Ghetto Pathologies, Personal Responsibility and Wishful Thinking

The price we pay when we don't demand that people do better for themselves.

YingMaCover-full_5x8.inddIn April, two black teenagers punched a Chinese immigrant, 59-year-old Tian Sheng Yu, in the mouth in downtown Oakland, California. He fell on his head, spent the next few days in critical care, and subsequently died. In late March, five black teenagers surrounded a 57-year-old Asian woman at a light rail bus stop in San Francisco; one of them grabbed her and threw her from the platform onto the rails before beating her. In January, black teenagers kicked and beat 83-year-old Huan Chen after he got off the same bus stop. He, too, died from his injuries.

Some of the perpetrators demanded money before they ran off laughing. Others, however, acted for no apparent reason aside from the satisfaction of perpetrating a beating.

After Mr. Tian Sheng Yu was attacked and killed in Oakland, his widow appeared on television with her eyes swollen, bravely trying to speak about her loss. Justice, she told reporters in Mandarin, would prevail if what happened to her family did not ever happen to anyone else. Days after her husband’s death, Mrs. Yu visited the congregation of a large black church in Oakland and said to the members in broken English, “We are one family.”

Soon thereafter, President Barack Obama conveyed his and Mrs. Obama’s thoughts and prayers to Mrs. Yu, and remarked on the “incredible grace and dignity” with which she dealt with the entire situation. It was an incredible moment: America’s first black president addressing the reality and tragedy of rampant black crime and acknowledging the suffering of its victims.

Unfortunately, this moment did not happen. It was all wishful thinking.

The black-on-Asian crimes described here are real—as real as they are grotesque. They took place in 2010, and many others similar to them have followed. Obama’s praise and prayers were also delivered, but not to Mrs. Yu or the families of the other Asian victims.

Instead, Obama made his remarks to the family of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager in Florida who was shot and killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. The President appeared at last Friday’s White House Press Briefing to offer impromptu comments on the “not guilty” verdict rendered in Zimmerman’s criminal trial the previous weekend, and to teach the country about why black people felt angry in its aftermath.

Race did not surface as an issue during Zimmerman’s trial. The jury did not take race into consideration in their deliberations. The FBI conducted an investigation after the shooting last year and concluded that Zimmerman was not a racist.

Yet the President told the country that race was what this case was all about: Barack Obama could have been Trayvon Martin 35 years ago.

Yet race was a prism through which the President, self-appointed minority leaders and white liberals have adamantly refused to view crimes committed by black people against other racial groups.

After the incidents of black-on-Asian violence in 2010, an uncomfortable question stared everyone in the face: What role had racism played? Obama was silent. Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton staged no protests and made no comments. Most in the mainstream media looked away. Local officials and the local media in the Bay Area bent over backwards to deny or discount the issue of race. Former San Francisco Supervisor Sophie Maxwell eagerly labeled the attackers as mere thugs who targeted the “weak and vulnerable,” while San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon insisted that the attacks against Asians were mere “crimes of opportunity,” not incidents of racial targeting.

Never mind that certain reformed black criminals openly acknowledged and described in detail their racial profiling of potential Asian targets for robberies and other crimes. Never mind that Asians living in urban America, especially recent immigrants who speak relatively little English, regularly stand at the receiving end of racial epithets and racially inspired, senseless beatings from black teenagers.

The President or black civil rights leaders could have exhorted black teenagers to do better, to reject the ghetto pathologies that lead them to inflict racial hatred and violence on others. This, too, was wishful thinking.

They prefer to talk about the victimization of black people, their grief, their history—and all that inspires them to protest or riot over a verdict they did not like, even though it resulted from a demonstrably fair trial.

“There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store,” President Obama explained to the country on Friday, “That includes me.”

