Fear and Loathing

Rowdy black kids don’t equal a racial uprising.

By Aaron Kase
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 11 | Posted Mar. 30, 2010

Share this Story:

Philadelphians have a habit of advocating reactionary solutions to our problems. Out-of-control bike riders kill two pedestrians? Tax and fine all bikers! Pit bulls attack a couple people? Ban the breed! Black kids run wild on South Street? Lock the “savages” up and lose the key, fine their parents (most likely, their underemployed, single mother) and surveil them as they travel throughout SEPTA.

Acts of violence are unacceptable and must be confronted, but we need to dial back the hysteria.

By now we’ve all seen the ongoing coverage of the chaos on South Street and the three other incidents that have hit downtown since December, in the Gallery, on Market Street and on Chestnut Street. These sudden and unexpected gatherings of large numbers of mostly African-American teenagers have been dubbed flash mobs. Older folks know the phenomenon as “wildin’.” Whatever the name, these events are intense, dramatic, frequently erupt into violence and it’s clear nobody knows quite what to do about them.

Worse, flash mobs aren’t the only source of violence by black youths that the city has had to confront in recent months. There’s the racial violence at South Philly High and the random “catchin’ rep” beatings in Southwest Philly. Complicating matters is the awkward challenge for the media and city officials alike to confront the racial element without resorting to overt prejudice, racism or favoritism.

The city’s entire public-safety leadership is African-American: Mayor Nutter, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison, Police Chief Charles Ramsey and District Attorney Seth Williams. That no one questions that all four men were elected or appointed on merit is a sign of how far the city has come—that they are black is almost an afterthought. “I’m not going into the whole black-white whatever,” says Gillison. “I’m looking at the actions of the people.”

Nevertheless, reports peeking into the flash mob frenzy are alarming. City Paper ’s Isaiah Thompson said: “There’s something deeper and much scarier at work here ... I suspect something terrible is building.” Tom Ferrick of Metropolis went further, writing, “If this becomes the Summer of Flash Mobs in Philadelphia, we may not make it to September as a functioning city.” One gets the feeling we’re on the verge of a racial uprising.

Calm down. Take a deep breath. Philly isn’t burning.

“There are no marauding Vikings coming over the ramparts,” says Gillison. “We are not under constant siege.” He suggests that the reason these acts of violence are receiving so much coverage is because of the catchy names assigned to them, flash mobs and catchin’ rep.

“A lot of violence is random because of the nature of the beast. Is it unique because it’s sexy for the media to tag these things?” he asks rhetorically.

At a time when Mayor Nutter wants to highlight reductions in violent crime and showcase improvements in public safety, random riots and beat downs are difficult to reconcile. Overall, Philadelphia appears to be on an upward trajectory: Homicides are down and trendy restaurants are up. None of that is very reassuring, however, if law-abiding citizens are afraid to walk the streets.

Meanwhile, Gawker and the Daily News discovered that the so-called flash mobs were set off by competing party groups and dance crews gathering to show off. Watch the YouTube video of Team Nike dancing and strutting down South Street chanting “All Nike Shit!” The crowds got too big, some tempers flared and a mob was born. Is the behavior acceptable? No, but it certainly doesn’t point to an impending black revolution. More like teens gone wild.

High-profile black violence threatens to widen the city’s racial divide, but so do racially charged overreactions. Brutal, spectacular acts of random violence lead to heavy media coverage and a scramble for Band-Aid solutions.

But the urge to build a reputation on the streets at the expense of other people’s health and safety is symptomatic of a far larger problem gripping Philadelphia, a problem of poverty and race and bad schools and exclusion from mainstream avenues to success. That’s the problem no one seems to know how to address. Or maybe we’re just looking at a few kids acting dumb.

Add to favoritesAdd to Favorites PrintPrint Send to friendSend to Friend

COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 11 of 11
Report Violation

1. Anonymous said... on Mar 31, 2010 at 01:15AM

“I grew up in Detroit, went to school in New Orleans and my first job out of college was selling pharmaceuticals in Camden, NJ. I've been to, and lived in, some racially sensitive areas. However, I have never seen the animosity and hatred in the eyes of people like I see here in the eyes of African Americans. And I get the feeling that the whites just want to ignore that hate and hope it goes away. I don't know what the answers are. But I know that South Philly (I live about four blocks north of South Philadelphia HS) does not feel safe at any time that the students are not in school. The tension is palpable. After four years in SP I have decided to leave. I am sick of being looked at like I'm the enemy, of having my bicycle stolen again and again and feeling frightened all the time. I live in a building with a young, white couple, a hispanic couple and a single, african American mother with two kids. I will miss all my neighbors, they are my friends.”

