When I read the Chinook Observer article about the KKK posters that had been posted around Astoria, I was nervous. The KKK? Here?
However, when the culprit was revealed to be a 20-year-old kid from Ocean Park, those nerves subsided and annoyance took its place. I do not know this person (nor would I like to) but while I was reading the article in which he is interviewed, a caricature of him formed in my head.
A young, isolated white guy; probably owns a lot of guns (or wants to); probably sees himself as some sort of self-made intellectual (may even brag about his internet-quiz IQ); probably doesn’t like the idea of higher education (it’s a liberal conspiracy); thinks the rest of us are sheep.
It really goes to show how cool this guy is when he called both neo-Nazism and communism “gay,” and “hating blacks because they’re black is autistic.” How edgy.
He also used the word “normie” to describe “normal” people. This immediately confirmed his internet habits for me: a Reddit and 4Chan dweller.
Both Reddit and 4Chan welcome unpopular, offensive, graphic, and/or otherwise disturbing content. I wrote about the /r/Incels (involuntary celibate) subreddit in March of last year, in the wake of the Parkland shooting and how the subreddit worshipped Elliot Rodgers (a murderer with a manifesto) as their hero. These websites are also inextricably linked to the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, which ultimately ended in a murder carried out by a white extremist.
It’s so easy to find like-minded individuals on these sites because they are both 100 percent anonymous, so anyone is free to spew their bile and attract other incels/racists/homophobes/whatever much easier than in the real world. And this kid is just one of probably dozens (or more) people who have the same mindset on our peninsula. Maybe he didn’t get exactly what he wanted from it, a robust group of racists who could get together for hood-sewing parties, but we’re still talking about him. In fact, I’m giving him free press right now.
Regardless of how the alt-right finagled its way onto the peninsula, I’d like to address one specific claim that our young friend made. One that he seems to hang his racist justification hat on: “Acknowledging that blacks in America over-represent (sic) violent crime is just plain truth.”
Funny. A simple Google search tells a very different story. I guess when you consume only media from Breitbart, Info Wars, and the like, the facts become somewhat muddied. Who knew?
It is true that if you look only at prison makeup, it would be easy to draw a false conclusion about crime rates: black people make up roughly 13 percent of the United States population, and white people make up 64 percent. Black people make up 40 percent of the prison population, and white people 39 percent. This is a misleading piece of information however, because all it tells us are arrest and conviction rates, not the crime rates. Data is great, but it’s only a small piece of any puzzle as complex as issues within society. Without taking into consideration the undercurrent that is “systemic racism,” no one can even begin to grasp race relations in the U.S.
Here are a few relevant examples of systemic racism that I encourage everyone to look into:
In the justice system: stop-and-frisk laws, excessive arrests and sentencing, the “Just Say No” campaign, crack vs. powder cocaine sentencing laws, three strikes rule, etc.
In housing: the Federal Housing Administration and “redlining” loans, not investing in infrastructure in communities of color, putting fewer food stores and more liquor stores in majority-black neighborhoods, heavily advertising alcohol and cigarettes in these same neighborhoods, etc.
In education: less funding to communities of color, harsher treatment/suspension/expulsion rates for black kids (this is apparent beginning in preschool!), the school-to-prison pipeline, fewer scholarships and more debt in higher education, etc.
Look into each of these things, because I do not have time to elucidate now. The bottom line is that systemic racism and race relations are such huge, almost unfathomable concepts. Saying something like “...blacks in America over-represent (sic) violent crime is just plain truth,” is dangerously misleading.
There are hundreds, probably thousands, of books dedicated to the topic of race, crime, systemic/institutional racism, and America. I wonder how many of them our friend with the KKK posters has read?
Allison Bair is a columnist for the Chinook Observer in Long Beach, Washington.