By Colin Flaherty
Let’s say thousands of people riot in your upscale downtown neighborhood. And it happens a few dozen times in just a few years: Not just partying, but violence, destruction, theft and serious injuries.
Much of it on YouTube.
Question: If people notice that most of the criminals were black and most of the victims were white, does that make them racist?
Depends. In Philadelphia, it makes you a hero. In Baltimore, a bigot.
Let’s start with Philadelphia: For three years, the black mayor, Michael Nutter, said race had nothing to do with the dozens of violent episodes of black people marauding through older neighborhoods, stealing, beating and destroying property.
“There is no racial component to stupid behavior,” Nutter told the New York Times in one of the few stories to even raise the topic – if only to dismiss it.
Despite their denials, the violence continued. Sometimes daily. Injuries mounted. So did the explicit videos on YouTube and pressure to confront the obvious.
Finally, Nutter changed: The rioters were black and “they were hurting their own race,” Nutter told a crowd at his neighborhood Baptist church.
At his side: the head of the Philadelphia Branch of the NAACP, J. Whyatt Mondesire. Nutter’s comments were “courageous,” he said. “These are majority African-American youths and they need to be called on it.”
TheGrio.com, a division of NBC News that “satisfies the desire of African Americans to stay informed and connected with their community,” said Nutter’s comments were “tough love … about things black people think but won’t say.”
Nutter was “Disgusted by the mobs of African American youths who have been terrorizing folks in City Center lately, he gave the black community a good old-fashioned whipping,” said Annette John Hall, columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The tough love had weak results: Violence continued – as did the local media’s willingness to ignore its racial component.
One hundred miles down the road, mob violence at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor may have been less manic and less reported, but it was at least as widespread.
Most famously, on St. Patrick’s Day 2012, a group of black people beat and stripped and mocked a drunken tourist. Videos they posted went viral.
Police officials said the incident was small and limited. The Baltimore Sun would later release a study showing the violence was far greater and more widespread than city officials reported.
As to the race of the criminals in this and other incidents? That’s not something reporters in Baltimore wonder about.
But state legislator Pat McDonough did.
In the spring of 2012, McDonough and his wife saw it for themselves while visiting the Inner Harbor for a charity dinner: Hundreds of people marauding through the streets, fighting, wreaking havoc.
With not a cop in sight, the McDonoughs noticed the rioters were black.
A few weeks later McDonough issued a press release, calling for the mayor and governor to declare a “No-Travel” zone in the area because it was not safe. The headline on his press release read: “Black Youth Mobs Terrorize Baltimore on Holidays.”
Which is what the black columnist for the Inquirer said just a months before. No matter: The governor, mayor, elected officials and the media lined up to blast McDonough.
“Race-baiting,” said a fellow legislator.
“Racially charged publicity stunt,” said a spokesman for the mayor.
The governor “dismissed” McDonough because crime was down.
The former head of the NAACP in Baltimore said McDonough was guilty of bigotry.
The editorial writers of the Baltimore Sun dutifully heaped on the scorn: “Bluster … Bombast … Bloviating,” they called it. “Why is the race of those involved in criminal behavior pertinent?,” they asked McDonough.
Fair question, McDonough said.
“They should tell us,” said McDonough. “In the days before and after this editorial, the Sun has run articles referring to race more than 100 times. There were stories about black homesteaders, black ministers, blacks and illegal immigration, blacks and schools, blacks and gay rights, black tennis stars, blacks in the 1940 census, black school children, black criminal suspects, black criminal victims. The list goes on and on. All from the paper that pleads with us to ignore race. I’m confused. Do we ignore race or not?
“Or is it sometimes yes and sometimes no?” he said.
“If you pay attention to race are you a bigot or enlightened? These big city newspapers writers are just too bright for me.”
McDonough’s supporters in and out of Baltimore noticed that despite the name-calling, no one questioned his facts.
In the days following The Sun editorial, several similar incidents were reported, some on video.
While the editorial was still in the news stands, two groups of high school students left their bus in the Inner Harbor and beat a white person.
“The 19-year-old victim was white and the attackers were all juvenile black males,” the paper grudgingly reported.
It was just on May 18 when McDonough had called a news conference about the issue he had raised to Gov. Martin O’Malley “requesting the possible assistance of the Maryland State Police to work with the Baltimore City Police Department in order to prevent the consistent and dangerous attacks upon citizens by roving mobs of black youths. St. Patrick’s Day witnessed another out-of-control incident involving hundreds of young people in a mob-like posture, fighting among themselves, and attacking innocent tourists and visitors to the Harbor Area.”
Colin Flaherty is an award-winning reporter whose work has appeared in more than 1,000 media outlets around the world, including the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times and WND. His critically acclaimed book, “White Girl Bleed a Lot: The Return of Racial Violence to America and How The Media Ignore It,” is in its second edition and available in paperback and e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other popular outlets.