There is a serious crisis stalking America’s black community right now, one that gets relatively little attention. That crisis is one of credibility.

This reality has been highlighted by, among other things, the recent prevalence of the knockout game, which has gained much mainstream media attention as of late. What exactly is “the knockout game”, you ask?

Pennsylvania schoolteacher Jim Addlespurger was walking home, minding his own business, when a group of teenagers knocked him out in broad daylight with no warning at all. He dropped face-down to the curb.

It’s called the “knockout game”: teenagers knocking people out for the fun of it. They even target women and children. Cases are piling up, and police are on high alert.

“It appears these are just random acts of violence,” said former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt. “There’s no robbery, there’s no rhyme or reason; it’s just simply youths making a decision they’re going to punch somebody out — sometimes as simple as $5 bet between themselves.”

Seventeen-year-old Marvel Weaver admits he played a version of the knockout game using a stun gun. He was caught and is now in jail.

“It was a lesson learned,” Weaver told TODAY. “Someone throws it out there: ‘Want to play this?’ And people go along with it and one thing leads to another, and it just goes all downhill.”

Who are the perpetrators of this knockout game? They’re almost unanimously young urban teens of African-American heritage, bored youths with little to do who figure that random assaults are a fine way to burn some time.

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There isn’t anything funny about this, as the consequences can be quite serious:

After 17 months of waiting, a family finally learned how much time the man who killed their son will be in prison, reports CBS Minnesota.

A Stearns County judge sentenced 18-year-old Jesse Smithers to 10 years on Thursday. Smithers admitted to delivering a deadly punch in a St. Cloud alley almost a year and a half ago, when on Sept. 21, 2012, Colton Gleason was walking with friends when a car pulled up, and Smithers got out and punched him. John says his son was the victim of a deadly “knockout game.”

“This group was out there and their intentions were very clear. This is unprovoked. They stopped and they saw someone they thought they could victimize,” he said. “Colton didn’t have a chance to even turn and defend himself when somebody blind-sided punched him.”

Jesse Smithers was sentenced to 10 years behind bars for delivering the fatal punch. He originally entered a plea of not guilty, but changed it to 2nd-degree murder in Nov. 2013.

This phenomenon clearly illustrates the growing crisis of credibility black America is coming to face.

Racism is definitely a problem in the United States, as it always has been. Discrimination in hiring still occurs on the basis of one’s name and the color of one’s skin. Lending discrimination still occurs frequently. The criminal justice system in the United States is still known to discriminate when it comes to sentencing, and blacks have paid a heavy price for that. Black America has legitimate concerns in the USA, and these concerns should be heard and addressed as best they can be. I fear, however, that they never will. Why? Because there are too many incidents like this:

A 17-year-old has been charged in the beating of a man who was attacked while trying to help a boy struck by his pickup truck in Detroit.

Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy said Bruce Edward Wimbush Jr. is facing charges of assault with intent to murder and assault with intent to do great bodily harm for the attack on 54-year-old Steve Utash. He will be arraigned on Wednesday.

The Roseville man was driving his truck on Morang Street near Balfour Street on April 2 when he hit 10-year-old David Harris.

Police have said Harris stepped into traffic and Utash is not at fault. When Utash got out of his truck at the scene, police said at least a half-dozen people attacked him. He remains in critical condition.

The boy was not seriously hurt.

That is just one of many examples I can point to involving incidents of undeserved violence on the part of blacks against non-blacks in the United States. This is becoming a trend, and people are noticing. More importantly, they’re also seeing the reaction to this trend.

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Had Steve Utash been a black man and his attackers been young white teens, this story would have been a national (perhaps international) sensation. Rallies would have been held all over the country, with civil rights organizers hearkening back to the days of lynchings and foretelling a “return of the old Jim Crow” to the USA. The reaction would be loud and substantive.

Yet when black teens are the culprits, things are quiet. All of the concerns I mentioned earlier with regard to blacks and the discrimination they face in the USA are quite serious, but these largely black on non-black crimes are no less of a concern. If black America fails to become as vocal and animated in a bid to eradicate the likes of “the knockout game” from its community as it is in its defense of youths like Trayvon Martin, then I fear that hostility directed at the black community from the outside will only continue to grow. This hostility will, in turn, fuel more discrimination and hamper current efforts to eliminate it.

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This is only logical when you consider some of the concerns the black community maintains. One of these is the persistent fear black males sense in the non-blacks they associate with in public. Many a black male has lamented the fact that non-blacks they pass on the street often feel the need to lock their car doors, cross the street, clutch their purses more tightly, and engage in a host of other pre-emptive actions that mark the presence of the black male as inherently threatening. I understand this concern—I’m sure it hurts to be viewed as a threat everywhere you go if you don’t actually intend to threaten anyone. Not everyone shares the Machiavellian preference for fear over love.

That being said, can we really blame those people for erring on the side of caution in a society where large numbers of young men of African-American descent have been known to randomly assault completely innocent people in public simply for shits and giggles? A society where violent black-on-white crimes are substantially more common than the reverse, and yet don’t receive anywhere near the media attention their less common white-on-black counterparts would receive?

These are the realities that help to fuel discrimination. They are the realities that give credence to those harping on and on about inherent black violence, white supremacy, black inferiority, etc, making such individuals seem more legitimate than they are. These are the realities that feed far right-wing media pundits and political actors with the fuel they need to campaign for the roll-back of the progress blacks have made in the last 50 years, and the slow-down of anti-discrimination efforts that are already under way.

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These are the reasons why it remains very much in the self-interest of black America to treat these acts of senselessly violent black-on-non-black conduct as seriously as they would the reverse. Blacks have spent decades trying to fight the notion that young black males are inherently violent threats to innocent people. Phenomena like the knockout game threaten to roll back any progress made in that time, while giving more ammunition to those who wish to promote that regression.

Excuses will not suffice because, frankly, there are no good excuses for this kind of behavior. No amount of discussion about poverty, slavery and other instances of historic black disenfranchisement in the USA will illicit sympathy for those who threaten the lives of innocent people just for fun. The families of Steve Utash and Colton Gleason (along with the tens of millions of ordinary Americans who look like them and/or have friends and relatives like them) are not going to be moved to “understanding” by these excuses. In fact, I think it could be reasonably expected that such individuals would only be further angered by such discussions, which seek to treat the violence inflicted upon them and their loved ones as just punishment for historical crimes they’ve not been involved in. They may try to be politically correct and bite their tongues in public, but the seeds of truly disruptive discontent and interracial distrust will have already been firmly planted. The maturation of these seedlings is something the black American community should be very interested in preventing.

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If there is to be any chance of killing those seeds and getting non-blacks to take the fight against anti-black discrimination seriously (i.e. supporting initiatives designed to combat it), then the condemnation of such violent acts from within the black community must be vocal and forceful. There is no other way.

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