Chicago media must identify the race of the aggressors and victims in “flash mob” attacks.
There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?
You’d think it was from all the handwringing within and without the media about whether the public should be told whether these are cases of black youth randomly attacking whites. Or of whites attacking blacks. Or of racially mixed gangs attacking racially mixed victims.
If the attacks are not racially motived, then describing the race of the attackers and victim will clear up the matter. The factual reporting will put to rest any suspicion that random, racially motivated crimes are breaking out. Or feed false stereotypes.
But if these are hate crimes, then the public has an equal right to know. Because an outbreak of racial hatred by any group is a serious problem that must be addressed.
The other side of this argument–the side that thinks the public doesn’t have a right to know–argues that disclosure of a possible white-on-black nature of the attacks will inflame racial animosity. They would have us believe that race, as a motivating factor, must be ignored.
Problem is, the same people often vehemently argue that the racial nature of violent attacks must be disclosed when the victims are black and the attackers are white. Such hypocrisy doesn’t help their case.
Police reports routinely describe the race of the victims and attackers; the media shouldn’t ignore these data when there is a strong suspicion of racial motivation in a series of attacks such as Chicago has been experiencing.
This is hardly a new issue for the media. In the early 1960s, as a journalism student at Marquette University, we debated whether the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel should run mug shots of men who have been arrested. One side argued that running the picture would unfairly strengthen racial stereotypes. The other side argued that if you run pictures of African American arrestees, you should run everyon’e mug shots. As I recall, the latter position won, in a way; no one’s picture was run, unless race was an integral part of the crime. In other words, a hate crime.
So, let’s call it what it is. And trust that reasonable people will see it for what it is. It is not an effort to stereotype young black men as violent, or that “they” all harbor racist sentiments toward whites. It is not an effort to downplay black-on-black violence. It is information that we all need to help understand and solve the problem. It’s a symptom of a hurt crying for a cure.