A Random Act of Violence

On Sunday, May 23, at around 4 p.m., I took the Q train from Brooklyn to Manhattan. My Q didn’t take its ordinary route across the Manhattan Bridge, which, as it crosses the East River separating the boroughs, offers spectacular views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the glass and steel monoliths of Lower Manhattan’s world-famous financial district. Instead, my train took the alternate route, winding through downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, worming its way along the underground R train track. 

Beyond seeing something about “an investigation at Canal Street” on my transit app, I didn’t know the reason for the detour until I got a text from my daughter while I was still in transit: “Making sure you weren’t shot on the Q train,” it read.

Just a few hours earlier, at 11:45 a.m., Daniel Enriquez, a 48-year-old Park Slope resident who had worked for nine years in the global investment research division of Goldman Sachs, a child of Mexican immigrants with a master’s degree in finance from NYU, had also taken the Q train from Brooklyn into Manhattan. Enriquez, who was on his way to a Sunday brunch, had taken the subway to avoid Uber’s surge pricing on weekends, his longtime partner explained

I generally eschew Ubers, Lyfts, taxis, and other cars, preferring to take the subway at all hours. I like the train’s rhythmic rumble, the regular opening and closing of doors, the changing complexion of passengers filing in and out as we transition from the Russian-speaking reaches of South Brooklyn on the city’s Atlantic coast, to the Hasidic Jewish enclave in Borough Park, the Chinese and Mexican sections of Sunset Park, the exclusive zip codes of Park Slope, the bustling chaos of downtown Brooklyn, the business districts and tourist hubs of downtown and Midtown Manhattan and transferring on to the jaw-dropping diversity of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, Queens—where immigrants from every part of East and South Asia and Latin America mix and mingle under elevated 7-train tracks, while underground, the E and F express trains stop and zoom on—past the Bukharan Jewish sections of Rego Park, toward the end of the line in the West Indian wonderland of Jamaica. 

As I sit and read, peeking at the many faces and bodies settling in for the ride, huddling shoulder and shoulder or rushing along, I feel—in a way I never would feel in an enclosed private vehicle, tuned in mainly to the frustrations of stop-and-go traffic sputtering overhead—like a true citizen of this uniquely American city. 

Enriquez’s Q train, unlike mine, had taken its usual route over the bridge. The train made it across the bridge intact, but Enriquez did not. In what onlookers described as a purely random act of violence, he had been shot in the chest at close range by a gunman who had been pacing up and down the train’s last car. By the time the train pulled into Canal Street, the first stop on the Manhattan side of the river and the stop where I had boarded a Brooklyn-bound Q train earlier that morning, Enriquez was in critical condition. Another passenger pulled the emergency brake. The gunman fled from the train. Enriquez would be pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital soon thereafter.

The shooter, described by other passengers at the time as a heavy-set, dark-skinned man with a beard, was believed to be captured in this image. After a manhunt, career criminal Andrew Abdullah, with 19 prior arrests for a variety of violent and nonviolent offenses, was taken into police custody a few days later and charged with Enriquez’s murder. Among other things, Abdullah had been charged for stealing a vehicle in April, but was freed despite prosecutors’ request that he be held on $15,000 bail. 

While many details may yet emerge in the coming days or weeks, one thing is clear: there is no chance this incident—in which a one man was killed but likely did not involve a racial motive or any sort of incendiary manifesto—will get anything like the histrionic, wall-to-wall, nationwide press coverage that was mustered up in response to the recent racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo that left 10 people dead. 

Certainly, Enriquez’s senseless murder will be lost in the shadow of the massacre in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 children and two adults dead. There will be no probing examinations of any high-profile political issue of national import, akin to white supremacy or the “great replacement” theory. Fingers of blame will not be pointed at Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson, Fox News, the Republican Party, every Republican voter or anyone other than the shooter and, at best, the politicians who enabled this unleashing of criminality in our urban centers. 

Except for those close to him, Enriquez will likely be forgotten. He will become a mere statistic.

That is unfortunate. But more than unfortunate, it is ironic. According to an Anti-Defamation League report on murder and extremism, 333 people in the United States have been killed by domestic extremists between 2012 and 2021, with 73 percent of the perpetrators being white-identity extremists. This means that an average of 24 people per year are killed in the name of white supremacy. That is 24 needless tragedies, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to the roughly 155,000 homicides over the course of the same period, an average of around 15,500 per year and including a sharp spike of some 30 percent between 2019 and 2020, a year punctuated by anti-cop race riots and resulting lawlessness, with an additional 5 percent jump in 2021. 

Despite comprising under 13 percent of the U.S. population, blacks commit approximately 50 percent of homicides in America. As measured between 2015 and 2019, this includes 89 percent of homicides with black victims, 16 percent of homicides in which whites or Hispanics are victims, and 18 percent of all other homicides; whites, meanwhile, are responsible for 5 percent of homicides with black victims. Of the 32,863 total homicides reflected in this smaller data set (reflecting homicides where the race of the killer is known), approximately 7,000, or 21 percent, were interracial, and of these interracial homicides, approximately 3,000 (43 percent) were committed by black perpetrators, while white perpetrators committed approximately 1,700 (24 percent) of these interracial murders. 

