The color of racism

Posted: Oct 26, 2000 12:00 AM
"The Tonight Show" recently invited me to discuss my book, "The Ten Things You Can't Say in America" (St. Martin's Press). Jay Leno's producer showed the greatest interest in the first chapter, "Blacks Are More Racist Than Whites." This chapter, too, provoked the most interest during my interview with the "American Urban Radio Network" (the same group Sen. Lieberman recently addressed when he professed his admiration for Minister Louis Farrakhan). Are blacks really more racist than whites? When three white men dragged black James Byrd to death in Jasper, Texas, President Clinton quite properly called the crime "shocking and outrageous." "In the face of this tragedy," Clinton said, "(the people of Jasper) must join together across racial lines to demonstrate that an act of evil like this is not what this country is all about. I think that we've all been touched by it, and I can only imagine that virtually everyone who lives there is in agony at this moment. They must re-affirm, and so must we, that we will not tolerate this." Thus, the bigots who dragged James Byrd became Exhibit A, a national symbol for white racism and hatred against blacks. But what about Colin Ferguson? In 1993, Ferguson, a black man, boarded a Long Island Railroad commuter train and proceeded to mow down white passengers, killing six, wounding 19. Before the killings, Ferguson made frequent outbursts declaring his hatred against whites. But somehow, Ferguson never became Exhibit A for black racism and hatred against whites. In fact, when Nassau County executive Thomas Gulotta called Ferguson an "animal," Jesse Jackson accused Gulotta of "stereotyping"! Most Americans, quite reasonably, considered Ferguson an abhorrent, hateful, deviant murderer, not some symbol for black bigotry. Of course, both cases -- the Byrd killing and the Ferguson rampage -- are aberrant instances of racial hatred. But where we see black/white crime, the bad guy is usually black. In one recent year, the FBI recorded 1.7 million violent acts -- murder, manslaughter, rape, and aggravated assault -- of interracial crime. Of that figure, nearly 1.2 million involved black-white crime. Ninety percent of these cases involved a black perpetrator and a white victim. Thus, blacks, while comprising 12 percent of the population, committed over one million acts of violent crime against whites. On the other hand, whites, while comprising 70 percent of the population, committed about 100,000 acts of violent crime against blacks. Look at hate crime. In 1995, the FBI recorded 7,947 incidents of hate crimes. But blacks, again while comprising 12 percent of the population, committed 27 percent of hate crimes. Whites, 70 percent of the population, committed 59 percent of hate crimes. And of the nearly one million black violent acts against whites, how many were driven by racial animus? During the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Damien "Football" Williams assaulted white trucker Reginald Denny. Williams clearly targeted Denny because of his race, even allowing a black motorist to proceed unharmed. But despite hate-crime laws on the books, authorities never charged Williams with a hate crime. Similarly, when a group of black teenagers assaulted then raped the so-called "Central Park Jogger," few called the assault a "hate crime." Instead, many called the attack a case of "wilding," a practice where youths go on a rampage. Are the majority of blacks racist? Of course not, no more so than are the majority of whites. The point here is perspective. When blacks condemn white bigotry, we must be equally vigilant about black bigotry. Blacks face bigger issues. Inner-city public schools need competition. Blacks stand to benefit disproportionately from the privatization of Social Security. Calling off the war on drugs will, among other things, diminish the number of interactions between the police and civilians, decreasing the frequency of "DWB" -- Driving While Black. Screaming "white racism," and spending time and energy exaggerating its effect steals attention from deeper problems -- illegitimacy, bad schools, high crime -- which have little to do with white racism. Black defense attorney Johnnie L. Cochran tells us, "Race plays a part of everything in America." But, recently, America's pre-eminent white racism fighter, Jesse Jackson, busied himself settling a municipal bus strike in Los Angeles (and receiving a $100,000 fee in the process). Jackson recently co-authored a -- get this -- financial advice book, "It's About the Money," with his son. So, just how bad can things be? First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton tells us, "It Takes a Village." Now, Reverend Jesse Jackson says, "It's About the Money." Maybe Mrs. Clinton and Rev. Jackson can team up on a new book, "It's About Hard Work, Good Values, Schools at Work, Responsible Parenting, and Avoiding Counter-Productive Behavior." Or is that title a tad too long?