RALEIGH — One of the depressingly predictable reactions of the news media is that if a group of whites beats up a black victim it's automatically a hate crime and is major news, but if a group of blacks beats up a white victim, race is never mentioned in the story, if one even gets published at all.
The news broke on Monday of a man in Henderson who was pulled from his car and beaten after he hit a man who ran into the street in front of his car. Not one of the stories mentioned the race of the man pulled from the car or of the group that pulled him out and beat him. This alone was enough to raise the reader's suspicions.
First off, if the driver had been black and the assailants white, this would have been written in the first paragraph of the story and it would have been telegraphed in some way in the headline.
The absence of any reference to race in these stories alerts the reader to a) the victim was also black, so race was not important, or b) the victim was indeed white and the assailants black, so political correctness had to be invoked and all race references excised from these stories.
The Associated Press report is an excellent example of this kind of half-fact journalism:
HENDERSON -- The North Carolina Highway Patrol says a driver who accidentally struck a pedestrian near Henderson was pulled from his vehicle and severely beaten by bystanders.
Troopers say Eric Loznicka struck 19-year-old Reuban Wright of Henderson near Kittrell after Wright stepped into the road in front of Loznicka's car Saturday night. No charges were filed against Loznicka.
Witnesses say a group of bystanders pulled Loznicka from his vehicle, held him down, and hit and kicked him. He was treated and released at a nearby hospital.
In the days when journalism cared about truth, regardless of who it offended, a city editor looking at that story would say there's a huge hole in it.
Even today, when six arrests were made in connection with the event in Henderson, no reference is made of the race of the arrestees. Only the Henderson Daily Dispatch gives us a clue. In the three photos they ran today, each of the arrested men is black. But the story mentions neither the race of the assailants or the victim.
Likewise in the WRAL-TV story today. The arrestees are named but no mention is made of race. WTVD-TV followed suit.
Leaving these doubts in the reader's mind is, I submit, journalism malpractice. The reader is left wanting clarification, which alone is evidence of a failed news story. Key facts were left out of all these stories. If this was not a black-on-white event, the reader should be told so that speculation doesn't fuel anger, especially in the community in which this took place.
If it was a black-on-white attack, this also should be reported. Let the reader decide if that pushes it into the hate crime category. In such cases, local officials and editors often claim that mentioning the black-on-white nature of the event might inflame passion, but they never have those same qualms when it's white-on-black.
Any time a group of whites attacks a black person it is immediately labeled, usually by the police responding to the event as well as the media, as a "possible" hate crime. No editor or police official has ever adequately answered, to my satisfaction, the question: why aren't those assumptions made when the racial roles are reversed? Perhaps they should not be made at all, no matter who's involved, until all the facts are in.
Sometimes the media doesn't even have to know anything about the alleged lawbreakers to make a hate crime allegation. Just Google "possible hate crime" and you'll see what I'm talking about.
Even now, we have no idea if the victim, Eric Loznicka, was white or black, but I'm guessing that someone with an Eastern European surname likely is not black. This is not something a reader should have to be making guesses about.
Any journalist who claims these days to report the truth "no matter where the chips fall" simply is not telling the truth.
Jon Ham is vice president of communications for the John Locke Foundation and publisher of it's newspaper, Carolina Journal.