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September 9, 2013

LYONS: Examining conversations about race

When people call for a national “conversation” about race, what they really have in mind is a lecture. Sometimes President Obama is among them. So at the expense of alienating critical race theorists, some heresy: If the president wants to understand why he heard car door locks clicking as he walked down the street, he should study those two appalling homicides in Duncan, Okla., and Spokane, Wash., that Fox News is beating the drums about.

Yeah, yeah. I know. Fox, Rush Limbaugh and the rest are race-baiting. It’s what they do. “Fox News Desperately Searches For The White Trayvon Martin,” is how Media Matters put it. The ever-reliable Salon informed readers about “The Right’s Black Crime Obsession.”

Both publications laid down the liberal party line: that what Salon condescendingly called the “conservative cri de coeur” about the trio of Oklahoma teenagers who gunned down an Australian baseball player jogging through their neighborhood was essentially phony. Local police saw no racial motive. (Never mind that one of the two African-American perps posted this on Twitter: “90 (percent) of white ppl are nasty. #HATETHEM.”)

Of course local cops saw no racial motive in the Trayvon Martin killing either, but hold that thought.

There’s also the case of Delbert “Shorty” Belton, an 88-year-old World War II veteran mugged in Spokane by two black teenagers who stole his wallet and beat him to death. The victim’s family has understandably resisted attempts to turn Belton’s death into racial symbolism. No less an authority than the New York Times’ Timothy Egan — for whom I have great respect — lamented how quickly the crime “went from an all-too-common tale of urban violence to a politicized narrative and magnet for racists.”

“It is much easier to incite racial fear than to try to examine the mechanics of evil,” Egan explained. “Yes, blacks commit a disproportionate amount of the homicides in this country, and are disproportionate among the victims. Is that because of their race?”

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