Don’t Ignore Race in Christopher Lane’s Murder

The association of young black men with violence doesn't come out of thin air

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Australian baseball player Christopher
EAST CENTRAL UNIVERSITY / HANDOUT / EPA

Christopher Lane

Australian Christopher Lane was killed on Monday in Oklahoma by three teens, one of whom has said they were just “bored.” The right is complaining that the media is making nothing of the fact that two of the teens were black whereas Lane was white, as opposed to the massive alarm sounded in cases such as white (or white-ish) George Zimmerman killing black Trayvon Martin. And again the cry was heard that there is more “black-on-black” or “black-on-white” crime than “white-on-black,” and that young black men are in fact more of a problem than people like Zimmerman.

The numbers don’t lie: young black men do commit about 50% of the murders in the U.S. We don’t yet know whether the attack on Lane was racially motivated, nor can we know whether the three black boys who attacked a white boy on a Florida school bus recently would not have done the same to a black kid. (Critics took Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to task for not condemning the violence.) But hardly uncommon are cases such as the two black guys who doused a white 13-year-old with gasoline and lit him on fire, saying “You get what you deserve, white boy” (Kansas City, Mo.) or 20 black kids who beat up white Matthew Owens on his porch “for Trayvon” (Mobile, Ala.).

So, it’s just fake to pretend that the association of young black men with violence comes out of thin air. Young black men murder 14 times more than young white men. If the kinds of things I just mentioned were regularly done by whites, it’d be trumpeted as justification for being scared to death of them.

(MORE: McWhorter on the Real Signs of Black Power)

It’s not that black communities are in complete denial about these statistics — Stop the Violence events are a staple of high-crime areas. But let’s face it: black America isn’t nearly as indignant about black boys killing one another or whites as about the occasional white cop killing one black boy, even though the former wreaks much more havoc in black communities. There is no coordinated nationwide movement equivalent to the one Martin galvanized. There are no thoughtful films “exploring” black-on-black crime the way Fruitvale Station treats the death of Oscar Grant, a young black man who was killed by transit police in Oakland, Calif.

And recent example illustrates how many blacks feel about who is murdering whom. Two weeks ago, an NYPD cop killed 14-year-old Shaaliver Douse. Douse was in the process of shooting other people, and had been charged with shooting someone else in May — and yet his aunt compared him to Martin. In her mind, the main sin was the white cop’s.

(MORE: Just Because Zimmerman ‘Started It’ Doesn’t Mean He’s Guilty)

Granted, it seems a lot easier to do something about the Zimmermans than the black thugs. Protest profiling and police departments institute new programs. But black thugs aren’t moved by protests, so it can seem like we’re just stuck with them.

But who’s to say what would happen if black America exerted even half of the emotional fervor and brainpower it does over cases like Martin’s to thinking about how to keep black boys from going wrong? Annette John-Hall had some wise words on this last year. What kind of self-image do we have to assume we can only change others, but not ourselves?

For the time being, though, it’s time for the media to stop proudly emblazoning the race of white cops who kill black boys while cagily describing black teens as, say, “from the grittier part of town,” as has been the case regarding Lane’s killers. The media needs to be as honest with black people as we need to be with ourselves. No group gets ahead by turning away from its real problems.

MORE: The Question Bridge Project: Redefining Black Male Identity

1102 comments
bobvedari
bobvedari

I wish I understood how people like white liberals and blacks who live on white liberal plantations go through life without a shred of intellectual integrity. What kind of soul lets a person do that to himself or herself? How can I respect someone who doesn't even respect himself or herself enough to be intellectually honest?  Thank you John McWhorter for standing up when the people in the circles you are part of would shout you down as a "traitor to black people," when in truth, it is they who betray them.

FrankGrillo
FrankGrillo

If Obama had a son, he would look like Chancey Allen Luna.

fmoolten
fmoolten

Professor McWhorter - I think I understand the impulse that inspired you to write as you did, but I wonder whether you might have thought twice before having it appear in Time.  As a black man, you're obviously troubled that the black community has failed to confront fully the behavioral problems within its own ranks, including violence perpetrated by young males.  The principle is a valid one - individuals and groups should address their own shortcomings before rushing to condemn the failings of others. 

The rule, however, applies equally in both directions - to both white racism and black lawlessness.  Time readers are mainly white, and my concern is that many of them will turn the principle on its head.  Rather than conclude that they too, like blacks, must look within, they will react to your piece by thinking "McWhorter confirms what I've always thought - it's all their fault.  They have to change.  I don't have to."  Unfortunately, many of the comments here appear to substantiate this impression, which I doubt you intended.  I don't think you're sending "the wrong message", but I'm afraid you're sending it to the wrong audience.. 

Gaius_Grachus
Gaius_Grachus

annieinkatytx

Unfortunately the media is not unbiased in this country.  They have a very vested interest in the narrative of white racism.  Just look at the way they treat this case as opposes to Martin and Zimmerman.  No they have a belief that the country is basically racist and basically evil.  Thus their stories set out to prove their thesis rather than just reporting objective truth

capone.bigbadal.al849
capone.bigbadal.al849

What does the Congressional White Caucus have to say about any of this?  Are they afraid of losing their ACLU endorsement or the invite to annual NAACP BBQ?

annieinkatytx
annieinkatytx

I agree that the media should not pick and choose which stories it will report the race of the perpetrators and which it won't. There should be one standard of reporting the facts. However, it is because of idiotic opinions that say the reporting of the race of minority perpetrators is the REASON so many Whites dislike Blacks that the media first started omitting the race, especially of Black criminals. They have NO problem reporting on a suspect's race if he's White, but if he's Black, they simply do not mention it at all, and then we all know anyway, right? This notion is so pervasive, yesterday, CNN ran the story with no mention of race and NO photos. The fact that they cannot admit their own hypocrisy is just sad.

capone.bigbadal.al849
capone.bigbadal.al849

Blacks have to stop blaming whitey just because THEIR perverted BLACK subculture is soooooo totally ******-UP!  The PROBLEM is YOU PEOPLE ....... YOU ..... PEOPLE!

Gaius_Grachus
Gaius_Grachus

When you have a political party that calls all opposition racist, well what did you expect?

Ocean62
Ocean62

Once again, John McWhorter is the voice of reason. Bravo!

I have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for my entire life and have recently been depressed and saddened by the almost daily black-on-black killings across the bay in Oakland. It's a rare day that there isn't a story of shootings in Oakland on the evening news. What might be the worst part of this dreadful picture is that the young victims and their killers often have already fathered children (whose mothers the fathers have not married) - and so the cycle continues, and more children are raised to become thugs.

I fully admit that I can't know what if feels like to grow up in those tough Oakland neighborhoods -- but I can say that my father grew up poor on a farm, and the only guns fired were at the occasional farm animal so that the family could be fed. And "boredom" - can you imagine living on a Minnesota farm in the dead of winter with no heat other than a stove? My grandmother would kill a hog and stand it in the kitchen, where she let it remain for days on end because the kitchen was so cold that the hog was naturally refrigerated.

Bottom line -there's simply no excuse for the type of behavior exhibited by these three or any other thugs. Put your belt on, pull those baggy pants up to the proper position, stay in school, and be a decent citizen who contributes good to society. You won't be bored, then - I promise.

capone.bigbadal.al849
capone.bigbadal.al849

Segregate ........ give the nigs DE-troit, Chicongo and Martha's Vineyards ....... black-on-black crime is a form of social attrition and progressive social Darwinism. Isn't diversity just wonderful? ....... like Lord of the Flies meets Planet of the Apes.  We all strive for lowest common denominator because of the perverted BLACK subculture ..... YO BABY!

RemixCity
RemixCity

“Thou weigh'st thy words before thou givest them breath.” 

