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Mob attacks not about race

Updated: July 15, 2012 3:23PM

I have never responded to the columnist down the river.

But I was fascinated by Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass’ take on the recent mob attacks in and around the Streeterville neighborhood.

In his interview with the unidentified doctor who was injured in the attack, Kass asked if the attack was “racial.”

“I don’t think it was racially motivated,” the doctor said. “They were black, I’m Asian, but I think it was something else. I think it was about having fun because they could.”

Still, whether white people are comfortable saying it out loud or choose to keep a lid on their thoughts, a lot of them are wondering if they are being targeted by street mobs because of their race.

Several readers sent me angry emails, saying I didn’t point out that the attackers were black and the victims were white and that makes this a hate crime.

But these mob attacks are not as simple as beating up someone because of their ethnicity.

Because these were not the black-on-black crimes the city has grown accustomed to, that doesn’t mean they were hate crimes.

These were random acts of terrorism.

Police said as many as 17 teens between the ages of 13 and 16 were involved in one of the three attacks that occurred last weekend.

Frankly, I’m not surprised that teens who were apparently out looking for trouble ended up in an area where tourists, toting expensive cameras and smart phones, feel safe.

After several high-profile cases and an intervention by the Guardian Angels, teams of thieves have slowed beating up people on the L trains for their cell phones.

And after two brutal South Side mob attacks sparked a public outcry, police are taking teen mobs seriously.

For example, in 2007 a gang of thugs known as “Goonies” were running around the Roseland area beating up young people and taking their cellphones.

Dreyvon McCray, then 14 and an honors student, was beaten so severely he was in a coma for three months. McCray is black as were his attackers. In that case, a 16-year-old was charged, as a juvenile, with robbery and aggravated battery, and an 18-year-old was also charged with attempted murder.

A summer earlier, Ryan Rusch was brutally beaten and robbed of his cellphone in the Beverly neighborhood. Rusch is white and his teenage attackers were black. Because one of the teens allegedly told authorities that he attacked Rusch because he was a “goofy-looking white boy,” police initially investigated the attack as a hate crime.

Micha Eatman, 18, was convicted on the robbery, aggravated battery and unlawful restraint charges, but a judge cleared him of attempted murder charges after a bench trial.

The one thing these cases have in common is that they involve young black males roaming the streets looking for trouble.

Had the teenagers involved in the Streeterville assaults walked up on a lone victim in Roseland or Maywood, for that matter, the outcome would have been the same.

The mixture of idleness and testosterone, fueled by a disgraceful lack of respect for the rights of others, puts us all at risk for getting knocked in the head if we run into the wrong crowd of teens.

Unfortunately, the fact that fewer than three in 10 American teenagers now hold summer jobs is going to make a bad situation even worse.

As it is, too many teens have nowhere to go and nothing to do. And despite the fact that many of these teens have no home training, their parents and guardians allow them to hang out at festivals and concerts unsupervised.

Obviously, if teens haven’t learned how to behave properly in school and in the neighborhood, you can best believe they are going to act like fools when they are out and about.

So if you have one of these teens at home, and you are letting him or her run the streets, then you are running the risk that you are going to be footing a huge legal bill down the road.

Obviously assaults and robberies, not to mention homicides, are despicable crimes that occur too often in black neighborhoods.

But when a mob of teenagers beats up someone for sport, it isn’t about the color of the victim.

This is about a breakdown of civility that can spread like a disease. As long as there are so many teens that are not engaged in productive activities, no one is immune from the impact of that disease.

As someone who grew up in this city at a time when activists had to agitate just to live, work and play outside the black belt, I don’t need to tell you that these mob attacks make me especially ashamed.

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