Lazy eyes listen
America suffers from a severe case of multiple personality disorder. It’s a volatile combination that leads both liberals and conservatives to hold certain principles one day and then abandon them the next. This is especially true when it comes to racial and criminal issues. When a mass shooting occurs, the left is quick to identify the shooter’s race, if he is white. Perpetrators of any other color are rarely identified by race (for example, “Hispanic man”).
Every CNN story about a police shooting is presented as an example of a “white cop” causing harm to a “black victim.” This happens so frequently that political analysts attempted to spin Tyre Nichols’ fatal beating at the hands of five black Memphis police officers into a story about racism.
Elizabeth Warren was given a quick constitutional lesson after making a demand that contradicted the founding document.
The death of George Floyd in 2020 was turned into a referendum on race and policing in America by activist media outlets. Then, a year later, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison told “60 Minutes” that he didn’t charge Derek Chauvin with a hate crime because he didn’t have evidence that race played a role in his actions.
The typical conservative response to each of these incidents is to claim that the actions of a few “bad apples” do not represent the entire orchard. The right prefers to deal with incidents on an individual basis, downplays the role of race, and refuses to draw broad conclusions about entire populations based on the actions of a single person.
This appears to be a reasonable approach, but the prevalence of social media videos depicting black perpetrators attacking white victims puts this practice to the test.
A video of a black adolescent boy punching a younger girl on a school bus went viral a few weeks ago. It was a horrifying incident that was rightly condemned by everyone who witnessed it. Similar videos with captions like “Notice a pattern?” or memes about black criminal behavior appear in my Twitter feed.
The problem is not identifying the behavior or its perceived frequency. I will always stand by victims of crime, regardless of skin color. The risk for conservatives is that incidents involving these dynamics can quickly devolve into racial essentialism, which attributes human behavior to the inherent nature of specific ethnic groups.
I’m not afraid to have difficult conversations about important social issues, even if they make people uncomfortable at times. However, I am aware that discomfort is not a one-way street. People on the left and right who scoff at the possibility that some white students might be uncomfortable learning about lynching in 1940 will not be able to hide their heads in the sand when the topic turns to gun violence in 2020.
Similarly, white conservatives who use homicide statistics to draw conclusions about black people, culture, or nature should be prepared to apply that argument consistently. Given that white males account for more than 85% of child pornography convictions in this country, this could make for awkward conversation.
Because there is no vice or virtue inherent in any group based on skin color, racial essentialism is an untenable foundation for addressing social issues in a country as large and ethnically diverse as ours.
The long list of offenses against our Creator in the first chapter of Romans makes no exception for ethnic groups or tribes. According to the Bible, apart from Christ’s redemption, every person is condemned for his or her sins before a holy and righteous God.
Finally, we must consider crime and justice from a biblical perspective. That requires us to be consistent in our moral outrage and condemnation of evil, regardless of who the victims or perpetrators are.
One method is to desegregate behavior and refuse to attribute people’s actions to their skin color. This entails rejecting racial essentialism and the idea that certain behaviors are inherent in specific groups, rather than denying that certain behaviors are more prevalent in specific groups. That is an exercise that necessitates the fine tools of cultural understanding and rhetorical discipline that today’s race scribes appear unwilling – or unable – to employ.
This is not to say that we should ignore the role of race in specific incidents. Both Payton Gendron, the Buffalo mass shooter, and Darrell Brooks, the man who plowed his car into a Christmas parade in Wisconsin, were accused of racial motivation. Corporate media portrayed Gendron as a “white” shooter who purposefully targeted black people.
Brooks, a black man, killed six people and injured dozens more, but his crimes were blamed on the red SUV he was driving. “Here’s what we know so far on the sequence of events that led to the Waukesha tragedy caused by [an] SUV,” one Washington Post headline read. People who treat “Karen” incidents like national emergencies downplay the fact that all of his victims were white and he had social media posts calling for violence against white people.
Both men were sentenced to life in prison and will most likely die in prison, but the invocation of race in one case and its minimization in the other is obvious to anyone paying attention.
There is a distinction between a criminal who targets someone of a different ethnicity because of their skin color and one who targets someone because they appear vulnerable. But you can’t keep publishing opinion pieces claiming that “angry white men” are the scariest people in America and not expect a backlash from people with videos to prove otherwise.