Knocking out a problem

Sudden assault phenomenon requires color-blind justice

In major U.S. cities, street mobs gather with the intent to single out a random individual for a brutal beating in the name of entertainment.

In this game, where the object is to punch, kick and stomp the victim unconscious, perpetrators record the attacks with cellphone cameras and share the videos later with friends on social media sites.

It’s called the “knockout game,” and many media outlets refused to report on it when the trend started to emerge years ago. The coverage is still lacking.

You know the elephant in the room can no longer be ignored when the Rev. Al Sharpton finally comes clean about the problem. Earlier this month, he and other civil rights leaders launched a national “stop the violence” social media campaign in New York, where Jews in the Brooklyn borough have been the most frequent victims of attack.

“It is vicious. It is ugly,” Sharpton said. “It must be stopped.”

Indeed, one looking for evidence of just how brutal – and cowardly – these attacks are need look no further than the latest incident in Rochester, N.Y., where a teenager on probation for a robbery conviction was arrested for assaulting a woman with a roundhouse punch to the back of her head as she exited a store. The 16-year-old alleged assailant and his cameraman face criminal indictments.

The video clip shows the two laughing before the assault and then quickly running away after the woman goes down. “She gonna call the cops,” the cameraman is heard saying as they flee.

We agree with hip-hop legend Russell Simmons, who also has released anti-knockout game videos.

“Why don’t you hit somebody that might hit you back?” he said in one. “I mean, the knockout game is for cowards.”

By 2010, knockout game-style attacks were happening with such frequency that they could no longer be called isolated incidents. Now that they’re being reported more often, a lot of media coverage since then has omitted a recurring narrative from the accounts: Attackers overwhelmingly have been blacks targeting other races.

Shame on the media outlets that failed to give this horrifying trend proper coverage out of fear of political correctness.

Ignoring or downplaying the problem based on racial discomfort won’t make it go away. That being said, however, people who are staking out ideological sides on this issue based solely on skin color are missing the larger point.

Take any racial component out of the coverage, and look at it that way: There has been a noticeable rise of sudden attacks on innocent passers-by, and the assailants keep showing up on social media bragging about it. Is that a problem that law enforcement needs to aggressively pursue? Yes. Do the accused attackers deserve fair hearings under the law? Yes. Do the victims deserve closure? Yes.

When race is pertinent in particular cases, coverage of the knockout-game phenomenon doesn’t have to be color-blind. But what does have to remain color-blind is the administering of justice.

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