Good point, Jonah.
The single biggest thing that working-class and middle-class black New Orleans mothers worry about is getting their sons through high school, through college, and out of New Orleans before they get shot by other young black men in their neighborhoods.
This fear is palpable.
Relatedly, until last month, it was common practice for the New Orleans Police Department to release publicly and immediately the arrest and criminal records of murder victims. The NOPD conveniently put the arrest record right in the death announcement.
The absurdity was that one of the first things a resource-strapped police department did, even as potential witnesses and physical evidence melted away, was to work on making it clear to the press that the murder victim was probably a very bad guy, and so that nobody should worry much that he’s dead. It fit into the policy of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and his police chief, Ronal Serpas, to prove to people worried about crime that crime wasn’t the local government’s fault because it was mostly just bad guys killing off other bad guys.
As one mother of a murdered 17-year-old told the Times-Picayune after the police released her son’s juvenile fighting arrest:
I felt like, Why would they bring that up? . . . His only arrest happened when he was a child. And his murder had nothing to do with that.
Public outrage eventually stopped this practice — a good thing. Still, though, the NOPD hasn’t changed its investigative policy, internally, at least, that being murdered is, well, suspicious behavior.
A mother whose hard-working son is robbed and shot walking home from his restaurant job is likely to deal with investigators whose first thought is that her son was doing something wrong — dealing drugs or robbing people himself.
The Justice Department should investigate this outrage. Is it a violation of a victim’s civil rights to assume immediately that the victim was a criminal?
And that doesn’t mean that the Justice Department shouldn’t investigate Trayvon Martin’s shooting death. Both situations may have the same root: a general law-enforcement suspicion that people who get killed got themselves killed.
Oh, and then there’s this.
— Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.