Steven G. Percifield--author

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Steven G. Percifield  Author and consultant
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Racism: alive and well
in Chicago flash mobs?



You may have seen it on national news; a “flash mob” as it was called by the Chicago press. Not one of the currently-popular “flash dances” or “flash choruses” where a group of seemingly unrelated passers-by suddenly begin a coordinated performance in a highly visible public place. Rather, this was apparently a coordinated attack in which a large group of seemingly unrelated teenagers and young men suddenly singled out victims, descended upon them without warning, beat and robbed (or attempted to rob) them of their I-phones and other valuables.

The victims, three of them in fairly rapid sequence, were Caucasian Americans and a Japanese tourist. The perpetrators were all black. The attackers, rather than operating under the cover of darkness on deserted street corners, carried out their crimes in broad daylight in the heart of the Chicago loop, amongst crowds of high-end shoppers and well-to-do businessmen.

It’s the type of senseless violence which happens daily in the seedier areas of Chicago. In many such cases, it is black-on-black crime confined to predominantly black neighborhoods.  Only this time, it struck at the largely white heart of Chicago.

The outrage from City Hall and the press was predictable and quick in coming. Such violence and such savagery would not be tolerated. The manhunt (and boy-hunt) began immediately and within what seemed just hours, the first of the perpetrators had been gathered in and were cooling their heels in jail. That the “perps” would finger their accomplices was a given.

But with indignation over the crimes hanging like smog in the summer air, perceptions of the events as reported by Chicago newspapers, quickly divided along deep racial fault-lines—the types that threaten an earthquake when the separate plates move in opposite directions.

Essentially, there were two positions taken by many Chicagoans, journalists and laymen alike, and they were largely taken along racial lines:

1.      THE WHITE VIEW: This had been a heinous, racially motivated attack, detrimental to the image and economy of Chicago. It could not and would not be tolerated. An example needed to be made of those arrested to deter repeat performances. They needed to be locked up for a long time.

2.      THE BLACK VIEW: This is the same type of violence that plagues the black ghettos on a daily basis. The only difference is, when it happens there, as black-on-black crime confined to predominantly black neighborhoods, none of the Chicago power elite (read: the Office of the Mayor, the Police Department or the wealthy white folks in the center-city) seem to care. Now that THEIR turf has been threatened, it is suddenly an issue. Why hadn’t it been before?

Sadly, there is credibility to both disparate positions.

What is even sadder, is that such crimes are ever committed irrespective of the races of the victims or the perpetrators.

What is saddest of all, though, is that in this “enlightened” day and age, our considerations are still so dependent upon our race and the race of those we’re considering.