I have never listened to Atlanta talk radio host Neal Boortz. After hearing his latest comments on shooting “urban thugs,” I probably never will. No matter if I’m an advocate of his opinion or not, the suggestion he offers speaks to the racial animosity hurled toward minorities.

Boortz, also known as The Talkmaster, Mighty Whitey and The High Priest of The Church of the Painful Truth, gained much public scrutiny after his comments were featured on the Ed Schultz show on MSNBC.

Boortz stated:

“We got too damn many urban thugs, yo, ruining the quality of life for everybody. And I’ll tell you what it’s going to take. You people, you are – you need to have a gun. You need to have training. You need to know how to use that gun… We need to see some dead thugs littering the landscape in Atlanta. We need more dead thugs in this city.”

There is an impressive lineage that links “urban thugs” with social disorganization. Impressive in the sense that the term is often racially charged code for the Black community.

Somewhere in our American history, we should have learned that violence against violence never solves any problem. Instead, we’re constantly cosigning advice where people are running around committing acts of violence simply because someone encouraged them. The issue that needs to be discussed is how to combat violence, not inflicting havoc on “urban thugs.” After hearing the quotes being blast from Twitter to news sites, the racist rhetoric rings loud.

Despite the frequency of hate crimes targeted towards the Black community, we have seen this type of anti-thug rhetoric before in the case of lynching. The notion where majority leaders often assail against minorities during times of economic or political oppression shows why comments like this can easily take flight. Highlighting “urban thugs” is an easy target due to the negative connotation those two words carry.

The lack of continued and widespread acceptance of these ideas demonstrates how we assign terms to certain communities. Let us not forget these “urban thugs” exist within white, Latino and other racial/ethnic communities. However, in the Black community, some have reinforced this term by racial tension and lack of tact when presenting disdain.

It is ironic that these comments were expressed around this time. Have we forgotten what happened in June 1987 where Bernhard “subway vigilante” Goetz shot four “thugs” who he thought were trying to rob him? Back then, Goetz shot four unarmed Black youths who approached him on a New York subway train, but was later acquitted of attempted murder and assault. He was, however, convicted of carrying a concealed weapon and sentenced to prison, but only after bolstering the idea that shooting “thugs” was acceptable.

We have to be cautious of people who constantly spew offensive rhetoric with little substance. Figures like Boortz seek publicity. They are looking to encourage supporters to react while diverting attention from the real issues. Pundits and politicians must realize their authoritative influence. Boortz’s charge, to shoot urban thugs, goes beyond more than just raising ratings and garnering attention – there has to be a better approach. Vigilantism is not the answer.

What do you think of Boortz’s solution to crime in Atlanta? Do you feel his comments were racially charged?

Speak on it!


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