The Corner

The Media and Black Homicide Victims

Cable mogul Evan Shapiro had a stunningly clueless Trayvon Martin entry on Huffington Post yesterday asking: Why doesn’t the media cover more black crime victims?

Shapiro, the president of indie cable broadcaster IFC, should pose the same question to Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and every member of the black protest establishment: Why don’t you protest more black crime victims? The answer would be the same in all cases: Because the only black victims who interest the race industry and its mainstream media handmaidens are blacks who have been killed by “white” civilians, including honorary whites like Martin’s killer George Zimmerman, or blacks who have been killed or offended by the police (black officers will do here in a pinch).

Unfortunately, there are very few such victims. Ninety-three percent of all black homicide casualties from 1980 to 2008 were killed by other blacks, and are thus of no interest whatsoever to today’s race advocates, because they fail to support the crucial story line that blacks remain under siege by a racist white power structure.

#more#The coverage of New York City’s West Indian Day Parade in September 2011 exemplifies this rule. The New York Times and other local outlets spilled an enormous amount of ink on an altercation between a black city councilman, Jumaane Williams, and the New York Police Department. Williams had tried to cross a police line, and, when he was not allowed to pass, got into a scuffle with some officers. He was then handcuffed and held until the police verified his identity. The city’s Public Advocate, a New York State Assemblyman, and Williams charged the police with racism, claiming that the treatment of Williams exemplified the “siege mentality” with which the police treat black men in New York City. To this day, the Williams detention is regularly mentioned by the New York Times in its constant coverage of the alleged racism of the NYPD.

What else happened on that parade day in 2011? A black-on-black bloodbath:

In the pre-dawn celebrations known as J’ouvert that open the parade, one man was fatally shot, crowds were sprayed with gunfire, and several people were stabbed. A shooting at a McDonald’s at 6 am triggered a stampede. The police repeatedly had to break up mobs that formed after gunfire. . . .

Later that day, a shootout near the parade route killed its intended victim as well as a 55-year-old mother who had been standing nearby; the two police officers who responded to the murders were also shot. Police also arrested someone in the vicinity of the parade who shot off several rounds without hitting anyone. The day’s violence would have likely been even worse had officers not removed 15 guns from spectators; each of those potentially life-saving stops would undoubtedly be condemned as racial profiling by the ACLU and its backers in the City Council and in Albany.

Previous West Indian Day Parades were hardly more pacific; the violence includes a man shot in the leg in 2007; another leg shooting and a stabbing in 2006; a man shot to death in 2005; and in 2003, a stabbing in the neck and someone who, from his perch on a parade float, shot into a group of spectators and killed one of them.

None of this violence was given the intense and loving press treatment accorded to the detention of Jumaane Williams. In fact, it was barely mentioned at all, even though, arguably, it is more serious to be shot dead than to be briefly detained by the police. Nothing prevented Al Sharpton from protesting the killings and stabbings that day. However, only Councilman Williams falls into the favored category of, in this case, black victim offended by the police, and so his detention was the only event that day worth noting.

On Halloween 2010, five-year-old Aaron Shannon Jr. was playing in his family’s backyard in his Spiderman costume in South Central Los Angeles. Two gangbangers from the Kitchen Crips, seeking to avenge a previous gang shooting, shot randomly towards some houses and killed Shannon, also wounding the boy’s grandfather and uncle. Sharpton, Inc., was perfectly free to make the names of Shannon’s killers, Leonard Hall Jr., 21, and Marcus Denson, 18, as infamous as that of George Zimmerman. But the race baiters never showed up. The killing aroused not the slightest interest from them because it was useless in aiding the white racism conceit. And so no one outside Shannon’s immediate circle remembers today who Hall and Denson are, even though Shannon was at least as innocent as Trayvon Martin (whose image as combined Eagle Scout-St. Francis of Assisi has in any case come under some stress of late, information, that, if true, is not irrelevant to assessing Zimmerman’s self-defense claim.) 

We know the names of virtually every unarmed black civilian shot by the New York Police Department in recent years — Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, Sean Bell — as well we should. To the extent that botched police tactics or training contributed to these tragic killings, the incidents are rightly publicized so that they can be prevented from reoccurring. Here’s the difference between these killings — they are a tiny handful — and the routine black-on-black killings that occur by the dozen every day across the country. The officers who mistakenly shot their victims thinking they were facing a deadly threat set out that morning to protect people, often in minority neighborhoods, not to injure anyone. A significant number of black-on-black shootings, however, like many shootings among all races, are done in cold blood.

Here’s another difference between police killings of blacks, white-on-black killings, and black-on-black killings: Sheer numbers. There were nine civilian victims of police gunfire last year in New York City; there were several hundred black homicide victims in the city, almost all shot by other blacks or Hispanics, none of them given substantial press coverage. Nationwide, in 2005, there were 2,646 black victims of other blacks, compared to 349 black victims of whites or Hispanics. The relative rates of interracial killings are wildly skewed towards black on white killings: There were two and a half times as many white and Hispanic victims of civilian black killers in 2009 as there were black victims of civilian white and Hispanic killers, even though the black population is one-sixth that of whites and Hispanics combined. Yet to read columnists such as the Times’s Charles Blow or to listen to the professional racial extortionists, it is the police and whites who are the biggest threat to blacks, not other blacks.

A further prudential reason why the routine black gangbanger victim gets so little coverage: He is not particularly appealing. Though he had the misfortune of being the victim that day, he could just as easily have been the perpetrator the next day. That is true of many white-on-white homicides as well.

Shapiro, of course, has another explanation for the absence of coverage of most black crime victims: The media is too white, especially in its upper ranks. The “stunning under-representation of minorities at the TOP of our national and local news organizations creates an institutional lack of empathy for minority victims of violent crime,” he writes. Has he noticed that Trayvon Martin is not exactly being ignored? As soon as the media got wind of the story, it ran with it. When Amadou Diallo was shot by four NYPD officers in 1999, the New York Times ran three and a half articles a day on the incident for several months.

If Sharpton protested outside the jail cell of the routine robber or gunman in East New York with as much zeal as he devotes to allegedly racist whites or to the police, if he ever stigmatized black killers of blacks, the phony problem of “racial profiling” might go away, since it is merely an epiphenomenon of black crime. Protesting or covering black crime, however, would require bringing out some uncomfortable truths, such as the fact that the homicide rate among black males of the ages of 14 to 24 is nearly ten times that of white and Hispanic young males combined. Evan Shapiro mentions the elevated rates of black homicide victimization but somehow neglects to include the black homicide commission rate. His column flawlessly exemplifies the ignorance of the Hollywood elites regarding today’s racial realities.

— Heather Mac Donald is a contributing editor of City Journal and the author of Are Cops Racist?


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