Jared Taylor, American Renaissance, September 2000
Double standards on race are so commonplace it is almost tedious to point them out, but some are impossible to ignore. Violent death takes on a different coloring, shall we say, depending on the races of the actors, as two recent incidents demonstrate.
On June 16, a black 17-year-old named Raynard Johnson hanged himself from a tree in front of his house in Kokomo, in southern Mississippi. His father came home while the body was still warm and rushed him to the hospital but doctors could not revive him. Just half an hour earlier, he had been watching television inside the house with a cousin. His body showed no signs of a struggle, and two separate autopsies concluded the death was entirely consistent with suicide.
His father insisted the boy had been lynched by whites angry about his reported friendship with two white girls. He claims to believe that during the half hour Raynard was outside, a lynch mob strung up the boy so skillfully and so noiselessly they left no mark, and the cousin never heard a sound. There was, in short, no evidence of murder; only accusations.
This was enough for Janet Reno, who has met with the parents, and set the FBI on the trail of the racists. It was enough for Jesse Jackson, who charged around town leading demonstrations, accusing whites of murder, and claiming local authorities could not possibly investigate the death fairly. It was enough for black congressmen like John Conyers of Michigan and Maxine Waters of California who also met the family and have considered calling for a congressional investigation. And it was enough for the Washington Post, which printed a worried cover story about the possible lynching as well as a long, page-three followup. It was almost enough for Al Sharpton, who was supposed to come to Kokomo but changed his plans.
It required no less a personage than Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove finally to hold a press conference on July 26 and announce that the official conclusion was suicide. Col. L. M. Claiborne, commander of the Mississippi Highway Patrol and himself black, said the state had, “exhausted all rumors and exhausted all leads,” and pronounced the case closed. Along the way, it turned out that two hours before the boy killed himself, his black girlfriend told him she was in love with someone else. Jesse Jackson still thinks it was murder, and says the investigation must continue, but there is probably not much mileage for him left in this story.
It is impossible not to notice the contrast with the murder of a 10-year-old white boy, Kevin Shifflett, which we mentioned in the previous issue’s “O Tempora” section. On April 19, a black man walked up to Kevin as he played at his great-grandparents’ home in a quiet residential area of Alexandria, Virginia, and slit his throat. Witnesses told police he said something about hating whites as he killed the third-grader, but investigators did not release this information to the public and actually told the press they thought race had nothing to do with the killing.
After an extensive manhunt police now think 29-year-old Gregory Devon Murphy is the killer. Among his possessions when he was arrested on a different charge, was a note including the words “kill them raccess whiate kidd’s anyway.” Until just 12 days before the attack on Kevin, Mr. Murphy had been in jail, where he spent several years for calling a stranger “whitey” and attacking him with a hammer.
The Kevin Shifflett case has all the makings of the purest form of racial hate crime. Mr. Murphy did not know Kevin; he appears only to have wanted to “kill them raccess whiate kidd’s.” The murder of a child is particularly loathsome, and the entire neighborhood was horrified. But for some reason Janet Reno has not met Kevin’s parents. There is no FBI hate-crime investigation, and the Washington Post covered the story only because it is local news. Needless to say, there have been no demonstrations by angry whites demanding death for the killer or denouncing his motive.
Why are the cases so different? The press reaction reflects a media routine that is now so old even “conservatives” take it for granted: Play up white mischief but play down black mischief. This is supposed to be good for America because our country is full of bigoted whites looking for an excuse to vent their prejudices and mistreat blacks. Therefore, if at all possible whites must never hear or see anything that could justify a low opinion of blacks. To publicize black crime, especially anti-white black crime, might provoke whites to all manner of mayhem and is like letting children play with dynamite.
At the same time, whites must be reminded over and over just how racist they are, so they will feel guilty and stop being racist. This is why it is a public service to turn a black teen-ager’s suicide into one more reason to hector whites about their wickedness. As Samuel Francis pointed out in a July 18 column about these two cases, “if the right hate crimes don’t exist, the newspapers will have to invent them.”
Let us be charitable and assume that editors and bureaucrats who distort the news are merely stupid. They sincerely believe that blacks are so noble and long-suffering they could not possibly be provoked to anti-white violence no matter how often they are told how bad whites are. Whites, on the other hand, are more volatile, which is why the dynamite must be kept from the baby. There is no telling what whites might get up to if they hear bad news about blacks, but blacks can hear endless dirt about whites and still love and forgive.
Of course, public reaction shows how wrong this is. It is blacks who are hair-triggered, bellowing about “racism” on the flimsiest grounds and demanding investigations, punishment, reparations, and apologies. Jesse Jackson had no trouble rounding up 1,000 demonstrators — in Mississippi in the blazing heat — demanding “justice” for the imaginary killers of Raynard Johnson. Whites never do this. Not even the most gruesome, obviously hate-driven outrage against a white elicits the slightest quiver of public indignation. On the contrary, reporters invariably find plenty of whites warning about the dangers of overreaction and making excuses for black criminals. There could be no greater contrast to the accusations, demonstrations, threats, and even riots blacks serve up whenever they see a threat to their racial interests. And that, of course, is the crucial difference. Blacks know they have racial interests but whites do not. Blacks act instantly and noisily to redress “injustice” to their fellows but whites do not. They show no solidarity for other whites because they feel no solidarity — or are ashamed of themselves if they do. No white preachers or congressmen have made an issue of the Shifflett murder, or tried to keep it in the spotlight and ensure the racial angle never disappears from view. It is easy to blame the media for its invariably slanted coverage of race, but the deeper fault lies with whites as a group. It is true that their mentality has been molded by consistently hostile media but it is their catastrophic loss of any understanding of their own interests that gives rise to these double standards, and to the innumerable tragedies that follow.