Thank God for YouTube. Or else we never would have know that hundreds of times in more than 50 cities since 2010, groups of black people have been roaming the streets of America – assaulting, intimidating, stalking, threatening, vandalizing, stealing, shooting, stabbing, even raping and killing.
But today the denials are crumbling. The curtains are lifting. We now can see what so many public officials and media have been curiously desperate to deny: Race riots are back.
And not just in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. Places like Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado and Indiana have their very own race riots, too.
Let’s look at Philadelphia. In the spring of 2010, large groups of black people – as in thousands – began gathering in the “eclectic” section of South Philadelphia. Mayhem and violence followed.
Emily Guendelsberger was one of the early and more visible victims. Guendelsberger was an editor at Onion Magazine – a lifestyle guide for the hopelessly hip; complete with gratuitous shots at Sarah Palin. Just a year before, Guendelsberger wrote a column for the Philadelphia Daily News “about why using the term ‘flash mob’ to describe the large groups of black kids that adults assumed were organizing on ‘The Twitter’ belied a fundamental misunderstanding of what was going on.”
She and her friends were way too cool to pretend to notice the race of the people involved in recent attacks in the area. So, like the media and public officials, they didn’t.
In June of 2011, Guendelsberger and her friends were quite surprised when their liberal intentions and gentle demeanor did nothing but encourage a crowd of more than 1,000 black people to assault her.
As one of the rioters told another victim that night, it’s not our fault you can’t fight.
The initial newspaper accounts say it was only 40 people. And race was never mentioned. But the 40 were an offshoot of thousands of black people who had descended on this urban enclave of upscale bars and restaurants and shops – running through the streets, assaulting people in restaurants, stealing their phones and purses, pulling people off bicycles.
Not one of these thousands cared enough to call the police or point out the assailants who herded Guendelsberger and her friends into an alley, then beat them, robbed them, all the time laughing.
Guendelsberger spent the next several days in a hospital bed with a severely broken leg – explaining to people how unhappy she was that her hospital roommate watched religious programming on TV.
Her severe injuries did not stop her from telling friends the violence visited upon her was not racial because, although all the assailants were black, her boyfriend was “brown.” And since he got beat up too, but not as badly as she did, that proved her point that race had nothing to do with it.
Anyone who thought differently was “racist” and “creepy,” she said.
Several on-line comments wondered why she could not acknowledge the racial component of the mob.
Racist facts: Philadelphia liberals, meet the Stockholm syndrome.
The mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, called Guendelsberger to thank her. She was thrilled.
This was the same mayor who had recently declared that an outbreak of racial violence was nothing to worry about and was really the fault of bad reporting.
The police chief backed him up. The district attorney said a “high school diploma is the best anti-crime tool.”
One year and a few dozen attacks before, the mayor and his crew had assured the people of Philadelphia that these crimes would stop because, uh … they said so.
Nutter told the New York Times the violence had “no racial component.” The Times was one of the only media outlets to even consider the question. Even if only to dismiss it.
Then came the YouTube videos, showing thousands of black people roaming the streets of Philadelphia, with violence and injury following. Pizza shops, hotels, bar, tourists, the largest attacks all took place on South Street.
Pulling people out of cars and beating them.
And there were lots and lots of video cameras: Local network affiliates were all over it with video. But no one had the nerve to say what they video screamed: All the attackers and looters were black.
Police claimed that none of the injuries imposed by the mob was serious. Turns out they had not even checked. Ronnie Polaneczky, columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, did.
She found John, a maintenance mechanic, who suffered severe brain injury and facial fractures and was still in the hospital two weeks after he was pulled from a bike and beaten.
The stories are legion: The same weekend Guendelsberger and her pals ran into “nothing much,” more than 40 black people in a Philly suburb descended on a Sears and ransacked it in broad daylight.
In February 2010, at a Macy’s department store a few blocks from city hall, more than 100 black people erupted in fights and destruction.
In July 2011, hundreds of blacks created an “astonishing” amount of violence at downtown Philadelphia restaurants, hotels and bars.
July 4, 2010 – stop me if you’ve heard this before – hundreds of black people storm the streets of South Philadelphia: beating, looting, destroying.
July 4, 2011, 10-20 black people assault and stab a student and his dog from LaSalle University. He’s still alive, though many people do not know why. The dog probably saved him.
March 17, 2010, dozens of black people fight in a clothing store while onlookers laugh and cheer.
In Spring of 2010, police break up a black flash mob in the Tioga-Nicetown section of Philly. Kids were bored and acting stupid, said the reporter. The video tells another story.
In the Summer of 2011, Jeremy Schenkel recounted the attack on him to CBS3 Eyewitness News. He says the kids were laughing as they beat and kicked him, and not only was there the attacking mob, there was also a group of kids cheering them on.
