When I was working in Korea as an intern in 2005, someone broke into my landlord’s apartment, located directly above my apartment. In a land that is almost completely ethnically homogenous (I’d say 99% Korean), it was pretty safe to assume that the perpetrator(s) of the crime was Korean. In a profound way, it was actually pretty refreshing to have race as a null point. When the landlord told me of the incident, there was no name calling or predictions of what the perpetrator looked like—he looked like us.
In America, the topic of crime has a shadow—race. You almost cannot separate the two. I cannot even count the number of times I’ve been in conversations where the person will say that his car was broken into and they will automatically assume “it was probably a black guy.” It has made me wonder if white people ever think that white people commit crimes.
As a criminal defense attorney in Utah County, I hear about a lot of crime. I have a lot of clients who have committed crimes. A friend asked me a few weeks ago, “So, are you defending all the Mexican gangsters?” I quickly responded that only a small percentage of my clients are Mexican. A few days ago when I went to go visit one of my clients in jail who had six criminal charges, each from separate incidents, another friend asked me if the guy was black. Confused that such a question would be asked, I replied, “Of course not! This is Utah County! There are no black people!” The assumptions that fly when you talk about crime are just astounding. You could be in lily white, middle of nowhere USA, (which I am) and people will still think that the criminal is a minority.
Having been born and raised in New York, I can tell you that all the crimes committed against me and my family were perpetrated by folks from all over the color spectrum—it really was a melting pot of crime. Without getting into too much detail: white women assaulted my mother and put her in the hospital, a black person stole my bike… while I was still riding it, Hispanic people shoplifted from my parent’s store more times than I have fingers and toes, and Asian people stole so much money from my parents’ business that they had to restart the business from scratch. So believe me, crime is not a race thing.
Yes, I know if we play the numbers game, I will lose. It’s statistics that will tell you that blacks and Hispanics disproportionately make up a lot of the crime; I can’t dispute that. But no matter what the statistics say, I’d rather not assume anything till I see the guy behind the ski mask.