It has now been revealed that the dirt-bag who apparently took the life of 17-year-old Lily Burke is a 50-year-old transient man, someone who had many previous run-ins with the law. As someone who has a two young daughters, one the exact age of Burke, this hit close to home – as it did for many parents across the country. After media coverage made no reference to the race of the alleged killer, pictures of the suspect revealed that Charles Samuel is a black man.
As I write this, the nation’s president is about to sit down with Henry Louis Gates and Sergeant James Crowley to have a few beers and chat about the recent arrest of Gates by Crowley. Obama had suggested that Crowley’s actions in arresting Gates represented the stupidity of the Cambridge, Massachusetts police department and dredged up the specter of racial profiling – something subsequently revealed to have had nothing to do with the arrest of Gates as a “disorderly person.”
The incident at Gates’ home in Cambridge, and resultant intervention by a sitting U.S. President in what was essentially a localized police matter has ignited a national political firestorm. Mainstream media have endlessly covered the events (often badly), political bloggers have been all over the issues like a cheap suit, and race hustlers from coast to coast have emerged from the woodwork to claim that the arrest of a high profile black academic is proof positive that racism is still society’s number one problem.
Okay, that’s what race hustlers do – but while they opportunistically seek political advantage and work the old terrain of white liberal racial guilt, the real issues underlying the mythology of so-called “racial profiling”—-something that was re-surfaced by the president’s comments—-ignores the larger question of why black men in this nation are “disproportionately” housed in our prisons and jails.
While Obama speaks either in an ill-informed or ideological way about “disproportionate” treatment of blacks in the nation’s criminal justice system, statistics do not lie. Young black men (between the ages of 18 and 24) commit murder at ten times the rate of whites and Latinos. Based on this disproportionate level of violent criminal behavior, police are stopping and arresting more black male suspects based on actual rates of criminality, not whim and caprice. To blame police for arresting high numbers of black suspects is unfair and could be characterized as blaming the messengers for the unpleasant news that they have no choice but to impart.
Thanks to aggressive police actions, homicide is down in the City of Los Angeles, as it is in many major cities across the nation. But as an indication of the disproportionate level of black crime, in 2003—-39 percent of the city’s 505 homicide victims were black, and 36 percent of the murder suspects arrested for all of the city’s murder were also black. This is in contrast to the fact that only 11 percent of the city’s population is black. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 94 percent of all blacks killed nationally between 1976 and 1999 were killed by other blacks.
So, when the president sits down with Sergeant Crowley and Professor Gates and perhaps engages in a lecture about unfair treatment of blacks by the criminal justice system, and the injustice of “racial profiling” let’s hope the Sergeant stops him short. I expect that he will recite the stats on black crime that might adjust his attitude – unless the President really does have an agenda that encompasses many of the mythologies of the past.