Outside View: The 'Knockout Game' is about more than fistfights

By JOSEPH F. COTTO, UPI Outside View Commentator   |   Dec. 5, 2013 at 12:04 AM
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OCALA, Fla., Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Over the last few weeks, a horrid phenomenon known as "the Knockout Game" has spread across the United States like wildfire.

Generally speaking, it works like this: A group of teens or young adults single out an older individual. This unfortunate pedestrian is struck quickly and, before help can arrive, the attacking group runs off. Sometimes the victim is left with minor injuries, yet there are cases when an attack is fatal.

In virtually all Knockout assaults, the so-called gamers have been black. Their targets, meanwhile, belong to another race. This pattern is so pervasive that many of those who go on Knockout rampages call it "polar bear hunting."

A recent Knockout Game incident took place in an affluent Fort Myers, Fla., neighborhood.

Last Friday, Marisa Kendall of The News-Press, a local newspaper, reported that "(d)eputies said [15-year-old Traveshia] Blanks and four [high school basketball] teammates were filling time before a game Monday, walking through neighborhoods near the high school, when they came upon a 72-year-old man pulling weeds in his lawn. Video allegedly shot by one of Blanks' friends shows the group whispering as they approach the man. Then Blanks runs up behind him and kicks him, knocking him down. The group explodes into laughter and runs away.

"Blanks then allegedly knocked on a door a few blocks away, according to a Lee County Sheriff's Office report. When an 89-year-old man answered, she slapped him across the face."

Both of the victims were white. Blanks is African-American.

She has been arrested and charged with two counts of battery on a person 65 years or older. The charges are third-degree felonies.

It should be obvious that those who embark on Knockout sprees do so for deeply personal reasons. These people obviously feel frustrated at the world around them. This boils over into an uncontrollable rage; something so consuming that they probably can't readily define it.

Try as no small number might, rational minds cannot ignore the racial angle, if not impetus, of Knockout Game attacks. Far too many young blacks appear to harbor extreme animosity toward others who look different than them. By and large, this disdain is directed at whites.

Knockout gamers weren't raised in an environment of Jim Crow-mandated discrimination. They never knew the soul-wrenching reality of being allowed to exercise fewer rights than the fellow across town just because of ancestral differences.

Simply put, the Knockout predators are rebels without reason. Their satisfaction is derived from violence for its own sake; in a single word, carnage.

Perhaps they seek non-black victims as a depraved means of righting injustices that some experienced long ago. Maybe they see the people assaulted as weaklings; easy marks and nothing more. Who knows? Many of them might have no idea; their actions could well be chalked up to mob mentality.

Whatever the case, there is a highly destructive subculture creeping around the country. It must be made history but this is easier said than done.

"While racism certainly still exists in contemporary America, is by no means the fundamental impediment to black achievement; indeed, it has become the all-purpose excuse for failure -- as well as the excuse for not facing up to the real reasons why so many blacks continue to lag behind economically and socially," Harry Stein, author of "No Matter What ... They'll Call This Book Racist: How Our Fear of Talking Honestly About Race Hurts Us All" told The Washington Times Communities last year.

He continued: "Yet so profound is the fear of being stigmatized as racist that almost no one, on the left or the right, is willing to have the honest conversation about race we so desperately need to have. For, inevitably, that conversation must focus on culture."

Needless to say, many of those carrying out the Knockout attacks won't listen to those outside of the black community when cultural criticism enters the picture. This is, to a certain level, understandable. After all, non-black Americans cannot fully understand black-interest issues; no matter what their politics are or how hard they try to walk a mile in others' shoes.

Any person who makes a claim to the contrary isn't evaluating the situation well enough. Or, far more troublingly, they make no effort in understanding the ever-sensitive, and perpetually changing, complexities of race relations.

This is why any serious progress in doing away with Knockout Game madness must come from within the black community. Sporadic speeches from Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson aren't apt to get the job done.

Young men and women must talk to their peers; it is they who stand the chance of building a movement against senseless street violence. The only question is whether enough will rally together in the name of peace and dignity. If this is done, then the Knockout Game should evaporate into thin air.

Should the status quo be maintained, however, then our nation is in for much more carnage and the social divisions sure to result from that.


(Joseph F. Cotto is a columnist for The Washington Times's Communities page. He writes often about current affairs, but likes nothing more than a good interview.)


(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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