Yes, Let’s Talk About White Violence


The liberal sludge pit known as wasted no time in their rush to score political points over the horrific scene in Charleston, South Carolina. Before the public could even begin to wrap its collective head around the tragedy that took at least nine lives, writer Chauncey DeVega decided to use the bloodshed as an excuse to fan the flames of racial tension.

“Is there something wrong with the white family?” DeVega asks. You can practically see him through the text, chuckling at his own wit. “What should law enforcement and white politicians do about white crime? Where are the white fathers in the white home? Why is white America so violent?”

Of course, DeVega is not making an honest inquiry into these subjects. He is hoping that his marvelous sense of irony will turn heads and give us all a moment to consider our white privilege. He says as much at the conclusion of his article, decrying the media for treating every white killer as an individual anomaly and every black killer as a symptom of cultural decay.

There are a number of problems with this point, the biggest of which may be how fresh the crimes were when DeVega cracked open his laptop. Even as of this writing, the suspect has not been named, the motive is still a matter of speculation, and there has not been enough time to properly judge how the media has covered the shooting. An event this shocking will inspire plenty of punditry, but can we at least wait until the bodies are cold before we disappear into an intellectual circlejerk? Racism, “hate crimes,” right-wing terrorists, gun control, news coverage – we’ll get to all of it in due time. It’s not just distasteful to start so early, it’s actively unhelpful.

But since others have already followed Salon down this divisive rabbit hole, it’s only fair that we give DeVega’s argument its due. And it is here that we see how utterly nonsensical it really is. It’s the kind of how now, brown cow op-ed that made no sense in the aftermath of the Waco biker shootout and even less sense now.

Let’s start with the media, since that bears the brunt of DeVega’s sarcastic criticism. In his world, even lefty networks like MSNBC are guilty of giving white criminals their own identity while refusing to do the same for “black and brown Americans, Muslims, Arabs, and the Other.” This point may have been well received in, say, 1995, but it feels dramatically dated in 2015. White America, as a collective, has been mercilessly demonized for years. And in the months since Ferguson, “white” institutions like law enforcement and the judicial system have been singularly blamed for all injustice in the black community. Either DeVega is too wrapped up in his own liberal hemisphere to notice this or he is being intellectually dishonest.

But let’s assume for a moment that he’s right. Let’s assume that you can’t turn on the news without hearing a white guy pontificate about what we’re going to do about black crime. Does one tragic story invalidate the statistics? Does this shooting change the fact that in 2011, 448 whites were killed by blacks while only 193 blacks were killed by whites? Or that in that same year, 2,447 blacks were killed by their fellow blacks? What about 2010, when 62,000 blacks were victimized by white violence? Sounds awful until you realize that 320,000 whites were victimized by black violence. Keep in mind, please, that blacks make up only 13% of the population.

These are the kinds of stats that make liberals uncomfortable, but they deserve to be discussed if DeVega’s rant is to become a common refrain. Of course, every criminal should be judged for his or her own actions, no matter the color of their skin. But for liberals to call for individualism only invites laughter. They are the first to point out systemic problems and the last to discuss personal responsibility. And so it is that we can only conclude that, underneath all of the snark, DeVega really does want to have a discussion about the points he raised. He really does think it’s time to have a talk about “white violence.”

Or maybe he just wants us to talk about him. In that case, my friend, job well done. Fix This Nation can avoid many traps, but pointing out the idiocy of idiots is a lure too tempting to ignore.