Why conservatives obsess over flash mobs and "race riots"
How and why the right suddenly became very, very frightened of black people
Alex Pareene for Salon
We get a lot of unsolicited batshit racist email here at Salon HQ, as pretty much all media outlets do, but this one -- which went to just about everyone on staff in one form or another -- was a good example of not really crafting a message that will convince or appeal to your chosen audience:
Thomas Sowell says he did not know how bad racial violence really was until he read "White Girl Bleed a Lot: The Return of Racial Violence to America and How the Media Ignore It."
From today's National Review:
Reading Colin Flaherty's book made painfully clear to me that the magnitude of this problem is greater than I had discovered from my own research. He documents both the race riots and the media and political evasions in dozens of cities across America.
A good recent example of this is from a few weeks ago: The Fourth of July.
Flaherty documents 11 episodes of racial violence from the Fourth of July in Greensboro, Philadelphia, Chicago, Waco, Florida, Georgia, Peoria, Los Angeles, Cleveland and Columbus.
All in one day. There'a a lot more.
Sound like a story?
(That was an email from "Dan Auld." An identical email from "Margie Warren" was sent to our Laura Miller. Let's assume both are Colin Flaherty.)
Anyway, sure, it sounds like a story, but not quite the story "Dan" pitched. (Eleven incidents in one day! On one day when nearly everyone in America didn't have to work or attend school! Eleven separate incidents in a country of 300 million people!) It's actually the story of how and why the right suddenly became very, very frightened of black people.
So, this Flaherty guy is pretty sure that there's a black crime wave going on, and also that there is a conspiracy -- by the media and the police -- to cover up this crime wave by not always pointing out when the perpetrators of crimes are black. His evidence? YouTube clips and newspaper comment sections, mostly. The book seems to be a collection of literally every single crime Flaherty could find, over the last few years, involving black perpetrators and white victims (though some involve incidents where the victims were black, and in many incidents the "victim" was property owned by white people), plus a lot of material on roving, rampaging gangs of black teenagers. Exciting stuff! Look, Thomas Sowell loved it, because it shows how dangerously close we are to an actual racial civil war:
In the middle of the 20th century, Sri Lanka had a level of mutual respect and even friendship between its majority and minority communities that was rightly held up to the world as a model. Yet this situation degenerated over the years into polarization and violence that escalated into a civil war that lasted for decades, with unspeakable atrocities on both sides.
All it took were clever demagogues and gullible followers. We already have both. What it will take to nip in the bud the small but widely spreading race riots will be some serious leadership in many quarters and that rarest of all things in politics, honesty.
Race hustlers and mob inciters like Al Sharpton represent such polarizing forces in America today. Yet Sharpton has become a White House adviser, and Attorney General Eric Holder has been photographed literally embracing him.
I've never been entirely clear on the definition of the right-wing epithet "race hustler" (it usually seems to mean "a black person who talks about racism"), but I'd figure a person writing a silly book designed solely to scare white people would qualify.
So here's the thing: If you look for every example of crimes committed by black people in every American city over the last three to five years, you'll find enough examples to make it sound like a lot of crime, because America is a violent country with a lot of crime, a lot of poverty and a lot of impoverished minority neighborhoods located conveniently close to much wealthier white neighborhoods (and business districts where everything is also owned by white people).
But this epidemic of racial crime isn't an epidemic. It's barely a blip. According to the FBI, there were 575 crimes motivated by anti-white bias in 2010, nationwide. There were 545 anti-white crimes in 2009 and 716 in 2008. There were more than 2,000 crimes motivated by anti-black bias in each one of those years. Of course, the book insinuates that all black-on-white crime is racially motivated, but even by that standard things are looking pretty rosy in America right now.
The violent crime rate has been plummeting since its peak in the early 1990s, which now looks like the crest of one of America's periodic (and slightly mysterious) waves of violent crime. (In the long term, the homicide rate has been steadily falling for hundreds of years. We are genuinely much more civilized now than we used to be.) Back when this country actually had race riots, and not just large gangs of kids briefly fighting and scaring white people on summer nights, there were ... actual race riots, motivated by racial tensions. It's absurd to imagine a secret pandemic of black-on-white violence motivated by anti-white racism that the media and all of our law enforcement agencies conspire to keep secret for reasons of political correctness. There would have to be hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of crimes that no one is reporting in order for the current violent crime rate to come close to matching what it was a generation ago. There can't be an epidemic of black crime that coincides with the least amount of total crime in America since the 1960s.
The point, of course, isn't to make an argument supported by statistics. It's to marshal all available anecdotal data to support the paranoid white conservatives' gut feeling that this country is on the brink of Charlie Manson's Helter Skelter.