Over the summer, I read an article in the The Washington Post that left me seething. A Black high school student with “mental disorders including learning disabilities” had been sodomized by three white students at his high school in Dietrich, Idaho, a town described by the Post as a “predominantly white town of 334 people.” According to a lawsuit filed by his family, the victim, a member of the school’s football team, had reportedly been the regular target of racist harassment and violence, being “taunted and called racist names by other members of the team which names included ‘Kool-Aid’ ‘chicken eater’ ‘watermelon’” and “nigger,” having teammates “jumping on him from the back and simulating anal sex,” and being knocked unconscious by a much larger student.
On October 25, 2015, that violence culminated when 17-year-old Tanner Ward “physically forced a coat hanger” into the victim’s rectum as now 19-year-old John R.K. Howard “kicked the coat hanger five or six times, causing the victim ‘rectal injuries’ that required hospital treatment.” Both men were subsequently charged with forcible penetration. And last month, Howard, referred to in the lawsuit as a “large and aggressive male who had been sent to live with his relatives in Idaho due to his inability to keep out of trouble in Texas,” reached a plea deal that allowed him to plead guilty to a one felony count of injuring a child and avoid jail time after the prosecutor in the case asserted that he did not believe the brutal attack was motivated by racism or that it was a sex crime.
As inconceivably heinous as this racist, ableist crime was, as a Black woman raised in America, I didn’t expect much outrage outside the Black community. And well, America is nothing if not consistent. The savage sexual assault of a disabled Black teen wasn’t worthy of America’s collective anger. America doesn’t care about disabled people. And how America feels about Black people goes without saying.
Well, last week, the land of the free and the home of the brave was given another opportunity to highlight its customary hypocrisy as it relates to race relations when the outrage over a white teen with special needs being tortured by four young Black adults ranging in age from 18 to 24 received all the outrage denied the victim in Idaho. The disgusting incident, which was partially documented with a live video on Facebook, included the four suspects taking turns “punching him, slapping him and stomping on his head.” The video reportedly also shows one of the suspects “cutting the victim’s hair and scalp with a knife.”
The outrage was swift and collective. A prosecutor charged all four suspects with a hate crime. A judge denied bail for all four of the accused saying they were “a danger” to themselves and society.
Activists and media personalities rushed to condemn this vicious crime and demand the suspects be brought to justice. Al Sharpton took to Twitter, calling the crime “senseless” and pledging a $1,000 donation to the victim’s family. Captain of the All Lives Matter cheer squad, Tomi Lahren, said, “This is the definition of a hate crime and these four sick individuals deserve a seat on death row right next to Dylann Roof.” Perhaps Tomi missed how the judge in this case asked the suspects, “Where was your sense of decency?” as opposed to the judge at Roof’s hearing who said, “There are victims on this young man’s side of the family,” referring to the man who had just killed nine innocent people during Bible study.
Just talked to Rev. Hatch in Chicago about this senseless, vicious crime. We pledge 1k to the family. A hate crime is deplorable PERIOD!
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) January 5, 2017
Social media has been a war zone as “conservatives” demand Black Lives Matter and the Black collective speak out about this incident where an innocent man with special needs was tortured. I suppose they had a change of heart since these same “conservatives” — fuck that PC bullshit, these same racists — have profiles emblazoned with “Make America Great Again” celebrating Donald Trump who mocked a journalist with a disability a year before they voted for him. And they must’ve missed the story I mentioned earlier where a disabled teen was sexually assaulted by three racist thugs in a locker room and at least one won’t see the inside of a jail for the crime. I guess when you’re looking to Tomi Lahren to direct your outrage, that happens.
My Facebook fan page was flooded with trolls demanding I speak out about what happened in Chicago and telling me I was probably one of “niggers who thinks that kid deserved it because he was white.” I would’ve responded to those accusations and demands, but I don’t negotiate with terrorists. White people will never be able to manipulate me into proving my morality to them. When I see any evidence of the collective morality of white people, then maybe I’ll indulge their inquiries into my moral compass, but more than three decades on earth and centuries of history have yet to define white decency and morality to me, so I feel secure in knowing I’ll never have to explain my ethical or moral stance on anything to them.
Further, they don’t give a fuck that this man had special needs, they only care that they can prop him up as proof of Black criminality and immorality. They only care that he’s white and an appropriate showpiece for their faux outrage and justification for their hate. This man’s abuse is nothing more than there “got ’em” moment, a chance to add one to their score card in an attempt to legitimize their narrative that Black people are inherently more dangerous to them than they are to us. If disability or special needs were a cause truly dear to their heart, then where was there outrage when Freddie Gray, who suffered neurological damage and developed learning and developmental disabilities as a result of lead poisoning, had his spine severed by police? And surely their genuine concern over the safety of the disabled is reflected in the work they’re doing to combat the fact that people with mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by police.
Black public condemnation of crimes against white people is at best superfluous and at worst pandering. The system is set up to benefit white people in every way, and as such, they are those most likely to receive justice. So whether we compose compelling 140-character tweets about how disgusting this attack was or not, justice will be served to the victim of this crime. That’s how power works. Whiteness is the great equalizer. So whatever internal and personal repulsion I may feel at this crime, what I won’t do is massage white racist egos to assure them that my outrage is equal and unbiased, especially when they can’t requite that.
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