CNN law enforcement analyst Harry Houck asserted this week that the black community was to blame after pundits had referred to black rioters as “thugs” but had usually refused to use the same terminology for white criminals.
Following a shootout between rival biker gangs in Waco, Texas over the weekend, many noted that the media did not stereotype the suspects the same way that it had during coverage of the Baltimore riots, which were far less deadly.
“This is about a culture that looks at blackness and says that it sounds like a certain thing, it looks like a certain thing,” New York Times columnist Charles Blow explained to a CNN panel on Tuesday.
“I don’t know how you can make a comparison between Waco and Baltimore,” Houck complained. “Are these guys thugs? Yeah, they’re thugs… I use the word thug and I mean ‘bad guy’ when I use the word.”
“I think the word was owned by rappers,” he continued. “They started coming out with songs and calling themselves thugs, and I think that’s how this whole thing started, with the black community and the young men calling themselves thugs. Alright? And I think that’s how that all started.”
Blow argued that Houck’s etymology of the word thug was “patently inaccurate.”
“That word has a long history, and whether or not a word is absorbed into a community in the same way people absorbed the n-word and sometimes gay people absorbed words that were historically used to bash them, and try to rub off the edges of them and absorb it into the culture, to make it less abrasive and hurtful,” Blow observed. “A lot of times, that is what is happening with the etymology of words.”
But Blow said that the bigger concern was that the entire black community was treated as the problem after localized events in a way that the white community never was.
“Everybody has got to stop and move on from here,” Houck recommended. “Forget the past. Move on.”
“I don’t want to forget the past,” Blow shot back. “That’s not even a smart thing to say.”
“Whatever happened a thousand years ago, stop! Let’s move from here,” Houck demanded, turning to Blow. “Come on, you’re a smart man.”
“You’re smarter than what you sound like right now,” Blow quipped.
Watch the rest of the segment below.