John McWhorter, a professor of linguistics at Columbia University and the author of several well-regarded books, often appears on cable television news shows as the black, clear-eyed centrist on issues of race.
But in an essay that appeared on the Time magazine website Thursday about young black men, violence and the senseless killing of a white college baseball player, Christopher Lane, in Oklahoma, McWhorter veered way to the radical racist right.
To support his assertion that “young black men murder 14 times more than young white men,” McWhorter linked directly to an article saying the same thing on the website of the white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC). The CCC, founded in 1985, is the linear descendent of the old White Citizens Councils, which were formed in the 1950s and 1960s to battle school desegregation in the South, and it has evolved into a crudely racist organization. It’s website, for example, has referred to black people as “a retrograde species of humanity.”
On top of that ugly history, the CCC article McWhorter linked to – “Young blacks committed homicides at nearly 14 times the rate young whites did in 2010” – is unquestionably wrong.
The CCC based its blog post on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report titled “Homicide Rates Among Persons Aged 10-24 Years – United States, 1981-2010.” Contrary to the assertion of the CCC, the report actually quantifies the rate at which various racial and age groups are victims of homicide, not the rate at which various groups kill.
“You won’t find that in the report,” someone who worked on the report told Hatewatch. “It’s about victims.”
Hatewatch sent McWhorter an email asking for an interview and whether he knew about CCC’s past and present when linking to its site, but he did not immediately respond.
The headline on his essay in the Ideas section of the Time website is “Don’t Ignore Race in Christopher Lane’s Murder.”
Good advice, perhaps. But McWhorter doesn’t follow it himself.
He writes that two of the three teens charged with killing the 22-year-old baseball player from Australia on August 16th are black. But he fails to mention that the oldest suspect in the case, the one driving the car used in the random killing, is a 17-year-old white youth named Michael Dewayne Jones.
And, as it turns out, only one of the three teens is black: James Francis Edwards Jr., 15.
The suspected triggerman, Chancey Allen Luna, 16, is biracial, District Attorney Jason M. Hicks told Nolan Clay, a columnist for The Oklahoman.
Lane, the college baseball player, was shot in the back August 16 as he jogged down a street in Duncan, Okla. The prosecutor has called it a “thrill killing.”
“At this time we don’t have any evidence to suggest that Lane was killed because of his nationality or because of his race,” the prosecutor told The Oklahoman. “There’s just not anything in there that they targeted him because of one of those two factors.”