Friday, August 31, 2007

Craig’s a Liar from the ‘Hood’ Too

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Minneapolis airport police Sgt. Dave Karsnia has taken some heat for maybe being a little too zealous in putting the collar on so many guys that get their sexual kicks off with other men in public restrooms at the Minneapolis airport. But most say he is a diligent, upstanding, young cop that does his duty as he sees it. So it’s curious that Karsnia lectured Idaho Senator Larry Craig about lying and added that that’s what he’d expect from the guy we get out of the ‘hood.’ Now Karsnia is confronting a respected, GOP Senator on his lewd act, and his lame defense of it, but why did the comparison of Craig to the guy from the ‘hood’ so easily roll out of his mouth. It didn’t seem to fit. Or did it?

From what’s on the tape, Craig didn’t dispute the characterization. And in the tortuous public gyrations he’s gone through to try and explain what he did or didn’t do in the men’s bathroom, he made no reference to the reprimand. But way should he? There’s absolutely no way that Craig would ever compare himself to a guy from the hood. But could he be? The answer is yes and no. Legions of white men, and that includes wealthy, prominent, high positioned white men, have been indicted and jailed for lying to judges, grand juries, congressional committees, FBI and Justice Department investigators. Over the years, the white men that run government agencies from the White House to the FBI have been repeatedly caught in lie after lie to cover-up their misdeeds or blatant criminal wrongdoing. So it’s no stretch to compare men such as Craig to the guy from the ‘hood.’

The problem with that and here’s the no part, the comparison insults the mythical guy from the ‘hood. But he is very real to Karsnia because he fits in snugly public beliefs, or to be more precise, stereotypes about the ‘hood.’ The stereotype fits even more snugly when it’s jammed next to negative public perceptions and fears of black crime. When some young blacks turned to gangs, guns and drugs, and terrorized their communities, much of the press titillated the public with endless features on the crime-prone, crack-plagued, blood-stained streets of the ghetto.
TV action news crews and cop pseudo reality shows have turned that stereotype into a major growth industry, stalking black neighborhoods and filming busts for nightly news. The explosion of gangster rap and the spate of Hollywood ghetto films have convinced many Americans that the thug lifestyle was the black lifestyle. They have ghastly visions of the guy from the ‘hood’ heading for their neighborhoods next.

This racially disfigured view of blacks as inherent crooks and liars doesn’t change even when the actual crime figures don’t square with that perception. A few years ago researchers at the University of Wisconsin actually compared white views of neighborhood crime with actual figures from police reports and victimization surveys in three cities - Chicago, Baltimore and Seattle. They found huge a gap between public perception of the crime threat and the reality of it. The perceived severity of the crime problem fluctuated with the number of young African-American men nearby - more so than with any other neighborhood factor, including the actual crime rate.

The skewed perception of crime and blacks has also deeply colored how judges and juries perceive and decide criminal cases when the defendant is as Karsnia put it a guy from the ‘hood.’ A 2003 Penn State University study found that many whites are likely to associate pictures of blacks with violent crimes, and in some cases where crimes were not committed by blacks they misidentified the perpetrator as an African-American.

The prevailing notion of who’s a crook and a liar and who isn’t has also spilled over into the job market. In 2005 Researchers at Princeton University surveyed nearly 1,500 private employers in New York City. They found that black men with no criminal records were no more likely to find work than white men with criminal records. In another study of employer attitudes toward minority hiring, some employers didn’t even try too hide the reason they were reluctant or refused to hire the guy from the ‘hood.’ They flatly described blacks as "unskilled," "uneducated," "illiterate." "dishonest," "lacked initiative," "unmotivated," "involved with gangs and drugs," "did not understand work," "unstable," "lacked charm," "had no family values," and were "poor role models."

The last reason they gave for slamming the employment door on blacks was especially apt in relation to Karsnia’s reprimand of Craig. He was righteously offended that a senator could so abuse his name and reputation by stooping to commit a petty criminal act in a men’s restroom. That immediately disqualified him as any kind of fit model for decency. In that instant whether Karsnia knew it or not, and could admit it or not, Craig was the fictional guy from the ‘hood.’

