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Violence and race: a two-way street

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Wed April 11, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson says a video of a white man being beaten in Baltimore is sickening
  • He says as we await outcome of Trayvon Martin case, more focus is needed on other crimes
  • Granderson: Black community rallies to fight injustice but not when "perpetrators look like us"
  • He says black community needs to grapple with crime of all kinds

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs. Watch him on CNN with Don Lemon Sundays at 6 p.m. ET.

(CNN) -- Within the next day or two we could hear from the special prosecutor's office about her decision on whether to charge George Zimmerman.

Regardless of what she says, chances are a lot of people are not going to be happy with the decision. It's an emotional story with many layers that will likely end with more questions than answers, and more division than unity along racial lines.

I know when I heard about Trayvon Martin's killing, the story immediately touched my heart because I could see my own 15-year-old son in Trayvon.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

Similarly, when I heard about the apparent racially motivated killing spree in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last week, it angered me because I could see my brothers and uncles in the slain victims.

But something different happened inside when I saw the video of a white tourist being savagely beaten and stripped by a bunch of black thugs in Baltimore over St. Patrick's Day weekend.

My heart wasn't touched.

I didn't get angry.

Instead, I just became cold.

I didn't want the individuals involved to be arrested.

I wanted them thrown in jail for life. I thought what possible good could adults who would do that to another human being bring to society? Some folks can be rehabilitated, but sometimes it's best to just cut our losses. Why bother wasting taxpayers' dollars on a trial over something that simply cannot and should not be defended? As I watched the helpless man being kicked and heard him being laughed at, I just wanted those hoodlums escorted to solitary confinement and the key thrown away.

As I told you, I became cold.

Sick even.

I posted the video on my Facebook wall and soon found myself in a conversation with a buddy of mine, Brian, who I've known since grad school. In my frustration I e-mailed "I hate people."

Brian immediately hit back: "No you don't. You love people, that is why this upset you so much."

He was right. I don't hate people. I just hated what happened to that guy, just like I hated what happened to the victims in Tulsa. But what I really hate is how the video is only going to confirm what so many whites think about blacks and the arrests are only going to confirm what so many blacks think about whites.

That's where much of the focus will inevitably go instead of to what I think is far more important, and that is what blacks think about ourselves. I don't need to tell you what the response from the black community would be if the victim in the Baltimore video was black and the assailants white. But for some reason many blacks puree crimes of this nature through some warped situational ethics filter, which in the end only makes a mockery of the community more than it empowers it.

For if President Obama had a son, he would look like Trayvon, but he would also look like one of the assailants in that video. That's the uncomfortable truth that the black community must deal with: Racism still hurts us, but not nearly as much as we hurt ourselves.

The same weekend the man in Baltimore was attacked, in Chicago 10 people were killed and 40 were wounded, including a 6-year-old girl who was shot dead while she was playing on the front porch of her home in the Little Village neighborhood.

Neighborhoods such as Little Village, and West Englewood, which has a homicide rate five times that of the rest of the city, are mostly black and Latino. Since 2008, nearly 80% of the more than 500 killings of youth in Chicago have occurred in the 22 black and Latino neighborhoods. Those deaths are not coming by the hands of the KKK but by people who look a lot like the ones in that St. Patrick's Day video.

Or the ones in the video that went viral in February in which a bunch of black thugs attacked a black man as he left a grocery store.

Or the ones in the video that went viral three years ago in which a bunch of black thugs attacked and killed a 16-year-old honor roll student, who was also black.

Sadly, I could go on, but I think the picture is clear.

What isn't as clear is what the black community is going to do about it.

We know how to come together and fight against injustice when the alleged perpetrators are white. However we're not quite sure how to deal with injustice as a community when the perpetrators look like us -- and that is troubling, because when you look at the statistics, it seems the survival of the black community depends more on figuring that part out than dealing with the George Zimmermans of the world.

Follow us on Twitter: @CNNOpinion

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

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