Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Remembering the Louisiana Ambush

A Facebook friend recently posed the following challenge:
Name 1 white victim of violence who's been publicly degraded by 1000's of black folk online or by black journalists or newscasters.

My first thought was to say, "George Zimmerman," but he's not really all that young, and since nobody but him will ever really know who initiated the violence, and since many are of the opinion that, even if Martin did throw the first punch, Zimerman's following him was sufficient provocation to justify it, I'll leave that one alone.

I don't think Officer Darren Wilson really counts as all that young, either. Also, as with Zimmerman, a lot people may not consider him a victim since he managed to defeat the person trying to victimize him.

But there is one who comes to mind who fits that description. Justin Barker was a white teenager in Louisiana who got jumped by six black schoolmates. They knocked him out and then continued kicking his unconscious body, including kicks to the head--blows which obviously had the potential to be fatal.

Barker survived. He was treated at a local hospital and released after a few hours of observation...because that's what they usually do for concussions. Later that night, Barker went to a school dance, but left early due to pain. His face was swollen so badly that for three weeks, he couldn't see out of one eye, and he continued to have headaches and lapses in memory after the attack.

The young men who tried to kill Barker were charged with attempted murder. People nationwide expressed outrage at this. They said that the charges were excessive. Many, including a group called Color of Change, called not just for charges to be reduced, but for them to be dropped altogether...because...apparently it's okay to stomp and kick an unconscious boy if you're black, he's white, and other white people in the town are racists.

15,000-20,000 protesters, led by Al Shaprton, et al, converged on the town of 2,000 to oppose the "injustice" of charging the assailants with attempted murder when their attempt at murder failed to kill or permanently cripple the victim. (No wheelchair, no foul?)

Not only did these protesters show no concern for the victim, they blamed HIM for the attack. Reports were widely circulated in the media that Barker had made a racist comment to the other boys, provoking them to attack. The commonly held opinion was that 'the racist punk had it coming'--that he had a severe beat down by six people coming because he said words that hurt their feelings. The media and protesters further denounced Barker's credibility by saying that he had exaggerated the severity of his injuries They claimed that the fact that he had gone to the school dance later the same day was proof that he wasn't seriously hurt and had never been in any real danger...while lying unconscious getting stomped by six people.

But the alleged racist comment never happened. Witnesses who had initially reported that Barker made a racist remark later recanted. After the trial, the defendants' legal team--funded by generous donations from all these thousands of people who wanted to make the beating of Justin Barker legally permissible--read the following statement:

"To be clear, not one of us heard Justin use any slur or say anything that justified Mychal Bell attacking Justin nor did any of us see Justin do anything that would cause Mychal to react."

But to this day, if you read reports online about the "Jena Six" incident, the stories typically contain a litany of accounts of unrelated, racist actions by other white residents of Jena, the point being to cause the reader to sympathize with the attackers (at least four of whom have since been arrested for other violent offenses), and to suggest that the unprovoked ambush of a white boy was just a case of "turnabout is fair play."

Ultimately, the charges were reduced. They ranged from aggravated second-degree battery down to simple battery, and carried penalties ranging from 18 months in a juvenile facility (for Mychal Bell, a repeat violent offender who the media claimed had no criminal record) to $1,000 in fines and court costs and just seven days of unsupervised probation for each of the rest of the defendants.

In light of all this, I'd flip the question around:

When was the last time 20,000 people gathered in one place to justify the attempted murder of a black kid?

When was the last time that an unconscious black boy being beaten by several white people resulted in members of Congress calling for a governor to pardon the attackers?

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