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press and Hispanic Economics New York) in English and Spanish will be out in October.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Poverty Is Still America’s Katrina Shame
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

President Bush and the three top Democrats that want to replace him couldn’t get to New Orleans fast enough this week. The occasion of course was the second anniversary of the Katrina debacle. Predictably, Bush as he’s done in his twelve previous treks to the Gulf since Katrina publicly boasted that he’s done everything humanly possible to get the region back on its feet. He also insisted that much more still must be done and his administration will do it. Just as predictably, his would be replacements Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards just as publicly lambasted Bush’s efforts as hopelessly failed and flawed. And they insisted that there’s no reason to believe that he’ll improve on the anemic effort.

They both missed the real story and tragedy of Katrina, and that’s that the naked face of poverty that shocked the world two years ago remains just as naked and shameful two years later. And Bush and the Democrats are to blame for it. For a few weeks after the shocking scenes of the black poor fleeing for their lives from the floodwaters in New Orleans, Bush and the Democrats talked tough about a full court press on poverty. In that instant, talk of fighting poverty became almost respectable in business, public philanthropy, Congressional and White House circles. In a post Katrina assessment of public opinion on poverty, more Americans agreed that the government should do more to end poverty.

Civil rights leaders, the Congressional Black Caucus, and anti-poverty groups saw an opening and pounded on the Bush administration and Congress to do something about whittling down the ranks of the estimated 35 to 40 million Americans that still wallow in poverty.
That was two years ago. The national soul search about attacking poverty has evaporated faster than a Houdini disappearing trick. The nearly $100 billion that Bush says his administration has shoved out to the states to aid the recovery effort has either been wasted on showy and ineffectual redevelopment, public works reclamation and retrenching projects, inflated construction contracts, or flat out misappropriated (some say stolen). Not one of Bush's anti-poverty proposals from tax breaks and grants for minority and small business to job training and transportation subsidies have been enacted.

Bush deserves to get the blame finger wagged at him for the failure to fully follow through on his rhetoric about aiding the poor. But the Democrat’s hands aren't clean in this either. To his credit, John Edwards has made a credible and courageous effort to sound the warning gong about poverty, even launching a modern-day scaled down version of the old Martin Luther King, Jr.-Lyndon Johnson-Robert F. Kennedy in –the-street and legislative anti-poverty crusade. But he's been about the only Democrat to speak out consistently on poverty, and since he holds no office, he's in the least position among the top Democratic presidential contenders, to do anything about it.

Democratic contenders Obama and Clinton are in the Senate and can and say do much more about poverty than the obligatory photo-op whacks at Bush in New Orleans on the second anniversary of Katrina. But they, like other House and Senate leaders, gave no sign in the year between the first anniversary of Katrina and their trek to the Gulf this year that they were willing to fight for the billions that it would take to enact a comprehensive program to combat poverty. The Congressional Black Caucus was the only group among Democrats that pounded Congress and the Bush administration to spend billions to aid the Gulf poor. But their cry fell on deaf ears. Since then, the Caucus hasn't shown any willingness to renew the fight for the billions it demanded.

The talk about a fresh assault on poverty was dead in the water from the start. While Katrina momentarily increased empathy for the poor, it didn't fundamentally change public attitudes toward the poor. Poverty is regarded as a perplexing, intractable and insoluble problem that government programs can't or even shouldn't cure. In other words, the best cure for poverty is for the poor to get jobs and fend for themselves.

There's not much chance that this will change. Bush will exit the Gulf area quickly after his speech and head back to his Crawford, Texas ranch to continue clearing brush, biking and relaxing. In the weeks and months after that he’ll spend countless, and fruitless more hours trying to sell the Iraq war to Congress and the public. The Democratic contenders will just as quickly exit the area to get back on the campaign trail and spend countless hours hammering Bush and the Republicans for the wasteful war.

