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Systematic racism fueling hate crimes at black colleges! WTF? They're not?

Facts Ruin a Narrative About Hate Crimes at HBCUs

‘White supremacist society’ was blamed for bomb threats. Turns out it was a single teenager.

By Wilfred Reilly, WSJ

Nov. 29, 2022 6:13 pm ET


Another story of American hate has ended with a whimper.


Several months ago, American media was abuzz with the claim that white supremacists were targeting historically black colleges and universities with bomb threats. Inside Higher Education ran a widely circulated article titled “HBCU Bomb Threats as White Supremacist Violence.”


David G. Embrick and Johnny E. Williams wrote that both a widely reported “spate of threats against HBCUs in early January” and a later February wave of up to 19 threats were examples of “racial control, both psychologically and mentally,” in this “white supremacist society steeped in anti-Black violence and anti-Black racism.” The authors specifically criticized anyone wondering if the threats were pranks or jokes.


Messrs. Embrick and Williams argued that bomb threats could upset black students even if not “credible,” but their underlying assumption seemed to be that the calls were the work of genuine and serious white bigots.


As USA Today has reported, the Federal Bureau of Investigation recently determined that all or almost all of the first wave of threats against HBCUs were the work of a single teenager. As per reporter Kevin Johnson, federal agents initially suspected “several” teens in the case, but now accept that “the long-standing inquiry into more than 50 racially-motivated threats . . . is believed to have been resolved” with the arrest and prosecution of this one minor. No large-scale white supremacist groups were involved with making the threats, and nothing mentioned in the article links the arrestee to organized white supremacy.


For that matter, we don’t know if the suspect is white. Police haven’t released that information because of the suspect’s youth. A surprisingly similar case involving hundreds of ugly threats to Jewish community centers traced back entirely to prankster suspects who were themselves Jewish or black.


An official FBI report on the HBCU case provides further interesting details: During this past year, lunatics or jokers appear to have made similar threats to “more than 250 colleges . . . over 100 high schools, and two junior high schools” in addition to the 50 or so HBCUs that were widely reported on. These threats “appear to have originated overseas,” according to the FBI, rather than with white American racists.


This case is hardly alone. A short list of high-profile racial incidents that have fallen apart in recent years includes the false claim by a woman at Smith College that she was harassed by janitorial staff while eating her lunch, Jussie Smollett’s lie that he’d been assaulted by racists, a “noose” supposedly hung over Nascar racer Bubba Wallace’s garage, boys from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky allegedly taunting a Native American in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, and racist chants at a Brigham Young University volleyball game.


A simple explanation for this pattern might be that Americans don’t hate each other all that much. American rates of hate crime are currently somewhat elevated. But crime is up overall, with homicides recently surpassing 20,000 a year after rising from a baseline of 14,194 in 2014. All told, there were only 8,263 FBI-recognized criminal hate incidents in the most recent year.


More broadly, interracial crime is only a tiny percentage of all crime—and more than 80% of interracial violent crime is black-on-white. These days, those looking for real Ku Klux Klansmen hanging real slip-knot nooses outside black student centers may have to take some personal initiative to make them appear.


What a “hate hoax” is can be a complex and even academic question. The single race-unknown minor who made the great majority of the HBCU threats could be a personal bigot, or could have had another motivation for making the calls. We simply don’t know. All we can say for sure is that another racial-conflict narrative has collapsed.


Mr. Reilly is an associate professor of political science at Kentucky State University and author of “Hate Crime Hoax: How the Left Is Selling a Fake Race War.”

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