A Grim—and Ignored—Body Count
The problem in the American inner city is not racism but drive-by shootings of blacks by other blacks.
The latest anti-cop riots to convulse an American city hit Philadelphia last week, part of a stream of such violence since the early summer. This bout of looting and assault broke out after the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace, Jr., on October 26. The shooting of the 27-year-old Wallace appears justified, if tragic. Wallace had been threatening his mother with a knife, resulting in two previous 911 calls that day. When the police arrived, he ignored repeated requests to drop the knife as he approached the officers. The officers had not been equipped with Tasers; in that situation, they had no other option, as Wallace’s father himself has acknowledged, than to use their guns. (In March, Wallace stabbed the mother of his children and threatened to “shoot you and that house up.” His record included 18 previous arrests for robbery, assaults on cops, aggravated assault, terroristic threats, and domestic abuse.)
On Tuesday, former vice president Joe Biden tweeted his sympathy “for all those suffering the emotional weight of learning about another Black life in America lost. Walter’s life mattered.” To be sure—but Biden is referring here exclusively to the loss of black life at the hands of the police, which he, the rest of the Democratic Party, and the mainstream media have portrayed as a national epidemic, growing out of the country’s systemic racism. In fact, fatal police shootings constitute a smaller fraction of black homicide deaths than they do white and Hispanic homicide deaths. Three percent of black homicide victims are killed by a cop, compared with 10 percent of white and Hispanic homicide victims killed by a cop.
Police departments should work incessantly to minimize the number of times officers feel compelled to use deadly force, but police shootings are not the main problem afflicting urban black communities; criminal violence is. Wallace’s life mattered, yes—but so did the lives of the dozens of black children killed in drive-by shootings since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May 2020. The Democratic and media establishments have been virtually silent about those shootings, even amid their skyrocketing numbers.
A sampling of just some of those incidents, including non-child cases, over the last four months follows:
On October 23, a three-year-old boy was shot twice in Southwest Philadelphia.
In Baltimore, a 12-year-old boy was shot on October 21; the man standing next to him was killed. That same afternoon, a 16-year-old boy was killed and the 12-year-old boy with him was shot. The 16-year-old was the fifth teenager killed in Baltimore over the previous two weeks.
On October 13, a 35-year-old probation officer who was eight months pregnant was fatally shot in the back outside of her home on the Far South Side of Chicago.
On October 10, a 16-year-old boy turned Lake Shore Drive in Chicago into a “shooting gallery,” according to the police, shooting out the eye of a 19-year-old girl in a nearby car.
On October 8, a 51-year-old bus driver in Baltimore reprimanded a couple for getting on his bus without paying. The female grabbed the driver’s backpack and ran off. The bus driver gave chase; the male opened fire and continued pumping bullets into the driver as he lay on the ground, killing him.
In Sacramento, a nine-year-old girl was killed on October 3 during a family gathering in a park. Her six-year-old cousin and aunt were also shot. Two hours later, a 17-year-old crashed into a pole after being fatally shot. Shortly thereafter, a 17-year-old girl was shot.
On October 2, a 14-year-old girl was shot from a passing car in the West Englewood section of Chicago while standing on a sidewalk. The 35-year-old man standing next to her was killed.
On September 26, a 15-year-old boy was fatally shot in the head on the Far West Side of Chicago.
A three-year-old boy in Orlando was fatally shot in the head while playing in his living room on September 22, when a passing car sprayed bullets at the front door and windows of the home. The day before, a 14-year-old boy in the same neighborhood was killed with a shot to his head while he was sitting on his front porch. A fifteen-year-old next to him was critically wounded.
On September 21, a one-year-old boy in Kansas City, Mo., was killed when someone walked up to the car in which he was riding and riddled it with bullets. The victim, Tyron Patton, was among the 13 children who had been killed in shootings through late September in Kansas City.
Five people were shot on September 19 when two cars sped down a street on the South Side of Chicago, spraying bullets across a sidewalk, onto a porch, and inside a home. That same day, a gunman opened fire on a group of men in West Englewood before escaping down an alley. Four people were hit.
