Monday, March 26, 2012

"Courageous Conversations" in a "nation of cowards"

Although this post concerns issues that emanate from the controversy over the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman kerfuffle, it is imperative that the reader understand the background behind the two terms I have used in my title to this post.

As a public school teacher, I have been exposed many times to the term "courageous conversations." The term comes from a race-hustling "diversity" consultant named Glenn Singleton who is hired by various school districts across the country to advise them on ways to bridge the "achievement gap" in test scores and academic performance that exist between certain student demographics - especially between white and black students. Singleton often ends up embarrassing the districts that hire him, such as the Seattle public schools, where the district was ridiculed nationwide after posting on their website that - as Singleton instructed them - only whites can be racist, and that it is racist to expect minorities to have the wherewithal to plan for the future, as they do not have the same future-time orientation that whites have. Yes, really. Singleton is essentially known as a one-trick pony who blames the actions and attitudes of white people for all that is wrong or perceived to be wrong in minority - read: black - communities. He especially lays out these simplistic theories of his in a book he coauthored back in 2005 called Courageous Conversations About Race - if you consider the tired position of blaming whites for everything to be courageous.

Next, we have our illustrious Attorney General, Eric Holder, who, during a February, 2009 Black History Month speech, stated on televised record:
Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot in things racial, we have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.

Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about things racial...

It is an easy thing not to talk about these things. It is a painful thing to discuss them....
Well then, everyone, let us not be cowards; let us have a courageous conversation about race relations, no matter how painful it may be to discuss.

The national news cycle continues to remain gripped in the clutches of the media's obsession with the shooting death of black 17 year-old Trayvon Martin at the hands of Hispanic 28 year-old George Zimmerman. Just in the last day or two, more information has been released about the interaction between the two men that shows Martin may have been the aggressor and Zimmerman the victim, and also information and photos that show Martin was not the innocent angel his friends and parents made him out to be. Like I said in my previous post, however, there is still not enough official information released to make a complete call on this incident one way or the other.

I did notice two different news stories released within days of each other that caught my attention. Just listing the headlines will alert you to the common theme of the two articles.

The first headline comes from Associated Press (AP):

Trayvon Martin, my son, and the black male code

The second headline comes from the Chicago Tribune, but ran nationally:

Parents of black teens find Trayvon Martin case hits close to home

Highlights from the AP article are as follows:
I thought my [12 year old] son would be much older before I had to tell him about the Black Male Code... [b]ut after the Trayvon Martin tragedy, I needed to explain to my child that soon people might be afraid of him...

As I explained it, the Code goes like this:

Always pay close attention to your surroundings, son, especially if you are in an affluent neighborhood where black folks are few. Understand that even though you are not a criminal, some people might assume you are, especially if you are wearing certain clothes...

From the Tribune article, I note the following:
When their son was about to enter his teens, Paul and Jeanne Miller of Flossmoor decided it was time to have the talk. As a black male, they told him, some people will make judgments about you and view you with suspicion based solely on your race... The [Martin/Zimmerman] case once again placed a spotlight on race in America and forced discussions about the negative perceptions some people have regarding black men... The reality is that many Americans...perceive young black men to be 'suspicious' individuals who will rob them, confront them and carry a firearm to threaten their safety, independent of whether it is true or not... Young black men go through the world being harassed, watched and stereotyped. They live with that every day, and far too many of us have ignored their reality...
Reading these two articles struck a chord with me, as I have also been planning to have "courageous conversations" with my 7 year-old son and my 5 year-old daughter when they get a little older. The difference is that the conversations will come from the opposite spectrum. As white children who will one day grow into white teenagers and then white adults, I feel it is my parental duty to warn them about the dangers they face from people of certain races who, quite unfortunately, commit violent crime out of all proportion to the percentage of their numbers in our society. The father in the first article tells his son to be aware of his surroundings; so will I tell my children to be aware of their surroundings. For instance, if they are walking down the sidewalk and are approached by several young black men dressed in "the uniform" of sagging pants, or hoodies, or flat-billed baseball caps worn jauntily on top of their heads, I will instruct my children that they should start walking the other direction, or cross to the other side of the street, or even run if they feel it is necessary.

I can hear some of you out there now: What are doing? You can't say this! What are you? Some kind of racist?

To that I say, don't start getting cowardly on me now! We need to continue this courageous conversation and not devolve into name calling!