Report Violation

2. NEzhy said... on Mar 31, 2010 at 01:45AM

“If they're on the street after 3pm, throw em in jail. The businesses that cater to these animals should be closed. Look at South Street, thug-central. Shut down the businesses that attract these wastes. Enough slaps on the wrists, see how you sound after they beat or mug you.”

Report Violation

3. moon said... on Mar 31, 2010 at 06:04AM

“Thank you, Aaron Kase, for an excellent article. I am getting very tired of the unreasonable, blatantly racist, and openly violent reactions to this issue. The young people of our city are our responsibility and its up to all of us to find solutions, rather than somehow paint a bunch of kids looking for a good time as the enemy.”

Report Violation

4. Steve said... on Mar 31, 2010 at 11:32AM

“Good article, which makes good points. The ethnicity and racial heritage of city officials is now secondary to the job and ideas that they promote, and these officials were elected by a wide section of the population, based on beliefs about their competence. As a multi-ethnic city, we have come a long way in digesting the bad meal that slavery and segregation and poor schools in the South created for the whole nation. Anonymous - I don't know about the "hatred" you see in people's eyes. I have run up against some bad vibes in Philadelphia, some times from African Americans, sometimes from South Philly Italians. It sucks, but is generally no more damaging than the bile I produce as I react to these idiots. There is history here, behind these hard feelings. We must work to create a sense of citizenship and commonality, so that you and others do not feel frightened, oppressed, or angry at others based on stereotypes. Leaving defers, but does not create a solution.”

Report Violation

5. cn2004 said... on Mar 31, 2010 at 02:45PM

“That's funny, not one Philadelphia media outlet mentioned race in their original stories about these incidents. It was always "flash mobs", "teen rioters" or other race neutral phrases. It just shows the absolute hypocrisy of the liberal media, who have no problem whatsoever pointing out that tea party protests were comprised of almost all whites, and even insinuating or outright calling them racists. It has been taboo to point out the violence committed by blacks in this or any other city in a public forum without being called a racist, or in this author's opinion, "a racially charged overreaction." I have news for you Mr. Kase. The taxpaying middle class are leaving this city. They are tired of the violence they see daily. They don't care about socioeconomic factors, breakdown of schools and families, dysfunctional city government. Basically, they are tired of hearing all the excuses. So don't waste your breath lecturing others on how they should react to these incidents. No one care”

Report Violation

6. Anonymous said... on Mar 31, 2010 at 03:06PM

“Why not call it a racial uprising? If that's how it's perceived then so what? Telling us to step back or calm down is not what is needed - in fact, it's counterproductive and weak. What we need is rubber bullets and tear gas the next time a flash mob assembles, followed by police buses to cart as many offenders off to a detention center for processing, trial and incarceration. Anything less than what I suggested above and you might as well get used to this animal behavior from here on out. Let's not get distracted by liberal columnists and their petty concerns about racism. White liberals -are there any other kind- live in a fantasy world until they get smacked in the face with a real-life situation.”

Report Violation

7. Vlad said... on Mar 31, 2010 at 07:47PM

“I wish Aaron Kase will get hit on the head next time "rowdy kids" assemble, maybe he will get the point.”

Report Violation

8. Ananymous said... on Apr 6, 2010 at 11:34AM

“Millions of people in the region, teens in the hundreds of thousands of many ethnicities live here. Thousands flock to South Street on this night and hundreds cause problems. An entire demographic has judgement passed on them because of just a few people. Over reacting is human, but then so it figuring out what really matters (eventually).”