A 15-year-old girl was shot to death in St. Louis on September 15.
That same day, gunfire broke out on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago; the suspects fled in a car then crashed into three other cars.
A man on house arrest for a gun case opened fire on September 12 at a family he had just met on the West Side of Chicago. He killed two people and wounded another three.
On September 11, a 14-year-old boy was killed in a drive-by shooting in Northeast Baltimore, part of a burst of violence that killed 12 people and wounded another 45 over six days.
On September 10, a female mail carrier on the Far South Side of Chicago was fatally shot in the head, abdomen, legs, and buttocks by occupants of a car speeding down the street.
On September 9, an 11-year-old girl in Bethlehem, Pa., was shot in the face answering a knock on the back door of her home.
A six-year-old boy was shot on September 7 at the annual J’ouvert party that opens the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn (both the party and parade had been officially cancelled, to no avail.) Five other people were shot that night in what is a longstanding West Indian Day Parade tradition of deadly weapons violence.
Also on September 7, a young girl and three adults in a car were seriously wounded in a drive-by shooting on the South Side of Chicago.
A seven-year-old girl was killed on August 29 while at a family birthday party in South Bend, Indiana; the assailants shot from a passing car.
On August 31, an 11-year-old girl was shot in the hip in Wilmington, Delaware, while playing outside in the morning.
August 22: A 25-year-old woman was killed with a bullet to her head in the Bronx. Twelve hours later, a 33-year-old man playing basketball in Queens was shot in the head. Four days before, an 18-year-old was killed and a 33-year-old man was shot in the spine in a Brooklyn gang shooting.
August 19: A nine-year-old boy was shot in the lower back on the West side of Chicago when gunmen got out of a car and started shooting at a group of men on a sidewalk. The boy’s mother was also hit in the back.
August 18: A four-year-old girl in Asbury Park, New Jersey, was shot outside an apartment complex.
August 17: A nine-year-old was shot in the head in a car on the South Side of Chicago.
August 16: A 46-year-old man at a vigil in Brooklyn for a man killed two days before was fatally shot twice in the head. A day earlier, a man in Canarsie, Brooklyn, was shot in the face, one of three shootings in 15 minutes. The day before, four people were killed, including an off-duty corrections officer at a party in Queens, and another 11 people wounded, bringing that week’s shooting toll in New York City to 14 fatalities and 48 wounded.
August 12: A 14-year-old boy opened the door of his mother’s apartment in St Louis in response to a knock and was fatally shot in the head.
On the morning of August 11, an 11-year-old girl was shot in the head in an SUV in Madison, Wisconsin; two days later, her family took her off of life support.
August 11: A 12-year-old boy and a 15-year-old boy were hit in two separate afternoon shootings in Philadelphia.
August 9: Over 100 shots were fired into a block party in Southeast Washington, D.C., killing a 17-year-old boy and injuring another 21 people.
August 5: A six-year-old girl in West Philadelphia was shot while playing outside her home.
August 1: A seven-year-old boy was shot in the head while sitting on his family’s front porch in West Philadelphia. A shootout had broken out when a man drove onto the street and unloaded his weapon at a group of people standing outside. The boy died two days later.
August 1: A nine-year-old was fatally gunned down on the near North Side of Chicago while playing with friends. The gunman had fired into a parking lot at a group of males standing nearby. As of August 1, the number of shooting victims ten or younger in Chicago was three times that of 2019, according to the Chicago Tribune.
July 31: A 17-year-old in Chicago was killed on a sidewalk in a case of friendly fire. His companion had started shooting at a passing car whose occupants were flashing gang signs.
July 22: One-year-old Ace Lucas was killed in his bed in Canton, Ohio; his twin brother sleeping next to him was wounded.
July 14: Nine-year-old Devonte Bryant was killed with a shot to his head in New Orleans; a 13-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl were hit in the same shooting.
July 12: A one-year-old boy in a stroller was killed by a shot to the stomach at a cookout in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn; three men were also hit. That same night, a 12-year-old boy was shot in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights section and a 15-year-old boy was shot in Harlem.
