The Knockout Game: Racial Violence and the Conspicuous Silence of the Media
By now, almost everyone has seen one of the semi-amusing videos of black teen mobs rampaging through a store. Maybe we've even seen the non-amusing pictures of the victims, or heard their stories. Most Americans have heard of recent violent "flash mobs," which are the bands of black teens that attack mostly white victims and white businesses, as even the New York Times once noted.
But the flash mobs, which are more accurately called "race riots" or "racial mob violence," are not the only interesting topic to cover in our national conversation about race. There is also the "knockout game," which is stunning in its brutal simplicity and stark racial significance.
The knockout game involves "unprovoked attacks on innocent bystanders," according to police who have had to deal with it. A retired officer explained, "Normally it was a group of black males, one of which would strike him as hard as he could in the face, attempting to knock him out with one punch," says retired Sgt. Don Pizzo. The victims are typically not robbed, but simply punched with no provocation. Such attacks have been reported in Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, and New Jersey.
The knockout game has claimed at least one life so far. In St. Louis this year, 72-year old Hoang Nguyen was walking with his wife, Yen, when four "young people" attacked. The attacker pushed the old man's face to the side to make a "clear target for his fist," recalled his wife. Nguyen was punched so hard that he fell to the ground and struck his head. Then the attacker turned on Nguyen's 59-year-old wife, punching her so hard that she suffered a broken eye socket. She could only watch as her husband was then kicked repeatedly. Hoang succumbed to his injuries later that day. A young black male, 18-year-old Elex Murphy, is charged with first-degree murder.
In addition, a mob of young black males can be seen playing the game here. The video shows the group attacking a young white man named Adam Taylor, who was left with internal bleeding, bruising of the brain, severe whiplash, and scratches on his face when he was beaten in Columbia, MO in 2009.
Sgt. Pizzo noted that the attacks fit a pattern: "black attackers on a white victim -- and the victim was often an older person walking alone." In a thorough and sensible piece on the subject in a local arts and entertainment magazine, eight of the victims interviewed were white, one was black, and one was Latino. All of the attackers, or "players," were black. Some witnesses claim that they have white relatives who play the game and that therefore the game is not a racial issue. But anyone who reviews the reporting -- when race is revealed, at least -- will see that the attackers are predominantly if not exclusively black.
As one player of the game says, "[w]e used to walk to where a lot of people be at and hit 'em. If one of the homeboys didn't knock him out, then the other would come. Whoever knock him out would be king."
Local media outlets have failed to report on the racial aspect of the attacks. At best, the media will allow the race of attackers to be revealed by mugshots, or quotations from police or victims. This follows a conscious policy of self-censorship that has been openly admitted by major newspapers.
A New York Times editor says that his paper will report on race "only if it's relevant to the story" or if readers would "learn something" from the description. The Chicago Tribune's editor, Gerould Kern, explains his paper's "approach" to concealing the truth: "We do not reference race unless it is a fact that is central to telling the story." Of course, no guilt-ridden white liberal editor will ever admit that race is relevant, unless of course a white is attacking minorities. The Los Angeles Times explains that the media will not report race because they don't want to "unfairly stigmatize racial groups." The Washington Post ombudsman openly admits that the Times's staff "worried about hyping a story that involved race" when blacks brawled on the Metro. Instead of stigmatizing racial groups, the liberal media prefers to condemn minorities via low expectations and preferential, secretive reporting -- which only creates a cloud of ominous suspicion over the race issue. But at least racial groups aren't being stigmatized.
A senior reporter from the Houston Chronicle admits, "We don't ever include race normally -- unless race is made an issue by other people." In other words, if racial interest groups make something of the issue, race will become part of the story. And we all know which racial groups advocate on their own behalf, and which one doesn't.
The liberal media policy of resolute silence about race and crime may strike a reasonable observer as troubling, given the violence and obvious racial aspect of the knockout game and flash mob attacks. The net effect of this Orwellian reporting is to place minority feelings above the public interest in safety. For those of us who are curious about our society and group behavior, who should be able to rely on the professional media, the reporting is worthless.
When the liberal media does touch on the topic of race and flash mobs, it is only to condemn conservative blogs for mentioning race at all. The Village Voice, for instance, thoughtlessly dismisses the concerns about racial mob violence, reasoning that because crime is falling, racial mob violence shouldn't be criticized. The progressive tendency will be to define these stories as isolated incidents -- it is easy extrapolate a social problem, but that could be misleading in the big picture.
But the knockout game must be seen in the context of black-on-white violence in America. The big picture is that black-on-white violence is a social problem that deserves more attention, regardless of whether the overall crime rate is rising or falling. Department of Justice statistics show that 33% of white murder victims are killed by a non-white, while only 8% of black murder victims are killed by a non-black1. Even greater disparities exist in violent crime and robbery2.
Some of those who work with these kids blame boredom and the kids' need to prove their toughness. Those causes will be present for a long time, thus the problem will remain. Moreover, the problem will predictably get worse, as some of the mobs are armed.
Hoang Nguyen will not receive the same attention as Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. After all, Hoang was not the victim of white hatred, so he is not a household name...but he should be.
1Violent State Prisoners and Their Victims, Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics 5, July 1990 quoted in James B. Jacobs and Kimberly Potter, Hate Crimes: Criminal Law and Identity Politics 17 (1998).
John Bennett (MA, University of Chicago, MAPSS '07) is a veteran, writer, and law student at Emory University living in Atlanta, GA.