How Race Gets Rubbed Out of the Story
The editor of a major newspaper has just admitted that he prints propaganda. There is no other way to describe the decision of Chicago Tribune editor Gerould W. Kern, who refuses to report on the racial aspect of recent mob attacks in Chicago.
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."
That explanation is absurd to the point of dangerousness. How is anybody supposed to know what is central to a story unless the news reports on the basic facts? If blacks attack non-blacks, and you want to tell a story about blacks attacking non-blacks, then you reference race.
Taking Kern's ideas at face value, we can see just how shockingly illogical they are. If race isn't central to a story, then neither is age, gender, or the location of an attack. As another Tribune writer pointed out, "[r]ace alone doesn't predict or explain behavior. Just because this mob was young and black hardly means that all young, black people in groups are a violent mob."
Let's think that through with a few analogies. Take gender: gender alone doesn't predict or explain behavior. Just because a rapist is a male hardly means that all males are rapists. Therefore, we shouldn't report on the gender of rapists. Obviously, this is an absurd approach. If we never reported the gender of rapists, we would have no idea what the nature of the crime was, who was being victimized, and whose culture needed to be changed to address the root causes.
Also, the location of a crime alone doesn't predict or explain behavior. Just because a crime occurred in a park hardly means that everyone in the park will be victimized by crime. Therefore, we shouldn't report on the location of crimes. That approach is senseless as well. If we never reported the location of crimes, we wouldn't understand the basic risks we face or what areas to focus crime prevention on.
Kern writes, "By all indication, these attacks were motivated by theft, not race." Well, the attacks weren't clearly motivated by age, gender, or occupation of the victims, either. Yet the Tribune reported on all of these data. So race is being treated differently from other factors because of political correctness, not because of journalistic standards. The Tribune is determined to remain resolutely ignorant of the racial element of these attacks, and to keep their readers cowed.
In fact, contrary to Kern's supine statement, there is evidence that the victims were singled out because of their race. Trovulus Pickett, 17, traveled from the 8400 block of South Dorchester to attack and rob at the 300 block of East Chicago Avenue, which is 15 miles away from Pickett's home. Pickett and his cohorts, who were all black, traveled long distances to attack exclusively non-black victims. The victims were absolutely not chosen at random. This gives rise to an inference that the attackers may have been targeted because of race -- a possibility that should be taken seriously.
There is an epidemic of racial mob violence simmering in Chicago, mirroring similar violence around the country. Amazingly, the New York Times reported on violent mobs in Philadelphia and other cities where "[m]ost of the teenagers who have taken part ... are black and from poor neighborhoods. Most of the areas hit have been predominantly white business districts"1. This level of honesty about basic facts is unprecedented in many newspapers. The Chicago Tribune should take note.
The thing that separates ordinary crime from racist violence is the race of the parties and the motives of the attacker. The public -- and law enforcement -- will never question the motives of the attackers if race isn't mentioned by the media and by the concerned public. We have to know the race of the attackers to even begin to understand if race is "central to the story."
Kern had to write an article about his racial myopia because readers were demanding to know more about the mob violence. It appears that Tribune readers find race "central to telling the story," as Kern himself acknowledges.
Yet the Tribune editor is not interested in the aspects of this story that captivate his readers. Indeed, Kern's intention is probably to avoid reinforcing unfair stereotypes. But when the media plays nanny and tells fairy tales in order to protect people's feelings, the only result is contempt for the media and the people they're coddling. Rank favoritism and double standards on racial issues will only exacerbate existing stereotypes and accentuate the element of truth in those stereotypes.
As a thought experiment, ask yourself what the reporting would look like if the races were reversed. If whites and Asians from the North Side were traveling up to fifteen miles to get to the South Side in order to beat and rob black people, including a 68-year-old doctor, you can bet that race would be "central to telling the story." Race would actually be the core of the story if the races were reversed. But the victims here are white, and the accumulated sediment of white guilt and political correctness are blinding us to the significance of what Chicago is facing.
Consider what you would think about an editor who claimed that his paper has the judgment and perspective to determine whether race matters in a story about white youth beating and robbing black people, including a senior citizen.
What would you think about the following words if they were uttered by an editor, speaking about white attacks on blacks? "We will be measured and responsible about introducing racial descriptions into the coverage unless they are clearly pertinent and warranted."
Most of us would smell the disgusting stench of double standards. We would revolt at the paternalistic elitism involved in social engineering through journalism. We might even sense the danger of being lied to about a racist crime wave.
John Bennett (MA, University of Chicago, MAPSS '07) is a veteran, writer, and law student at Emory University living in Atlanta, GA.