Thursday, October 21, 2010

The state of race relations today according to my six year-old son

SCROLL FOR UPDATE:

We now enter touchy territory...

Often, when I am checking the news in the newspaper, on the Internet, or watching the news on television, my son (and increasingly, my four year-old daughter) will take an interest in viewing the day's events, whether they be local, state, national, or international.

Today was a strange one. A "transient," as the KCRA reporter called him, walked into a GameStop store at the Roseville Galleria, which is the largest mall in the Sacramento area. Details are still a little sketchy, but apparently the transient announced he was armed, ushered the GameStop employees out of the store, locked himself in and then set the store on fire. He also had a backpack with him that authorities worried might contain an explosive, so firefighters had trouble attacking the blaze only from the outside. The fire spread from there. A major portion of the mall is now gutted, and the roof collapsed over the burned area. It will take months to repair.

Before my kids came into the living room to watch the live footage with me, the news showed some footage of the arrested suspect sitting in the back seat of a patrol car as the cruiser pulled in to the local police station. A minute or so after that, my kids started watching the news report with me, and my wife joined us as soon as she got home from work.

As we were watching helicopter footage of the fire and the firefighters' efforts to extinguish it, my wife asked me if they have shown the man who did it. I told her she had just missed footage of him being brought to the police station. That is when my son matter-of-factly and innocently asked me the following question:

"Did he have dark skin?"

I froze for a moment and shot my wife a furtive glance of surprise, but quickly regained my composure and asked my son,

"Why do you ask?"

He, again, very matter-of-factly and innocently said,

"Well, I have noticed that whenever we watch the news and they show a picture of a guy who did something bad, he usually has dark skin. Why is that?"

Wow. First, an important disclaimer: Never in his 6 years on this earth have I ever had a conversation with my son about the vagaries of race issues in this country. I don't remember that I have ever brought up the subject in any way when he is around. Yet he noticed something is amiss... all on his own.

What a sad indictment of our society when, just like the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, it takes a child to point out the painfully obvious, and not be paralyzed with fear of ridicule or charges of racism to do so. That obvious fact is that our country's black population commits violent crime way out of all proportion to their numbers. I didn't make it this way, I wish it wasn't this way, but that is the way it is. Tell me I am wrong that the majority of you who read my statement two sentences ago winced or raised your eyebrows when you read it. We are not supposed to say such things - to point out these disproportionate crime rates among our black citizens - because to do so instantly makes one a racist in the eyes of many.

But how can society continue to turn a blind eye to this national problem when even my six year-old son recognizes it with not one iota of prompt or taint from me?

This is when you can predictably cue the bleeding hearts out there who will shriek that my son's observation is proof that the news is biased against blacks in their coverage of crime. I'm sorry, but this just isn't so. The reason the news displays so many black faces when they show suspect photos is that, unfortunately, it is blacks (mostly young males) who commit a majority of our nation's violent crimes - and not in per-capita either; in raw numbers.

Even our own government statistics bear this out. Detailed reports of the race of crime victims and suspects are compiled every year by federal, state, and local officials in the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program. These UCR statistics bear out what my son so innocently observed. Nationally in 2009, 51.6% of murder suspects for whom the race was known were black. Keep in mind that the demographic responsible for almost all of those murders - young black males - makes up only about maybe 6% or so of our population. Also never forget that statistics show that 48% of the time, the victims of these murders were black as well.

Anyone, especially in the news media, has access to those statistics, but only a few courageous souls have the fortitude to report them, especially when local circumstances make the numbers more lopsided than what one sees on the national level. For instance, according to Heather McDonald of City Journal, blacks in New York make up about 24% of the city's population, yet they commit just under 69% of the city's murders. This means that when the local New York news reports show a photo of a murder suspect, 7 out of 10 times, it will be a suspect who is black.

So what did I tell my son in response to his question? I wasn't going to lie to him. I told him essentially what I wrote above, however in a much more simplified and gentle manner. My wife and I told him that plenty of people with lighter skin commit bad crimes too, but that he often sees more bad guys on the news with dark skin because many people in that community are having problems they are trying to deal with. I mean, what can you say to a six year old boy in response to a question like that, especially when you aren't expecting it? After explaining all this to him, I didn't have the heart to tell my son that the suspect in this arson did indeed have dark skin.

I feel like my son took a small bite of God's fruit tree today, and came that much closer to eventually leaving the Garden of Eden.

And I wept.

**UPDATE - Just to prove my point about the touchiness of this topic, look at what just happened to two judges in Washington state - supreme court justices no less - when they pointed out some of the same statistics I did.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson

8 comments:

Darren said...

I can't believe he's 6 already.

I was listening to Hugh Hewitt with my son last week, as Hugh was interviewing Condi Rice about her book about growing up in Birmingham during the civil rights era. Race is a very interesting subject in this country....

Anonymous said...

There are "more bad guys on the news with dark skin because many people in that community are having problems they are trying to deal with"? Huh?

Which community? And what kinds of problems are your referring to?

Anonymous said...

This is ridiculous! Where is your data? You are throwing out a dramatic statement! There are just as many white bad people as any other race! Just because your son is showing signs of early prejudice, it does not mean that the child's observation is true. Come on! Look beyond your own natural biases. Try to see the truth! No race has a claim to being all good or all healthy or all bad or even predominantly bad! That really is silly. And, it is irresponsible, especially as a teacher. As a fellow teacher, you embarrass me.

W.R. Chandler said...

Where is my data? I linked it. Based on your unsourced statements, it is you who should be providing the data, my friend.

As a fellow teacher, I'm sorry to see you rely on emotion rather than facts.

Oh, and way to insult my son. Classy.

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