To Thug or Not to Thug

As I expected, a number of the college students I instruct took exception to the use of the word thug as applied to the individuals who created mayhem and madness in Baltimore last week. That "their" president used the term was of little import to these students.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word thug is "[o]ne of an association of professional robbers and murderers in India, who strangled their victims; phansigar." In "1810  in Hist. & Pract. Thugs (1837) xxi. 329 [one reads]  . . . that ‘Thugs’, [who robbed and murdered] infested the . . . the Upper Provinces."  In "1839 T. De Quincey 2nd Paper on Murder in Blackwood's Mag. Nov. 668/2 [wrote] [a]t length came the toast of the day -- Thugdom in all its branches."

By the late nineteenth century, the term took on the more modern connotation so that in "1883 G. W. Cable in Cent. Mag. June 230/1 maintained that "[a] few ‘thugs’ terrorized the city with… beating, stabbing, and shooting."  The word thug took on a new twist when in "1895 J. Burns in Westm. Gaz. 17 Jan. 2/1 maintained that "[t]hey even engage ‘knockers-out’, who… belabour and disable voters as they are entering the booths… They are called ‘election Thugs.’"

In 1937 the term was associated directly with gangs as the Sun (Baltimore) 6 May 7/2   notes [w]hen… "thugging in Harlan county… Merle Middleton was the chief of the gang." By "1967 S. Faessler in the Atlantic Monthly Apr. 103/2  [wrote that] [t]he old man ducked for cover… but not my father. Unarmed he stood up to the thugs, and was cracked over the head for it."

Yet we are told in politically correct America "that… 'uprising,' 'insurrection,' or one-man 'revolution'" and not ‘riot’ more accurately characterize the brick-braining of cops, joyriding of stolen cars through intersection bonfires, and the looting of local businesses of such basic household necessities as Wonder Bread, Charmin, and Night Train." Thus, "one should not call the insurrection a 'riot' and don’t call the rioters, er, insurrectionists “thugs.”

And although I vigorously disagree with her progressive political stance, Pulitzer Prize winning syndicated columnist Cynthia Tucker tackled thug culture in her 2007 piece entitled "Thug Culture is a Cancer Destroying Black America" where she wrote that

somewhere along the way, a cadre of young black men and women began glorifying violence, misogyny and thuggery, accepting incarceration as inevitable, resigning themselves to lives on the margins of mainstream society.  They created a thug culture that has been commodified -- celebrated in music and movies, sold to poor adolescents in wretched neighborhoods as well as affluent teenagers in upscale communities.

And with each passing day and with each lawless behavior condoned -- even applauded, "there is now a cottage industry dedicated to defending rap music, a group of enablers who glorify hard-core rap as a legitimate art form reflecting the bitter real-life experiences of ghetto inhabitants."

Tucker pulls no punches when she asserts that "this so-called music and the lifestyle it glorifies is a malignancy destroying black America" and she wonders "[w]hat does it take for mothers and fathers, ministers and teachers, music executives and TV moguls to turn it off?" 

As statistics continually reveal "[h]omicide is the leading cause of death among black men between the ages of 15 and 30. And it is a fratricidal enterprise. Young black men are killed by other young black men." And blaming "The Man seems shallow and irresponsible when black Americans are abetting their own destruction." In fact, as Daniel Greenfield points out "[i]f the black community leaders involved in these protests really cared about black lives, they would be leading marches through the crack houses and gang run territories that take hundreds of black lives in Baltimore every year."

It is shocking that Baltimore has the fifth highest big city murder rate in the country. Detroit, New Orleans, Newark, and St. Louis are the four cities ahead of Baltimore. And the violence continues. According to the May 3, 2015 Baltimore Crime Beat, "there have been eight homicides and 12 shootings since Tuesday." East St. Louis, Illinois has the distinction of being America's murder capital with 21.5 x higher murder rate than the national average. This chart shows which political party has basically controlled that area for years.

And when crime without accountability occurs, lawlessness reigns. Most disturbing is the idea that justice can only be served because of the now emboldened rioters. When the Baltimore prosecutor claims that she "will seek justice on behalf" of the city's youth, that was the beginning of the end for the rule of law and due process. Yet, Democratic-controlled cities continue to switch "out crimefighting for community policing" -- a standard liberal stance but totally expected when muggers and looters are called "misguided young people."

And thus moral rot sets in since "if you allow lawlessness to go unchallenged you get more of it." Consequently, "cable-news cameramen captured more criminals than the police" because the police were told to stand down. That’s the consequence of giving plunderers “space to destroy.”   

The fact that these ruffians, delinquents, hoods, punks, rioters, hooligans, bullies, culprits, scofflaws, hoodlums, lawbreakers, muggers  -- use whatever synonym you choose are being given a patina of respect by political charlatans at the expense of law-abiding black and white businessmen and residents is unconscionable. Who speaks for the young mother who needs her medications from the now burned-out CVS? Who speaks for the elderly black seniors whose terror will never leave them as they saw their senior center destroyed? Who speaks for the hotels and restaurants whose businesses have been adversely affected as tourists avoid Baltimore? Who speaks for the youngsters who will not have a chance to learn about Baltimore's famous residents i.e., Edgar Allan Poe, Frederick Douglass, H. L. Mencken, jazz musician James "Eubie" Blake, singer Billie Holiday, and baseball player Babe Ruth because vacation plans were cancelled due to  fear?

When will enough black Americans see through the scam of the last forty years and realize that the liberal policies touted by the Democratic Party exploit them as pawns and as victims?  When will enough people realize, as Jason Riley explains in his Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed, "liberalism has… succeeded, tragically, in convincing blacks to see themselves first and foremost as victims. Today there is no greater impediment to black advancement than the self-pitying mindset that permeates black culture. White liberals think they are helping blacks by romanticizing miscreants."

When will black Americans -- in fact, all Americans finally refuse to accept the never-ending government handouts which always come with a hefty Faustian price tag? When will they refuse to be pandered to by white and black Democratic politicians? Until they do, America will continue to see the wholesale destruction of property and people's dreams.  Consequently the ongoing cultural malaise will increase as "thugdom in all its branches" metastasizes.

Eileen can be reached at