Is there a culture of violence in the African-American community? That was the position taken by CNN anchor Don Lemon recently on a panel discussion addressing the issue of race in the media.
CNN brought together Lemon, New York Times columnist Charles Blow and writer Brian Beutler to discuss the difficulties the media has in covering racial issues. Eric Deggans, who hosted the panel, first introduced the strange coverage of the murder of Australian college baseball player Chris Lane, who alledgedly was killed by three teens in Oklahoma—two of them black and one of them white.
In the conservative media, the case has launched a slew of reverse racism attacks on “mainstream” media—and even the White House, for not responding in the same way they responded to the killing of Trayvon Martin.
The teens said they shot 23-year-old Australian Chris Lane because ”we were bored and didn’t have anything to do, so we decided to kill somebody,” one of them, Michael Jones, 17, who is white, told the police. Jones, 17, was accused of being an accessory to first-degree murder while James Edwards, 15, and Chancey Luna, 16, were charged with first-degree murder.
The attacks on the media and African-American leaders were especially evident at Fox News, where the hosts of “Fox and Friends” pursued the issue relentlessly this morning, wondering why Rev. Al Sharpton and President Obama haven’t commented on Lane’s murder. On his radio show last week, Rush Limbaugh said Lane’s killing was “Trayvon Martin in reverse.” Limbaugh said the “mainstream media’s” failure to cover the racial aspects of the crime was clear evidence of complicity in “the destruction of American culture and society.”
Limbaugh pointed out that one of the accused shooters “worships rappers” and celebrates “thug culture.”
While the CNN panelists all agreed that the conservative media’s current obsession with comparing murders was strange and counterproductive, Lemon declared that there is a “culture of violence” among young men in America and particularly in the African-American community. This comes after Lemon was attacked for saying that he agreed with some of the statements of Bill O’Reilly that blacks needed to take more responsibility for their behavior.
But Blow said it was wrong-headed to label the entire black community with the “culture of violence” tag when the overwhelming majority of African-Americans were law-abiding citizens doing the right thing.