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What These Thugs Steal From Us All

Alisha de Freitas reads this blog — thank you! — and comments on the Mall Killers thread about young black male crime, and those subsequent posts it inspired. Excerpt:

I hate this topic. I hate that Black dudes are channeling The Wire and killing each other with abandon. I hate that many more are rotting their lives away in prisons nationwide. I hate that many young boys in Detroit, Chicago (especially Chicago), Philadelphia, Camden and Newark are aspiring to this… imitation of life… desecration of life… destruction of life. I hate that many Black websites only skim the subject, using it to rehash slavery, segregation and the past, but don’t offer a single workable solution for the present. I hate that many (but certainly not all) Black churches are similarly mute on fixing these problems of the here and now, offering up promises of paradise in the future. I hate that so many of those same churches host funeral after funeral for these boys. Homegoings for those who unlike Kanye, will never come home again. I hate that white people fear us. I hate even more that with this violence, they have reason to. I hate that even though I share the same skin color, I’m scared as hell of them, too.

But what I hate most is that because of their foolish actions, people look down on my husband. Keiron, raised in Trinidad and Brazil, didn’t know about being searched by cops for drugs he didn’t have until he came here for college.

Read Alisha’s whole post and find out what happened to her husband, and its aftereffects.

I appreciate Alisha’s honesty.  I hate this topic too. I really do. I posted on it the other day because what happened at the Mall Of Louisiana was important, and, more broadly, because our public discussion of race in America is remarkably dishonest. If we’re ever going to get anywhere worth getting to on the race question (questions!) in this country, we are going to have to speak honestly of our fears, our anger, and our hope. I don’t know how black people talk among themselves about this stuff. I know how many white people talk among themselves about it — and it’s not the way they dare to talk in public. It is hard, I think, for many whites to see the humiliation that Alisha’s husband has to live with, in part because they believe that their own honest and justified fear of and frustration with black male crime will never be acknowledged and dealt with. My guess is that both blacks and whites (and people of other races who are party to this conversation) are so afraid of losing face, and of just … losing, that they are hard-pressed to acknowledge that the Other has cause to complain.

If people would at some point say, “I hear you, you’re right, that is wrong, and there’s no excuse for it,” instead of saying, “Yeah, but you’re more wrong, what about … “ — we might get somewhere. Alisha’s admitting that she, a black woman, is “just as scared of them too” is bigger than she realizes, maybe. My sense is that a lot of white people know, deep down, that good black people are just as scared as they are. What a lot of white people don’t understand is that black people have far more reason to be afraid of young black males, insofar as black people are far more often their victims. But when the issue comes up in public, it seems like the only voices the media pay attention to are the voices of people who condemn white racism. The reality of young black male crime — not young black female crime, not middle-aged black male crime, etc. — and the effect it has on fear and insecurity is downplayed.

To have a black person like Alisha admit that she too is scared, and she hates this violence too, matters, because it gives defensive white people room to acknowledge the justice of what many black people say about race and crime, including, for example, the indignity of what Alisha’s husband has to go through, and how infuriating and debilitating that must be to have to live like that.

I’ve written here before about walking around Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, a week after renting an apartment there in the summer of 1992, when the city was going through a terrible crime wave — all caused by violent young black males. Capitol Hill, where I lived, was at that time not nearly as safe as it is now. My roommate and I were walking up Massachusetts Avenue when three black boys, – — kids maybe 10, 11 years old, riding their bikes — stopped us on the sidewalk and started racially abusing us. We stood there and took it from these brats until we could walk away. We didn’t dare to say anything because we had seen the stories in the news about how DC police had arrested a kid just their age for having a loaded pistol strapped to the underside of his bike seat. How did we know these kids weren’t like this guy? We didn’t. We took their abuse, we grown men, letting fat-mouthing children talk to us that way. We were scared of these children because they were black boys, dressed like street thugs, and in those days, black males dressed like street thugs were to be avoided no matter what.

That’s a humiliating thing too.

These criminals rob us all — black and white and everybody else — of more than our property. They rob us of the moral sanity and solidarity with each other that are rightfully ours. They rob us of the chance to see each other as fellow human beings who suffer, and who have a right to be heard. I don’t listen to people whose only remarks about the reality of black male violence is to blame white people and white people’s history. I wouldn’t blame black people one bit for not listening to people who will not acknowledge the legacy of the wounds black people carry, inflicted by whites in slavery and in Jim Crow. My guess is that deep down, there are a lot of whites and blacks both who would be willing to concede the truth of both claims, and to work from there.

But we keep it to ourselves, because for our own reasons, we figure that there’s too much to lose by being honest about what we know, what we think we know, and what we fear.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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