July 8: A 12-year-old boy was killed inside his home in a drive-by shooting in Wadesboro, North Carolina.
July 5: A six-year-old boy was fatally shot in a drug hot spot home in Northeast Philadelphia.
At least eight children were killed in drive-bys nationally over the Fourth of July weekend. Eight-year-old Secoriea Turner was in a car with her mother in Atlanta trying to inch past a barricade illegally erected by Black Lives Matter protesters. Two people opened fire on the car. Michael Goodlow III, age four, was fatally hit in the head on July 4 in St. Louis. In Hoover, Alabama, a gun battle broke out between three males in a mall. Royta De’Marco Giles Jr., eight years old, was caught in crossfire and killed; the other innocent bystanders were wounded. In Galivants Ferry, South Carolina, a four-year-old boy was killed on July 4. Davon McNeal, 11, ran toward his aunt’s house in Southeast Washington, D.C., to get a cell phone charger and was killed in gunfire between a group of five males. In Chicago, Natalia Wallace, seven, was playing in a yard when three males exited a car and opened fire at a group standing on the street. Wallace was fatally hit in the head. A 14-year-old boy was also killed playing basketball on the Fourth of July. In San Francisco’s Bayview district, a six-year-old boy was shot and killed.
July 2: An 11- and a 12-year old girl were killed in a drive by shooting at a birthday party in Delano, California.
June 30: A three-year-old girl was shot while playing in the front yard of her Englewood, Chicago, home.
June 29: Four-year-old LeGend Taliferro was killed while sleeping in his father’s apartment in Kansas City.
June 27: In the Englewood section of Chicago, one-year-old Sincere Gaston was killed in his mother’s car as it was returning from a laundromat.
A three-year-old girl was shot on June 22 playing outside her home in Chicago Lawn.
On June 20 in Chicago, three-year-old Mekhi James was killed in his father’s car. A 13-year-old, a 16-year-old, and a 17-year-old were also fatally shot that day.
On June 19, a 23-year-old woman who was eight months pregnant was killed in her car in Southwest Baltimore. Her three-year-old daughter was also killed. Both were left in the car for 14 hours.
In South-Central Los Angeles alone, nine children under the age of ten have been shot this year, and 40 children under the age of 18. In Philadelphia, as of early August, 11 children had been fatally shot, six of those victims under the age of 10. One in ten shootings victims in Philadelphia have been children.
At least 17 children have been killed in St. Louis this year. St. Louis hospitals have treated 114 children, including an infant, for gunshot wounds through October 8, according to the Washington Post. The average age of drive-by victims in St. Louis is dropping and the wounds are more serious, due to gangbangers’ increased firepower. The number of homicides in black St. Louis neighborhoods rose 800 percent over the summer, from one every four days to two a day. “It’s like it’s no big deal. They’ve accepted homicides, too,” the mother of two males killed in 2014 told the St. Louis Post Dispatch in September 2020.
The killers have not been identified in many of these shootings, despite ample witnesses, because of the ghetto code against “snitching” and cooperating with the police.
In the weeks immediately following the Floyd riots, homicides were up by 100 percent in Minneapolis, 200 percent in Seattle, 240 percent in Atlanta, and 182 percent in Chicago. The violence continued over the summer and into the fall. In a sample of 27 big cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Milwaukee, Nashville, and Louisville, homicide rates rose an average of 53 percent between June and August.
Year-to-date increases include the pre-riot months, when coronavirus lockdowns depressed violent street crime. Even with that offset, the first six months of 2020 already racked up close to a 15 percent increase in violent crime nationally. Yet when the Department of Justice announced a federal crime task force after the June 29 murder of LeGend Taliferro in Kansas City to help cities fight the rising violence, many local politicians and activists denounced the effort as merely a pretext to retard police reform.
