I am affiliated with a large university. Every time a crime happens on/near my campus (if the victim is a university affiliate), the campus security department sends an email to all affiliates with a description of the crime and a description/photo of the perpetrator(s). I have been affiliated with this university for over a decade and have received several such emails a month. In every single instance, the perpetrator(s) are young black males. My question: How do I avoid fearing/stereotyping young black males when I am out on the street? Most of these perpetrators have not been caught. Some of the crimes are quite violent.This sets off a long discussion, with points made that
- readers surmise that this campus must be Columbia, or Yale, or U. of Chicago, or U. of Illinois Chicago, or Penn, or Northwestern, or Loyola. A few readers slyly imply that it's somewhat futile to try to identify which unique campus has this unique problem.
- that white male fraternity boys commit a lot of crimes on campus (although if the Urban Baby reader who wrote in is getting black out drunk at fraternity parties, then she and her Urban Baby have a whole 'nother level of problems);
- "You don't know what you're talking about. Black people are more likely to be charged and convicted for crimes. This does not mean they commit more crimes. You need to work on your critical thinking."
- "Keep in mind, a white guy shoot and killed 27 people two weeks ago."
- "And another white guy shot up a mall just before that. And another white guy shot up a movie theater a little while ago."
- "But how about the Midwest and Kentucky? Plenty of scary white people there. You seem really uninformed."
- "This post made me think of Sandusky..."
- "How about all those white priests! Just saying."Anyway, I've always wanted to turn this discussion around and discuss how non-criminal black males signal to white people on the street that they aren't violent. A lot of white people would probably like to stereotype more accurately, but our society makes almost zero effort to educate well-intentioned whites in how to do it.
Brent Staples of the New York Times Editorial Board wrote a famous essay about how filled with rage it made him when a woman walking alone down the street at night worried that he might be an Angry Black Man. As he got older, he decided, though, that it would be best for all concerned if he tried to alleviate tension proactively by whistling selections from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. This essay is now cited frequently to demonstrate the terrible cross black men must bear: for example, a recent book by Claude Steele was entitled Whistling Vivaldi.
My guess is that a large fraction of younger black men like to send clues that they aren't thugs. For example, in the 1990s, after Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" movie came out, it seemed like wearing glasses became a bit of black male shorthand for "I'm black and I've been to college." But, I don't keep up with that sort of thing as much anymore.
And it's difficult for general clueless white people to look up on the Internet signifiers of black harmlessness without being able to read way between the lines. You could probably watch a whole lot of Key & Peele shows and make up lists of class markers among blacks, but anybody who wrote up a table for the straight-forward education of well-meaning whites would get in trouble.
Moreover, blacks police blacks who don't act thug enough. For example, Washington Redskins' Heisman trophy-winning star rookie QB Robert Griffin III got dumped on for not being black enough, even though he looks about 98% black, and so far seems like a credit to any race. So, if nice white people started to figure out what the signals were, blacks would razz the ones who showed them, making them unpopular.
Moreover, white people love to ironically espouse thuggish black fads like hoodies, a sort of KKK hood for convenience store robbers.
Mexicans have equivalent thug fashions, but, fortunately, white people find Mexican narco fashions, in the rare moments when they notice them, retarded-looking:
Notice that when that Mexican-American lady-singer, Jenny Rivera, died in a plane crash in Mexico this month, it was only slowly noticed by America's white media that she was a huge star in narcocorridas. It turns out her father is a big name as a producer in that field.
From the LA Times:
Jenni Rivera, the Mexican American pop music singer who died in an airplane crash this weekend, came from a family that wielded an enormous influence on Mexican popular culture in Los Angeles.
Her father, Pedro Rivera, is a pioneering entrepreneur among the business class that grew from, and grew strong in, the Mexican immigrant consumer market in the cities of southeast Los Angeles County.
Among his achievements, Pedro Rivera was among the first to release the records of Chalino Sanchez, a skinny young immigrant from Paramount, who, in death, would become the godfather of the Mexican narcocorrido or narco-ballad.
Pedro Rivera formed Cintas Acuario from a Long Beach storefront. The company rode the immense narcocorrido wave that followed Sanchez’s slaying in 1992 with a series of anthology cassettes — Corridos Perrones — with bands and singers posing with AK-47s, flashy cars and songs suggesting the musicians’ drug-mob connections.
That's all news to me, as it is to white people everywhere. There are practically no SWPLs in the United States who are into narcocorridas, not even ironically. When some rapper gets shot, everybody at Brown U. swoons from the exciting tragedy of it all, but nobody cares about the Mexican equivalent. It's not that white people were never interested in this kind of music. For example, Marty Robbins' El Paso was a huge hit in 1959. But, they moved on.
On the whole, it's good for Mexicans that white people don't find them cool.