Shaina Perry remembers the punch to her face, blood streaming from a cut over her eye, her backpack with her asthma inhaler, debit card and cellphone stolen, and then the laughter.
"They just said 'Oh, white girl bleeds a lot,' " said Perry, 22, who was attacked at Kilbourn Reservoir Park over the Fourth of July weekend.
Though Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn noted Tuesday that crime is colorblind, he called the Sunday night looting of a convenience store near the park and beatings of a group of people who had gone to the park disturbing, outrageous and barbaric.
Police would not go quite as far as others in connecting the events; Flynn said several youths "might" be involved in both.
"We're not going to let any group of individuals terrorize or bully any of our neighborhoods," Flynn said.
Perry was among several who were injured by a mob they said beat and robbed them and threw full beer bottles while making racial taunts. The injured people were white; the attackers were African-American, witnesses said.The second occurred just last night, at the Wisconsin State Fair:
Witnesses told WTMJ-AM (620) that dozens to hundreds of young black people were beating white people as they left the fair late Thursday night. Patrice Harris, a spokeswoman for the fair, said a police alert she was given indicated four people were hurt.
"It looked like they were just going after white guys, white people," Norb Roffers of Wind Lake told WTMJ. He said he left the State Fair entrance near the corner of S. 84th St. and W. Schlinger Ave. in West Allis.
One eyewitness, a concession worker who works near the midway area, told the Journal Sentinel that large groups of African-American youths ran through the midway area, knocking over young children and adults, disrupting midway rides and tearing signs up.
"I have never seen anything like it," the worker said. "It was mob mentality."Now, I'm not interested in the double-standard question that many will ask: what if white kids did this to black people? Wouldn't it be a huge story? Blah, blah, blah. But, of course it would, and rightly so, because, lest we forget, we do have a history in America of lynch mobs, and, while these new incidents are vile, no one has gotten killed. Yet, anyway.
No, what I want to ask is.... why? Why are black kids doing this?
I would like to chalk this up to summer heat; or youth; or the prevalence of cell-phones as a way of communicating with large groups of people and organizing them into flash mobs; or boredom; or lack of parental supervision or involvement; or the lack of summer jobs; or poverty. But lots of white kids are poor; lots of Hispanic kids don't have summer jobs; lots of kids of all stripes come from divorced or single-mother homes where there aren't fathers around; most kids don't have summer jobs; all kids have cell phones nowadays; and all of them are hot and bored in the summer. But I don't hear about white kids in mobs beating up black people; or Hispanics; or Hmongs; or any other group.
So what is it about black kids that is making them join mobs to beat white random people?
As sorry as I am to say this, I think it's in the nature of what we've been taught for the past sixty years or so. We've been taught as a culture that racism against blacks is wrong; we've been taught our history of slavery and Jim Crow and segregation; we've been taught about MLK, etc. Because of that, racism to most of us has become taboo, and rightly so. But that teaching, while a good thing, has had an awful side effect. While the rest of the culture has grown increasingly uncomfortable with racism, the black community* appears to have become more and more comfortable with reverse racism. They've been taught so long in their homes and schools and churches (Rev. Wright, anyone?) that they and they alone are the victims of white racism that they've come to accept as a matter of course a mirror image of the very racism that they supposedly opposed. They think of white people as the "Other" nowadays a lot more than white people think of black people as the "Other." And when you dehumanize people by thinking of them as fundamentally different than you, you can do anything to them.
I wish I were wrong but I don't think I am.
* At least a small part of it. The tragedy of incidents like this is, of course, that the huge number of good black kids (and I've met a lot of them coaching Little League) who are friends with kids of all races and who wouldn't do something like the wilding incidents described here in a million years can get tarred as hooligans because of the actions of the few. I grieve for our friends and teammates Khalil and Tevin and Jaron who now, when they go to a place like State Fair, will get evil eyes from people who, if they just knew them and talked to them, would realize what beautiful kids they are.