The Gulf's poor, meanwhile, will be just as numerous, scattered, dispirited, and forgotten. The talk about waging war on poverty will be tossed back on the political shelf until the third anniversary of Katrina.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press and Hispanic Economics New York) in English and Spanish will be out in October.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Rehabilitation of Michael Vick

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The absolute last person one would expect to cut former Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick the slightest slack is John Goodwin, the manager of dog fighting issues for the Humane Society of the U.S. This is the group that screamed the loudest, longest, and fiercest for Vick’s head. But oddly enough in a media query after Vick admitted his guilt, Goodwin hinted that Vick could do much to undo at least some of the damage to his name by helping federal prosecutors finger other dog fighting rings.

It’s a nice try but it won’t work. In fact, given the way the Humane Society whipped up public rage against Vick, that fawn hope is probably disingenuous anyway. If Vick had information about other dog fight betting rings, sang like a canary to federal investigators about them, served every minute of a maximum stretch in federal prison, the outrage against him would still pulsate the Richter scale.

He could volunteer round the clock at PETA events, camp in front of fur manufacturers with a picket sign, clean kennels at pet shelters and bankroll and appear in ads against animal abuse. It wouldn’t change a thing. The imprint “reprehensible” that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stamped on him and his crime, not to mention the much less charitable epithets that thousands have hurled at him in Internet chat rooms and on sports talk shows would stick tightly in big, bold letters on him.

He’s not just a dog profiteer and torturer. He’s a rich and famous African-American celeb that went bad. When sportswriters, corporate sports product manufacturers, fans, and much of the public instantly tossed the presumption of his innocence out the window, he was fitted for a prison cell before a trial date was set or he copped a plea.

The NAACP Atlanta branch sensed that a mob vendetta against Vick had quickly welled up. It publicly pleaded against rushing to judgment about his guilt and begged that Vick not be permanently barred from the NFL It took much heat for that and drew the inevitable squawk that it was playing the race card. But it understood that in the case of men such as Vick, even when they admit guilt and plead for forgiveness, the words mercy and compassion are alien terms.

One need look no further than the other two Michaels, namely Jackson and Tyson, for proof of that. Even before they set foot in a court, the battle lines instantly formed. They were guilty as sin to thousands, and convictions were expected, even eagerly prayed for, for both. The courtroom play was a mere formality. Whatever public goodwill and fan support they had evaporated faster than a water drop in the Mojave Desert.

They could spend millions and hire legions of pricey publicists, consultants and image makeover specialists and it wouldn’t change one whit the public’s hostility and negative perceptions of them. The bad boy image of both was indelibly plastered on their foreheads by the public. The two Mikes realized that and didn’t even try to thaw the public’s frozen mindset toward them. They mostly kept their mouths shut tried, confined their public appearance in the case of Tyson to the ring, or in the case of Jackson, left the country.

Public revulsion over Vick's crimes and resentment at his fame, wealth and race only partly explain why he’s in a near hopeless spot when it comes to rehabilitating his image. He’s the latest and handiest target for a public sick to death of sports icons and mega celebrities getting kid glove treatment for their misdeeds or outright lawbreaking. The backlash against favored celeb treatment exploded in public outrage at the farce of jail time Paris Hilton initially served, and the equally farcical jail sentences for the other bad behaving girls, Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie.

However, there’s a colossal difference between the anger at them and the anger at the Mike’s and Vick. The party girls will be fawned over on the social circuit, swarmed over by the paparazzi, can resume (in Lohan’s case) a no acting career in movies, will be in hot demand on celebrity gossip TV shows, and can cash in their ill-gotten celebrity with chic magazine photo spreads and book deals. If their name is Martha Stewart they can even be reconfigured into a figure of public and media respectability. That won’t happen with Vick.

Vick will pay and continue to pay two steep prices for his crime. He’ll do jail time, cough up a load in fines and restitution, and be canned indefinitely by the NFL. That price is fair and warranted. The other price he’ll pay is that he’ll be the permanent poster boy for animal abuse and the bad behaving celebrity. That price is questionable.

