Read the comments to the article below - the masses have awoken and will no longer tolerate PC anti-racist censorship.
A dozen or so teenage males went on the prowl near North Michigan Avenue in Chicago's toniest shopping district. They attacked five people, ages 20 to 68. Their loot included a backpack, a wallet, a bike, an iPad, a BlackBerry and an iPod Touch. The cops quickly arrested five alleged assailants, at least three of them from the South Side, and vowed to find the rest.
If you've followed the story — and who hasn't? — there's another fact that you also know, but it's one you haven't read in the Tribune or seen explicitly stated by most of the official media: The young men were black.
"Shame on you and the Chicago Tribune for your politically correct crap when doing these type of stories," one reader emailed several Tribune writers. "This is a diverse city and when you don't physically describe them, we don't know who to protect ourselves from."
I've omitted the portion of his note that referred to "them" in ugly language.
Another reader wrote: "I can't imagine that if a gang of white teenagers went to the South Side of Chicago and began attacking African-Americans including a 68-year-old that the race card would be left out of your coverage. ... I see a media double standard here."
So why would a news organization avoid a fact? This fact?
It's a reasonable question, even if many of the people asking it on Internet comment boards have wrapped it up in irrational, irresponsible venom.
I'm ambivalent about the omission of the attackers' race in the news accounts, but I think I would have decided to leave it out too.
As an editor pointed out when I asked about it, the crimes don't appear to be racially motivated. There's no sign the criminals picked victims because they were of a certain race. They picked them because they had certain stuff.
"People see it as a media conspiracy," he said of the decision to leave out their race. "It's a media quandary."
Here's the quandary, for editors, for cops, for all of us:
Race alone doesn't predict or explain behavior. Just because this mob was young and black hardly means that all young, black people in groups are a violent mob. Knowing the race of these attackers is no form of protection.
And yet race is an aspect of what happened Saturday night.
It's a piece of the story simply because we notice. Young men from poor black neighborhoods create mayhem in a wealthy, predominantly white, touristed neighborhood? In the image capital of this historically segregated city? Of course we notice. By "we," I mean everybody.
A friend recounts talking about the attacks with two of her friends. All three are black. One of their first thoughts was: "Oh my God, are they black kids?"
My friend wondered about their race because she worried about how their acts will reflect on all the good black kids.
The mother of one of the accused attackers noticed the racial aspect too. The Sun-Times quoted her as saying bails would have been lower if the crimes were on the South or West sides.
"If it's black-on-black crime," she said, "nobody cares."
So, yes, the attackers were black. We notice. But how to measure the relevance of the fact?
As my friend pointed out, recalling the words of the African-American writer Toni Morrison, "Once we know the race, what else do we know?"
The answer? Not as much as any single word — black, white, other — may make us think we do