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On Ferguson, the respectable person isn’t supposed to say it, or even think it: that there’s something wrong with the fact that black people start burning things down when one white cop kills one black guy, but seem to think of it as business as usual that black boys and men regularly kill each other.

Michael Brown was, statistically, vastly more likely to be killed by a fellow black man than a single white one. Yet the black-on-black murder rate in Chicago this summer, to the people comparing Ferguson to Gaza, etc., is perhaps “regrettable,” but hardly cause for taking it to the streets.

That observation, typically dismissed as hostile right-wing boilerplate, is actually worthy of an answer, and not the one typically given—including by me.

I have written that actually black communities are quite aggrieved about black-on-black violence. “Stop The Violence” events are routine. Ta-Nehisi Coates did ablog post making the point neatly. There is barely a black community without concerned black ministers and elders trying their best to counter the tide of gun murders.

Yet deep down I cannot genuinely see that answer as enough. Clearly, black communities are much more upset over a Darren Wilson than over a black guy down the street killing one a few blocks over. After a summer during which dozens of black men, and sometimes bystanders including children, are killed by other black men, no one starts looting stores. Black thinkers do not make bone-deep, censoriously indignant statements on CNN.

But is it really that hard to understand why? Take Judson Phillips at Tea Party Nation for a representative statement, calling black people racist for hating on a Darren Wilson rather than the local thugs. Look at the comment section too—this is no lone wolf sentiment. But anyone who really sees “racism” in the matter is being almost willfully blind to perfectly rational human nature.

Namely: in black communities, the thug is not the occasional skulking sociopath, the oddball down the block who always seemed to “have the devil in him” and “went wrong.” The thugs, remember, are numerous; they are one of the local norms, sad to say. Nothing like every guy is a thug, of course. But the thugs are numerous enough to be part of the warp and woof of the community. That, a situation dating only to the eighties, is why the issue is considered so pressing today.

So, the thugs are your son, your brother, your uncle, your cousin, the boy who grew up next door, your boyfriend, one of your best friends. Maybe the thug even used to be you, until you went straight.

In that light, let’s imagine what it would entail for black communities to truly condemn black thugs, beyond just having marches and using words like “troubling.” Mothers would have to forsake their own boys, for real. Women would refuse to go near any man with thuggish associations, for real—barely a thug could expect to get any action. In communities that already feel as if the mainstream world is an alien realm, ordinary people would have to sneeringly dismiss, for real and for good, every third one of their own male teens and twenty-somethings in the neighborhood, and get out in front of cameras and start howling against them. Thugs, to feel remotely at home, would have to move to different cities and start over—leaving their families (including kids) behind.

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