Anti-police activists and the mainstream media are incensed at the suggestion that the Black Lives Matter movement could have influenced the behavior of the four individuals in Chicago who tortured a disabled white man for hours last week while yelling “Fuck white people” and “Fuck Donald Trump.” In one sense, the activists and media are right: The influences were broader than that. They include the reign of racial victimology, inner-city gang culture, and black anti-white animus.
We live in Ta-Nehesi Coates’s America, characterized by the assumption that blacks are the eternal targets of lethal white oppression. Coates’s central thesis in Between the World and Me, his acclaimed phantasmagoria of racial victimology, is that America continuously aspires to the “shackling” and “destruction” of “black bodies.”
Chicago’s four torturers certainly have not read Between the World and Me. But the book’s worldview echoes throughout our society, including in the inner city. Michelle Alexander’s equally publicized book, The New Jim Crow, argues that the U.S. seeks to reimpose de facto segregation on blacks via the criminal justice system. Alexander has been a staple on black media, among many other outlets. President Obama has insisted, even up to his last days in office, that blacks are the victims of a racist criminal-justice system. The press routinely disseminates phony statistics that purport to demonstrate a police war on blacks. These ideas matter.
Black Lives Matter ideology is just a more in-your-face manifestation of the Coatesian conceit that blacks are living in a system determined to destroy them. The Chicago Black Lives Matter chapter embraces the motto “Stop killing us,” aimed at the Chicago Police Department. It chants: “CPD, KKK: How many children did you kill today?” (The answer is: Virtually none. Last year, over 3,400 people in Chicago were shot, overwhelmingly black. Victims included 24 children 12 years of age or younger. The Chicago cops shot 25 people, virtually all armed and dangerous, or .6 percent of the total.) The Chicago Black Lives Matter chapter disseminates inflammatory lies about the Chicago police, such as that BLM activist Ja’Mal Green was beaten for 30 hours following an arrest for battery against an officer and trying to disarm an officer. Increasing the size of the Chicago Police department, per the Chicago BLM, will simply result in “more killings by police, more police torture and violence.”
These anti-law enforcement claims reinforce existing anti-white animus in the inner city. The notion that the dominant or exclusive racism in America today is white anti-black racism is absurd. Though many urban residents harbor no racial animosity, the recurrent “Fuck Whitey” and “Kill the cops” themes in rap music are not accidental. (Sample: “Kill the White people; we gonna make them hurt; kill the White people; but buy my record first,” by Apache, adopting without obvious irony lines from an Eddie Murphy parody; “The White man is the devil… Drive-by shooting on this White genetic mutant,” by Menace Clan.) I have been warned by residents of one East Harlem housing project not to go to a neighboring project because “they really hate whites there.”
Even if there weren’t already a strain of racial hostility in inner-city culture, the constant establishment refrain that whites oppress blacks at every opportunity would create it. Every highly publicized cop assassination in the last two years has triggered gloating on social media. Ja’Mal Green told theNew York Times that the assassination of five Dallas police officers was “not a setback at all” for Black Lives Matter. The Dallas gunman had said he wanted to kill white people and white cops. Though Green insisted that he was not encouraging violence, he said that the assassination showed “the people of this country that black people are getting to a boiling point. We are tired of watching police kill our brothers and sisters. We are tired of being tired.” At some point, there “comes a time when black people will snap,” he said. While one is grateful for Green’s avowal not to be encouraging violence, such sentiments come close to rationalizing it.
The establishment typically looks the other way at manifestations of black anti-white animus. Racism in rap music is usually ignored. The Associated Press excluded any reference to the race of the victim and assailants in its initial report on the Chicago torture episode, as John Hinderaker observed at Powerline, and merely noted that police were investigating a “beating” captured on social media. The AP’s follow-up report acknowledged that someone in the video appeared to use profanities about “white people” and that the victim “appeared to be white,” while “others shown in the video appeared to be black.”
Radley Balko rushed to tweet out that the Chicago kidnapping is not a trend because since 2001, 80–85 percent of white murder victims were killed by whites. True, but the percentage of blacks killed by blacks is higher. From 1980 to 2008, 93 percent of black victims were killed by blacks. White-on-black homicides are much rarer than black-on-white homicides. The vast bulk of interracial violence is committed by blacks. In 2012, blacks committed 560,600 acts of violence against whites, and whites committed 99,403 acts of violence against blacks, according to data from the National Crime Victimization Survey provided to the author:
Distribution of violent victimizations, by race/Hispanic origin of victim and perceived race/Hispanic origin of offender, 2012–2013
Blacks, in other words, committed 85% of the interracial crimes between blacks and whites, even though they are 13 percent of the population. This data accords with the last published report on interracial crime from the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the Bureau stopped publishing its table on interracial crime after 2008, the first year of the Obama presidency.
