Tim Wise reposts an essay from 15 years ago; it’s remarkable for how nothing has changed since. It’s about this peculiar asymmetry in which, when a black person commits a crime, most people are quick to generalize the behavior to their race; when a when a white person commits a crime, blame falls on the individual. I thought it was enlightening to see the litany of crimes primarily committed by white people.
It’s amazing how many crazy whites there are, none of whom feel the wrath of the racial pathology police as a result of their depravity. Killing parents is among our specialties. So in 1994, a white guy in New York killed his mom for serving the wrong pizza; last year, a white kid in Alabama killed his parents with an axe and sledgehammer; and in 1996, Rod Ferrell, leader of a “vampire cult” in Murray, Kentucky, bludgeoned another member’s parents to death and along with the victims’ daughter, drank their blood so as to “cross over to the gates of hell.” Which brings me to rule number one for identifying the race of criminals. If the crime involved vampirism, Satan worship, or cannibalism, you can bet your ass the perp was white. Never fails. But you’ll never hear anyone ask what it is about white parents that makes their children want to cut off their heads and boil them in soup pots.
Ditto for infanticide. When Susan Smith drowned her boys in South Carolina, she had hundreds of people looking for a mythical Black male carjacker, because that’s what danger looks like in the white imagination. We should have known better, especially when you consider how many white folks off their kids: like Brian Peterson and Amy Grossberg, in Delaware, who dumped their newborn in the garbage; or the New Jersey girl at her prom who did the same in the school bathroom; or Brian Stewart, from St. Louis who injected his son with the AIDS virus to avoid paying child support; or the Pittsburgh father who bludgeoned his 5-year old twins to death when they couldn’t find their Power Ranger masks, and were late for day care; or the white babysitter outside Chicago who bound two kids with duct tape, before shooting them and turning the gun on himself. None of these folks’ race was offered as a possible factor in their crimes. No one is writing books about the genetic or white cultural causes of such behavior. In 1995, when a poor Latina killed her daughter in New York by smashing her head against a wall, every major news source in America covered the tragedy, and focused on her “underclass” status. But when a white Arizona man the same month decapitated his son because he was convinced the child was possessed by the devil, coverage was sparse, and mention of race or cultural background was nowhere to be found.
Or consider thrill killing, spree killing, and animal mutilation: three other white favorites that occur without racial identification of the persons involved. In October 1997, a white male teen obsessed with Jeffrey Dahmer killed a 13-year old to “see what it feels like.” In New Jersey, a 15-year old white male killed an 11-year old selling candy door-to-door, but only after sexually assaulting him. Late last year, a white couple in California was arrested for “hunting women,” and torturing and mutilating them in the back of their van. At Indiana University, a white male burned four cats alive in a lab, while in Martin, Tennessee, two white teens set a duck on fire at the city’s recreational complex, and in Missouri, two white teens killed 23 cats for fun, prompting their white neighbors to say, not that there’s something wrong with white kids today, but rather, “boys will be boys.”
So all that’s what my genes predispose me to do…good to know. If people are going to assign genetic causes to black people’s behavior, it’s equally legitimate to do the same to use white people, right?
His prescription for what we ought to do about it did make me cringe a bit, though.
And the next time you hear about some flesh-eating, Satan-worshiping teenager who just pickled his grandma, you’ll know his race before you even see his face on the nightly news, and you’ll know that if he’d just spent a little more time in church with the Black folks, none of this might ever have had to happen.