When Commander Kevin Duffin of the Chicago Police Department opened a press conference on the case of the kidnapping, confinement, and brutal torture of a white teen with autism by four black teens around the west side of Chicago, he had the following to say:
“Kids make stupid mistakes, I shouldn’t call them kids, they are legally adults, but they are young adults and make stupid decisions.”
When asked about the vulgar remarks on white people, Duffin added the following in a hesitant tone:
“That certainly will be part of whether or not we seek a hate crime, determine whether or not this is sincere or stupid ranting and raving.”
Duffin’s remarks go on. He states that there is nothing “concrete” to point to the attack being racially motivated, instead identifying the “stupidity” of the suspects as being the primary factor in the crime.
Stupidity is a fairly common trait; on any given day, one encounters a large number of people who could perhaps be considered stupid, rash, or unwise. Yet it is hard to find someone so stupid that they would kidnap someone, hold them in confinement for two days, and subject them to a combination of brutal physical torture and unspeakable racial abuse, let alone livestream the incident for the “entertainment” of their friends.
It does not take a learned scholar nor a student of critical thinking to understand that the verbiage used by the police in reference to the event severely downplayed its seriousness. Yet this response was seen further afield than the Chicago Police Department, as mainstream media outlets in the US and around the globe slowly began to pick up on the story.
CNN ran an article under the minimalistic title “4 arrested in Facebook live beating”. Newscaster Don Lemon referred to the incident as “not evil” adding that “I think these are young people and I think they have had bad home training.” Aside from CNN, many other mainstream outlets such as BBC also put out timid responses, shirking away from the criticism they might have displayed had the victim been black. In contrast, extreme voices like the Daily Caller, Stormfront, Rush Limbaugh et. al had a field day, as their coverage included the otherwise concealed racial dynamics behind the incident.
It goes without saying that the ethical implications of this practice, and the double standard in the way that white victims of racism are treated in the media as opposed to black victims, are both utterly appalling. But cause for concern is yet stronger still. The suppression of narratives of black-on-white racism is causing the rise of another far more disturbing narrative amongst white Americans, the implications of which could be severely damaging.
For many years, groups of minuscule size on the fringes of American society have spoken eagerly within secret circles about an impending “race war.” Congregating mostly on websites like Stormfront, these racists discuss their hatred of non-whites and non-Christians, and openly advocate “violent resistance” against non-white Americans.
Yet in the last few years, these previously tiny hate groups have swelled in size. The rise of the Alt-Right and the emergence to the public sphere of characters like Richard Spencer both represent a threat to which we can no longer shut our eyes. Increasingly empowered by narratives of white victimization, they seek converts from disaffected white Americans — disproportionately poor and uneducated — to fill their ranks.
These individuals thrive on what some have called the “persecution complex” — the idea that whites constitute an oppressed group of their own, whose misfortunes are ignored by mainstream society. The similarities between this dynamic and that of the disaffected and marginalized Muslims who can fall prey to groups like Islamic state is all too clear.
It cannot be denied that mainstream society has been willing — and able — to ignore this demographic. Yet as the election of Donald Trump shows, ignoring this group can have seriously detrimental consequences for all Americans, and indeed the entire world. In order to avoid simmering discontent from becoming a boiling anger, we should therefore be seeking to assuage white Americans in the aftermath of racial violence — something as simple as ensuring that our reporting standards are fair and equitable.
But by instead understating and de-emphasizing the reality of this attack and others like it, we play at a dangerous game. Race riots and racially-motivated “reprisal killings” from disaffected whites are a possibility that we can no longer ignore; the atrocity committed by Dylann Roof in 2015 proved that to be the case.
If we don’t want race relations in America to spiral out of control and into a series of perpetual backlashes of racist violence, we have to act decisively. We have to speak honestly and candidly about racial violence in America — and we have to call out double standards when we see them.
Will TG Miller is a political analyst who writes on the MENA and East Asian regions. He focuses on the role of religion and culture as deterministic factors in human outcomes. You can connect with him on Twitter @WillTGMiller
Malhar Mali is the Editor at Areo. You can connect with him on Twitter @MalharMali