If given the chance Vick would do whatever he could to get his mug off of that poster. But the mania surrounding him and other rich and celebrated black men that misbehave is just too great to overcome. The office of compassion remains tightly slammed on them. That’s as much society’s shame as it is Vick’s.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press and Hispanic Economics New York) in English and Spanish will be out in October.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Crucifying Michael Vick
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Soon to be former Atlanta Falcons star quarterback Michael Vick never had a chance. The instant word publicly leaked out that he’d be slapped with an indictment by the feds, he could kiss his football cleats good-bye. The indictment was just a formality. Those good government high school civics courses feed us the myth of the little Constitutional admonition innocent until proven guilty. But Vick was tried, convicted and sentenced in the only court that counts in the big money world of sports and celebrity hood, and that’s the court of public opinion.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Falcons owner Arthur Blank heard Senators John Kerry and Robert Byrd lambaste Vick in the Senate, and saw those picket signs, and heard the screams and taunts and jeers from the PETA orchestrated pack outside the Richmond, Virginia courthouse when Vick surrendered. They listened and watched as sports writers and TV commentators angrily denounced Vick. They heard sports talk jocks saber-rattle against Vick on sports shows and fans burn up Internet chat rooms screaming for his head. They watched as Nike and other firms that Vick had endorsement deals with melt away like hot butter. They watched the NAACP issue a tepid and cautious statement pleading against a rush to judgment against him and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference quickly withdraw their invitation for him to appear and be honored at their annual confab. When Vick’s pals fingered him as being knee deep in the dog battering that did it. No pads, scrimmages, training camp, and definitely no games for Vick. If he hadn’t had a bonafide multi-year contract with the Falcons after Goodell barred him from the Falcon’s training camp he wouldn’t have gotten a nickel in pay.

As celebrity athletes go, even the deal that federal prosecutors offered Vick is anything but generous. He won’t wear an ankle bracelet, be allowed to tool around his estate under house watch, and he won’t get a walk around the street probation stint. He’ll do time, and, it may not be in a cushy country club fed prison. Prosecutors tipped that when they said they’d make an object lesson of him that animal abuse won’t be tolerated and will be severely punished. That of course, is bluster, the breeding, training and even killing of dog gladiators won’t grind to a halt, the dozens of magazines that prep the “sport” will continue to do brisk sales, and thousands will continue to toss hefty cash into the ring at the dog matches. Vick will just be a bare footnote to all of that.

However, he is an object lesson but for a far different reason than what the prosecutors had in mind. More often than not, celebs and sports superstars, even black ones, get cut a lot of slack for their boorish, stupid, arrogant acts and misdeeds, and in some cases even criminal behavior. They are after all the repository of the fantasies and delusions of a public and advertisers, sportswriters, and TV executives that are in desperate need of vicarious escape, titillation, excitement and profits. The sports hero fulfills all of that. He or she seduces, strokes, and comforts those fantasies. They are expected to operate above the fray of human problems, and at the same time raise society’s expectation of what’s good and pure. He or she is rewarded handsomely for what he or she does as a fantasy filler, not for who the often terribly flawed person they actually are. That’s a false, phony, and horrible burden to dump on anyone.
Vick had the double misfortune of standing on the rarified perch of the football icon. Football more than any other sport mirrors the best and the worst in American society-- competition, greed, selfishness and violence. Vick typified all of those qualities on and off the field. But he also typified the good side of the sport--cooperation, organization, achievement and heroism. That crept through in his public statement after the announcement was made of a pending plea deal. He talked about respecting the league, taking responsibility for his actions taking, and he apologized to friends and teammates.

Should we feel pity for Michael Vick? Yes and No. No. He did the crime and as the old cliché goes he should do the time. He’ll still have what the average Joe and Jane that yelled their lungs off for him on the field won’t have and that’s memories of the adulation he received from a fawning public, sports writers, and his mega buck contract and lucrative endorsement deals.
Yes. Vick is yet another reminder that sports icons are the fragile creations of an indulgent sports crazed, hero worshipping, and celebrity idolatrous public. When they take a tumble from their lofty perch, those same fans, sportswriters, and league officials that cheered and back-patted their idols turn vicious and unforgiving. They can never cobble the broken pieces of their name and reputation back together again. Vick in the end waved the ugly issues of wealth, race, celebrity hype, fan idolatry, and animal cruelty in the public’s face. Poor Vick, Poor Us.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press and Hispanic Economics New York) in English and Spanish will be out in October.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Newark Slayings Fan Hysteria over Illegal Immigrant Crime Wave