“Almost like an admiring group that was following them, just kind of ragging on people, and one of those guys said, ‘It’s not our fault you can’t fight,’” Schenkel recalls.
Then came the reader comments to the race-neutral stories: Hundreds and hundreds wanted to know why reporters repeatedly refused to identify the race of the attackers.
People knew two things were important: One, large groups of black people were systematically assaulting people in their town; and two, lots of people seemed way too heavily invested in not talking about the central organizing feature of the crime: The gangs of violent criminals were black.
A few days after the June 2011 attack on Guendelsberger, news anchors on the local Fox affiliate weighed in. A black TV anchor worried about the “destructive tone” of the comments from people who observed that all the people in these riots were black.
She said it was “sad” that people did not recognize the true nature of the violence: Young people were to blame. Not black people.
Their guest, a black radio talk-show host, said the riots were not racial. But if they were, it was understandable because the state legislature cut money for job training and increased money for prisons. He said it was not right to blame everyone in a group for the acts of a few bad people in that group.
“When African-American commits a crime, society is looking to define race. When Loughner shot (Rep.) Giffords, nobody said ‘what is wrong with white men?’ This isn’t a black or white issue: they need things to do.”
Then they blamed young people some more. It was not about race. Despite overwhelming video evidence, despite the fact that everyone arrested was black, despite every bit of evidence to the contrary, this reporter wanted to know whom we were going to believe – her, or our own eyes?
Why couldn’t we see that?
Then, one month later, Philadelphia’s black Mayor Nutter blew all the deniers out of the water.
After years of denying and explaining dozens of attacks, Nutter took to the pulpit of a local black church to break the silence and mention the “R” word: Race. In a Sunday speech in July of 2011, the mayor admitted his city had a problem with violent black people:
“You have damaged your own race.”
The head of Philadelphia’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, J. Whyatt Mondesire, said it “took courage” for Mr. Nutter to deliver the message.
“These are majority African-American youths and they need to be called on it,” Mr. Mondesire said.
The black website TheGrio.com said Nutter just seemed so disgusted that he just had to, as he put it, talk about things black people “think but won’t say.”
After years of joining with the mayor in ignoring organized racial violence, the Philadelphia Inquirer congratulated the mayor for “moving quickly against mayhem mobs.”
No, folks. To quote the master comic: I am not making this up.
All the kids needed, said the mayor and his crew, was a place to go. Something to do. How about bowling? So the mayor organized a “Teen Night” bowling for the kids – which was just fine until someone got stabbed in a fight after the bowling.
On July 29, 2011, a man in hospital scrubs was walking down the street at 2 p.m. Coming towards him were seven black students from Mastery Charter School in Philadelphia, a school that recently received $1 million from Oprah.
As he passes, they turn and pummel him. All caught on tape. From two cameras. This has yet to make its debut on the Oprah Network.
Several months after her attack, Guendelsberger is going through some changes, she told NPR. After Mayor Nutter got religion, so did she:
“I am afraid of young, black men now. It’s very annoying because there are a lot of young, black men in Philadelphia. I honestly just wish I could go back to how I was before,” she says.
And all these attacks began one year after a Department of Justice investigation found that black students at South Philadelphia High School had been systematically assaulting Asian students for years. When this story broke, the superintendent of schools gave the Asian students a pamphlet, telling them how to talk and act towards blacks so they would not antagonize them.
Of course, it is not just Philly.
In Iowa, last year, following a racial disturbance at the state fair, one police report called it “Beat Whitey Night.” Reporters argued semantics and ignored the violence.
In Peoria, right in the middle of Middle America, a large crowd of black people attacked police and firefighters called to the scene of a Fourth of July fire.
In Milwaukee, also on the Fourth of July this year, after looting a nearby convenience store, a crowd of nearly 100 blacks set upon a some white teens on a picnic. After beating one white woman, a black woman noted: “Oh, white girl bleed a lot.”
Then you probably did not hear about Black Beach Week, held every year in Miami Beach over the Memorial Day Weekend. This year, 200,000 black people created a three-day riot complete with shootings, killing, mountains of filth and everything in between – causing another kind of riot: An uprising to shut down this annual violent uprising.
The list of cities goes on and on. As do the denials and excuses.
In Chicago, congressman and former Black Panther leader Bobby Rush says this kind of crime is common in black neighborhoods, and the only reason anyone is noticing now is because white people are getting hurt.
Rush is probably right. Which means this problem is hundreds of times worse than we think.
Public officials, local media and even victims may be too squeamish to talk about the new race riots, but YouTube is not. Neither is talk radio.
So we learn in fits and starts and pieces and glimpses. Finally, we are connecting the dots. Which is good: The solutions cannot begin until the denial ends. But first we all need to hear – and see – it.
Colin Flaherty is a writer and a host (along with his liberal brother John) of “The Fighting Flaherty Brothers,” a talk-radio show on WDEL in Wilmington, Del.