These drive-by shootings are happening virtually exclusively in African-American neighborhoods, taking a toll on black children that would be inconceivable if white children were involved. If dozens of white children had been murdered over the summer, it would be a national scandal, accompanied by demands for radical protection measures. Likewise, if even a handful of black children had been killed by whites, the uproar over white supremacy would dwarf anything seen to date.
Instead, since the black children’s assailants are presumed to be black themselves, the country looks away, lest it be accused of a taboo attention to black crime.
Anti-cop activists and many academics claim that racial crime disparities are simply a product of racist police deployment. Cops are oversaturated in African-American neighborhoods, the activists argue (ignoring the pleas for help from community residents). Once there, officers discover the same crimes that go undetected in white communities.
But the bodies don’t lie. Blacks between the ages of ten and 43 die of homicide at 13 times the rate of whites, according to the CDC, thanks to comparably high rates of violence. If whites were being mowed down in drive-by shootings, we would have heard about it.
Yet in a bizarre non sequitur, as the corpses pile up and the cultural breakdown fueling the shootings bleeds out into riots, looting, and an open season on police officers, the national conversation in the mainstream media and among Democratic politicians for the last five months has focused exclusively on white supremacy. The white psyche has been prodded and parsed and declared constituted by racism. College-educated whites have been packing themselves off to white-privilege trainings and confessing their racism in public-apology sessions, even as the evidentiary basis for that ubiquitous white racism charge has become increasingly fantastical. The elite consensus has been unbroken: the only problem worth paying attention to in the black community is the lethal effects of white bigotry.
President Donald Trump’s pronouncements about law and order have been a focus of this discourse, portrayed as nothing more than that ubiquitous left-wing trope, a “racist dog whistle.” Coverage of Trump’s September 1 visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin, following days of rioting there, was particularly illustrative.
“More Than Ever, Trump Casts Himself as the Defender of White America,” ran the headline on a New York Times front page article by Peter Baker, the paper’s full-time Trump basher. “Not in generations has a sitting president so overtly declared himself the candidate of white America,” Baker asserted.
What were those overt declarations? Trump’s “defending the police and condemning demonstrations during which there have been outbreaks of looting and violence,” in Baker’s formulation. Apparently, only whites would care about looting and violence. Black business owners who have been devastated by the anarchy either don’t exist in the Times’s world or are presumed to care more about the fight for racial justice that such looting is understood to represent.
Baker sneers at Trump’s mention of Kenosha as another Democratic-run city that Trump “claimed” had been troubled by “rioting, looting, arson, and violence”—as if such turbulence were just a racist fiction. The documentary evidence suggested otherwise. A caption on a photograph of Trump’s visit in the Washington Post read: “President Trump tours an area affected by civil unrest in Kenosha,” using the now-mandatory euphemism for rioting. That “unrest” had the force of an aerial bombing raid, leaving in its wake blocks of rubble, twisted steel girders, and sagging brick walls, close to collapse.
Brian Klaas, the global opinions contributor of the Washington Post, wrote that by invoking law and order, Trump assumes that people can be scared into voting “based on fear of minorities.” Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson called the Kenosha visit “nothing less than undisguised white supremacy.” The Los Angeles Times wrote that Trump’s mention of law and order was perceived “as drawing on familiar racist tropes.”
This equation between a concern with law and order and white racism involves the mainstream media and progressive politicians in some difficulties, however. It is they who hear any conservative or Republican reference to crime as a veiled reference to black crime. But the progressive Left denies that street violence is disproportionately black. Why, then, is it so sure that anyone talking about violent street crime is talking about blacks, especially when, as the Los Angeles Times put it, Trump himself “does not explicitly mention white suburbanites or Black city dwellers”? Perhaps the Left knows something about which it is not letting on.
If it is fact, not fiction, that violent street crime today is almost exclusively a minority phenomenon, then it would appear that one simply may not speak about it. That proscription injures law-abiding residents of high-crime areas most of all, people like the aunt of a child victim in St. Louis, who told the Washington Post in October: “I live in fear of living in St. Louis. I feel trapped.” Such citizens beg for more police protection and see the police as the only thing standing between them and anarchy.
