Tonight in Baton Rouge, police shut down the big Mall of Louisiana because of teenage mob violence. According to a local TV station:

The East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office says no injuries have been reported after a massive fight broke out Saturday at the Mall of Louisiana.

EBRSO spokesperson Casey Rayborn-Hicks says deputies were called to the food court area around 6 pm in reference to a large fight reportedly involving as many as 200 juveniles. Baton Rouge Police and the Louisiana State Police also responded. Deputies say the juveniles quickly dispersed to other areas inside and outside the mall.

A spokesman for EMS says ambulances responded to the scene but, as of 7:40pm, no ambulances were needed to treat anyone on the scene.

At this time all juveniles were being taken to BJs and Bravo restaurants so they could be picked up by their parents, Rayborn-Hicks said.

A woman who asked not to be identified says she was in the food court with her one-year-old son when the large fight broke out.  “People were jumping over my tables and other tables and knocked over my baby stroller,” she said.  “I grabbed my son and took off running but all the doors to the stores were closed.  I ran through a side door into the parking lot and ran around trying to find my car,” she said.

The Baton Rouge Advocate says police scanner traffic showed that some of the Mall of Louisiana mob migrated to Perkins Rowe, a nearby mall, and caused trouble there.

What is not reported in the media, but what’s hitting Baton Rouge comments boards and social media, is that both mobs were all black. Turns out a friend of mine was there in the Mall of Louisiana with his family when all this went down. Scared his kids to death. I asked him if all the stuff on social media about this being a black thing was true. He said yes, that’s what he saw. Later, another friend at Perkins Rowe saw the same thing there. Black kids, guys with their pants falling down, causing trouble.

This is going to be what everybody around here talks about for the next few days. Since I’ve been back in the area for the past year, lots of people have told us to avoid going to Cortana Mall, a shopping center in the north central part of Baton Rouge. This was the mall they opened when I was a kid, and that everybody went to. I haven’t been there since I left Baton Rouge in the early 1990s, but over the years, violent crime in the mall area became a big deal. Seems like everybody knew someone who was robbed in the parking lot. Last year, I was on a flight out of Baton Rouge, sitting next to a man who owns or manages a store there. He was very down about the business atmosphere at the mall, because of the crime and the raffishness there.

Don’t go to Cortana Mall, people tell me. Too many black people there. Too much potential for crime and chaos. Is what they say.

Is this racist? Is this realistic? Something in between? I don’t know; I don’t go to Cortana Mall. But I wouldn’t go there even if people hadn’t warned me not to. I don’t care for malls, but when I do need a mall, I go to the Mall of Louisiana, or Perkins Rowe. They’re in south Baton Rouge, and, I thought, pretty safe. It was weird to move here and go to Perkins Rowe, and see security signs indicating that they had had problems there. There was a reason for that. Turns out being in south Baton Rouge (= the whitest part of the city) did not keep Perkins Rowe or the Mall of Louisiana free of black crime and violence:

When you drop your child at a place that you perceive to be safe, you don’t expect he or she will be hit with gunfire intended for someone else.

So when it happens, as it did last month at the Mall of Louisiana, when a Dunham School ninth-grader was one of two people wounded by stray bullets, the community sits up and takes notice in a way that it doesn’t when, say, a homeless person takes a bullet on a street corner in a more seedy part of the city.

“People are really upset about this,” East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III says. “I’ve received a lot of calls from people on this one.”

In response, representatives from the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office have met with officials from the mall, from Rave Motion Pictures, which operates the theater at the mall, and from nearby Perkins Rowe to hammer out a more coordinated security plan for the popular gathering areas.

That shooting involved a gunfight between two 17 year old black guys, who have been charged with attempted murder.

So, after that, and after tonight’s mob scene, would you let your kid — white, black, or whatever — go to the Mall of Louisiana or Perkins Rowe on a weekend night? Would you go yourself? I wouldn’t. True, this is only the second episode of this kind of thing in the past year, but still, who needs the hassle? Do you really need to go to the mall bad enough to take the chance, however slim, that you’ll be caught up in something like this?

It’s not just the mall. BR police are looking for two black male teenage suspects in an armed robbery last week outside a south Baton Rouge Wal-mart that we shop at (Julie was there just yesterday).

Late last year, the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce warned that the city-parish’s crime problem was harming the business climate there. The mayor of Baton Rouge, who is black, says that most of the perpetrators of violent crime (as well as the victims) are young black males.

Gosh, why do white people get nervous when they see groups of young black males coming? I couldn’t possibly imagine.