If these same rates of interracial violence are projected across the entire 10-year span from 2012 to 2021, blacks would be the perpetrators of approximately half (77,500) of the 155,000 homicides committed over the course of the last decade, including around 14,000 where the victim is non-black (i.e., 43 percent of the interracial murders among those 155,000)—or 1,400 per year. 

And so we arrive at this stark comparison: each year, an average of 24 black people are killed by white supremacists and each year an average of 1,400 non-black victims are killed by blacks in the kinds of sad incidents of which Mr. Enriquez’s death is the latest example. The question of which one of these types of homicides is the bigger issue should be rhetorical.

In a recent story for The Atlantic, America’s foremost racial provocateur, Ibram X. Kendi, plays on a trope that has become nearly a cliché in our demented contemporary racial politics: he perpetuates the myth that black people take their lives into their hands every time they go outside into spaces dominated by their white tormentors. Kendi speaks of “the ubiquity of racist violence,” calls “life itself” “the greatest white privilege,” tells us that “[b]lack people are facing the double terror of racist policy and racist violence” and that these “[v]ictims of racism are being mass murdered again and again” before invoking the first-person plural pronoun to end on an absurd beatification of an entire race: 

Black people have never wavered in our efforts to abolish the double terror, have never wavered in our struggle to live, have never wavered in allying with other people facing similar racist terrors, have never wavered in the human pursuit of joy, of peace, of beauty. And we never will.

Here is the irony, one that we would readily recognize upon even a moment’s reflection if the big lie that black people are eternal victims in America did not prevent us from seeing the truth: Except insofar as irrational fear is stoked in them by the racial grievance industry, black people do not live in terror of racist violence in the 2020s. It is, rather, much of America, including the larger portion of black America that is law-abiding, that lives in terror of black violence and black crime. 

These are difficult words to hear in 2022. They are difficult words to write. But write them and hear them we must, if we are to grapple with the reality in which we actually live, if we are to solve problems that actually exist, not those about which delusional racial crusaders or profiteering race-hustlers would have us fantasize. 

In the fantasy, we are told by Joe Biden and his uncritical media cheerleaders that the fringe phenomenon of white supremacy “is the most lethal threat to our homeland today.” In our reality, the problem we face is cities degenerating before our very eyes, law enforcement hamstrung by race-baiting politicians, lawlessness and disorder proliferating, drug-addicted bums splayed out in our streets, urinating and defecating in our street corners and on public transit, and an explosion in crime, both violent and otherwise, forcing more and more of us who live in great American cities like New York to look perpetually over our shoulders, and walk around in fear. 

In this city, where blacks make up 24 percent of the population, they account for 48 percent of the arrests. Whites, who make up 43 percent of the city, make up just 12 percent of those arrested. The media would have us believe this is racism at work. We—not merely nominal residents going about their day-to-day lives in the Hamptons and beyond, but those of us who walk these streets, who ride these subways and buses, who see the complexions of those jumping our transit turnstiles and shoplifting from our stores and befouling our public spaces in ways great and small—know that such tales of “racism” are just convenient outs, blinders we don to shield ourselves from confronting uncomfortable truths. 

It is the very essence of racism, in fact, to believe that the disproportionate nature of black crime is due to some inherent property—whether genetic or otherwise immutable—with which black people in America are singularly afflicted. The causes of disproportionate criminality are complex and manifold. They include poverty, and they include culture, and these, in turn, have their own fiendishly complex origins not amenable to simplistic explanations. 

But one thing we cannot afford to do is to refuse to see the problem itself, to imagine it away, to indulge in the luxury of having our media and our politicians regale us in what, to too many of us today, are comforting just-so stories of white supremacy on the move. We cannot expend our scarce resources in a fight against illusory demons when very real ones are on the loose, wreaking havoc among us. It is not racist to arrive at this recognition.

The mass shooting in Buffalo, though to be sure a genuine tragedy, is also a dangerously big and distracting story, splashy and spectacular and full of opportunities for unscrupulous reporters and commentators to weave a too-precious tapestry made of personal political agendas and memes like “the great replacement theory.” The mass shooting in Texas, another horrific atrocity, undoubtedly will yield its own similar political narrative, with America’s gun lobby being the likely target. 

The random act of violence that ended Daniel Enriquez’s life on May 23 has much less to offer us in the way of political hubbub and front-page headlines. And yet his is the story we need to be telling and his is the name we need to be saying. 

Yes, it could’ve been me, just a few hours behind him on that Sunday, on a fatal journey across the bridge on the Q train. But it could have been so many of us, any of the 4.3 million people who ride the city’s subways each day or the many, many more who walk its crowded streets. That is the nature of a random act of violence, sans reason, sans manifesto. 

I responded promptly to my daughter’s concerned text to me that day. “No, it wasn’t me,” I was able to assure her. How many times will I, will any of us, have to assure our loved ones that it wasn’t us before we realize that it was us, that it is us, every one of us, so long as we must send such assurances even as, our hearts skipping a beat, we think to ourselves, there but for the grace of God go I?

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About Alexander Zubatov

Alexander Zubatov is a practicing attorney specializing in general commercial litigation. He is also a practicing writer specializing in general non-commercial poetry, fiction, essays, and polemics that have been featured in a wide variety of publications. He lives in the belly of the beast in New York, New York. He can be found on Twitter @Zoobahtov.

Photo: (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)