Between a recent Drudge Report round-up of crime incidents, a wave of violence in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend, and the suspicious closing of a Chicago beach, some internet commenters have concluded that a. a significant number of black Americans nationwide are conspiring on social media to commit crimes and b. Chicago is falling apart at the seams.
After reading through the comments on the Second City Cop blog (which I recommend but don't always agree with), here are my own thoughts:
1. "Black flash mobs" are real enough for the Chicago police chief to announce that he'll address the issue:
“Philadelphia has a great plan on it that I’m looking at right now, actually. It has to do with having the resources deployed and breaking them [up] immediately before they get too far and monitoring some of the social media that they use.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that shoplifting arrests of juveniles have jumped in the police district that includes Michigan Avenue — even as retail theft arrests as a whole have fallen slightly.2. If the flash mobs are really the result of a cross-country, social media and text message-driven, black crime conspiracy, or even one just based in Chicago, then it shouldn't be that hard to track. After all, gang members have Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace accounts, too. Not everyone is smart enough to cover their tracks or not brag about breaking the law for the entire internet to see.
3. If Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times can get an anonymous quote from a gang member about Chicago Bulls player Derrick Rose's effect on the community he grew up in, and if Steve Edwards and Richard Steele of NPR-affiliated WBEZ can get commentary about police-community relations from a "gang leader," then surely some Chicago journalist can get a gang member to talk on the record about Chicago beach gang activity, and whether social media fueled this or any other recent crime involving a group of black teenagers.
4. This should go without saying, but not every black Chicagoan has been a lawbreaker or gang member, and not every white Chicagoan has been law-abiding or anti-gang. After all, white gangs have existed in Chicago, and even if most of them faded away, at least a couple of them were significant enough to inspire the play/movie Grease.
...and no, I'm not saying that Pink Ladies slumber parties are the same as South Side drive-by shootings - the point is that groups of bored city neighborhood kids form gangs, get in fights, and cause trouble when they have nothing better to do and want to have some fun.
5. On a similar note, please try to have some nuance when talking about issues related to these subjects.
Behind every black person labelled "ghetto trash" or worse for their behavior, there are several other people in that person's neighborhood who obey the law, want to live in a safe community, and try to both stop and deal with the consequences of gang violence in black communities.
Unfortunately those are the perspectives I see missing from the online discussions I've read.