Commentary: The Poison of Hate

Submitted by Michele Anderson Bobo

Every year, the residents of Linden Avenue busy themselves with fashioning the best haunted houses and Halloween displays the city has to offer. In exchange, thousands of onlookers and trick-or-treaters, driven in droves from neighboring cities, descend upon the street in search of full-size candy bars and spooky haunts.
Traffic is an utter nightmare, and there are no parking places to spare. Children are everywhere, on the streets, the sidewalks, the lawns. The neighbors and residents of Linden Avenue were always ready and eager to greet their guests in support of the great traditions of Halloween.
Last year, however, a poison spread throughout these once cheerful streets…the poison of hate. What started off as a fun-filled evening, ended in a tragedy that the community is still reeling from-three white women savagely beaten by a crowd of black youths.
This incident took place in the densely crowded streets, with thousands present, yet all feared to get involved, except one good samaritan who put an end to the melee.
Arrests were made, charges filed and convictions obtained. But was justice served?
If you ask a variety of people this question the overwhelming majority will say, “No.” If you ask why not, the answer varies depending on the racial makeup of the person asked. Once again, race has played a part in dividing a community that was once very diverse and congenial.
The majority of African-Americans feel that justice was not served, because they believe that not all of the teens charged committed the crime and that a hate crime should not have been charged.
There were issues of identification, and the people that were yelling the racial epithets were not the same youth who were doing the beating.
Further, one resident indicated that the alleged incident began because one of the victims slapped one of the African-American teens, wrongly believing the youth had tripped her, when in fact she had not.
Others believe the youths were unfairly held in custody throughout these proceedings even though identification was questionable in the crowded chaos.
Further, it is widely believed the key figures at the center of this horrific crime remain uncharged and on the loose.
On the other hand, white people largely believe justice was not served because the youths, after conviction, were only sentenced to house arrest and probation.
These whites feel reverse discrimination took place, and that had the victims been African-Americans beaten by a crowd of whites, the consequences would have been much more severe.
Everyone is calling foul play. Writers from various news sources have questioned the apparent limited coverage of this story, holding onto the theory that black on white crime is not as newsworthy as white on black on crime.
Moreover, some have even questioned whether there is a double standard in the law, which does not believe blacks are capable of committing hate crimes.
The facts as reported from a variety of sources seem to imply that those involved in the beating were not the same people who were yelling the racial epithets and obscenities. This broadens the question of whether the teens were acting in concert with each other, and therefore the hatred expressed by some, transferred that hateful intent to the others.
Or did it? More alarming than the general feeling of justice not being served, are the racial attitudes that have emerged in the local community as recorded in a variety of news commentaries. One such story referred to African-Americans as a “pack of hyenas.” Others have implied the victims brought the attack on themselves.
What is sad is the lack of realization that the entire community and all involved have suffered a loss.
The victims will forever remember this horrific beating, which may effect their perception of and dealings with African-Americans in the future.
The convicted teens, whether or not they harbored the hateful intent ascribed to them, will carry the stigma of being convicted of a “hate crime,” which may also have lasting consequences.
Then there are the members of the community, who will never quite understand how this horrific event occurred, but nonetheless, will hold onto their own perceptions of the injustice of the trial.
This diverse composition of neighbors gathered at each other’s homes to socialize and share in the joy of their mixed cultural backgrounds, have now largely retreated to protect their own, with the sad backdrop of the great racial divide, leaving many questions unanswered: Will this community recover from this most haunting night? Will Halloween be celebrated in upcoming years by the Linden residents? What will be the outcome of the trial of the two remaining accused teens? But the real question for this community and others was asked by Rodney King in the wake of the 1992 riots, “Can’t we all just get along?”