In recent years, mainstream media have become obsessed with racism. Whether individual or institutional, racism has never faced greater public disapproval according to many reliable measures, yet publications like the New York Times and Washington Post inject the issue into stories on every conceivable topic—from music to sports to cuisine—all calculated to build up the narrative that America is white supremacist at its core. But in their zeal to highlight every racial microaggression at Ivy League universities or in corporate newsrooms, the media all too often ignore the real victims of crime and societal neglect, who are disproportionately nonwhite.
According to CDC data released last month, 2020 bore witness to the largest rate of increase in homicides recorded in modern history—a finding that tracks with FBI data. Murder rose 29 percent from 2019 to 2020, surpassing the previous record 12.7 percent spike from 1967 to 1968. Unsurprisingly, the victims of the latest surge in violence were not equally distributed across racial groups. The rise in black homicide victims from 2019 to 2020 was almost twice as big as the rise in white victims (28 percent versus 16 percent).
A new Marshall Project analysis on last year’s homicide wave in major American cities highlights the striking racial disparity: more than 85 percent of the increase in murders occurred in black and Hispanic neighborhoods, where homicide rates were already higher than in white neighborhoods. In Chicago, for example, black neighborhoods saw a rise of 27 murders per 100,000 residents, whereas white neighborhoods saw a rise of only two per 100,000.
The violence is continuing to escalate. In Philadelphia, after 2020’s three-decade high of 499 murders, the city has now set a new homicide record, surpassing 500 murders. The violence epidemic in the city was grimly captured earlier this year by a filmmaker making a documentary on gun violence who was killed as he went into his van to retrieve camera equipment.
Minneapolis, where George Floyd’s death triggered a tectonic shift in the criminal-justice system, has seen murders surge by an additional 7 percent this year, on the heels the city’s second-deadliest year in 2020. Parts of Minneapolis have been so ravaged by violence that community members recently wrote a letter begging Minnesota governor Tim Walz to deploy the National Guard to “stop the bleeding.”
In Chicago, after homicides rose a staggering 55 percent from 2020, murders have marginally jumped by another 5 percent, according to the most recent data. The city is on track to tally its highest homicide count since 1996, when 796 were killed. The recent murder of 24-year-old University of Chicago graduate Shaoxiong Zheng in Hyde Park generated campus-wide demonstrations by faculty and students to demand more stringent security measures. “We are here to learn, not to die,” protesters declared. A Chicago mother whose four-year-old daughter was recently gunned down echoed the pleas of the citizens in Minneapolis: “We need help in Chicago. . . . we need outside help from the National Guard or something because we are constantly living in fear.”
It is remarkable how these desperate calls for robust law enforcement are not only ignored in liberal media but deemed transgressive and racist. When Tom Cotton merely articulated the popular opinion to call on the National Guard to quell explosive BLM and Antifa riots, young New York Times staffers revolted. “Running this puts Black @nytimes staff in danger” became a viral slogan on Twitter shared by many Times employees. The disparity in how law-abiding, inner-city residents and highly educated elites perceive the threat of violence couldn’t be more jarring. Some have suggested that terrorized community members are exaggerating or have fallen prey to right-wing “hysteria.” Others, like Ilhan Omar, view rising homicide rates as more proof that the police are “dysfunctional” and should be completely dismantled.
Last year saw the loss to homicide of an additional 2,000 black lives from the year before (9,941 compared with 7,777 in 2019). It is one of the great moral failings of our time that the victims of such metastasizing violence gain less public sympathy and media attention than privileged activists who equate the NFL draft with slavery or who falsely claim racial victimhood while attending elite universities.
If black lives really matter, then prosecutors must establish and enforce clear consequences for criminal behavior, and depleted police forces must be replenished—and reaffirmed.
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