Mall Mayhem and Race Reality

The sad politics of social degradation.

While social ills continue to plague American society, the manifestations thereof among black American youths never cease to sadden. The latest examples are daunting. In several cities around the nation, the release of Nike's Air Jordans, a pair of sneakers that retail for $180, precipitated a series of fights, vandalism, riots and arrests. Even more daunting? A "game" called "Knockout King," where gangs of black youths surround a random victim, punch him to the ground, film the attacks and post them on social network sites.

First the sneakers. In suburban Seattle, police were forced to pepper spray youths who started fighting at the Westfield Southcenter mall. A crowd of more than 1000 were subjected to fights, resulting in several people getting cuts and bruises. Two doors were broken down. In Jersey City, a man was stabbed when a brawl broke out among those waiting in line. In Taylor, Michigan, more than 100 people broke into a shopping center at 5:30 a.m. Decorations were damaged and benches were overturned. Three people were arrested in Toledo, Ohio when a crowd once again surged uncontrolled into a mall.

Four more people were arrested in Lithonia, Georgia, where another door was broken down. In Charlotte, NC, dozens of police were called in to break up fights at Carolina Place Mall just after 5 a.m., and at Northlake Mall an hour and a half later. There shoppers forced mall doors open by removing sliders from their hinges. "At 6:30, they were like, that's it, we're going to bust the doors down, they busted the doors down, everybody was falling and running, shoes everywhere," one witness said. At the Boyton Beach Mall in Florida, two people were arrested for inciting a riot and resisting arrest. A mob of 400-500 people became so unruly, police were again forced to use pepper spray when the crowd ignored repeated commands to stop pushing and fighting.

Yet as unsettling as these incidents were, they pale in comparison to Knockout King. This is a game in which a group of youths, some as young as twelve, choose a lead attacker, and then go in search of a random victim, one they consider unlikely to put up a fight. The lead attacker starts punching away. If the victim is "lucky" and goes down quickly, the group may scatter. If not, they often join in, punching and kicking the victim until he is unconscious or badly hurt. Adding insult to injury, some of these teens record their exploits on cellphones and post them to social networking websites. Reports from around the country, including Massachusetts, New Jersey, Chicago and St. Louis point to a growing phenomenon, with St. Louis seemingly at the forefront. St. Louis Police Chief Dan Isom told the Associated Press the city has seen about 10 attacks over the past 15 months.

Yet even as Isom tried to downplay the number of kids involved, claiming "it's an isolated group of maybe five to nine kids," local teens contradicted him. "I'd say maybe ten to fifteen percent of kids play Knockout King," said eighteen-year-old Aaron Davis. "Everybody plays," said eighteen-year-old Brandon Demond, a former participant who provided only his first and middle names for publication. "It's a game for groups of teens to see who can hit a person the hardest," he added.

How hard? In 2009, Adam Taylor was attacked in a parking garage. He suffered bruising on the brain, whiplash and internal bleeding, but survived. Matt Quain, 51, was left with a broken jaw and a fractured skull after he became a victim of the game in October. Last April, a homeless man, 55, was attacked in a Chicago train station and knocked unconscious. A video of that attack was posted in November to a hip-hop website. It received a quarter of a million views in two days.

All three men were lucky compared to Hoang Nguyen, 72, who stepped in front of his wife to defend her from a pack of youths. He paid with his life. Elex Murphy, 18, who was charged with first-degree murder in the case, allegedly told police the attack was part of the Knockout King game.

As expected, these thugs have their apologists. Two quotes from the River Front Times in Missouri indicate a sense of denial coupled with a tiresome excuse for the behavior. Quote 1: "All but two of the ten victims RFT interviewed were white (one was black and one was Latino), and all of the players were black. But Knockout King does not appear to be bounded by race." Reality suggests that if all of the players were white, and all but two of the victims were black, race would be an integral part of the equation for the media.

Quote number 2: "Rather than sweep the race issue under the rug, Saint Louis University criminologist Norman White says Knockout King should be viewed with a broader lens that captures the social disparities of the city. The issue, he says, is less about acts of physical violence than it is about the dearth of opportunities for disadvantaged--and mostly black--youth. He calls that population 'our blind side.'" Again, one suspects more than a few Americans are getting tired of the idea that a "dearth of opportunities," more familiarly known as a lack government spending, is still being used as a rationale to explain overt thuggery.

One could make a far more persuasive argument that exactly the opposite is true, that massive amounts of government spending from the Great Society onward have led to a level of dependency that has all but destroyed black American communities. Communities where the out-of-wedlock birthrate has reached a staggering 72 percent. In fact someone did:

From the wild Irish slums of the 19th-century Eastern seaboard, to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history: a community that allows large numbers of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future--that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, disorder...are not only to be expected, they are very near to inevitable. And they are richly deserved.

That was written by liberal Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- in 1966. He was both excoriated and accused of racism for pointing out that the changes made by the Johnson administration in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program--heretofore reserved as a means of funding once-married women who had lost the primary male supporter of the family, to one where any household with no male family head present would receive federal funds--was a recipe for disaster. Right-wing columnist Ann Coulter was also lambasted for pointing out that "a 1990 study by the left-wing Progressive Policy Institute showed that, after controlling for single motherhood, the difference in black and white crime disappeared." Someone else also made the connection between single motherhood and a "dearth of opportunities" as well, noting that "[C]hildren living with single mothers are five times more likely to be poor than children in two-parent households."

That last quote was from The Audacity of Hope, written by President Barack Obama.

So why does the American left continue to promote big-government policies antithetical to the nation's well-being in general, and black American communities in particular? Despite all protestations to the contrary, the left requires a certain level of social pathology, which in turn leads to government dependency, as a means of maintaining power. Thus, the same President Obama is willing to completely mischaracterize any attempt by conservatives to wean people off government programs as a "brand of 'you're on your own' economics," even as he claims a "rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government...has never worked."

Perhaps, given his dismal track record regarding the economy, it becomes necessary for the president to try and convince Americans that the essence of our national character for more than two centuries never existed. It is precisely that kind of denial of reality that will undoubtedly engender reflexive charges of racism directed at this column for pointing out that which is factual, while reporting the facts remains off-limits for a mainstream media. A mainstream media whose own videos of the various incidents reveal those facts.

Pretending that the nihilistic impulses of a substantial portion of black American youth don't exist serves no one, save an American left willing to ignore that nihilism for its own nefarious ends. For the left, criticizing black American youth for their thuggish behavior must be measured against the necessity of maintaining the unquestioning allegiance of black Americans--and their votes.

It is an allegiance that will be maintained in the 2012 election campaign by branding any criticism of the current president, much like the criticism directed at black youth here, as racist, even as this president and his party themselves continue to promote the division of Americans by race and class.

Perhaps promoting such divisiveness is politically expedient. But there is nothing remotely uplifting about an ideology that does so--and then turns around and brands anyone a bigot for noticing the ongoing destruction of the black family, with all of its attendant pathologies, that ideology gave birth to. Progressive ideologues and their media enablers continue to suppress the manifestations of those attendant pathologies, hoping that people won't notice. But they do notice. Moreover, the calculated silence, rather than assuaging racial divisions, exacerbates them.

Americans cannot move beyond racial division by collectively walking on eggshells. Those who would resort to mayhem in order to purchase a pair of sneakers, or bash someone's head in for nothing more than a thrill, do not merit anonymity of any kind. It was Martin Luther King who hoped that someday, all Americans would be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Those who wish, along with their enablers, to hide behind the color of their skin in order to avoid being judged by the content of their character do the great Dr. King a grave disservice.

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