Race and the Media

The number one post (in terms of views) on this blog thus far has been the story about the boy from Kansas City, who happened to be white, and was walking along and set on fire by two other kids, who happen to be black.

This story came up again in the comments on a story over at CNN about a reporter using the N* word on live TV.  Kudos to “Tom” who today at 5:08 CT posted:

Why has CNN not reported about the Black on White hate crime in Kansas City?  Two black teenagers gasoline torching a white 13 year old and not  adrop of reporting.

So that got me thinking and I did some Googling:

boy kansas city gasoline fire
11,800,000 results – News Only, 28 results

kansas city gasoline fire hate crime
380,000 results – News Only, 16 results

florida neighborhood watch shoots black unarmed
522,000 results – News Only, 3,700 results

florida neighborhood watch shoots black unarmed hate crime
68,800 results – News Only, 103 results


It appears the media has generally ignored the Kansas City story but the blogosphere wrote about it extensively.  It also appears that both the media and the blogosphere are careful, cautious, about labeling a story a hate crime.

UPDATE:  Changed formatting of the search results to better fit on the page.

Teenagers Pour Gasoline on Boy Walking Home From School

Is this really what we’ve come to?

A 13-year-old boy who police say was doused with gasoline and lit on fire last week while walking home from school is recovering from first-degree burns to his face and head.  The boy was just two blocks from his home in Kansas City Tuesday when two teenagers began to follow him and then attacked him, his mother, Melissa Coon, said.

Police have described the suspects as black 16-year-olds, while the victim is white.

via NY Daily News.

My initial thought was pretty simple.  Something along the lines of, ‘how horrible.’

My second thought was a little more complex, like: ‘I guess this used to happen the other way around in the 50’s and 60’s but that still don’t make it right.  I thought we’re trying to move past all that.’

My third thought was a little more controversial:  Can you imagine if two 16 year-old white boys poured gas on a 13 year-old black boy and lit him on fire?  What would the reaction be?  Would there be a march?  A riot?  A protest?  Would there be demands for an investigation into whether his parents were Nazis or otherwise racists?  Would Jesse Jackson show up and lecture everyone on how to behave?

I don’t know; don’t have the answers.  But whatever we’re doing isn’t working.