I watched a local news report yesterday focused on a rally in support of Trayvon Martin. The reporter was interviewing a mother who was near hysterical in voicing her fear that her teenage son might also be set upon by an assailant because her son is black and because her son wears a hoodie. The reporter was eating it up. The crowd around the mother chanting in support.
The AP dutifully published a related piece by Jesse Washington where Mr. Washington is compelled by the Martin shooting to describe The Black Male Code to his son sooner than he would’ve liked:
Always pay close attention to your surroundings, son, especially if you are in an affluent neighborhood where black folks are few. Understand that even though you are not a criminal, some people might assume you are, especially if you are wearing certain clothes.
Never argue with police, but protect your dignity and take pride in humility. When confronted by someone with a badge or a gun, do not flee, fight, or put your hands anywhere other than up.
Please don’t assume, son, that all white people view you as a threat. America is better than that. Suspicion and bitterness can imprison you. But as a black male, you must go above and beyond to show strangers what type of person you really are.
I was far from alone in laying out these instructions. Across the country this week, parents were talking to their children, especially their black sons, about the Code. It’s a talk the black community has passed down for generations, an evolving oral tradition from the days when an errant remark could easily cost black people their job, their freedom, or sometimes their life.
After Trayvon Martin was killed, Al Dotson Jr., a lawyer in Miami and chairman of the 100 Black Men of America organization, told his 14-year-old son that he should always be aware of his surroundings, and of the fact that people might view him differently “because he’s blessed to be an African-American.”
“It requires a sixth sense that not everyone needs to have,” Dotson said.
And so it goes. The Trayvon Martin shooting now a reason to revive “an evolving oral tradition from the days when an errant remark could cost black people their job, their freedom, or sometimes their life.“
But is all this fear rational?
The present media wave about the tragic death of Trayvon Martin is for me, an outsider, a fascinating lesson in race, politics, and media perversity in America.
The impression is being generated that young black men are continuously hunted by white men, and killed.
So I wanted to know the exact figures. The most recent, those of 2009, I could find are on the site of the Department of Justice.
About 13% of the population is black. About 80% is white (this number includes Hispanics).
In 2009, 2,963 white individuals were killed by white offenders. White offenders killed 209 black individuals.
In that same year, 2,604 black individuals were killed by black offenders. And 454 white individuals were killed by black offenders.
As we see, there is cross-racial deadly violence, but offenders mainly cause victims within their own race; it is so-called intra-racial.
What about recent decades? Murders surveyed between 1974 and 2004 show that 52% of the offenders were black, 48% were white. Of the victims, 51% were white, 47% were black.
In that period, 86% of white murders had whites offenders, and 94% of black murders had black offenders.
There may be a hunt by white vigilantes for innocent young black men in Florida — if it exists, the figures show this is a limited phenomenon. Trayvon Martin’s death should be thoroughly investigated and the vigilante should be brought to trial in case he broke the law. But such a crime is an exception.
The main problem for young black men is not violent white men chasing them. It is black on black violence.
And the main problem with that main problem is that it doesn’t fit the meme.
The tragedy of young Mr. Martin’s death is being compounded by the tragedy of America’s willingness to be manipulated.