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Averting Our Eyes

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Averting Our Eyes

The New York subway massacre has roots in mental illness, but the shooter’s delusions were likely fed by the relentless cultivation of racial resentment. April 13, 2022
Public safety
Politics and law
New York

Had a white male entered a New York subway car in a construction vest and gas mask, carrying a hatchet, a nine-millimeter handgun, extended ammo magazines, gasoline, fireworks, and two smoke grenades; had he then shot off at least 33 rounds, hitting ten people, the Biden administration and the media would have immediately raised an alarm about white nationalist violence. The shooter’s race would have led every story about such an attempted massacre; pundits would have immediately speculated about hate crime and domestic terrorism.

After all, U.S. attorney general Merrick Garland has elevated white supremacist violence to the top of Justice Department priorities. Federal law enforcement agencies regularly warn about coming white nationalist attacks. Since entering the White House, Biden has kept up a constant refrain about lethal white racism. On March 29, 2022, he declaimed that “hate never goes away,” “hate” referring, of course, to white Americans. He added: “If [hate] gets a little bit of oxygen, it comes roaring back out, screaming.” Kamala Harris chimed in: “Racial acts of terror still occur in our nation. And when they do, we must all have the courage to name them and hold the perpetrators to account.”

If that hypothetical white subway shooter had then been discovered to have posted tirades about black people, had he called for whites to get a gun and start shooting blacks, the global media would be in nuclear meltdown about white supremacy. Protests would be breaking out across the country and corporations would be emitting an avalanche of press releases about America’s racial injustice.

Instead, since the smoke-bomb detonating, race-ranting shooter on a New York City N train Tuesday morning was black, his race and apparent anti-white hatred are nearly taboo subjects. The New York Times begins its front-page story today about the carnage:

Hours after a gunman in an orange construction vest released two smoke grenades and fired at least 33 shots on an N train in Brooklyn, hundreds of police officers were searching Tuesday night for a 62-year-old man whom police officials have linked to the shooting.

Detectives were seeking to question the man, Frank R. James, about the attack at the 36th Street station in Sunset Park that injured at least 23 people, some of them children traveling to school.

The article continues through dozens of paragraphs without mentioning the shooter’s race. The closest we get to any inclination of James’s racial obsessions is a discreet paragraph noting that law enforcement officials have connected him to a “YouTube channel where he delivered lengthy rants, many of them concerned with race and violence.” Had the obsession with “race and violence” come from a white person, that person’s race would have been the main story. Therefore, savvy readers of the paper of record can safely infer that these rants about race and violence must have been directed at whites.

NBC News reported yesterday that the police “said they were looking for a man believed to be about 5-foot-5 and 180 pounds, wearing a green construction vest during the attack.” The network’s updated story today still leaves out the shooter’s race, though another story noted that James discussed “a ‘race war’ and the desire to ‘exterminate’ certain groups of people.” MSNBC described the suspect as a “man wearing a gas mask [who] opened fire on a Manhattan-bound N train as it was pulling into the 36th Street Station.”

James has reportedly been apprehended, but while he remained at large, the public interest demanded that every relevant piece of information that could aid in his apprehension be disseminated. Preventing another possible outbreak of violence is apparently of lower priority, however, than fueling the anti-black bias that the mainstream media believe to be endemic in the U.S. The New York Police Department came up with a compromise between anti-racism and public safety, initially identifying the person of interest as “dark-skinned.” “Dark-skinned” is overinclusive, however, since it fails to rule out South Asians. Some media outlets ran with that descriptor, even though they don’t use “light-skinned” to refer to whites.

The New York Post prints some of what the Times coyly calls “rants, many of them concerned with race and violence”:

These white motherf***ers, this is what they do. . . . What do you think they gonna do to your black ass. . . . It’s just a matter of time before these white motherf***ers decide, ‘Hey listen. Enough is enough. These n****** got to go . . . The whole world is against you. And you’re against your f***ing self. So why should you be alive again is the f***ing question. Why should a n—er be alive on this planet? Besides to pick cotton or chop sugar cane or tobacco . . . And so the message to me is: I should have gotten a gun, and just started shooting motherf***ers.

James also had an interest in black nationalist memes.

White supremacist violence is a non-issue in America today. Eighty-eight percent of interracial violence between blacks and whites is committed by blacks against whites. The dominant narrative from the government, business world, media, and academy, however, is that whites pose a lethal threat to blacks. The criminal-justice system is supposedly driven by racism, bearing down on blacks for nonexistent or trivial infractions in order to reenslave them in prison. The race riots of the last two years, on this view, were an understandable eruption of rage against a racially oppressive regime. The Frank Jameses of the world may not read the New York Times or the Washington Post, but the messages from those elite institutions seep into the world at large, providing ubiquitous justifications for racial resentment and paranoia.

On the same day as the Brooklyn subway carnage, the New York Times ran a long story about a 23-year-old woman who pled guilty to a felony hate crime. The defendant, Miya Ponsetto, had tackled a black teenager in a SoHo hotel after accusing him of stealing her phone; an Uber driver subsequently found the phone. Ponsetto was of Puerto Rican and Vietnamese descent, thus foreclosing the white hate crime perpetrator meme. Nevertheless, the Times cast the episode as a “high-profile example of the kind of false accusation Black people routinely confront in New York and elsewhere”—an editorial gloss now routine in the Times’s news reporting.

No doubt the teen victim suffered infuriating and unjustified humiliation, even fear. But the coverage of such incidents is disproportionate to their significance, especially matched up against the daily slaughter occurring in America’s inner cities. In all but the most egregious of cases, members of the mainstream media chastely turn their eyes away from that slaughter to keep a sharp lookout for white supremacy. That crusade against purported bigotry has led to a two-year violent crime spree as officers stop proactively policing, district attorneys stop prosecuting, and judges stop incarcerating, all in the name of fighting phantom criminal-justice racism and avoiding disparate impact. Thousands more black lives have been lost as a result.

Frank James’s subway massacre undoubtedly has roots in untreated mental illness. But it was set in motion by America’s relentless focus on phantom white racism and by the unchecked urban anarchy of the last two years.

Photo by Liao Pan/China News Service via Getty Images

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