Are Liberal MSNBC Commentators Trying to Get More Black Teenagers Shot?

Are Liberal MSNBC Commentators Trying to Get More Black Teenagers Shot?

Mike Males, 11/28/2014

Hours after the St. Louis grand jury refused to indict a white Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson for shooting unarmed black teenager Michael Brown to death in August, liberal MSNBC commentators were depicting Ferguson’s black teenagers as unruly and violent… while simultaneously deploring the negative image of black teenagers as contributing to Brown’s killing.

MSNBC commentators Christopher Hayes and Trymaine Lee characterized the crowd that gathered in Ferguson on Monday night (All In, 11/24/2014) after the non-indictment as “teenagers” and “angry.” Lee depicted the violence and burning of several buildings as an “expression by young people” and the “lack of control over young people… pouring out of housing projects” adjoining Ferguson’s main street. MSNBC’s Craig Melvin blamed the violence on local “14 and 15 year-olds” out to cause “trouble.”

How MSNBC reporters ascertained the ages, addresses, and moods of individual troublemakers in a crowd Hayes estimated at 200 to 400 in the dark was not revealed. Contradicting their speculations, identifications of 106 arrestees charged with arson, assault, burglary, stolen property, and disorderly conduct in the disturbances showed just 20 were teenagers; 59 were in their 20s, and 27 were 30 and older. The oldest was 68; the youngest, 17; none were 14 or 15. Only 13 were from Ferguson.

By the best evidence, the large majority of rioters, arsonists, and looters were out-of-town opportunists who typically descend on disaster-afflicted communities, not local kids. Yet, MSNBC commentators made no reference to the arrest data.

Worse, Lee persisted Tuesday (MSNBC, 11/25) in blaming Monday night’s “ugly situation” of violence, burning, and looting on “disaffected youth” from Ferguson “housing projects.” Lee’s personal bias, voiced weeks ago, held that unlike past generations, today’s young blacks resort to violence instead of peaceful processes.

MSNBC’s depictions of the black-youth horde perpetrating “ugly,” violence and destruction occurred as community leaders were expressing understandable dismay that instances of rioting and burning had overshadowed months of preparations for peaceful demonstrations. To explain this troubling dichotomy, Lee, Melvin, Hayes, and others tacitly invoked a traditional distinction: the respectable black leaders whose reasoned, nonviolent goals were sabotaged by the unruly black-mob underclass labeled as “teenagers” from “housing projects.”

MSNBC’s demonization of black youth is not just an aberration, an unfortunate aping of depictions on right-wing and mainstream media, but a progressive contradiction that simultaneously deplores and avails itself of prejudices toward African Americans by exploiting fear of young people. Politicians, academics, and even the White House regularly distance themselves from the “youth violence” they single out as the scourge. This is not a scientific strategy. FBI reports offenders under age 18 account for less than 9 percent of violent crime and fewer than 4 percent of all homicides; black youth alone would account for perhaps 4 percent of all violent crime and 2 percent of murders.

Ironically, MSNBC’s Lee also complained about “this unnatural fear of black men in this society” – one he had just reinforced. It’s as if progressives believe they can indulge standard bigotry – falsely labeling wrongdoers as members of disfavored populations, imposing collective guilt, generalizing rare events to entire populations, attributing sainthood to one’s own generation, invoking statistical bigotry to blame powerless groups for social problems while exempting the powerful from like scrutiny, etc. – while pretending their bigotries are somehow loftier than those of conservatives. It’s a lie, and time to cut it out.

Here is the starkly encouraging truth: Whatever your age or color, young people today are acting far better than your generation did growing up (or does now). To reduce the “unnatural fear” toward young black men, just cite facts instead of myths to flatter grownup egos.

Analysis by of all available national arrest statistics by race and age (the first are from 1964, the latest from 2013), show that today’s young African Americans have the LOWEST rates for:

  • Arrest for all offenses, lowest rate since 1964 (that is, the lowest ever tabulated);
  • Serious Part I violent and property arrest, lowest ever;
  • Violent crime arrest, lowest since 1965;
  • Homicide arrest, lowest ever;
  • Homicide death, lowest since 1966;
  • Rape arrest, lowest ever;
  • Assault arrest, lowest ever.

Next week, we will release on CJCJ another set of astonishing findings on youth crime trends that powerfully affirm progressive ideals and hold cataclysmic implications for criminal justice reform. It is past time progressives began celebrating genuine affirmations of their ideals instead of concocting fearsome narratives about young people that contribute to dangerous consequences.

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