Race-Based Violence: Our Double Standard

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.


  1. phelonn

    “We [are not] hearing more about the hate crimes committed against Blacks in this society” perhaps white society wants them eliminated if they die in the process. Police brutality attests to that when they murder young black males in cold blood on a false pretext they had a weapon. It is easy for U.S. society to turn a blind eye against those whom they perceive make no real contribution to the larger society. But U.S. society refuses to accept responsibility for the white racism that kept blacks in the economic margins. Smells like “blame the victim” ideology. Just my thoughts.

    • Seattle in Texas

      I agree, it is “blame the victim” ideology–a fundamental aspect of U.S. society that too is systemic…. Oh, and also annoying is how the perpetrators have to try to make themselves the victims–frustrating and annoying….

      But also what comes to mind is the number of hate crimes and racialized bullying that occurs day in and day out that goes unreported for various reasons, and the number of reported crimes that by all means meet the criteria for being recorded as a hate crime, but are not (and have not) been counted as such because “hate crimes” are not (or were not) recognized by law as “hate crimes”, etc. (hate crime laws not on the books or in effect, etc.) Thus, the many acts of hate that have been reported that have been labeled as crimes under the standard categories used by the law officials and so on…not to mention the problems with the discretion of the officers and how officers subjectively initially charge offenders—-the reporting itself is seriously problematic.

      The failure to recognize the acts as involving motivational factors that are inherently connected with “hate” in some way sends messages to the perpetrators of hate that it’s okay to hate, you just can’t physically assault or harm members of the target group you hate, for example. Ultimately by doing so, hate is condoned and ultimately reinforced through failure, refusal, and/or resistance of those in power, to recognize the hate and racism for what it really is, and taking responsibility of it. Sort of my thoughts added….

  2. cordoba blue

    @John Foster: (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.
    Actually, crack was a huge and devastating problem within the black community and this had nothing to do with white participation. It was thus a huge problem that affected OVER-ALL crime in any city that this trafficking occured in. “The crack epidemic is correlated with a sharp increase in crime, especially violent crime. Research by two prominent economists from the University of Chicago, Steven Levitt (co-author of Freakonomics and winner of the 2003 John Bates Clark Medal) and Kevin Murphy (winner of the 1997 John Bates Clark Medal) suggest that crack was the most prominent factor contributing to the rise and fall of social ills in the African American and Latino communities between 1980 and 2000.”

    “Between 1984 and 1994, the homicide rate for black males aged 14 to 17 more than doubled, and the homicide rate for black males aged 18 to 24 increased nearly as much. During this period, the black community also experienced an increase in fetal death rates, low birth-weight babies, weapons arrests, and the number of children in foster care.”[16]
    The reasons for these increases in crime was due mostly to the fact that distribution for the drug occurred mainly in low-income inner city neighborhoods. This gave many inner city residents the opportunity to move up the “economic ladder” in a drug market that allowed dealers to charge a low minimum price. The basic reason for the rise of crack was economic.”

    “Evidently, crack cocaine use and distribution became popular in cities that were in social and economic chaos such as Los Angeles and Atlanta. ‘As a result of the low-skill levels and minimal initial resource outlay required to sell crack, systemic violence flourished as a growing army of young, enthusiastic inner-city crack sellers attempt to defend their economic investment.’ (Inciardi, 1994) Once the drug became embedded in the particular communities, the economic environment that was best suited for its survival caused further social disintegration within that city. An environment that was based on violence as an avenue for the crack dealers to protect their economic interests.”[17]
    It’s not like, as Foster suggests, the crack problem was ignored by mainstream America until it hit the white community. In fact the Black Caucus in DC were the ones who pushed through harsher sentences for crack dealers, hoping to rescue, literally, the black community from this scourge.
    Also, bringing weapons to school, by both white and black children, has been a problem for decades. It did not begin with Columbine. As a former teacher,living in a community in North Carolina with many African Americans and Whites attending schools together, I know this for a fact.
    In general, I agree with Foster’s point that black-on-white violence is absolutely emphasized more than white-on-black. I just wanted to make some adjustments to the above comments.

    • Seattle in Texas

      Damn, I always forget that we’ve got an expert on the Devil’s powder on here. Might as well as take advantage 🙂

      Questions: Who and/or what was it that created “crack” cocaine? And introduced it and initially pushed it in to the most disadvantaged communities throughout this nation to get the ball of catastrophic addictions rolling? That’s really my question for here.