Some portion of those black-on-white crimes may be driven by the same racial hostility that gives rise to urban flash mobs and the knockout game. As Dead Prez rapped: “We gonna order take out and when we see the driver/We gonna stick the 25 up in his face . . . White boy in the wrong place at the right time.” Even if the higher rate of black-on-white violence is simply a product of blacks’ higher rate of violence generally, that violent crime rate is another fact suppressed by the mainstream media whenever possible. In response to the Chicago torture video, Callum Borchers of the Washington Postsneered at conservatives’ supposed delusions, such as that “Chicago is a war zone.” This idea struck Borchers as so preposterous that he repeated it later in his column: “Oh, and by the way, Chicago (the part inhabited mostly by black people, anyway) is a super-dangerous place, just like Trump said.”
One wonders how quickly Collum would move his family out of the allegedly pacific South and West Sides of Chicago if he actually had to live there. The following is a partial sampling of crime headlines from Chicago papers over the last few weeks, in reverse chronological order:
FAMILY SINGALONG ENDS AS BULLETS FLY THROUGH CAR WINDOW ON PULASKI ROAD
SHOOTINGS KILL 4 PEOPLE, WOUND 24 SINCE SATURDAY, POLICE SAY[referring to the 24-hour period from December 31, 2016 to January 1, 2017]
TWO BOYS, 16, KILLED IN SHOOTING THAT ALSO WOUNDED 65-YEAR-OLD WOMAN
A VIOLENT CHRISTMAS IN A VIOLENT YEAR FOR CHICAGO: 11 KILLED, 50 WOUNDED
BROTHERS KILLED, 5 OTHER PEOPLE WOUNDED IN CHRISTMAS SHOOTING
3 KILLED, 17 WOUNDED IN CITY SHOOTINGS
4 DEAD IN FERNWOOD ATTACK, 15 OTHERS WOUNDED IN SHOOTINGS
3 WOUNDED IN PARTY BUS SHOOTING NEAR LAKE SHORE DRIVE
WOMAN RAPED BY ARMED MEN AFTER ROBBERY IN HUMBOLDT PARK
MAN WHO ATTACKED, ROBBED 94-YEAR-OLD GARFIELD RIDGE WOMAN SOUGHT BY POLICE
47 SHOOTINGS SO FAR ON EXPRESSWAYS IN CHICAGO, 10 ABOVE ALL OF LAST YEAR
BOY, 16, SHOT ON HIS WAY TO SCHOOL — BUT WENT TO CLASS ANYWAY
INBOUND EISENHOWER SHUT DOWN AFTER SHOOTOUT BETWEEN CARS
MEN CHARGED WITH ROBBING WOMEN WALKING ALONE IN LAKEVIEW, POLICE SAY
SHOOTINGS KILL 9, WOUND 66 OVER THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY, POLICE SAY
Or maybe Borchers is only interested in the white areas of Chicago, which are not yet a “war zone.”
Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King, responding to the Chicago torture, rejected the idea of speaking out “on crimes committed by black folk because nobody in this country is held more responsible for the crimes they commit, and even the crimes they don’t commit, than black folk in America. . . . American prisons are full of black folk who are being held responsible for every mistake they’ve ever made.” Try telling that to Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Johnson regularly bemoans the fact that convicted gun felons in Chicago have little to fear from the criminal-justice system, because they are so quickly back on the streets following a shooting. The Illinois Black Caucus has blocked stiffer penalties for gun crime.
The victims of a November 2016 robbery spree in Chicago may also disagree with King that the criminal-justice system is vindictive against black criminals. Isaiah Scaife had already been convicted of theft, attempted theft, criminal trespass, and possession of a stolen motor vehicle before he turned 18, according to DNAInfo. He continued to commit gun crimes as a young adult. At age 19, after a conviction for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, Scaife was already out on parole. That’s when he began his five-day crime spree on November 18, robbing a Subway store’s customers after sticking his gun in a baby’s face and trying to manhandle his way behind the restaurant’s counter. A few minutes later, he robbed a man leaving a Citgo gas station, beating the victim unconscious with his gun before shooting him in the face. The next day, Scaife returned to the same Subway, where he robbed and choked a man while a juvenile accomplice pointed a gun at the victim. A few days later, Scaife pulled a gun on a man at another gas station and stole his possessions and car. At his arraignment, he yelled at the court deputies: “I’m going to spit on your ass.”
Scaife is hardly unique. A huge percentage of violent crime is committed by people with serious criminal histories who are free to continue terrorizing the innocent. And, pace King, if you commit a drug crime, you’ll get more leniency in a large urban jurisdiction than in a rural county, where sentences for white drug dealers dwarf those of inner-city traffickers, according to the New York Times.
At least one of the Facebook torture assailants belonged to the gang culture that produces Chicago’s violent crime. Tesfaye Cooper posted a video on his YouTube channel in October in which he points a rifle at the camera and says: “I’ll put a bullet in your ass,” reports DNAInfo Chicago. Cooper’s Facebook page glorifies him posing with guns and paying homage to local murderers. His raps threaten to kill people who disrespect him and his crew.
The violence in the Chicago torture video does not arise in a vacuum. Most residents of inner-city areas are hardworking bourgeois citizens longing to live in safety and in racial harmony. But the video opens a window into a culture that America would prefer to turn its eyes away from—and which it has helped create.
Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and the author of the New York Times bestseller The War on Cops.