Report Violation

9. Anonymous said... on Aug 5, 2011 at 10:13PM

“After reading this piece, I cannot help but wonder if our society is ever going to return from our vacation to this politically correct fantasyland. We have been so conditioned by journalist, college professors, and mass media to allow lies and the omission of facts to be seen as the truth. For starters, these so called flashmobs, are indeed euphemistic terms for racial beatdowns of Caucasians. It is not that all blacks or black children are committing these crimes, but it is a shame that we as a society are made to turn our backs on the truth. Most people dare not to tell the truth out of fear of being called racists and evil for seeing the life through the lens of reality. If a large group of white people hunted down and beat up African Americans for the sake of being African American it would be labeled a hatecrime, if convicted these people would spend an automatic 5 years in jail. These teens are choosing Caucasian men and women—and most of us know that. The news is quite reluctant to report on issues such as this in a truthful manner, for it goes against their liberal agenda. Most liberals seem to believe that lies, omissions, and misinformation are necessity, for they want to control information and language for the greater good. To them, the ends justify the means. After all, the end result that they hope for is to create is a fair and just society and the end racism. However, if these people truly want a fair and just society, then they should start being fair and balanced and begin telling the truth! What can be more just than the truth? We can all start by explaining things as they really are. Flashmobs are often indeed often hate crimes!”

Report Violation

10. Anonymous said... on Aug 5, 2011 at 10:18PM

“After reading this piece, I cannot help but wonder if our society is ever going to return from our vacation to this politically correct fantasyland. We have been so conditioned by journalist, college professors, and mass media to allow lies and the omission of facts to be seen as the truth. For starters, these so called flashmobs, are indeed euphemistic terms for racial beatdowns of Caucasians. It is not that all blacks or black children are committing these crimes, but it is a shame that we as a society are made to turn our backs on the truth. Most people dare not to tell the truth out of fear of being called racists and evil for seeing the life through the lens of reality. If a large group of white people hunted down and beat up African Americans for the sake of being African American it would be labeled a hatecrime, if convicted these people would spend an automatic 5 years in jail. These teens are choosing Caucasian men and women—and most of us know that. The news is quite reluctant to report on issues such as this in a truthful manner, for it goes against their liberal agenda. Most liberals seem to believe that lies, omissions, and misinformation are of a necessity, for they want to control information and language for the greater good. To them, the ends justify the means. After all, the end result that they hope for is to create is a fair and just society and to end racism. However, if these people truly want a fair and just society, then they should start by being fair and balanced and begin telling the truth! What can be more just than the truth? We can all start by explaining things as they really are. Flashmobs are often indeed often hate crimes!”

Report Violation

11. Anonymous said... on Aug 5, 2011 at 10:20PM

“After reading this piece, I cannot help but wonder if our society is ever going to return from our vacation to this politically correct fantasyland. We have been so conditioned by journalist, college professors, and mass media to allow lies and the omission of facts to be seen as the truth. For starters, these so called flashmobs, are indeed euphemistic terms for racial beatdowns of Caucasians. It is not that all blacks or black children are committing these crimes, but it is a shame that we as a society are made to turn our backs on the truth. Most people dare not to tell the truth out of fear of being called racists and evil for seeing the life through the lens of reality. If a large group of white people hunted down and beat up African Americans for the sake of being African American it would be labeled a hatecrime, if convicted these people would spend an automatic 5 years in jail. These teens are choosing Caucasian men and women—and most of us know that. The news is quite reluctant to report on issues such as this in a truthful manner, for it goes against their liberal agenda. Most liberals seem to believe that lies, omissions, and misinformation are of a necessity, for they want to control information and language for the greater good. To them, the ends justify the means. After all, the end result that they hope for is to create is a fair and just society and to end racism. However, if these people truly want a fair and just society, then they should start by being fair and balanced and begin telling the truth! What can be more just than the truth? We can all start by explaining things as they really are. Flashmobs are often indeed hate crimes!”

ADD COMMENT

Rate:
(HTML and URLs prohibited)

Related Content

Update: Wednesday Flash Mob Press Conference
By Randy LoBasso

Mayor Nutter teased us this morning with his big 11:30 press conference concerning the flash mobs.

RELATED: Nutter Endorses Guy Who Wants Lock Up Mom & Dad College (Flash Mob) Humor

Related Content

Oh You Kids and Your Flash Mobs
By Randy LoBasso

Teens congregate on South Street for another violent flash mob. What is wrong with these kids?

RELATED: Will Philly Sue Facebook Over Teen 'Flash Mobs'?