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  • « Joe and the 'Jena 6' | Main | Meanwhile back at the movement »

    September 21, 2007

    HRC invents a hate crime?

    Posted by: Chris

    An update on my post on "Joe and the Jena 6" from yesterday:

    A reader points out that Donna Payne's column in the Advocate alleges Justin Butler was targeted by the "Jena 6" for a beating in response to an incident in which Justin attacked a black student.  Payne wrote:

    In one notable incident an African-American student was assaulted and hit with a beer bottle at a party attended mostly by whites. In return, six African-American students beat unconscious the white student who had allegedly taunted the victim at the party. But although the white student was sent to the hospital and released the same day, the six African-American students -- who have come to be known as the “Jena Six” -- were arrested and charged with attempted murder. Five of the six teenagers were charged as adults.

    I haven't seen any legitimate news source report this serious allegation that Justin, the beating victim, is himself guilty of a hate crime.  Forgive me if I don't take the word of Payne, HRC's associate director for diversity, who is hardly a model of credibility.

    Donnapayne_2 For one thing, she writes in the same column that she's horrified that "five of the six teenagers were charged as adults." What she doesn't mention is that four of those five actually are adults. Only 17-year-old Mychal Ball, who police said instigated the attack on Justin and delivered the blindside knockout blow that began the beating, was an actual juvenile tried as an adult.

    The prosecutor, who has loads of credibility problems himself, claims he tried Ball as an adult because he considered the Butler beating serious and because Ball had a record. The Louisiana Appeals Court overturned Balls' conviction, not because he has a colorable claim of innocence, but because  it disagreed with that decision to try him as an adult.  (Another fact conveniently omitted by Payne.)  The appeals court may well be correct, but is this what makes him a civil rights hero?

    I'm struck by how Payne seems untroubled tossing around an unsubstantiated allegation of a hate crime, even at someone who's been the victim himself of a beating.  (Blame the victim, anyone?)  But her careless accusation backfires, more than she realizes. Because if she's right that the Jena 6 were retaliating against a Butler, a white student, because they believed him a bigot — well, then, they're guilty of a hate crime as well.

    Hate crime laws cover any crime motivated in part by the protected categories, in this case "race" not "black."  So if the black students targeted the white student, they're ever bit as guilty of a hate crime as he allegedly was.

    Just remember that I'm not the one saying the Jena 6 are guilty of a hate crime. Donna Payne is.

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    Comments

    1. joe on Sep 21, 2007 8:36:51 AM:

      Assuming you've seen the NBC and WaPo coverage from last summer, I would point you to the All Things Considered July 30 story and to my post linked from my comment sign-in.

      I'm unimpressed by your arguments. Even if you win on technical points, in doing so you excuse the huge problem deserving of serious attention and consideration. The same kind of attention and consideration I have come to expect from your best work.

    1. Wanda Wright on Sep 21, 2007 2:20:31 PM:

      Once again, some white gay men think it is all about them! The issue is the charges that do not fit the crime when comparing, "like offences." The prosecutor sped passed charges against the Jena 6, like aggravated assault, and went straight for attempted murder. Was the white student charged for assaulting the black student at the party? The white student attended a function at school the same night he was assaulted. Does that sound like someone who experienced attempted murder? Let's not forget the noose labeled as a "prank", or are you going to compare a gay man's experience with being taunted and teased in high school with the history, use, and images of racism, hanging, and killing millions of black people because they were black? There is no comparision, and the charges against Jena 6 were extremely race related! You make it sound like black people do not want the Jena 6 to be charged with anything. They should be held accountable for their actions, but not attempted murder.

      Your failure to focus on the decision of the Prosecutor to charge the black young men with charges that do not fit the crime is somewhat racist, and your petty name calling of Donna Payne makes the average reader think that your opinion was racially based!

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Sep 21, 2007 3:17:06 PM:

      "The prosecutor sped passed charges against the Jena 6, like aggravated assault, and went straight for attempted murder. Was the white student charged for assaulting the black student at the party?"

      And there you have it, folks; one white person "assaulting" a black person at a party is equivalent to six black people ganging up on and beating a white person unconscious and to the point of requiring hospitalization.

      Not surprising; that was the same logic they used to defend the "Decatur Seven", as well ( http://www.cnn.com/US/9911/11/expelled.students.01/ ).

      Can you imagine the hue and cry that would be going up if six white students had accosted and beaten a black student to the point of unconsciousness -- and especially if whites had tried to argue that it was minimal because said student "was able to attend a school function that night"? Blacks would have screamed "lynching" and accused whites of trying to "minimize the crime out of racism".

      And look what Wanda and Donna are doing.

      Oh, there's racism here all right, Wanda. But it's not Chris.