      I love “old school” music of all sorts and wanted to just recognize one of my favorite experts and educators on this topics–a song addressing the issue far ahead of the professional scholars and middle class folks in general who were safely nestled in the confounds of their institutions and their suburban neighborhoods while crack was already becoming an issue for many, by a very talented artist who was educating and sending out the warnings in the early 80’s–all “experts” and “educators”, regardless of how they communicate their message is important, and important to remember: \,,/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ck8oZFGqm1Q \,,/

      Hmmmm. Where did “crack” cocaine come from in the first place? Who discovered the formula to chemically enhance this drug so the addiction would be amplified by, who knows how much, in comparison to powder cocaine? Why wasn’t it introduced and first pushed through the white, especially more privileged, suburban communities, for example? Why is it that it took several years before the more privileged white communities started seeing a problem with basedheads who reflect their own social positions and stature in their own areas after it had been introduced and pushed in lower SES communities of color? Why wasn’t it a problem until the more privileged white SES folks began to see some of their own all coked out in a way that was just a bit different from the effects of powdered addiction? (when I say “different” I mean between base and powder…I’m talking like the differences in magnitudes in the different highs coupled with the time it takes for the addiction to take over and the differences in effects, time, and ability to successfully recover with minimal withdrawal and little chance of relapse, etc.). Expert answers would be so much appreciated.


      Oh! I didn’t even hit on shooting up! 🙁 Shoot. That’s alright–I’m more interested in the base vs. powder for now since crack-cocaine is the focus of the conversation…..

      • cordoba blue

        Gosh! I didn’t know we had a King Pin on board either! This excerpt is from Wikipedia. If you want to argue with Wikipedia, be my guest.Oh, wait, Wiki is written by those dreaded MIDDLE CLASS idiots, so it doesn’t count right?
        “In the early 1980s, the majority of cocaine being shipped to the United States, landing in Miami, was coming through the Bahamas and Dominican Republic.[1] Soon there was a huge glut of cocaine powder in these islands, which caused the price to drop by as much as 80 percent.[1] Faced with dropping prices for their illegal product, drug dealers made a decision to convert the powder to “crack,” a solid smokeable form of cocaine, that could be sold in smaller quantities, to more people. It was cheap, simple to produce, ready to use, and highly profitable for dealers to develop.[1] As early as 1981, reports of crack were appearing in Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami, Houston, and in the Caribbean.[1]

        “Around 1984, powder cocaine was available on the street at an average of 55 percent purity for $100 per gram, and crack was sold at average purity levels of 80-plus percent for the same price.[1] In some major cities, such as New York, Philadelphia, Houston, Los Angeles, and Detroit, one dosage unit of crack could be obtained for as little as $2.50.[1] Never before had any form of cocaine been available at such low prices and at such high purity. More important from a marketing standpoint, it produced an instant high and its users became addicted in a very short time.

        “Crack first began to be used on a large scale in Los Angeles in 1984.[1][3] The distribution and use of the drug exploded that same year and by the end of 1986, was available in 28 states and the District of Columbia. According to the 1985–1986 National Narcotics Intelligence Consumers Committee Report, crack was available in New Orleans, Philadelphia, New York City, Houston, San Diego, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, St. Louis, Atlanta, Oakland, Kansas City, Miami, Newark, San Francisco, Albany, Buffalo, and Dallas.

        “In 1985, cocaine-related hospital emergencies rose by 12 percent, from 23,500 to 26,300. In 1986, they increased 210 percent, from 26,300 to 55,200. Between 1984 and 1987, cocaine incidents increased to 94,000. By 1987, crack was reported to be available in the District of Columbia and all but four states in the US.[1] In addition, late 1984 saw an increase in fetal death rates and low birth-weight babies to mothers who were using crack cocaine in the Los Angeles area. The first “crack babies” were born between September and December 1984. The trend continued to increase throughout the 1980s and spread to most major American cities.”


  3. cordoba blue

    Speaking again of the Caribbean, from which I just returned, please listen to this beautiful rendition of Fields of Gold by a children’s choir on the island of St. Lucia presented at the Sandals Grande Hotel. If you don’t fall in love with these children, you’re not human. Again, familiarity breeds appreciation and respect. If white people spent more time with black people, many of their ridiculous fears and biases would disappear. Once that invisible wall is torn down, you can’t go back. That’s what needs to happen. Distancing breeds misconceptions. And misconceptions breed bigots.

  4. John D. Foster Author

    Thanks for the comments. On using the parallels to the “mainstream” response to crack-cocaine and gun violence on school campuses, I was just highlighting the double standard in our society on how we treat the same acts differently depending on who it’s affecting. Back to the example for this blog, I don’t think anyone can argue that there isn’t a double standard in the way race-based violence is reported. As phelonn and Seattle in Texas mentioned, state-sponsored violence against Black Americans remains legitimate in the eyes of many (if not most) whites, while antidotal evidence of young Blacks assaulting whites that might have been racially based is given extensive attention to.

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