Heard any reports of “flash mob violence” in the news lately? Now that “flash mobs” are apparently no longer limited to the “cute” actions of white upper-middle class people, such as dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” now they pose a threat to the social order, and must be vilified. These mobs have been called an epidemic (see here), while some Black leaders like Mayor Nutter of Philadelphia have condemned the participants for their actions. These mobs (or in some cases so-called “flash robs”) have occurred predominantly in big cities like Philly and Milwaukee.
Another important morsel of information concerning this news story is that the bulk—if not all—of the mob participants were young and Black. It did not take long for conservative commentators to jump on the “liberal media” for ignoring the story, or at least glossing over the presumed racial nature of the incidents (CNN did have an extended piece on it though).
Despite the inclination of conservatives like Michelle Malkinand John Bennett to insist that these acts have been racially based—more specifically, black-on-white—the reality is that race might not have been the motivating factor. For example, in response to the flash mob activities in Philly, the First Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross said the following:
You can’t just simply look at the race of the offender and the race of the victim and say it’s ethnic intimidation. It may be, but we’re not sure…We’re in the business of what we can prove, not what we think.
Nonetheless, conservatives continue to claim a double standard on how news media report on stories such as these. Progressives might even struggle to deal with these conservative claims. Tell them to look at the bigger picture concerning race-based violence in U.S. society.
Tell them about the reality of hate crimes in this country: namely, who is most likely to be victimized. In 2004, approximately two-thirds of victims of race-based hate crimes are African American. This percentage has not changed much: in 2009, out of 4,057 race-based hate crimes, 2,902 were “Anti-Black, accounting for nearly 72 percent of all victims” (note: the FBI reports anti-Jewish hate crimes as religious-based, while anti-Hispanic are deemed as ethnic-based). Only 668 of the victims were classified as “Anti-White,” or about 16 percent (see here).
This discrepancy in the numbers is especially revealing given the fact that white non-Hispanics make up the solid majority of the U.S. population, while African Americans constitute just 13 percent. All I can say to Malkin and others like her is: why aren’t we hearing more about the hate crimes committed against Blacks in this society?
What explains this outcry over the recent “flash robs” apparently committed by Black youths? This response from mostly white conservatives is nothing new: (1) crack-cocaine was never a problem until it began to affect white communities; (2) gun violence in schools was never a big deal until post-Columbine. Now flash mobs have become a problem because, as we have seen in the Middle East and Britain recently, social media can be used to challenge the social order. I think there are a number of factors at play here, including generational differences, cultural lag, and socioeconomic factors.
That aside, we should take Malkin’s and other conservatives’ responses as a reminder that their so-called “color-blindness” is a sham and their allegiance to and defense of the white racial frame continues on.