is not the point of my article.
I was listening to a black radio station that was discussing the topic. While each caller called the actions vile, reprehensible and inexcusable, there were two recurring themes that stood out to me: the need to be sure not to internalize and the parallel of crimes committed by whites.
I am in agreement with those who say that blacks should not internalize crimes like these. I say the same about any crime. There is no plausible reason why as a black man I should take on guilt, societal judgment or shame for a crime committed by someone else simply because he is black. To expect me to or to say, “That’s how blacks act” would be foolish and the very definition of racist. Here’s the problem. Many mistakenly believe this is exactly what white conservatives do. This is not true. Saying that a certain percentage of crimes are committed by blacks, when it is factual and disproportionately high, is not the same as saying that all blacks do it or committing the crime is a ‘black trait’.
There is simply no logical correlation to these thoughts on internalization, for anyone. However, there seems to be a constant demand from many on the left for whites to internalize, and in many cases apologize for, the Klan, slavery and other ills of ‘whites’. Are they saying that blacks should not be judged by the crimes of other blacks but whites are not afforded the same courtesy? This is at best illogical and at worst racist.
Speaking of the crimes of whites, there were also several callers who said the crime was bad but we’re exaggerating it because it paled in comparison to the crimes of whites over the years. This is faulty syllogism. The existence of other crimes and the race of their perpetrators has no bearing on how a crime should be charged or judged. It’s like saying to a killer, “You shouldn’t have killed that man but fortunately for you, someone just killed two women and a child, that’s worse so you’re free to go!”
This is the type of emotional based thinking that led us to hate crimes to begin with. I understand how a criminal’s punishment can be adjusted based on severity of the crime, number of victims, method, or other factors but trying to determine someone’s motive or making a crime more extreme based on the characteristics of the victim is senseless. In addition to making some victims’ lives more valuable than others, it also portends to change the gravity of the crime. If you’re unsure, ask yourself if the crime these four youths committed would have been more or less severe if the victim were black? Obviously, the answer is no.
The solution is to stop seeing everything through a racial lens. As hard as this is for many, the easiest situations should be those involving crimes, especially heinous ones. We should all agree that this act was horrendous, sympathize for the victim and not assume all blacks act in this manner. The same goes for crimes committed by whites. There is no ‘groupthink’ on violent crime. As Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and holocaust survivor whose wife, brother and mother were killed by Nazis, said when asked if he hated Germans, “No. There are only two races, the decent and the indecent.”