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Local Column

Olson: Crime is not a racial issue

Eric Olson
Eric Olson

In the wake of the most recent viral internet video set here in our community, let me state it again: Crime is not a racial issue.

Usually, people seem pretty clear on this – unless the crime involves black people. Then the racists come out like mosquitoes at dusk.

The last time DeKalb County was the backdrop for a viral internet video of people behaving badly, it was a couple of light-skinned women fighting in the middle of Peace Road as traffic rolled by honking. Eventually some people came to break it up, including an off-duty police officer.

In the comments on the story, race never came up. Nobody made any blanket statements about “white people.” The incident also happened in Sycamore, but there weren’t a lot of people fretting “oh, what’s become of the Sycamore that I used to know? I’m moving far away!”

(In fairness to the people in the video, only one person – Susanna Mendenhall – was charged with a crime in connection with that fight. Aggravated battery and reckless conduct charges against her are pending, according to court records.)

But this most recent brush with infamy for DeKalb County is different. This time it’s a video of two women – and apparently some others – going at it in a McDonald’s as bystanders looked on, recorded it, or reached over the counter to try to swat at them. It’s total chaos.

Almost everyone in the video is black, though, so naturally, the racists are all over it. You won’t read their garbage on the Daily Chronicle’s version of the story because we don’t allow racists to comment. But their predictable trash commentary can be found elsewhere online.

Look, what the video shows is disturbing, but for whatever reason, we as people are drawn to it. But it’s only 45 seconds and doesn’t show how the fight started, doesn’t tell you why, doesn’t explain why there’s a man trying to get involved or a woman reaching over the counter.

Based on less than a minute of video with no context, people feel right in making blanket statements about thousands of their neighbors who weren’t there and who would probably be as shocked as anyone if that started happening around them.

That’s the inherent unfairness in racism – an entire group of people judged based on the actions of but a few who happen to share some of the same physical characteristics. Throw in that some people will seize seemingly any opportunity to say nasty things about DeKalb and you’ve got a big nasty stew of unjust judgment going on. People do see this stuff, and it is hurtful.

Prosecutors have filed charges against people involved in the McDonald’s incident, and they alone should be the ones held accountable – not an entire group of people or an entire city.

• Eric Olson is general manager of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841, ext. 2257, email eolson@shawmedia.com, or follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.

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