The shooting of a teenager in Kansas City, Missouri, has added “knocking on the door while black” and “existing while black” to the list of activities that allegedly put blacks at daily risk of their lives in white supremacist America. Meantime, the actual configuration of interracial violence is assiduously ignored.
On April 13, 2023, at around 10 p.m., 16-year-old Ralph Yarl went to the wrong address in a Kansas City residential neighborhood to pick up his younger brothers. Yarl rang the doorbell, summoning the 84-year-old homeowner, Andrew Lester, from his bed. Lester, who lived alone and who appears from photographs to be in the early stages of dementia, grabbed his handgun and went to the door. He became “scared to death,” he told the police, when he saw the larger Yarl pulling at the exterior storm door handle. (Yarl denies trying to open the door.) Lester shot Yarl, once in the head and once in the arm, through the storm door. Thankfully, Yarl will likely survive the horrifying attack.
Every news outlet that covered the shooting led with the race of Yarl and of Lester. Yarl was inevitably identified as a “Black” teenager and Lester as a “white” homeowner. The Kansas City district attorney validated the race narrative. The shooting had a “racial component,” the prosecutor said, without offering evidence. (The DA has charged Lester with assault in the first degree because the potential maximum sentence—life in prison—is higher than that for attempted murder.)
President Biden weighed in with his usual trope about black parents living in daily fear for their children’s lives in racist America. “Last night, I had a chance to call Ralph Yarl and his family,” Biden tweeted. “No parent should have to worry that their kid will be shot after ringing the wrong doorbell.” For once Biden left out “black,” but his formula by now is so routine (“Imagine having to worry whether your son or daughter came home from walking down the street, playing in the park or just driving a car,” as “Brown and Black parents” have to do, Biden asked in his 2023 State of the Union address) that he doesn’t need the descriptor to get his racial message across. Biden invited Yarl to visit the White House when he had recovered.
Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas made no effort to defuse the race angle that the press, the president, and his fellow Democrats had instantaneously imposed on the incident. Yarl was shot because he was black by someone who “clearly, clearly fears Black people,” Lucas said. The incident shows why “Black people and Black parents” are concerned that merely “existing while black” can get you shot by a white person, Lucas said. The ubiquitous fomenter of racial resentment, attorney Benjamin Crump, demanded that “gun violence against unarmed Black individuals must stop. Our children should feel safe, not as though they are being hunted.”
Race protests took the same line. “They killin [sic] us for no reason,” read a protest sign in Kansas City. The public was enjoined to “say his [i.e., Yarl’s] name.” This naming injunction is now a standard component of the claim that white America suppresses awareness of its anti-black violence and that it relegates such alleged civil rights heroes as Michael Brown and George Floyd to obscurity.
A professor of African American Studies and a faculty associate with the Programs in Law and Public Affairs, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Jazz Studies at Princeton University further ratcheted up the racial bathos. Imani Perry recounted in The Atlantic the “terror and grace of raising Black children in the United States.” Millions have protested the “premature deaths of Black innocents,” Perry wrote, without having any effect on the suffering of “Black folks.”
Two days after the Yarl shooting, on April 15, a 20-year-old girl was fatally shot when a car she was in entered the wrong driveway in upstate New York. Three days after that, on April 18, two cheerleaders were shot, one critically, in a Texas supermarket parking lot after one tried mistakenly to get into a stranger’s car. There were no protests around those shootings, invitations to the White House, or injunctions to say the victims’ names, because the decedent and the other victims were all white. But the fact that all three victims were white still did not dislodge the idea that “knocking on the door,” in Mayor Lucas’s words, was a particular threat to black people. Press accounts of the incidents continued to mention Yarl’s race, while staying mum about the female victims’ race.
A Chicago Tribune story on the Texas cheerleaders shooting was typical: “The attack [on the cheerleaders] comes days after two high-profile shootings that occurred after victims went to mistaken addresses. In one case, a Black teen was shot and wounded after going to the wrong Kansas City, Missouri, home to pick up his younger brothers. In the other, a woman looking for a friend’s house in upstate New York was shot and killed after the car she was riding in mistakenly went to the wrong address.”
A frontpage article in the New York Times on April 21 discussed other mistaken-house shootings that had come to light, also outside of the black-victim-white perpetrator paradigm. Only in the Yarl case did the Times continue to give the race of the victim and perpetrator. “Andrew Lester, the 84-year-old white homeowner in Kansas City, Mo., accused of wounding Ralph Yarl, who is Black, has been charged with assault and armed criminal action,” wrote the Times, while “Kevin Monahan, 65, the upstate New York homeowner accused of killing Kaylin Gillis [who had mistakenly entered Monahan’s driveway], has been charged with murder.”
