Marilyn Clark is 67, white and lives in what she considers a safe part of the city. She is also, by her own admission, a rational discriminator.
"Do I [grab my purse when confronted by a group of young black men]?" she asked in a letter. "You bet!" But Clark may be what I might call a rational rational discriminator. She continued.
"Do I do this when confronted with a group of young white men? You bet! Mr. Kane, the operative word here is YOUNG! Not white -- not black -- YOUNG! Do I discriminate? Yes! It's an age thing. These young people are fine, one on one, but put them in a group and they get a herd mentality. I see it all the time. Nice young men that go nuts when in a group."
Clark's view was downright refreshing compared with other mail and calls I got on the same subject. One writer asked "What about reverse discrimination?" and called my labeling the Dixiecrats the "hang 'em high" wing of the Democratic Party "a bigoted statement." Another claimed "rational discrimination" is simply practicing personal safety.
"How do you tell which young black males are thugs?" the writer asked, implying it's simpler and safer to just figure all young black males are.
Yet a third writer went far afield from the topic.
"What is wrong with this picture; it is wrong to have the Ku Klux Klan but it is right to have the NAACP." I will leave it to readers to figure what is wrong with the question.
The most provocative statement came from a caller who said he lives in an integrated neighborhood and has black co-workers and friends. He was very friendly, reasonable and deeply troubled, he said, about racial polarization in America. But he also understood the concept of "rational discrimination."
"Say you're walking down the street and a little green man punches you in the kneecap," the caller said. "Then you walk in the next block and another little green man punches you in the kneecap. If you see another little green man in the third block you're going to cross the street."
This "little green man" analogy has at least two flaws. The first is that it compares an ethnic group of some 30 million people -- the majority of whom are hard-working, law-abiding, God-fearing, churchgoing citizens, dad gum it -- to three fictional little green men.
The second is that it ignores the fact that most of the victims of violent crime by young black men are other young black men. Whites are so terrified of young black men they don't realize that, statistically, they aren't the most likely victims of violent crime.
And, I must repeat once again, it's not just young black men this "rational discrimination" targets. It targets all black men, regardless of age. Not long ago I -- 44, four-eyed, balding and by no stretch of the imagination capable of being mistaken for young -- was at an automated teller machine trying to get cash. In front of me was a white man who kept furtively glancing over his shoulder as he nervously pushed the buttons on the machine.
Normally I don't let this stuff bother me. It happens too often. If folks want to live in fear, that's their problem. I just don't want them to make it mine. And this miserable little chickenheart was moving way too slowly and wasting my time.
So I just ground my teeth as this loyal member of the Order of the White Feather went through the motions of making his ATM transaction. I said nothing, but what I wanted to say was this:
"Listen, pal, if I wanted to rob you, you'd have been straight up jacked by now. So hurry it up before I give you something to really be afraid about."
But I'm counting on the Marilyn Clarks of the world to show more wisdom and insight in these matters than us menfolk. She, at least, smells a male problem afoot. Our history seems to support her. The Chicago race riot of 1919 was primarily a male thing. Those who rode with William Quantrill's murderous band in Kansas and Missouri during the 1850s and 1860s were mostly young, according to Cole Younger, who rode with them.
Syndicated columnist Carl Rowan even pointed this out in his latest book, "The Coming Race War in America." (Don't be fooled. The book is mostly whining liberalism.)
"Criminologists have known for a long time that males between the ages of 15 and 24 commit a disproportionate amount of crime," Rowan writes in one of the few enlightening passages of his book. But the preponderance of evidence suggests that the "rational discriminators" among us will continue to make their judgments based on race, not age, the Marilyn Clarks of the world notwithstanding.
Pub Date: 11/03/96