There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of being victims of black crime either. As Fox News has reported, although they make up 13 percent of the population, blacks committed more than half of the murders in the United States between 1976 and 2005, and 93 percent of black murder victims are killed by other blacks. None of their deaths merited an individual impromptu session of presidential preaching by Mr. Obama.

“Now, this isn’t to say that the African-American community is naive about the fact that African-American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, that they are disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence,” Obama acknowledged the inescapable facts of reality. “It’s not to make excuses for that fact, although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context.”

Yet excuses were proffered. The President, along with the Martin family, civil rights leaders and liberal pundits, has accused George Zimmerman of following and racially profiling Trayvon Martin because he was a black teenager wearing a hoodie. The neighborhood watchman’s defense--that Martin appeared suspicious as a stranger in Zimmerman’s neighborhood—fell on deaf ears.

More importantly, the President and his soul mates of racial victimization have refused to say one word about the violence, bravado and self-destructiveness that would lead a black teenager to break someone’s nose and beat him senseless, as Martin did with Zimmerman. Nor has the President been willing to contemplate aloud if elements of urban black culture that glorifies violent confrontations have led young Trayvon and far too many other black teenagers astray.

“If I see any violence, then I will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family,” Obama continued in his national lecture for white people.

By then, violence had already broken out in Los Angeles, Oakland and elsewhere. It had already dishonored the Martin family and the country.

In Oakland, protestors blocked traffic on a freeway, smashed windows in downtown retail shops, slashed car tires and set a police car ablaze. One masked protester hit a waiter at a restaurant in the face with a hammer.

Addressing such violence would have required that the President reprimand hoodlums and thugs for their behavior. He declined to do so.

Yet each time that urban riots break out in the name of racial or social justice, small business owners, many of whom minorities themselves, are hurt the most. Each time, they must clean up the shattered windows, replace the damaged or looted merchandise and bear the financial cost of lost business.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, the owner of one retail shop in downtown Oakland wanted to know: "Do you know why there weren't any police?"

She was a victim of the lawlessness that results from racial grievance. Stories like hers are inconvenient to the President and the racial grievance industry. So they ignore them.

In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin tragedy, much has been said about Rachel Jeantel, Trayvon Martin’s then girlfriend. She took the witness stand during the Zimmerman trial and presented a shining example of the shameful ghetto-ization of America’s black youth: she could not speak English properly, had an extremely bad attitude and was unable to show a semblance of respect in the court of law. When one white juror subsequently revealed that she did not find Jeantel to be a credible witness, the Martin family, its lawyers and numerous others yelled racism.

Black civil rights leaders could have said that being black should not be synonymous with speaking English poorly and disrespecting others and yourself. White liberals, like CNN’s Piers Morgan, could have taken a pass on pandering to Rachel Jeantel. Both scenarios were wishful thinking.

The sad reality is that hate, self-loathing and self-destruction grow when a people have been wronged by history and when an individual believes he will be no exception. That dysfunction is exhibited when an individual feels entitled to commit racial violence against other ethnicities, such as Asian immigrants. It is exhibited when a teenager punches a stranger and beats him senseless, perhaps believing that his manhood demands it. It is exhibited when another teenager proudly flaunts her failure to speak proper English and her eagerness to disrespect the courtroom.

White liberals and black leaders alike do these individuals no favors when they look away from their racial hatred, excuse their proclivities for violence or delight in their bad attitudes. The President of the United States does them no favors when he shares their grief and their historical anguish but says nothing about their need to do better themselves.

No one can bring back Trayvon Martin. No one can bring back Mr. Tian Sheng Yu or Mr. Huan Chen either. However, law enforcement can find ways to better protect innocent minority business owners or law abiding citizens from the lawless outrage of rioters clamoring for social or racial justice. Rachel Jeantel can still learn to speak English properly. America can still look the black community in the eye, respect its historical anguish and demand more personal responsibility.

The President has shown himself not to be up for the task. Yet perhaps the rest of America still could be, and perhaps that will not just be another instance of wishful thinking.

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