 “Tis within ourselves that we are thus or thus”

capone.bigbadal.al849
capone.bigbadal.al849

Take a look around ........ white people are sooooooo hopelessly naïve and utterly street stupid. They allow themselves to be intimidated by the BIG BLACK BOOGEYMAN ......... BOO!

capone.bigbadal.al849
capone.bigbadal.al849

The politically controlled media will not report the escalating BLACK on white crime because it does not fit its politically correct, racially sensitive media template. The media do not want to reinforce the racial stereotype of escalating BLACK ..... well shazam there, Buckwheat, but the people already now about the escalating BLACK CRIME!

frisbee123
frisbee123

where is Eric Holder and the Hate Crime charge?  Where are Jesse Jackson Sr. (Jr. is in jail) and Sharpton?  Where is the racist charge outcry?  This is blatant racist cold blooded murder.

Obama Chicago politics have squelched and controlled the mainstream media.  I expect Obama to play another round or take another vacation with another special plane for the dog.  No news is good news for this administration.

capone.bigbadal.al849
capone.bigbadal.al849

No more sociological psycho babble and excuses for the "anointed minority" ...... the skin color is BLACK .... not maybe, not almost ....... BLACK ...... as in BLACK! It is what it is ...... and it's BLACK!

elboricualoco
elboricualoco

Why hasn't Attorney General Eric Holder indicted these thugs for hate crimes?  The simple answer is: their victim's name was Christoper...not Tyronne or Malik or Jamal.

JuanOuttamany
JuanOuttamany

It is a shame that 90% makes the talented 10% look bad

capone.bigbadal.al849
capone.bigbadal.al849

A savage is what a savage does ....... gun or no gun! These BLACK savages live among us and need to be exorcized ....... What does anyone believe we owe these gangsta punk, slime ball, ghetto garbage, dirt bag, urban terrorists when they won't even help themselves? Exorcized .......

RemixCity
RemixCity

While we are talking about facts....

free2think
free2think

Fair analysis McWhorter. Glad to see you come out so clearly early on in this horrific crime. You were way off in your intrepetation of the dynamics involved in the Travyon Martin tradegy. You seemed to have swallowed the Martins attorney lies without learning the facts first.  Trayvon Martin lived by the same street rules these thugs did, why do you think he called white people crackas? Street rules dictated Trayvon's racially motivated beat down of the SNITCH ( Jeantel explained Trayvon motivation in an interview post trial with HuffPost Live's Marc Lamont Hill).

My sons were only 9 and 13 years old playing soccer in our local park on a holiday while they were victims of a brutal hate crime. We live in a predominately black neighborhood and the park was full of families picnicking and playing. My sons were attacked solely because they were white,  one of my boys was stomped in the head repeatedly.  I have fully understood the bigotry and violence towards whites by some blacks since 2000. The black  mothers in the park very close by the attack did not call the police, yell stop, or even try to help my kids after the violence get home safely. My sons were changed forever after that incident , so was I.  It did not help that over the next decade I was contacted dozens of times by other parents in the community because the official position is to sweep black-on-white violence under the carpet. School admin would quietly provide my contact info to parents as did police officers. We tried to bring the DOJ CRS mediation services for community dialogs in 2002 and 2005 but our Berkeley politic leaders undermined the process. The same DOJ CRS that used our tax dollars to support protest organized by fraudsters Crump and Jackson demanding the political charging against Zimmerman 



ThomasTPD
ThomasTPD

Lane's murderer tweeted earlier that "90% of white people are nasty," and that he hates them.  He boasted of beating up five white people after the Zimmerman trial.

This was a hate crime.  And it was fueled by every last one of you evil lying sons of [bleep] who lied through your teeth to make the Zimmerman affair a racial issue.  You have blood on your hands.  Own it, and change your ways before it's too late for you.

bz57
bz57

seems to me the article and most of the commentators miss the point by accepting a comparison of the martin-zimmerman fiasco to any senseless crime in which race may have played a role.  What made the martin-zimmerman matter newsworthy was that an unarmed teenager who was not doing anything wrong was shot and killed by an armed adult and the initial reaction of the police was to not take zimmerman into custody or initiate any sort of investigation.   Clearly that did not happen here, as the suspects were quickly brought into the justice system for arraignment and trial. 