There is a reason why so many people stereotype black men, perceive them as threatening, and have negative perceptions of them. That is because black men - especially young black men - commit a vast amount of violent crime in this country; an amount that is far out of proportion to their numbers in the population.

Let us look at just one example: Aggravated Assault.

The U.S. Justice Department periodically releases detailed crime statistics called the National Crime Victimization Survey. The survey for which I can find the most recent complete results is 2008, so that is the one from which I will quote. If you research the results of other years in this Survey, you will find that the numbers don't change all that much from year to year.

When researching racial crime statistics, one of the most useful sections of the Survey is Table 42. You can take my word for it regarding the numbers, or follow the link to the Survey and check the math yourself.

In the year 2008, there were 436,420 white victims of aggravated assault. In 61.9% of those cases, the assaulter was also white, and in 17.6% of those cases, the assaulter was black.

In the same year, there were 119,090 black victims of aggravated assault. In 62.9% of those cases, the assaulter was also black, and in 12.7% of those cases, the assaulter was white.

First, it is not unusual that in a vast majority of cases, the victim and perpetrator were of the same race - that is true across the board for most crimes in the survey. But since we, and the nation, are supposed to be having courageous conversations about interracial crime, then let's continue.

First off, you see a disparity already: 17.6% black-on-white, versus 12.7% white-on-black. So just based on percentage of the time, blacks commit more aggravated assault upon whites than whites upon blacks. But wait; the most important numbers have not been factored in, and those are the raw numbers of aggravated assault cases, which, again, are 436,420 white versus 119,090 black.

What you discover after doing the math is that in 2008:

76,810 white people were agg. assaulted by blacks.
15,124 black people were agg. assaulted by whites.

If the number of whites and blacks in this country's population were perfectly equal, the discrepancy in the above numbers would be horrific enough, but it is even worse than it appears, for don't forget that whites outnumber blacks in this country by a factor of 5. So, even though there are five times as many whites in this country as blacks, blacks still managed to agg. assault five times as many whites as whites did to blacks.

And that is just aggravated assault. The Victimization Survey shows similar disparities over and over when it comes to interracial violent crime.

Judging by the news we watch, you would never know this, as any white-on-black violence tends to be nationally reported and sensationalized (think the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd in Texas), while any black-on-white violence is usually kept restricted to local media coverage and is quickly dropped down the memory hole.

While the news media and the nation wring their hands and obsess about George Zimmerman (who is not even white!) shooting Trayvon Martin, I ask if any of the following cases from the last few years have gotten even a fraction of attention from the national media and usual race hustlers that the Martin/Zimmerman case has received:
  • Last month, a 13 year-old white high schooler in Kansas City was followed to his home by two black teenagers who also attended his school. As the white boy struggled to unlock his front door, the two black boys grabbed him, doused him with gasoline, and set him on fire while yelling, "This is what you deserve! You get what you deserve, white boy!" Reverse the races in this incident and tell me that there would not be national outrage and marches in the street.
  • In 2009, at least 32 black gang members were arrested for committing dozens of racially motivated beatings and muggings of whites and Hispanics in downtown Denver, Colorado. These gang members would often film their misdeeds and post them online. Reverse the races in this incident, and tell me that there would not be national outrage and marches in the street.
  • In the city of St. Louis, dozens of white and Asian people have been attacked by roving packs of black boys and young men who are engaging in a "game" called Knockout King. The object of the "game" is to walk up to a random person on the street (who somehow is never black; just white, Hispanic, or Asian) and knock the person unconscious with one punch. There have been two especially notorious incidents involving Knockout King. In the first, an elderly Vietnamese man named Hoang Nguyen was struck in the face and died after his head hit the pavement. He was also repeatedly hit and kicked while he lay unconscious on the ground. In a second notorious incident, a white man named Matt Quain was attacked right in front of the mayor of St. Louis, who came to Quain's aid. Even with a witness like that, charges against Quain's seven black teenage (alleged) attackers were dropped, to the cheers of the (alleged) attackers and their family members. Days later, some of the (alleged) attackers began threatening Quain. Reverse the races in all these incidents and tell me there would not be national outrage and marches in the street.
  • Just this month, a 90 year-old husband, Bob Strait, and his 85 year-old wife, Nancy, who had been married for 65 years, were severely beaten by 20 year-old home invader Tyrone Woodfork. Bob, a WWII veteran of the 101st Airborne Division, is still in the hospital with critical injuries, but Nancy was beaten to death by Woodfork. Reverse the races in this incident and tell me there would not be national outrage and marches in the street.
  • At the Wisconsin State Fair in the summer of 2011, white fairgoers were accosted and pulled out of their cars in the parking lot and beaten by a mob of blacks that numbered in the "dozens to hundreds." Reverse the races in this incident and tell me that there would not be national outrage and marches in the street.
  • At the Iowa State Fair in the summer of 2010, dozens of blacks rampaged through the fairgrounds, attacking random white fairgoers in what the participants called "Beat Whitey Night." Reverse the races in this incident and try to imagine the national news media and the good Reverends Sharpton and Jackson ignoring a "Beat Blackie Night" by dozens of rampaging white people.
  • In Knoxville, Tennessee in 2007, a white couple in their early 20s, Christopher Newsome and Channon Christian, were carjacked and kidnapped by five blacks. The couple were kept in the home of one of the perpetrators for two days where they were tortured, raped, beaten, and eventually murdered. Newsome was shot and his body was set on fire. Christian had bleach poured down her throat, and then she was stuffed into a trash can where she suffocated. Reverse the races in this incident and tell me that there would not be national outrage and marches in the street.
  • In Wichita, Kansas in 2000, two black brothers went on a crime spree in which they eventually killed, robbed, and/or raped five white people and left a sixth for dead. The last five victims were kidnapped together at their townhouse where they were either raped or forced to have sex with each other and then taken to a snowy soccer field where they were forced to kneel and then shot in the head execution-style. One of those victims survived being shot, seeking help by walking a mile, naked in the snow, with a bullet wound to her head. Reverse the races in this incident and tell me that there would not be national outrage and marches in the street.

