"Blacks are under attack," said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, irresponsibly turning the Florida shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, at the hands of Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman into a barometer of black-white "race-relations."
President Barack Obama, three years past his inauguration as American's first black president, weighed in, too. As when he accused the Cambridge police of "acting stupidly," Obama injected race, but this time a little less directly: "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."
The implication, of course, is that race undoubtedly played a role in the death of Trayvon Martin. A special prosecutor as well as a Florida grand jury will examine the case, re-interview all the witnesses and go over all the evidence. Zimmerman may well be charged with murder, and a racially motivated one at that. Or the prosecutor may find the evidence insufficient to convince a jury that Zimmerman did not act in self-defense.
No matter whether Zimmerman is charged or convicted, a tragedy occurred. But is Jesse Jackson right, that the death of Trayvon Martin suggests "blacks are under attack," presumably by racist non-blacks?
True, black men, especially young ones, stand a much greater chance of being murdered than white males. But almost all murders involve a victim and a killer of the same race. Yes, instances of black-white murder -- as, for example, when James Byrd, a black man of Jasper, Texas, was dragged to his death by three white men -- do exist. But nationally, according to the Department of Justice, 53 percent of known homicide suspects in 2010 were identified as black -- although blacks comprise only 13 percent of the population. And in murders involving a single black victim and a single offender, 90 percent of the time it is a black perpetrator who murders the black victim. Similarly, 83 percent of whites are murdered by other whites.
What happened in Sanford, Fla. -- a white person killing a black person -- is extremely infrequent, occurring in 8 percent of black homicides. In saying "blacks are under attack," Jackson paints a picture of whites targeting and hunting down black males.
Look at the 2010 stats for New York City. While blacks comprise about 25 percent of the city's population, blacks accounted for two-thirds of murder victims. For black homicide suspects arrested, 85 percent of their victims were also black.