There was a black victim in one of the other mistaken-house shootings discussed in the April 21 Times article: Omarian Banks, killed in March 2019 after ringing the wrong doorbell in an Atlanta apartment complex. Banks’s girlfriend heard one shot and then heard Banks yell: “I’m sorry, bro. I’m at the wrong house.” The tenant allegedly responded: “Nah, nigger, you’re not at the wrong house,” before firing two more times. The Times omitted the race of Banks and of his killer, Darryl Bynes, because Bynes was black. There was thus no possible “racial component” to the shooting, in the Times’s ideology. The initial contemporaneous reporting on the Banks shooting also omitted the race of the victim and perpetrator.
Despite the numerous trespass shootings that have been reported on since the Yarl shooting, the Times remains staunchly committed to its racism narrative. On April 24, the paper ran an article on how the Yarl shooting revealed the persistence of racism in Kansas City. Never mind that the city’s majority-white population had thrice elected a black mayor and had sent a black representative to Congress. That cross-racial voting just shows how “like this veil of [white] nicety and smiles . . . kind of overlays microaggressions and all kinds of crazy stuff,” the founder of a nonprofit that seeks to empower black women told the paper.
The narrative that blacks are at elevated risk for “existing while black” is true, but not because whites are killing them. Their assailants are other blacks, which means that these black victims are of no interest to the race activists and to their media and political allies.
Kansas City’s black-white homicide disparity is typical. In 2022, blacks made up 60 percent of homicide victims, though they are 26.5 percent of the population. Whites were 22 percent of homicide victims, though they make up 60 percent of the Kansas City population. A black Kansas Cityean was six times more likely to be killed in 2022 than a white Kansas Cityean. So far this year, blacks make up 75 percent of homicide victims.
The toll on black children has been particularly acute. In the first nine months of 2020, 13 black children were killed in shootings in Kansas City. Those child victims included one-year-old Tyron Patton, killed when someone riddled the car in which he was riding with bullets, and four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, fatally shot while sleeping in his father’s apartment. No Black Lives Matter activist showed up to “say their names.” Imani Perry did not weigh in on the “terror and grace of raising Black children in the United States.” Their deaths were again of no interest to the race advocates because their killers were black. In 2022, ten children aged 17 and younger were killed in Kansas City, also without racial protest, because those children were not killed by whites and thus did not matter from a racial PR perspective. The maudlin dirge that blacks are victims of lethal white supremacy is ludicrous, in Kansas City and every other American metropolis.
Though no concrete evidence of a race component in the Yarl-Lester shooting has emerged, if Lester were scared by Yarl, if he were someone who “clearly, clearly fears Black people,” as Mayor Lucas put it, that fear would not be irrational. In Kansas City, blacks make up 72 percent of homicide suspects whose race is known. Whites make up 18 percent of homicide suspects whose race is known (and a higher portion of white homicides is the result of domestic violence rather than of street crime). If a stranger shows up at a Kansas City house at night, there is a nine times higher chance that that stranger will commit a homicide if he is black than if he is white.
That odds disparity alone in no way justifies shooting someone, needless to say, including in the Yarl case—but it is race propaganda to deny that in settings conducive to crime, empirical grounds exist for being more wary of unknown blacks than of unknown whites. The solution to that wariness is to bring the black crime rate down, not to flagellate those whose assumptions are predictably influenced by that crime rate.
If blacks kill at nine times the rate of whites in Kansas City but die of homicide at only six times the rate of whites in Kansas City, what makes up the difference? Blacks killing people outside their own race. That disparity applies to non-lethal as well as to lethal violence. In 2021, 87 percent of all non-lethal interracial violent crimes committed between blacks and whites in the U.S. were black-on-white—480,030 incidents with a black offender and white victim, and 69,850 incidents with a white offender and black victim, or seven times as many black-on-white as white-on-black incidents of interracial non-lethal violence. In other words, whites have more to fear from blacks than blacks from whites, a fact contrary to the race-hustle narrative.
The distribution of interracial violence means that an “X-ing while white” meme is a more appropriate way of representing racial crime patterns. Recent instantiations of the “while white” meme would include: “accosting shoplifters while white” (California Home Depot employee fatally shot while trying to prevent a theft); “reporting on a crime while white” (Florida journalist fatally shot working the scene of a homicide investigation, cameraman critically injured in same shooting); “riding the subway while white” (two 19-year-old females punched and robbed on Times Square subway by larger group of females wearing dayglo green body suits); “bicycling while white” (California emergency room doctor run over and fatally stabbed by man who reportedly had complained about “white privilege”); “jogging while white” (young Memphis mother abducted, raped, and killed); “walking downtown while white” (Minneapolis man thrown to the ground, stomped on, stripped of pants, run over with a bicycle, hit with planters, and robbed by group of teens); “holding on to one’s wallet while white” (Minneapolis man beaten unconscious after refusing to give up his wallet in attempted robbery); “walking in school hallway while white” (New Jersey ninth-grader punched, kicked, and hit with water bottle in high school, later commits suicide); “existing in school while white” (Florida girl beaten in head by five females); “riding a city bus while white” (57-year-old female hit in the head with an unknown object on a Queens bus by two teenage girls and a third individual); “riding a school bus while white” (12-year-old boy in Virginia choked by female classmate).