Mozart
Mozart

If Luna is white then we're still waiting for our first African American President.

WinstonSmith
WinstonSmith

Will our President rapidly call a presser and announce that "If I had a son, he'd look like Chaucey Luna"?

Gaius_Grachus
Gaius_Grachus

@fmoolten See I told you the progressives would start to twist the story till it was all about white racism.  Well here you see the start.  Oh buy.....white racism in this country etc, etc, blah. blah, blah

capone.bigbadal.al849
capone.bigbadal.al849

@annieinkatytx  It is what it is and the reporting should not be skewed to appease, placate and patronize the "anointed minority" ....... if the BLACK shoe fits, wear both of them!

JimUberti
JimUberti

Good point GG. I hadn't thought about it from that angle, but you make  a lot of sense.

reallife
reallife

@frisbee123 there is no MONEY to be made or VOTES to be gained in this case so the race baiters don't get involved

2Atoday
2Atoday

@elboricualoco Like Obama is black and Zimmerman is white, right? You need to go back and review that picture my friend. That kid has more than 'white' in his woodpile....

aztecian
aztecian

@elboricualoco it's not a hate crime.  there is no evidence to suggest that it is one.  the driver was white.

2Atoday
2Atoday

@JuanOuttamany Why 'talented'? Not just 'others'? If I said 10% of whites make the other 90% of talented look bad it would be a bold-faced lie. Define 'talent'. It isn't white, black, brown, yellow, etc. In every section of society, racial group, ethnic group, religious group, etc, there is a segment that makes the rest look 'bad'. But what is the proportion of that segment compared to the rest of the group is the heart of discussion, yes? So, when someone says that a larger segment of the black population makes the rest look bad, that individual is called a racist. Why? the statement is based in fact....

ThomasTPD
ThomasTPD

@bz57 "Not doing anything wrong" except committing felony assault.  (If you initiate physical violence -- even if someone really annoys you, but without attacking you physically) -- you are committing assault, and if it's serious enough -- say, if you don't content yourself with just knocking your opponent down, but keep whaling away at him when he's on the ground -- it rises to the level of a felony.  Also, you may get shot.

friedmantochoose
friedmantochoose

@bz57 That's you perspective. Martin being unarmed and Zimmerman was wasn't the point. Martin attacked Zimmerman because he didn't want the "creepy white cracka" following him. Zimmerman defended himself from the pounding he was getting from Martin and yes, race had nothing to do with it........ In Duncan, these murderers sought out the white kid and killed him in cold blood as if they were playing Call to Duty.

yohannbiimu
yohannbiimu

@bz57 And, you don't believe that Martin's beating-up Zimmerman wasn't "wrong?"  If you don't, then you are part of the problem.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@Mozart You have had your first and last black president in our life time, thanks to Obama and his racism. and is Obama half white moron, maybe Luna is half black you think/

ThomasTPD
ThomasTPD

@aztecian @elboricualoco Right.  So if a white person who killed a random black person had previously tweeted "90% of black people are nasty #HATE THEM" -- that wouldn't make you think that maybe, possibly, the killing might have been a hate crime?

2Atoday
2Atoday

@aztecian @elboricualoco White? You mean like George Zimmerman was white? YOu kean like Obama is black? You need to take another look at that picture, my friend...

mgd
mgd

@aztecian go read that tweet one of them posted before coming back to us with your stupid comments

Mozart
Mozart

@Openminded1 @LibertyFirst1776 @WinstonSmith  

Obama would never have made it to the WH if he couldn't claim that he was "black".   Voters would never support someone of such modest accomplishments if they were white.

The US is still a racist culture because it does not hold all peoples equally accountable.  Obama is the first A-A President:  Affirmative Action President.