Thursday, March 3, 2011

I'm Back, Suckas

A guilty verdict was handed down today in the trial of Todd Shepard, so he's looking at the death penalty for shooting a white cop in U. City a few years ago. Shepard, who's biracial but identifies as black, sounds like a god damn kook, and claims that he shot the officer, Sgt. Michael King in order to start some kind of revolution. It's also worth noting that he did it at least partly in retribution for the killing of his then-girlfriend, Annette Green, who was shot by a police officer during a drug raid on her home. Sgt. King is, at least indirectly, another victim of the war on drugs.

So, a black guy killed a white cop for explicitly racial reasons: an awful situation, sure to be made worse by our friends and neighbors commenting on the PD's website. I entered the "Discussion" with trepidation. I don't know whether it's been heavily edited or not, but the tone was far tamer than I was expecting. There are plenty of barbarians calling for Shepard's immediate murder or torture (one commenter suggests that Shepard be involuntarily used for parts[!]). Mostly the thread is a discussion of whether or not this should be have been prosecuted as a hate crime. The sensible commenters have noted that the prosecutor is seeking the death penalty as it is, so using Missouri's hate crime law, which just serves to increase punishments, wouldn't have done any practical good.

I actually think there's something to the argument that it would have been worth it to call this a hate crime for the sake of calling it a hate crime. Shepard's testimony left little doubt that he was motivated to commit this brutal murder by his victim's race. Commenters are predictably complaining that hate crimes only seem to apply to crimes where a member of the majority victimizes a member of the minority. I obviously condemn all racism, which is why I sympathize with the idea of calling this a hate crime. However, doing so might legitimize the idea that so many white racists seem to have the white people are being persecuted by the hateful thugs. The fact is, white racism is systemic and most hate crimes serve to reinforce the systemic advantage enjoyed by straight white males. Flamboyantly gay men get tied to fence posts. Black men who step out of line get dragged behind pick-up trucks. Women who dress too provocatively get raped. These things send the message that non-conformity with the norms of heterosexual white male supremacy are punished. That's what Shepard's crime - as awful and racially motivated as it was - is missing. So I'm ambivalent about whether this should be labelled a hate crime.

There's some solid hate on display in the comment thread though. One guy thinks he's sussed out why white people face so much discrimination at the hands of black folks:

I think. I can't really tell which direction the irony in this comment is going. The whole thing reads as sarcastic, but referring to "us poor tortured white people" makes it sound like he's doing something I might, i.e. sarcastically lamenting the plight of the white man in today's America. But the ironic assertion that blacks want to kill those poor white people on account of they have several ostensibly desirable traits makes me really think Folio is a racist.

As of when I captured this comment to preserve it for posterity, it had been on the PD's page for about an hour and a half:

I don't know if it will be thrown down the memory hole soon, but it probably ought to be, right? Most of the racist comments you find on the PD site aren't this... blatant. Normally you have to couch your racism in statistics you invented out of thin air. Just asserting ridiculous things about black people doesn't usually fly. We'll see what happens. In any case, holy shit that's racist!

Update: Changed the second comment to actually look like the one I wanted. Oops. Post should make sense now.

Update 2: The holy squad cars comment is now gone. Glad I got it!