      Of course, what I find ironic about this is that Chris is getting bitten by the same problem he encourages when it comes to incidents involving gays -- automatic assumption that everyone else is anti-you and that everything is a calculated act of malice and bias.

    1. Lucrece on Sep 21, 2007 4:32:58 PM:

      You're right, Wanda, the concepts of nooses for some of the black men, since most were not hanged, just beaten, cannot be compared to gays in history who were burned alive or executed upon discovery; and, unlike blacks, these gays had no source for solidarity whatsoever. Black, white, either community was gleeful to kill a queer.

      The main injustice here are the charges pressed, which are disproportionate. However, even then, I'm not too keen on dedicating a gay organization's energy on it where there are more appropriate issues to spend it on. Also, I'm quite sure that with or without our sponsorship, the heterosexual black community will be eager to stab us on the back after this matter is resolved.

    1. Double T on Sep 21, 2007 5:48:36 PM:

      Lucrece, we have to start building bridges. Is this the right time? We'll never know unless we try.

      Could this fail? Could this backfire right in our face? Absolutely.

      But I for one would rather fail while attempting the right thing, than to success at doing nothing.

      NDT....he encourages when it comes to incidents involving gays -- automatic assumption that everyone else is anti-you….. No one here is making an automatic assumption.

      So, NDT, take your right hand, grab your right ear. Take your left hand, grab your left ear. On the count of three, pull your head out of your ass. See…..life can get better for you.

    1. Deanna Washinton on Sep 21, 2007 8:22:49 PM:

      I have never seen media coverage so lopsided.
      Does anyone remember the Duke LaCrosse players? Where was the HRC for that?
      If you look at the blogs, you see that anyone that is not supportive of the "Jena 6" is a racist, or that seems to be the perception.
      What is the HRC doing about the Jim Naugle situation who is primarily support by black evangelicals.

      I don't understand it, but I respect Mr Crain for having the balls to speak up and call Mr. Solomese to the carpet on this double standard.

      Deananna

    1. Citizen Crain on Sep 21, 2007 8:55:09 PM:

      Joe, "technicality"? Is it a technicality to ask for proof before blaming the victim of a beating of himself committing a hate crime? Is it a technicality to call it a hate crime if in fact the six black students beat up the white student in retaliatory racial violence? I've read extensively about the Jena 6 and I'm still waiting for a legitimate news outlet reporting Justin was violent toward blacks.

      Wanda, I'm not sure which blog you read but it wasn't mine. I did not dispute the charge of prosecutorial abuse and I would certainly agree that those responsible for the noose should be expelled. Details on the alleged party incident are way too fuzzy (nonexistent, actually) to cast blame, however.

      I know you're dismissive of me for being white, Wanda, but have you have had the living crap beaten out of you because of who you are? I have. I attended a PARTY the same day I was beaten up just as a "FUCK YOU" to the guys who attacked me, as if they could scare me into the closet. Good for Justin for not missing his class ring ceremony.

      And at the risk of pointing out another "technicality," you can be the victim of attempted murder and not have a SCRATCH on you. The key is the perpetrators' intent and steps taken in furtherance of that intent. In this case, it boils down to what the Jena 6 would have done if an uninvolved student hadn't stepped in.

      I agree with you that it's ridiculous to think that meant to kill him, which is why the initial charge was overblown. But please don't EVER dismiss a crime based solely by the amount of physical injury done to the victim -- especially if you haven't been there yourself. Feminists taught us long ago the dangers of that line of thinking.

    1. Citizen Crain on Sep 21, 2007 9:18:37 PM:

      NDT, don't you see the fallacy in flipping things that way? It does make a difference when the perpetrators of violence are in the majority and not the minority. If six gay guys beat up a guy because he's straight, it would be a rare example of gay-on-straight violence, perhaps motivated (though NOT justified) with being fed up over their own treatment by society.

      But when six straight guys beat up someone because he's gay, it's no grand leap to imagine they are acting out all they've heard about how disgusting and immoral gay people are, and to reenforce to gay people generally their spot at the bottom of society's pecking order.

      You can persist in believing that crimes motivated by bias are no different than those motivated by greed or lust etc, but you do so blind to the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
      Lucrece, you're hitting closer to my point, which is about HRC and gay groups generally picking their battles. Though I'd caution against getting into a contest over who's been more oppressed.

      Deanna, you're right about HRC although Naugle is the least of what HRC is missing. In addition to the hate crimes I mentioned in my initial post, the fight for marriage is BOILING right now in Maryland and California, and HRC is MIA.

    1. Wanda on Sep 22, 2007 12:08:47 AM:

      C-Squared, no one is dismissing you because you're white. There are times when it is not appropriate to compare, "what ifs" with reality. The attempted murder charge is the issue. Move over baby, give us some room and share this world with the rest of us!

