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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Racism and Youth Violence


It's not in dispute that 1) there's always been a significant minority of a generation which feels the majority of said generation is bringing collective shame to all, and 2) that every previous generation feels the following generation is somehow less than they, whether they "have it easier", are somehow "luckier", or that they're crazy/foolish/bad kids/whatever.

This trend notwithstanding, it's clear that youth culture serves to alternatively infuriate and confuse both those outside and inside of it. But the real kick is when social theories are drawn on the lines of sand that make-up youth culture. Upon such precarious Jenga-blocks of logic entire ideologies construct and deconstruct excuses for their own bigotry: racism, sexism, classism, anti-Semitism, nativism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, and so on.

Let's investigate, shall we?

So who are the youth? For the purposes of this post I shall be concerning myself with those ages 13-18, because while respectable arguments can be made to include those in college, I believe it is important to address the overwhelming age groups represented in these dialogues. Thus we'll be talking about kids around high school age.

Now, let's define a couple things. First it must be stated that youth culture should rightly be called youth cultures, as in more than one. There is no definitive "youth culture" which encapsulates all young people. To pretend otherwise, even for the sake of convention, is supremely ignorant and generates generalizations that are of little value in any serious discussion. Second, cultures should rightly be subcultures. Why? Because neither I, nor those discussing this was concerned with worldwide youth; we're talking about Americans who exist within a definitive "American culture."

This takes us to our beginning. American youth subcultures.

Based upon a recent attack by a group of teenagers against a random man in Washington D.C., one blogger asks the question:
"What is it that makes young blacks groupify and engage in such sport with smiles on their faces?  Have any sociologists attempted to understand what would compel people to get together and hunt down random people just for fun?  Also, have any Black Studies academics written articles excusing such behavior?  We can’t say that this is an economic issue since most of these attacks aren’t robberies or muggings.  Kids just want to hurt people, watch them bleed, and have a laugh.  It requires a critical mass of layabouts, and it is also rooted in  a culture that has been above reproach.   White guilt, in other words.
Now, the blogger is drawing on a collection of incidents of youth violence, focusing specifically on those that were perpetuated by Blacks. Nonetheless, it's curious that the blogger immediately ascribes this behavior to Black youth exclusively, as if this is solely a Black-American trend and thus the problem/reason is rooted solely in Black people.

The answer is obvious, of course: confirmation bias. If the blogger had bothered to really look, he would've noticed White teens engaging in similar behavior time, and time, and time again.

Yet the focus is always on Black youth. Why is that? Whet Moser of Chicago's 312 has a succinct answer:
I'm starting to think that the prevalence of "flash mob"/mugging stories in the local media has a lot to do with the Drudge Report. Let me explain
Moser goes on to discuss the Drudge Report's history of stoking White rage utilizing selective -- if not downright dishonest -- reporting whereby facts are distorted so that the perpetrators seem like a mob even they could hardly be called a couple. Moser also recognizes the problems with over-reporting, as in reporting EVERY story in order to make it appear as if a crime-wave is occurring, even though most of those stories would hardly make the front-page of the city's daily newspaper in which they occurred. It's called exaggeration.

But indeed, this type of reporting is not unique to The Drudge Report. People like the blogger above are guilty of it as well. If you go looking for stories which confirm your own biases, you'll find them, because the world is really that big and so there is always something going on for you to twist to your own purposes. Again, confirmation bias.

So where is the White Guilt then? Answer: it doesn't exist in this scenario. Politico contributor Mike Miles put it like this:
The latest figures from the FBI, Bureau of Justice Statistics and public health agencies show that among black youth, rates of robbery and serious property offenses are the lowest in more than 40 years ... Violent and other criminal victimizations of young African-Americans have also plummeted to record lows ... Media claims that modern black youth represent a new scourge of cold-eyed killers have been disturbingly routine ... The issue is not that blacks do have higher murder rates. It is an elementary principle of tolerance that individual misbehaviors and disparate statistics on rare crimes do not justify harsh attacks on the entire class or generation of young black men.
 It's clear that White Guilt is a red herring -- albeit a poor one -- designed to distract from the blatant racism employed against an entire group of people. More importantly, it's telling that some focus singularly on Black youth violence to the exclusion of all else: such as poverty, lack of education, inadequate housing, poor law enforcement practices, and a system which condones subtle racism.

But back to youth culture. As shown, all youth engage in violence, regardless of culture (or race). Yet it is supremely ignorant to ascribe this to certain groups of young people over others who just as likely to commit/ not commit these crimes.

Meanwhile, the reason for youth violence escapes those like the blogger above, because while they're too busy attempting to excuse their own racist beliefs about Blacks, the real causes of youth violence are continuing to grow in the dark, unseen and unknown by most.

More to come.

Cheers

0 footnotes: