Ignorance causes racism

July 28, 2008

by Roz Kohls

If you wanted to change people’s false assumptions, how would you do it? Give them facts that challenge the assumptions, or withhold information about them?

It appears some public officials, or at least some of the metro news media, believe the best way to prevent prejudice and discrimination is to withhold or delay information.

A recent brutal crime at Valleyfair in Shakopee is a good example. Six men and one juvenile were charged with kicking and stomping on a man who was trying to protect his 12-year-old daughter from being groped. The victim suffered skull fractures and possible bleeding on the brain.

This vicious assault happened on the Fourth of July. It wasn’t made public, though, until July 15. In addition, several of the attackers had previous convictions, and at least two of them were members of a criminal “family” or gang. This information was delayed even longer than that of the assault.

Why was this attack not made public immediately, the way other crimes are reported? Because the alleged perpetrators were African American. Those responsible for reporting this incident feared Minnesotans would think blacks cause the majority of violent crime in the Twin Cities if the incident was reported the same way other crimes are.

In an editorial in one of the metro newspapers about the incident, the editor asked readers to “address the root causes of violence without giving in to fear, ignorance, and racism.”

The editorial defined root causes as a lack of funding for education, health, and anti-poverty efforts.

I am 99 percent certain that the majority of Minnesotans already believe blacks cause the majority of violent crime in the Twin Cities, regardless of whether it is actually true.

An editorial asking Minnesotans to increase funding for education, health and anti-poverty efforts will do nothing to stop people from associating violent crime with African Americans.

I personally don’t have any statistics or data on violent crime in the Twin Cities. I don’t even know if statistics are kept on the race of the perpetrators. If they are, it is entirely possible the statistics show violent crime is in direct proportion to the population of whites, Asians, Native Americans, and blacks.

The best way to counter a false assumption, that blacks cause the majority of violent crime in the Twin Cities, is to publish violent crime data.

Delaying or withholding information on crime will not change anyone’s mind. It might even make attitudes worse. Some might even worry there is more black violent crime than what is being reported.

Truth doesn’t cause racism, ignorance does.