When Hate Crimes Don’t Matter

On a Saturday afternoon in late March, middle-aged Charles Edward Turner walked into a McDonald’s in downtown Pittsburgh, tackled a 12-year-old boy, and stabbed him in the neck with a box cutter. 

It took three family members to free the boy of Turner, who resisted being held down by shoving and biting one of them on the bicep, spilling blood in the fast-food restaurant. The family had stopped by for a quick bite after the diabetic boy’s blood sugar fell low. As the family’s everyday outing turned into a chaotic scene of blood and violence, they found themselves fighting for his life. 

By the time police arrived, Turner had managed to get outside the restaurant. “White n——,” “white devils,” he shouted as officers and witnesses tried to get him under control. Turner fought with officers, striking one in the face, kicking and punching another, hurling racial slurs. According to the criminal complaint, he kept brawling with police even at the station house, kicking an officer and calling all the rest “white devils,” “rapists,” “white n——,” and “white satan.” 

Turner is black, and what little we know of the incident strongly suggests his victims were white. Investigators said they do not believe Turner and the boy knew each other—as if that would make the incident any less depraved. The 51-year-old faces charges of attempted homicide, assault, and resisting arrest. For many observers, this has elements of a hate crime, just not the kind you’re supposed to notice. 

Another Summer of Blood and Fire?

Thankfully, the boy survived, although not before being listed in critical condition as a result of the injuries sustained from Turner’s assault. This story went more or less unnoticed, in part, because the nation’s racialized gaze is fixated on the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who stands accused of killing George Floyd in the course of arresting him last May. The case hangs like the sword of Damocles over the nation’s head. Implied in the verdict is the answer to the question of whether or not Americans will suffer through another wave of riots. Some, however, are more explicit.

“Is protecting this piece of trash Derek Chauvin worth spending 27 million dollar payouts, tens of BILLIONS of dollars in damage around the country, causing injury and loss of life for other cops during protests?” tweeted Black Lives Matter sympathizer Tariq Nasheed on March 29. A few days later, Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that many in Minneapolis are “on edge” about the outcome of the Chauvin trial: “We have seen justice not delivered in our community for many years.”

Put plainly, Nasheed and Omar are threatening Americans that if they do not get the verdict they want, the country will burn for defending the “systemic racism” supposedly at fault for Floyd’s death. 

The obvious difference between the Turner and Floyd incidents is that one received far more coverage than the other: the media does not like stories with black attackers. Most importantly, the Turner incident is distinct because it more closely approximates the reality of race crime in America,  whereas Floyd’s represents a fiction of racial terror. 

Turner slashed a child’s neck, bit another person, kicked and punched several police officers—and yet he lives and breathes. It’s difficult to read Turner’s story and not come away thinking that everyone involved went to great pains, at great risk to themselves, to avoid killing him. That, according to the Black Lives Matter narrative, shouldn’t have happened and, indeed, never happens. But it’s actually much closer to the norm than the Floyd incident. “It isn’t average when a police officer casually kneels on someone’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds,” as Harvard professor Roland G. Fryer Jr. put it.

“Our analysis tells us what happens on average,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal. Analyzing data from across the United States, Fryer’s research team did not find racial differences in officer-involved shootings. “Our data come from localities in California, Colorado, Florida, Texas and Washington state and contain accounts of 1,399 police shootings at civilians between 2000 and 2015.” Also, he notes, “from Houston only in those same years, we had reports describing situations in which gunfire might have been justified by department guidelines but the cops didn’t shoot.” 

Good Data vs. the BLM Narrative

According to Fryer, the Houston Police Department offers the most comprehensive set of officer-involved shooting data. “For this reason, we contacted HPD to help construct a data set of police-civilian interactions in which lethal force may have been justified,” he added. “If we had the data from other cities, we would definitely use it.” That key piece of data—when lethal force is justified yet withheld—is excluded from popular online databases, such as the Washington Post’s. 

“No matter how we analyzed the data, we found no racial differences in shootings overall, in any city in particular, or in any subset of the data,” Fryer wrote. These findings contradicted his expectations—expectations laced with an emotional charge. “I have grappled with these results for years as I witnessed videos of unmistakable police brutality against black men. How can the data tell a story so different from what we see with our eyes?”

It can feel like a Chomskyan cliché to blame the media for weaving a blindfold of consensus over our eyes, and doing it so often seems to dull the sting of the accusation—but it’s true. In 2017, the Journal of Interpersonal Violence published a study that found that the “perpetuation of potentially inaccurate stereotypes not only misguides future research on [mass shootings], but also shapes the social construction of mass murder.” It’s not something as simple as a lie; these social constructs have far-reaching consequences that affect the lives of millions. “Although mass murders account for less than 0.2% of all U.S. homicides annually, their impact on government policies is disproportionately large due to public concern,” the authors noted. 

The implications of that study extend beyond gun violence. Professional verbalists shape and drive racial grievance narratives, downplaying, justifying, and ignoring violence against white Americans. Had the boy Turner attacked died, there would be no vigils, no marches, no riots, no wall-to-wall media coverage. Politicians would not have kneeled in Kente cloth, as congressional Democrats did, nor would there be a “Platinum Plan” for needy whites.

The underlying argument of Black Lives Matter is that America is fundamentally evil. That’s half true: America’s ruling intellectual elites are evil.

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About Pedro Gonzalez

Pedro Gonzalez is associate editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture and an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He publishes the weekly Contra newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @emeriticus.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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