All Lives Matter When It Comes to Murder
In the wake of the killings of George Floyd; Daunte Wright; and Andrew Brown, Jr., which have received huge national attention in the media, it's time to establish the truth in our thinking about race and crime. How common are killings of blacks by police officers, most of them white, or, for that matter, by whites in general? And how common are killings of white police officers, and other whites, by blacks? And why is it that only the killings of blacks seem to receive extensive media attention?
The fundamental truth is that all human beings are divinely created creatures whose lives are sacred. The taking of life, except in war or self-defense, is recognized everywhere as among the worst of offenses. The murder of another person steals from him the most precious of all possessions — the chance to live out one's life on this beautiful earth. Although some persons are more intelligent, more educated, more talented, or more productive than others, all are equal in their right to life. The passing of any one of us deserves to be reported with appropriate respect and dignity.
That is not what is happening in the national media, where one's race now seems to determine the amount and angle of coverage. It's as if the press believes that respectable whites and Asians are expendable while a black criminal who dies while resisting or fleeing arrest should be treated like a saint. At the very least, the press should be honest in reporting the facts.
The fact is that far more whites are killed each year in America by blacks than blacks are by whites.
In one recent FBI report, 500 whites overall were killed by blacks (in 2015), while in that same year, 229 blacks were killed by whites. How many of those white victims received the media coverage afforded George Floyd or any coverage at all?
Here are some recent cases, all of them involving black violence against whites or Asians. How many of these names are well known to the public?
—Jarrod Powell, 50, arrested for stomping the head of an elderly Asian man in New York in April. The victim is in a medically induced coma.
—Billy Chemirmir, 48, who has been connected with the deaths of 24 elderly women in care homes and indicted in 17 of those cases.
—Demetrius Walker, 27, with an extensive criminal history and locally known as "Pharoah," charged with the death of an 85-year-old woman after breaking into her apartment and attacking her.
—Brandon Elliot, convicted of killing his mother 19 years ago, arrested as a suspect in the brutal beating of a 65-year-old woman walking to church in New York.
—A suspect, Yahya Muslim, arrested in connection with a string of attacks on elderly Asian-Americans in the Bay Area.
I am not interested in racial labels. In fact, I believe that crimes should be reported in a fair and balanced way without regard to race. But at present, race appears to be nearly the only factor determining the media's reporting of violence. I believe we must establish a racially blind society, but it appears that the national media are fixated on race when it comes to crime reporting. And this fixation takes the form of depicting blacks as victims and whites as perpetrators.
The extensive reporting of the George Floyd case and other cases involving blacks killed by police creates the impression that blacks are overwhelmingly the victims rather than the perpetrators. The truth is that young black males commit murder at over six times the national average. Most of their victims are other blacks (over 90% of blacks murdered are killed by other blacks), but a significant number of their victims are white (at present over 500 per year) and Asian.
This is not to say that whites do not commit violent crimes, including crimes against helpless victims. And, overall, most white victims are killed by other whites (2,854 of 3,499 killed in 2016, according to FBI statistics). It's important to maintain perspective and to respect the lives of all American citizens — but this, I fear, is not what is happening amid the current media frenzy over police killings of blacks.
Undoubtedly, there are what Kamala Harris would call "root causes" of the high level of violence among poor blacks — though I would probably differ with V.P. Harris as to the nature of these root causes. Would she include the decisions of black fathers to abandon their families; the decision of youths to join violent gangs; and the choice of young black males to engage in illegal activities such as robbery, assault, and drug dealing?
The victims of violence listed at the beginning of this article also made moral choices throughout their lives. As a rule, they obeyed the law, had never been sentenced to prison; were not aggressive; and were not, so far as I know, engaging in criminal behavior at the time of their murders or assaults. Their stories should be reported thoroughly so that society can make a fair judgment of the impact of criminal violence on the lives of innocent persons. And the reporting should be proportionate to the offense without regard to race.
Needless to say, that is not the case at present at a time when race, along with police involvement, appears to be the main factor driving the news. The deaths of George Floyd and others killed by the police should be reported along with a thorough account of the circumstances surrounding their deaths. Similarly, but to a greater extent because of their innocence, violent attacks on entirely innocent and helpless persons of all races should be thoroughly reported, with more coverage devoted to attacks on helpless victims such as New York's Rose Morat, a 101-year-old woman violently assaulted by Jack Rhodes, described by the New York Daily News as a "hulking brute." Rhodes was also convicted of robbing and assaulting two other elderly women. The public needs to be informed about such cases so that it will support strict punishment for perpetrators. If the facts are hidden, as they are at present due to the emphasis on black victims, there will be little incentive for prosecutors to seek longer sentences and death penalties.
Every year in America, some 500 whites are murdered by black assailants, more than twice as many as blacks killed by whites. The media need to report all of these cases fairly and without bias so as to counter the false reporting and misplaced emphasis in the national press. All victims, of whatever race, deserve justice because all human life is precious. The reporting of violence should not be based on race — it should be proportionate to the crime, without regard to the race of the perpetrator or the victim.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).
Image via Pxhere.
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