Black History Facts: February 27th
This is a very long, very ranty black history fact today, and I’m not sorry about it. For any of you who believe that racism is not a big problem in modern society, you first need to check yourself. Then, you need to remember that just a year ago, after Trayvon Martin was murdered, notable news journalist Geraldo Rivera claimed that had Martin not been wearing a hoodie (“thug wear” as he called it), he may not have been shot by George Zimmerman. Even if you agree that people think “criminal” when they see that style of clothing, why is that the problem of the wearer, and not the problem of the person who is stereotyping? Then, you need to think about how many people of all races freely say the word “nigga” when quoting rap songs or participating in internet discussions, despite the fact that the word has not lost its hateful sting. Next, you need to read the case about James Byrd, Jr.:
On June 7, 1998, in Jasper, Texas, 49-year-old black man James Byrd, Jr. accepted a ride home from three white men, Shawn Berry (age 24), Lawrence Russell Brewer (age 31) and John King (age 23). Byrd was acquainted with Berry, who was driving. Instead of taking Byrd home, the three men took Byrd to a remote county road out of town, beat him severely, urinated on him and chained him by his ankles to their pickup truck. The three men then dragged him behind the truck for three miles. Byrd died after his right arm and head were severed after his body hit a culvert. Despite Brewer’s later claims that Byrd’s throat had been slashed before he was dragged, forensic evidence implied that Byrd had been attempting to keep his head up while being dragged. An autopsy suggested that Byrd was alive during much of the dragging. Byrd’s brain and skull were found intact, further suggesting he maintained consciousness while being dragged.
Berry, Brewer and King dumped their victim’s mutilated remains in front of an African-American church on Huff Creek Road, and then went to a barbecue. Along the area where Byrd was dragged, authorities found a wrench with “Berry” written on it. They also found a lighter that was inscribed with “Possum”, which was King’s prison nickname. The following morning, Byrd’s limbs were found scattered across a seldom-used road. The police found 81 places that were littered with Byrd’s remains. State law enforcement officials, along with Jasper’s District Attorney, determined that since Brewer and King were well-known white supremacists, the murder was a hate crime.
King had several racist tattoos: a black man hanging from a tree, Nazi symbols, the words “Aryan Pride,” and the patch for a gang of white supremacist inmates known as the Confederate Knights of America. In a jailhouse letter to Brewer that was intercepted by jail officials, King expressed pride in the crime and said he realized in committing the murder he might have to die. Berry, Brewer and King were tried and convicted for Byrd’s murder. Brewer and King received the death penalty, while Berry was sentenced to life in prison.
In the aftermath of this incident, Byrd’s family created the “James Byrd Foundation for Racial Healing” after his death. Additionally, in 2009, the “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act” expanded the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, in addition to race.
Oh, and if you’re one of those people who are thinking, “Well, these guys were white supremacists. Of course THEY were racist. You can’t count them in your argument about racism still existing in the same realm as it once did”, two teenagers, Joshua Lee Talley and John Matthew Fowler, were charged with criminal mischief for desecrating James Byrd Jr.’s grave with racial slurs and profanities in 2004. The two have no ties whatsoever to any Aryan group or the KKK.
Like I said, if you think racism is not as bad now as it once was - including all races, not just blacks – you seriously need to check yourself and do some research. Or maybe you don’t want to, for fear that you’ll be proven wrong….
Rest in peace, James Byrd, Jr.