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

When Newark Mayor Cory Booker learned that the alleged shooters in the execution killing of three black college students were illegal immigrants, he did the responsible thing. He did not finger point a porous border and lax law enforcement for allegedly letting so many supposed violent prone illegal immigrants slip into the country as the cause of the killings. Booker may have said and did the right thing as a responsible public official, and in this case a black elected official, who did not want to arouse public passions any more than they already were over the murders. He certainly did not want to inflame the always fragile tensions between blacks and Latinos any more than they already are.

But others have not exercised the same restraint. Some black talk show hosts and black writers have burned up Internet sites and sent of floods of emails ( this writer got several) with outlandish and reckless charges that the killings were part of a concerted plot by Latino gangs to target African-Americans for murder and mayhem. Leading immigration reform foes from the Center for Immigration Studies to Bill O’Reilly also claimed that state and federal officials are so cowered by the thought of being branded racist that they have turned a blind eye to waves of illegal immigrants who supposedly have unleashed a violent crime wave across the country. They gleefully added that Newark is a sanctuary city where police are forbidden to ask questions about a suspect’s citizenship status. With the arguable exception of the spate of violent clashes between black and Latino inmates in California’s prisons, and Los Angeles county jails last year, and the headline-grabbing murders of black teen Cheryl Green last December and three other young blacks in Los Angeles, there is no evidence that Latino gang members have embarked on a systematic campaign of ethnic cleaning against blacks.

The second claim about illegal immigrants uncorking a violent crime wave is easier to sell. The movie industry and TV series such as The Untouchables, The Godfather, Scarface, Miami Vice, and The Sopranos has long fed the popular image of violent prone immigrant reeking havoc in cities. Then there are the endless tales of crime cartels like the mafia, Cuban marielitos, Colombian cocaine cartels, Japanese yakuza and Chinese triads that also spread terror. The rumors were rife that the alleged shooters in Newark were connected with the Salvadoran Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13). This gang has gotten a lot of press ink lately as a virtual immigrant’s drug and murder incorporated.

There is however no truth to the claim that illegal immigrants have unleashed a crime wave in the country. There are more immigrants than ever in the U.S. and crime rates in the country have plummeted. The plunge has been most notable in the big cities with the largest illegal immigrant populations. FBI figures show big drops in property crimes and violent crimes, particularly the homicide rates, during the past decade. The sole exception to this has been a spike up in black on black homicides. Few of the killers here are illegal immigrants.Illegal immigrants whether juvenile or adult are far less likely to be incarcerated than native born Americans. That includes native born Latinos.

But facts never got in the way of a good politically driven scare tactic to turn public opinion against any sort of meaningful immigration reform.
It’s heartbreaking to see the falsehood about an illegal immigrant crime wave masquerade as fact in the Newark slayings. Apart from the incidents of Latino on black violence cited earlier, and the Newark murders, black and Latino relations have not been marred by violence. Most of the violence in urban areas, and that includes Newark, have been black on black or Latino on Latino.

There is no evidence that the Newark killings were anything other than a random robbery attempt gone bad. Yet, the not so subtle inference that the killings are part of an ethnic sanitizing plan against blacks comes at a time when more blacks continue to voice fears that illegal immigrants are muscling them out of jobs, and competing for scare resources in health, public services and public schools. With 1930’s depression era levels of unemployment among young black males, and with blacks making up more than nearly half of America’s record 2 million plus jail population, this is a concern that can’t be ignored. The Newark slayings fuel fears among many blacks that they are losing ground to illegal immigrants and are under siege from violent street gangs such as the Mexican Mafia and MS-13. The relatives of the three students gunned down in Newark demanded to know how one of the suspected shooters was back on a Newark street even though he had two prior felony arrests. This is a legitimate question. They’re owed an answer.