      Lucrese, I feel you when you talk about our support of the black heterosexual community backfiring on us. I struggle with this issue everyday.

    1. Deanna Washinton on Sep 22, 2007 12:43:35 AM:

      Wanda

      Do you think that gay white men might find this comment a bit homophobic and racist as it denotes YOUR sterotype that GWM frequently only think of themselves? I have seen many be very very giving to people of all races. In the mid 80's we all cared for one another during the midst of AIDS confustion. Do you want to rethink this comment

      "Once again, some white gay men think it is all about them!"

      Now I am reading of people being called "racist" just because they don't agree with you in this particular case?

      I find reverse racism just as ugly as racism.

      In order you to properly judge Chris Crain, I would have to know what you have personally done to prevent hate crimes amongst gay men.

      Deanna

    1. Citizen Crain on Sep 22, 2007 3:36:01 AM:

      Wanda, C-Squared is me, Chris Crain. This confusion has happened before and after trying a zillion times, I finally figured out how to change my TypeKey ID. So yeah, you did dismiss me as yet another "white gay man who thinks it's all about them."

      I don't know how again to say this to you, but I AGREE with you that attempted murder was too strong a charge. I AGREE that there is a systemic problem involving the treatment of African Americans in the criminal justice system. I wrote that in my first post on the topic.

      Where I disagree as a gay man and as the victim of a hate crime is the nation's largest gay rights group standing up for six jock bullies who cold-cocked a defenseless student outside a high school gym.

      We all have to pick our battles, and it showed incredibly poor judgment for HRC to pick that one.

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Sep 24, 2007 12:29:00 AM:

      "NDT, don't you see the fallacy in flipping things that way? It does make a difference when the perpetrators of violence are in the majority and not the minority. If six gay guys beat up a guy because he's straight, it would be a rare example of gay-on-straight violence, perhaps motivated (though NOT justified) with being fed up over their own treatment by society."

      Not really.

      Because I don't think there's any need to blame society for the fact that you, a white male, were beat up by members of a minority who were lashing out over the way they'd been treated by that same society -- or to in any way act as though their actions were somehow legitimized because of it.

      This comes from experience. In my role, I have had plenty of opportunities to work with, recruit, and manage all sorts of people from all sorts of ethnic and economic backgrounds, and all I can tell you is this; good people are good regardless of from where they came, and some people are bad even from the best of circumstances.

      The best way to treat people is to look at them as individuals, not make judgments based on other characteristics. You claim to want that....but then you keep perpetuating notions about how "society" forced these boys to gang up on another.

    1. Wanda on Sep 24, 2007 2:09:17 AM:

      Deanna, yes I have done my part in helping to prevent hate crimes against gay men. In fact, my fight is in the workplace. When I spoke out about homophobic comments that were made about gays and lesbians, I experienced the retaliation, hostile workplace harassment, and was eventually fired. The white gay men who were the subject of the comments and who are in positions of power to do something? They said nothing and are still working. Don't even even get me started about the racism that exist in our gay and lesbian community!

      Deanna, I read your comment, and see why it is so easy for you to assume my comments were motivated by, "reverse racism." You chose to compare the lacrosse players from Duke University with the Jena 6? Now that was racist! Yeah, the incident was seriously disturbing and unfair, but again the issue here is the attempted murder the Jena 6 were charged with that do not fit the crime, and you have yet to voice your opinion on that matter.

      The issues HERE is the attempted murder the Jena 6 were charged with that do not fit the crime!!!

      As an African American woman who is still effected by how the racist justice system still punishes blacks much more harsh than any other group of people, Donna Payne is certainly qualified to speak about the subject matter.

      And please stop using your revere racism card! I do not think that my ethnic stock is superior to whites or any other group!

    1. Jeremayakovka on Sep 24, 2007 6:59:26 PM:

      Smart blogging, sir.

      "Jena 6" sounds like and should be a remote planet mentioned in a Star Trek episode. It should not be a rallying cry to revive identity politics and stoke racial tensions while ignoring the imperatives of swiftly applying criminal law to, well, criminals.

    1. Alejandro Rodriguez-Lee on Sep 24, 2007 11:28:46 PM:

      *Where I disagree as a gay man and as the victim of a hate crime is the nation's largest gay rights group standing up for six jock bullies who cold-cocked a defenseless student outside a high school gym.*

      Chris,

      While I also question HRC's jumping on this particular bandwagon, you continue to inaccurately portray this incident as poor innocent Justin being randomly ambushed by six Big Black Brutes. It's clear that you (like Donna Payne) haven't done thorough research on this case; if you had, you wouldn't be throwing a halo over Justin's head. Your description veers dangerously close to the racist stereotype of the Black man as a "wilding" savage. Let's not mix racist imagery with reality.

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