Thing is, middle-class black people shop at those malls too. What do they think when they see groups of young black males coming? I’m genuinely curious. One news outlet reported that customers at the mall tonight were hiding behind make-up counters to escape the rioters. Whether you’re white or black, who needs to worry about crap like that when you go to the mall on Saturday night?

You do now.

What’s going to happen in the wake of this? The malls and the city may improve security for a while, but the word will go around the white community that these places aren’t safe, because young black male thugs congregate there from time to time, and who knows what could go off when they’re around. See what can happen? Nobody wants to hear about “racism” having caused this. Racism doesn’t cause black teenagers to act like hoodlums and rampage through two shopping malls for the sheer fun of it. In fact, those idiotic black kids tonight did more to promote white racism than any fat-mouthing Ku Klucker from the sticks. I hope you’re proud of yourselves, kids.

White people will grumble among themselves about the problem, and sooner or later, they’ll do what white people do when they get tired of having to deal with this crap: pick up and move.

Whether they’re right or wrong to do so, or somewhere in between, the most interesting thing about all this — to me, anyway — is how none of it will be talked about in the media. In the white community around here at least, this is going to be the biggest thing on people’s minds, and in their conversation, over the next few days — but you won’t see any of it in the mainstream media. Aside from some liberal code language warning against those would “divide us” (translation: do not notice that black teenagers are ruining these popular malls with their behavior, you racist) newspapers and TV stations won’t touch it. Too controversial. You would have no idea about the race of these rioters if you depended on the MSM. You want to find out what people are really thinking and saying about it, you have to go on Facebook, or local message boards, or just listen to your neighbors. How very strange that we live in a country in which the news and entertainment media are open for people to talk about their most intimate secrets, especially sexual ones, but we can’t talk openly about race, culture, and crime.

Notice I say “openly.” Because white people around here are going to be talking about this a lot in the days to come, but only among themselves. Black people, I dunno. Maybe. It would be nice if all of us, of all races, could have some straight, open talk about this kind of thing. I don’t believe that all black people in Baton Rouge are indifferent to this problem, especially given that statistically, they’re far more likely to be victimized by violent crime than white people. But we can’t have that kind of discussion. Too risky, and besides, what good and useful thing could possibly come of it, to justify the risk of saying what’s really on your mind? Last year, after the Trayvon Martin shooting, a young black woman wrote a Washington Post essay lamenting the fact that we can’t seem to have an “important conversation” about race. I wrote a response to that. Excerpt:

We don’t see in our media discussions of victims of crimes committed disproportionately by young black males, nor do we hear much about the valorization of thuggery in hip-hop culture, and how these things affect perceptions of young black men in the non-black community. How can we know which prejudices are rational (that is, based on sound judgment of the facts) and which ones are irrational? Why does it matter, if it matters? These things are important to explore, but also pretty much impossible to.

I think it’s unfair to blame the president’s election for making it more difficult to have an Important Conversation about race in America. That conversation is not going to happen no matter who’s president. There’s nothing in it for white people. Don’t misunderstand me: I think a genuine conversation, in which both sides (all sides?) aired their grievances and their fears, in an atmosphere of mutual acceptance and even reconciliation, would be hugely important and beneficial. Black-Hispanic tension and prejudice is a big deal too, though one that doesn’t often get discussed in the media. I doubt there’s a single soul — white, black, brown or whatever — who doesn’t have some prejudice that he or she could stand to confront and dispel. But like I said at the beginning, non-liberal white people accurately sense that the Important Conversation is almost always going to involve them being told how racist they are, and being expected to agree and promise to do better. You can have these Conversations if you want, but they won’t be Important, because they’re not going to be honest. Think about it: a culture in which many media outlets won’t give the race of at-large violent crime suspects — this, even as they report sex, height, clothing description — because they don’t want to encourage stereotyping, is not a culture that is prepared to speak forthrightly about race and crime.

Then again, what would I have people on either side say that hasn’t already been said, at least privately? That would change a thing? I can’t think of anything. Can you? The dogs may bark, but the caravan rolls on.

Poverty, neglect, racism, broken families, drugs — they all factor into this mess. Everybody knows that. But for many Baton Rougeans, the more urgent matter is: Will I have to run for my life if I go to the mall? That’s not an abstraction.

Thank God nobody was hurt at either mall tonight. But things like this, they kill a mall. And if they happen often enough, they can be deadly for cities.

UPDATE: Be sure to read the comments thread below, in which I elaborate my position. I find the overall race-crime-culture debate so discouraging, because I don’t know what any of us, white or black, can practically do about it, outside of our own families and close communities. I think it’s important for whites and blacks (and Latinos, and Asians) of goodwill — parents and others who just want our kids to be safe, and our public spaces to be peaceful — to make contact with each other and figure out how to help each other. Ideas?