But the victim’s relatives and Booker did the right thing by not blaming their deaths on bad illegal immigration policies, or worse feeding the myth that illegal immigrants are America’s new gangsters. The pity is that others haven’t done the same.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press and Hispanic Economics New York) in English and Spanish will be out in October.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

To Snitch, Or Not to Snitch
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

A few days after veteran black reporter and editor Chauncey Bailey was gunned down on the streets of Oakland, Oakland City Council member Desley Brooks made a heart felt and impassioned plea for anyone who knew anything about a killing in the city to come forth. She wasn’t talking about the murder of Bailey. A nineteen year old reportedly confessed to that. She was talking about the more than half dozen killings that occurred in the days immediately after the Bailey killing. The victims were black and the assailants almost certainly were also black. Oakland isn’t unique in grappling with the latest murder surge that has racked poor black neighborhoods in America’s big cities. The surge was capped by the shocking execution style murder of three black students in Newark, New Jersey.

According to FBI figures, murder rates have spiked up in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Detroit, Oakland and a dozen other cities. The victims as in Oakland in almost all cases are blacks, and their killers are also black. But Brooks faced a big uphill battle in trying to get residents to loosen their tongues to the police. Many are petrified at the thought of being labeled a snitch. That’s the tag that some silly, misguided rappers, activists and even some academics have plastered on those blacks that inform to police on other blacks.

The resistance of blacks to provide information that could help catch killers has frustrated and infuriated police and prosecutors, increased the spiral of violence that racks some poor black neighborhoods, and deepens the fear and panic of many blacks over violent crime. Though the anti-snitch movement has been roundly denounced by many black leaders, victims of violence, and gang violence prevention groups, there's still a brisk growth industry in peddling T-shirts with the words "stop snitching" printed in bold letters that urge blacks to keep quiet when they witness crimes.

The long history of police-black community conflict, the fury that many African-Americans feel over the countless number of blacks that have been jailed and even dumped on death row merely on the word of a street or a jailhouse informant is a sore point.
A study by Northwestern University Law School Center on Wrongful Convictions found that in the 100 wrongful death penalty convictions of black men in the past quarter century, the majority were convicted on the perjured testimony of alleged eyewitnesses. Numerous studies have shown that blacks are far more likely than any other group to distrust the police and less likely to talk to them about criminal acts.

The fear factor also is a powerful disincentive for many blacks to provide information about violent crimes. Many are scared stiff that they'd suffer retaliation if they blow the whistle on a violent perpetrator, and that the police wouldn't protect them. These are not totally false fears. City police departments spend far fewer dollars on witness protection programs than the federal government does. Many blacks feel the risk is too great if they unzip their lips.
The fear of pay back and the rocky relations with the police are understandable. But it doesn't justify a rapper or anyone else telling blacks to keep silent when they witness a crime and can provide information about it. Blacks have more to lose than any other group when they turn a blind eye to crime.

They are more likely to be the victims of homicide, assaults and other violent crimes. A murderer or assailant will less likely be caught when a victim is black. While the homicide clearance rate nationally is about 60 percent, the clearance rate for solving murders in some big cities is in single-digit figures. Police and prosecutors in some big cities continue to scream loudly that they can't get people to come forth and tell what they know.

This has put poor blacks, especially young black males who are the prime targets of the violence, in even greater harms way. In Los Angeles, homicide investigators note that gang members that kill often have committed multiple killings. They are emboldened to continue their wanton violence precisely because they feel there is little chance that they’ll be caught, and if they are that witnesses will not come forth to testify. In New Orleans, where the murder rate has gone off the charts, the witness problem got Eddie Jordan, the city’s first black District Attorney, in hot water with crime weary residents. He had to drop charges against the alleged shooters of several young blacks in a murder that made national headlines in June 2006, because a key witness disappeared.

In Los Angeles and a handful of other cities, anti-violence prevention activists have tramped into shops and demanded that the storeowners yank the anti-snitch shirts from the shelves. But pulling a shirt from a rack is one thing, getting people to come forth and tell what they know about a crime is another. When they don’t they insure that the mounting carnage in some black neighborhoods such as Oakland will mount even higher.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press and Hispanic Economics New York) in English and Spanish will be out in October.