The psychoanalysis of “white pathologies,” as a headline on a September New Republic article by critical race theorist Kimberle Williams Crenshaw put it, has gone beyond whites’ unseemly obsession with law and order. Whites also have a hallucinatory idea that the Left thinks of them as racists. An August 31 Peter Baker article suggested that Trump is in effect “reaching out to a subset of white voters who think the news media and political elites see Trump supporters as inherently racist.” Now where would they get that idea?
Yet at the same time, Baker ironizes Trump’s rejection of the “notion that America has a problem with systemic racial bias.” The reader is expected to guffaw at such a patent Trumpian falsehood. So it turns out that the news media do think that America has a problem with “systemic racial bias.” That subset of white voters to whom Trump is allegedly reaching out are reading elite opinion correctly. But if there were any doubt, Baker quotes Ibram Kendi, one of the anti-bias gurus who have been cleaning up since the George Floyd death. Trump is “relying on manipulating the racist fears of white voters to win them over,” Kendi says. And those white voters are doubly racist, because they think that Kendi thinks of them as racist.
The insistence on white racism entails some determined overlooking of facts. A June 22 news article in the New York Times titled “White Americans Say They Are Waking Up to Racism” quoted a professor of African-American Studies at Emory University, Carol Anderson. “What kind of nation is this, that can be comfortable with a police officer kneeling on someone’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds?” Anderson asked.
It takes effort not to have noticed the universal outpouring of outrage prompted by the death of George Floyd. Manifestos against systemic racism tumbled out of large corporations and small start-ups; out of banks, law firms, and restaurants; out of symphony orchestras, music conservatories, and theater groups; out of universities, elementary schools, and tutoring companies; out of foundations, government offices, and union halls. Any institution that did not immediately issue a denunciation of systemic racism found itself in the hotseat and had to scramble to make amends.
An assistant professor of African-American Studies at Northwestern University, writing in the Washington Post, decried white America’s “inability to recognize [blacks’] humanity—the disdain, disregard and disgust for our existence.” In fact, the United States has spent trillions of dollars since the 1960s trying to lift blacks out of poverty. White philanthropists, many of them Republicans, pour millions into educational programs for inner-city children. The United States is in the process of dismantling a host of color-blind criminal-justice practices that are arguably essential to keeping law-abiding citizens safe, simply because they have a disparate impact on blacks. Businesses have been trying for decades to hire and promote as many African Americans and Hispanics as possible. If they fail to reach proportional representation of underrepresented minorities in their workforce, it is not due to lack of effort but to the yawning academic skills gap that leads to a severe shortage of competitively qualified candidates.
The vast majority of white Americans are decent, well-meaning people who yearn for a post-racial country and don’t give a damn about race. White Republicans have had one love affair after another with black politicians and public figures—Colin Powell, Allen Keyes, Condoleeza Rice, Allen West, Herman Cain, Ben Carson, and now John James. Some voted for Barack Obama. What matters to those Republicans is not someone’s skin color but whether he is perceived as sharing their values. When I speak on policing, I have been told repeatedly by white listeners that hearing the data on disproportionate black crime makes them “uncomfortable.” This feeling is not the response of a white supremacist; it is the response of someone who is in the dark about racial disparities in criminal offending or who wishes that those disparities would go away in the service of racial harmony and equality.
The taboo on honesty about street crime and the dysfunction behind it is of recent vintage. In late September 2020, the Los Angeles Times issued a front-page public apology for its alleged history of racism, followed up by a series of articles detailing that purported racism. Its opening apology focused on a July 12, 1981 Los Angeles Times story on the growing phenomenon of itinerant gangs from Watts driving miles across the Los Angeles freeways to commit robberies and burglaries in the wealthy parts of West L.A. The article was heavily reported and statistically grounded, giving a disturbing portrait of multigenerational gang culture, a world otherwise completely out of sight and out of mind in most of Los Angeles’s sprawl.
