A friend from Facebook posted the NYT opinion piece “Of Bikers and Thugs” by Charles M. Blow. I find the article both flawed and annoying. In fact, more than that, the article made me angry– I feel it is trying to accuse folks of universal prejudice based on very flimsy evidence. And I don’t want the guilt. I have enough personal sins to deal with, thank you very much. I don’t deny racial prejudice exists, and that some are perhaps guilty of it on an unconscious level. But I think it is a huge leap to locate unmistakable evidence of universal and deep racial hatred towards blacks simply because the term “thugs” was used in describing events in Baltimore, but not applied to the recent biker riots. The author argues this is not semantics. I say that it is exactly what it is.
The author himself unwittingly provides a good example of how this is semantics when he notes that the President of the United States and the Mayor of Baltimore (both whom happen to be black) used the term “thugs” in describing the riots happening in Baltimore. Is he suggesting the President and this Mayor are both motivated by deep or even unconscious racial animus towards blacks by using this term? Is anyone who uses the term “thugs”, white or black, guilty of prejudice and perpetuating stereotypes against the black community? Well, I don’t think so. The President used the word “thugs” because it was appropriate– the rioters were acting like thugs (i.e., “brutal ruffians”)– which has no connotation of anything racial, sorry. One does not hesitate to use this word of whites. Or at least I never received the memo that this word when applied to blacks signifies that you are a racist.
If you read economist and social theorist Thomas Sowell on these issues (he also happens to be a black man), he regularly notes that breakdown of the family, not only for blacks but also for whites, is a factor contributing to increased violence and crime, in both black and white communities. But he finds much statistical evidence that this breakdown of the family with its negative effects has been much more common in recent decades (from the 1960s forward) following the embracing and implementation of liberal policies. Prior to this, blacks were rioting less and were more likely to have two-parent households. Sowell makes the case that liberal policies have not been helping blacks or whites. For an example of Sowell’s work, check out his recent article titled, The Inconvenient Truth about Ghetto Communities’ Social Breakdown.
I fully agree with Mr. Blow when he writes that under certain conditions all human beings are “capable of primal, animalistic violence.” As a Christian, I recognize the fact of universal sin. This means Christians should especially be willing to examine their own hearts, to see if prejudice or other sin lurks there. But I’m not sure this means one should rummage around for evidence of sin within where it does not seem to exist. Such as simply using the word “thugs.” What a sin!