If any of these incidents had had black victims and white perpetrators, there would have been a national, if not international, uproar. Every news outlet would be covering the emergency of white supremacy and Joe Biden would have given another of his speeches about the stain of white racism on America’s soul.
“While Asian” is another potentially fertile meme: “wearing jewelry while Asian” (California victims had jewelry forcibly torn from their necks); “possessing property while Asian” (California victims targeted in robberies; suspects tried to run over arresting officer with a loaded firearm and extended magazine in their car); “grocery-shopping while Asian” (two California women violently robbed at an Asian supermarket); “riding subway while Asian” (three Asian boys and a girl attacked by four girls on a Philadelphia subway train; Asian girl punched, stomped on, and shoved in the head against subway door).
(Other “while Asian” incidents are chronicled here, including a 75-year-old man fatally knocked to the ground and robbed while taking his morning walk in Oakland; an 84-year-old man fatally knocked to the ground in his driveway; a 67-year-old man kicked to the ground, dangled upside down, beaten, and robbed in a San Francisco laundromat; and an 88-year-old great-grandmother, beaten so brutally as to be unrecognizable and discarded next to a recycling bin.)
In virtually none of these “while Asian” incidents was the race of the suspects reported, because those suspects were black. The media not only omit a detail that would be automatic if the suspects were white but also compose a racial narrative about anti-Asian crimes and anti-Asian hate crimes that is wholly false: that it is whites who are the threat to frail, elderly Asians.
“While Hispanic” incidents would include: “defending one’s girlfriend while Hispanic” (Minneapolis man pistol-whipped and shot in chest for yelling at someone harassing his girlfriend); “working the cash register while Hispanic” (25-year-old female grocery store clerk beaten in Bronx by two females following argument over recyclables). “While trans” would include: “waiting for light rail while trans” (trans individual beaten by five individuals at Minneapolis light rail station; brain matter found on ground). But because the perpetrators in these attacks were black, the violence is taken as a matter of course.
The anarchy in American cities is carefully de-raced, whether the flash mobs that routinely maraud in shopping malls and down Chicago’s Magnificent Mile; the looters who plunder convenience stores and jewelry stores; or the Miami spring breakers who rape and kill. To name a suspect’s race when that suspect is black is virtually taboo, no matter the race of his victim. Let a white person assault or kill a black person, however, and the entire story will be about race.
This double standard and the fiction that blacks are under daily risk of their lives from whites do no one any good, least of all the victims of black crime. The Journal of the American Medical Association recently reported that in the first 18 months of the coronavirus epidemic (read: the post-George Floyd era) black juveniles 17 and younger died of gun homicide at 100 times the rate of white juveniles. If that death rate were due to whites shooting blacks, we would have heard about every one of those shootings. In fact, almost none were widely reported because they were overwhelmingly committed by other blacks. The race activists were silent; Biden was silent; the media were silent; the Black Studies professors were silent. Merely mentioning black-on-black crime guarantees the accusation of racism, as if facts are racist.
And so, with debate silenced about how to overcome the inner-city culture that spawns this dreary parade of drive-by shootings, those shootings continue unabated. This past weekend, six people got out of a car in the heart of Hollywood in Los Angeles and unleashed gunfire at a man and a woman standing in front of a convenience store. Less than a day earlier, shooting broke out at a Hollywood nightclub. Earlier in April, a 37-year-old was shot in the head on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On the other side of the country, in Baltimore this past weekend, a 15-year-old boy was shot in the groin, a 55-year-old was shot in the face while sitting in a vehicle, a 23-year-old man was shot in the back, a 25-year-old man was shot in the lower back and legs, a 19-year-old man was shot multiple times in the leg, and a 44-year-old was shot in the knee, all in separate incidents. On Monday, two men were shot. Ho-hum. Because Baltimore does not have the cachet of Chicago, this quotidian mayhem gets even less attention than Chicago’s.
Millions of blacks are walking around believing that whites hate and fear them so much that blacks are at daily risk of their lives from that hatred. This belief is the rankest fiction. Yet it is embraced and amplified by almost every mainstream American institution. We exist mentally in a counterfactual, alternative reality when it comes to race and crime. That alternative reality further poisons race relations, incentivizing more anti-white violence. It creates fertile support for the dismantling of law enforcement and of the meritocratic standards that are said to prop up white supremacy. It is time to unflinchingly pierce that fiction with the truth.
Photo by Chase Castor/Getty Images