Other nations have as much if not more crime, they say. They just don't kill each as much. Zimring and Hawkins emphasize guns as part of our violence problem. But I think there's something else. I've see some fights. Europe has their soccer hooligans. And a lot of drinking, too. And in Greece it seem like people are always yelling at each other. And there are even seasonal riots in Athens. But somehow it's all controlled, almost ritualized. Maybe subconsciously. Somehow, in the heat of the moment, when the adrenaline is pumping, people in much of the world know to restrain from issuing that lethal blow. People let off steam, they save face, they vent, they even hurt. But by and large they don't kill.
And here, for no good reason I can understand, some kids pick up giant pieces of wood and wack each other, sucker punching others, and then stomping a man till he's dead.
I don't buy the "it just don't make sense" refrain. I mean, of course it don't. But that's not the answer. Is it something about American exceptionalism? Do we not understand how easy it is to kill someone? Do we not value human life as much as people in other countries? Do we have less self-control? Do we have no other means of having fun? All these may be true. But none of these seem to provide a satisfactory answer.
How do you learn to enjoy stomping a defenseless guy for fun? I don't know. Maybe you learned it from dad. More likely you never learned anything from dad because dad got locked up a long time ago himself. And your mom, who very well may be an idiot, tells you you gotta fight. Better to fight than get punked. That's what you gotta do to be a mom.
Maybe stomping a guy to death actually is fun. It's easy to tsk-tsk others. Maybe there's nothing better than hitting a guy upside the head with a two-by-four. Maybe that's the dirty secret we who pass judgment from afar don't want to consider. I don't know. I've never tried.
Update: Worth quoting T. Coates at some length here:
I am aware of all the socio-economic forces at work they make black communities more subject to violence. I'm in all for trying to ameliorate those forces. In the meantime, I'm all for doing whatever it takes to protect the rest of us--particularly young black kids--from hooliganism.
I can't ever say this enough--there's nothing inconsistent about trying to understand the broad societal forces, and still holding people responsible for individual action. Being black and poor sucks. But most poor black kids aren't out smacking innocent bystanders with 2x4s.
If all is as it appears for these kids who were arrested, then heaven help them, because we can not. Compassion--like all resources--has limits. It's worth spending some time on what makes young boys do these sorts of things. It's worth at least as much time to try and protect young boys who are just trying to live right. I know from personal experience that there are more of the latter than the former. Don't ever forget that.