Friday, March 24, 2006

"Beaten to death?"

A 15 year old boy was beaten in broad daylight on the streets of Milwaukee yesterday afternnoon. Although the precise cause has not beeen determined, he died at the hospital one hour later.

Charlie Sykes links to a blogger known as Cantankerous at Ask Me Later who wonders:

How does something like this happen at 2 o'clock in the afternoon? Is it reasonable to believe that not a single soul was around the intersection of 1st and Center St. when this crime occurred? Is it reasonable to think that nobody, anywhere could have done something to help this kid?

Cantankerous goes on to say:

The fact that yet another crime like this can happen, and in the middle of broad daylight should turn a glaring eye back on the community in which it happened. When will the people who live in these communities decide that they've had enough?

As I have blogged before, I think that conservatives - at least Christian conservatives - cannot be indifferent to problems of the central city. Its misery diminishes us all. But we believe that no amount of money and no set of social programs will address that misery without the restoration of the institutions and habits of civil society. Before a community can be helped, it must be a community.

And there are people in Milwaukee's central city that have had enough. Shortly after this incident, I was in the studios of WMCS appearing on Eric Von's show. During a break, the show's producer called in to say that the station was being bombarded with calls about a boy who had just been beaten to death near Malcolm X Academy. Why wasn't the station reporting on it? That word of this had spread through the community before it was reported on any news outlet suggests that there are people in the community who are not at all indifferent about what happens there.

(Eric's producer tracked the story down about ten minutes later, interrupting a fantastical riff by Robert Miranda about how the US produces terrorism.)

Yet Cantankerous' question remains. How could this happen in broad daylight? Why didn't anyone call the police? Maybe there is an answer to those questions here, but, if not, it wouldn't be the first time that citizens ignored violent crime.

Can a community become dominated by lawlessness unless it has, in some ways, tolerated it? If that is so, how do we change that? How do we empower the folks who "bombarded" WMCS with phone calls over the people who wear (and sell) "stop snitchin' t- shirts? What can conservatives contribute?


Amy said...

How could this happen in broad daylight? Why didn't anyone call the police?

For the same reason four people walked in on the robbery on Teutonia earlier this week, saw what was happening, and left without calling the police.

It's part of the "Stop Snitching" campaign. So many on the left and in the Democratic party have infused the African American community with a sense if distrust and hatred for authority (especially police), that campaigns like this are born.

Rather than stand up and take back their neighborhoods, Alderman like Mike McGee incite racial hatred and perpetuate cycles of fear, the victim mentality, and dependency on government.

It will be weeks - if not months - before people come forward in these cases. And it's a tragedy. The boy - and the store owner who died in the robbery - are worth so much more than the community is giving them.

Seth Zlotocha said...

Are you suggesting (via Cantankerous) that this incident would've been stopped if it took place in the suburbs? Or maybe more specifically, in a "conservative Christian" community?

I think that's a stretch.

Rick Esenberg said...


I don't know who saw this incident. Apparently there is at least one person who saw something.
In the end, it could be that nothing could have been done but, as Amy points out, this isn't the only time this question has been raised.

If 4 or 5 men started beating a kid in the suburbs, I sure do think someone who saw it would call 911. I do not think that people would walk in on a robbery and leave without calling the police. I do not think that a Sam McClain would get stomped in the middle of the street and that it would take however long it took for someone to call the cops.

Its not about liberal or Christian. I believe that the cops would be called just as quickly in Shorewood or Fox Point as they would be in Mequon or Franklin.

It's not even about race. If you did this in the Washington Heights or Sherman Park neighborhoods, the cops would be called fairly quickly.

But it does seem that there is a large part of our community where civil society has broken down. As I said in my post there seem to be many people within that community who don't much like it and want change.

It seems to me, moreover, that the victims of our refusal to acknowledge that are the poor, mostly African American people who live there.

I don't wait for too many buses at 1st and Center and my guess is that you don't either.

Seth Zlotocha said...

How do you know the police weren't called in this situation?

I couldn't find that anywhere in the reports. The boy made it to the hospital somehow.

Rick Esenberg said...

After it was too late.

But as I said, maybe no saw it. I have heard only of one person who says she saw a "commotion" but didn't call the police.

Maybe the whole thing happened too quickly.

But I think the larger questions are fair.

Seth Zlotocha said...

Just to clarify, my point is that this incident is not the fault of the community, as Cantankerous, you, and Amy seem to suggest (although Amy goes the extra mile and blames liberals).

The fact that this crime took place in the afternoon, to me, makes no difference. A beating like this can take place quickly.

Just because it happened at 1:50pm doesn't mean it could've somehow been stopped, which is what Cantankerous suggests when he asks: "Is it reasonable to think that nobody, anywhere could have done something to help this kid?"

The fact that the police are already pursuing specific suspects suggests they have received good information from people they have spoken to in the community.

It's one thing to say violent crimes happen more in the inner-city, which is a fact that can be backed-up by statistics. It's a whole other thing to suggest the events were allowed to transpire because of the community.

I just don't see how things would've gone down any differently in the suburbs if such an incident took place there.

Rick Esenberg said...

I am not saying it was "the fault" of the community. It was the fault of the cretins that did it.

But if you are saying that the likelihood of this thing happening has nothing to do with the coherence of the community and with the private enforcement of social norms, I think you're wrong.

Heck, people who live in the central city tell me that this is part of the problem. To deny that it is because you are afraid of being seen as racist or as blaming the victim (and I'm not saying that you are doing that is to pose for holy pictures at someone else's expense.

Seth Zlotocha said...

I would point to economic factors as reasons for violence ahead of social or cultural ones.

The one thing that separates 1st and Center from all of the other communities you note in your first comment is economic status.

So if your argument is that class drives violence, I'm with you. If you want to say that it's something inherent in the social culture of inner-city communities, then I think you're missing the underlying causes.

Seth Zlotocha said...

And just to clarify, I think there are two different issues going on here.

One is the cause of the violence itself, which, as I note above, I link to economic factors. I'm really not sure exactly where you stand on this issue, but it seems like you might link the causes to more social and cultural factors.

The second issue is surrounding what allowed the events to transpire in the way that they did. This is the point that Cantankerous discusses and that you initially comment on it your post. It's on this point that I think the community is irrelevant.

I don't think people in inner-city communities are any less caring or vigilant about crime than people in suburbs or rural areas. It isn't any more likely that the crime would've been stopped, as Cantankerous seems to suggest it should've been, in the North Shore than it was on 1st and Center.

Anonymous said...

All conservatives can do is continue to oppose the enablers (i.e. the left).

Rick Esenberg said...


But if you listen to African-American talk radio, they're saying the same thing I am about community reaction.

The point of economic suggests a future post.