The offending story did not claim that gang culture represented all of South-Central Los Angeles. It profiled several black business owners who had succeeded through hard work and self-discipline, but who were themselves victimized by unchecked lawlessness. One man, whose store had been bulldozed by gang members after he refused to take back an already-opened bottle of apple juice, opined that the predatory young males in his community were being held back by their fear of society, their inability to defer gratification, and the welfare system’s penalizing of two-parent families. It is the Left that seems to think that such bourgeois blacks do not exist, or, if they do exist, that they could not possibly want strong law enforcement.
Nevertheless, the present-day editors at the Los Angeles Times repudiated the story because, they said, it “reinforced harmful stereotypes about Black and Latino Angelenos.” The editors pointed to no errors or exaggerations. The subjects spoke for themselves, describing a nightmare world of violence, welfare dependency, male exploitation of female sexual partners, drug use, and an entitlement mentality regarding crime. If those first-person accounts conformed to a stereotype, it is because those stereotypes are based on truth. What is harmful is not the stereotype but the behavior that gives rise to it.
Putting a lid on such reporting is not a public service. It allows the mainstream world to continue turning its eyes away from a reality that public policy has failed to improve.
In the 1990s, it was still possible to acknowledge that there were cultural problems in the inner city that were holding people back. The debate around welfare reform was based on that premise. Sociologist Elijah Anderson could still elucidate the conflict between “street culture” and the “decent” people in the ghetto, and call interpersonal violence the biggest problem facing the inner city. Today, the only allowable discourse is about white supremacy. The behavior of blacks is off limits.
Meantime, the anarchy that has become a regular feature of American cities since May has continued and remains all but ignored by the media. Last week’s rioting in Philadelphia barely registered on the national consciousness. In two days of mayhem, over 200 business establishments—liquor stores, Dollar Stores, sneaker stores, banks, clothing stores, and restaurants—were looted and torched; 57 officers were injured, mostly with rocks and other projectiles, though a female officer suffered a broken leg when a pick-up truck deliberately ran over her. At least five people were killed on the second day of rioting and another 13 were shot. Eleven ATM machines were blown up with explosives and a dozen police vans were stolen. An Amazon truck was stolen and crashed. A thousand people showed up at one suburban mall and stripped stores wall to wall. The enterprising had brought hand carts to carry washing machines and other large appliances to their cars and trucks. People broke into the roof of a Walmart and destroyed the sprinkler system; as the store flooded, they continued lugging clothes, watches, and sneakers out the side and back doors. The frenzy of theft was so great that there were traffic jams of getaway cars in the strip mall parking lots.
The looting had a recursive quality, with looters looting looters. A man tried to take a shopping cart already filled up with baby goods and was shot at from a passing car; one bullet hit a 15-year-old female looter nearby. Another looter who had taken an Uber to a Snipes sneaker store was shot in the leg when he tried to intervene in an argument between fellow looters. A gunman tried to hijack a getaway car in the parking lot of a Checkers restaurant, shooting the car owner in the leg.
Many of the plundered businesses had just reopened after their inventories and physical plant were destroyed by the June George Floyd riots. Whether they will be able to reopen again is debatable. More than 80 pharmacies were ransacked for drugs this week, many numbering among the more than 150 pharmacies plundered in June. A black pharmacist on Girard Avenue in the June rioting lost all his medications and a 600-pound safe. Neighboring residents, almost all black and Hispanic, who had depended on his store for their diabetes control and blood-pressure drugs were out of luck.
But according to Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, “consternation over the loss of goods” in rioting is nothing more than fear of “marauding Black masses undermining white people’s well-being,” just another example of “violence-enabling pearl-clutching about looming social disorder.” Crenshaw, too, is apparently unable to imagine black proprietors whose livelihoods are destroyed by unchecked barbarism.
The problem in the American inner city is not white supremacy but the failure to socialize young males—a problem that is a direct result of family breakdown. As businesses and apartment buildings in the nation’s big cities board themselves up in anticipation of postelection rioting, many Americans may decide that if being “racist” in the eyes of the media, academics, and other elites means worrying about their community being looted or their children being shot, they will simply have to endure that slander.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
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