In addition to these outrageous acts that don't elicit a response from the two Reverends or our President, I am struck by the relative lack of interest by these and other race hustlers in the murder and chaos happening in our inner-cities where blacks are killing and maiming other blacks. In Chicago - the home turf of Barack Obama and Jesse Jackson - during the same week that the Martin/Zimmerman story was heating up, the Windy City saw one weekend in March of this year in which 40 people were shot and 10 of them were killed. Most of these shooting victims were black, as were their attackers. Nationwide, according to the FBI, 53% of the murders committed in the United States in 2010 were committed by blacks, while blacks made up about 50% of the murder victims. Keep in mind that blacks only make up about 13% of our nation's population, and also keep in mind that most of these murders were committed by young black men who make up somewhere around 5-7% of our nation's population - according to the FBI's 2010 statistics, 58% of black murder offenders and 51% of black murder victims were between the ages of 17 and 30. Where are the marches in the street over that? Instead, Sharpton, Jackson, the New Black Panthers, and thousands of blacks wearing hoodies are down in Florida marching in honor of Trayvon Martin because he was shot by a Hispanic with white ancestry. The selective outrage is simply astonishing.

I want to stress that I would never tell my children to simply avoid black people. Some of the greatest people I have ever met in my life were black, starting with Drill Sergeants Coe and Chatman, when I went through Army basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina in 1993. Add to that such people as Lt. Col. and Congressman Allen West; Economists Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams; Tea Party activists Herman Cain, Lloyd Marcus, and Alonzo Rachel; educator and author Booker T. Washington; Abolitionist and author Frederick Douglass; not to mention the dozens of black students whom I have had the privilege of teaching over the years - students who are leaders, scholars, and not afraid to defy the low expectations of their peers. I have nothing but praise for these individuals and any like them who work hard, contribute to a more productive and civilized society, and provide a positive example. I expect this of anyone, no matter what their color, and I sing their praises to my children at every opportunity.

In light of all this, these black parents mentioned in the AP and Tribune articles are free to have courageous conversations with their kids and tell them to watch their backs. In the meantime, in courageous conversations of my own, I will tell my kids to do likewise.

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


Jerry Woods said...

Thanks for posting this article--very courageous of you! The black students you mention who defy the low expectations of their peers are conspicuously ignored by the media. Since this pattern you describe of race-baiting in the media seems to span the nation, I think it's clear that choosing those stories is the policy of the handful of corporations that own most of the media outlets. Obviously, such a policy will never result in closing any gaps between 'racial' groups; it's not meant to. Quite sinister!

Darren said...

"Don't start getting cowardly on me"--now *that* was a classic!

Anonymous said...

"courageous conversation"


Anonymous said...

I suppose whites aren't allowed to have "courageous conversations" John Derbyshire was fired for writing about advice he would give to his children.


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