I have heard that Charlie Sykes mentioned it this morning, but, in fairness, I first learned of the beating of a white bus rider via e-mail from my Backstory colleague and Spanish Journal publisher Robert Miranda, linking to a report on WauwatosaNow.com.
In case you haven't heard, the story is that the lone white rider on a bus in a near suburb of Milwaukee was harassed and assaulted by some black teenagers who called him a "cracker" along with other epithets. The incident (or part of it) was apparently captured on videotape, but none of the other 50-some riders (all African-Americans) would admit to having seen anything.
I will let others take the "can you imagine if it was a black guy on a bus full of white people" approach, an observation that, while hackneyed, is true.
What interests me is the "non-racial" angle. We - particularly those of us who remember the 60's (the late 60's in my case) - are very attuned to the paradigm of discrimination. We grew up in a time when racism and associated exclusion of certain "out" groups was a prevalent social evil. So we think that's what's newsworthy here is the interracial angle.
What we have been slower to realize is that times have changed. Racism and other forms of discrimination still exist, but they are no longer the paramount social evil. Rather, it may now be the extent to which the civic virtues that we all thought were boring and repressive, e.g, fidelity, civility, a sense of duty, etc, are increasingly disregarded.
So this incident would be just as significant were it (as similar events most often are) an intraracial crime. What is troubling about this story is not just that a couple of kids behaved like thugs or that they picked on a guy because he was white. What is shocking is that 50 people on a bus, whether out of some misplaced sense of racial solidarity or, as I think is more likely, from fear and indifference, believed that there was nothing that they should - or could - do about it.
People on the left, often quite admirably, want to save the city and build an integrated society. They want people to take mass transit and "save the earth."
But if this type of incident is not uncommon in the city and on our buses, there is no set of policies - and no amount of money - that will make that happen. That's why an urban leadership that goes ballistic (and properly so) over bad cops, but it is silent about roving thugs (that insists they not even be called thugs) hurts the city. That's why an alderman who openly dismisses his white constituents and advocates "no snitching" hurts the city.