Hate Stories Entering 2020 – by Dr. Elwood Watson

Advisor Dr. Elwood WatsonThe names Grafton E. Thomas , Nicole Marie Poole Franklin, and Keith Thomas Kinnunens are among a few of the many that should, hopefully and highly likely, will live on in infamy. During this past holiday season, these three obviously deeply disturbed individuals engaged in shocking behavior committing , vile, horrific, sadistic, abominable crimes. In the case of Thomas and Kinnunens, murder was the end result.

For the few (probably very few) of you who are unaware of went down, Thomas wielded a machete and stabbed five people at a Hanukkah party in a New York City suburb critically wounding three of the victims. The following day, December 28th, Kinnunens donning a fake beard, wig and long coat, opened fire at the Church of Christ in White Settlement , Texas killing two worshipers before being shot and killed himself. Several days earlier, in Polk County, Iowa , Poole was charged with attempted murder for hate crimes – specifically attempting to murder two young children in two separate instances. Her first victim was a 12 year old Black youth in a Des Moines apartment complex. Franklin hit him with her vehicle and sped off. The young man suffered minor injuries to his leg.

The mentally deranged and racially bigoted Ms. Franklin was not done yet! (sarcasm) No indeed! In fact, girlfriend was just getting warmed up so-to-speak! (sarcasm).Not content with at attacking and attempting to murder a Black child, she quickly set her sights on targeting a young Latina child ramming her 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee into the young lady. The young lady suffered a concussion significant bruises and spent two days in the hospital. Fortunately, both children are expected to survive and fully recover form their injuries. After admitting targeting both children due to the fact that they not White, Franklin was charged with hate crimes in addition to disturbing the peace.

Obviously, there is nothing humorous nor amusing about the sinister and outright sadistic antics of these three obviously disturbed individuals. They are seriously emotionally demented human beings. I use the term human beings sparingly and loosely. More disturbing is the undeniable fact that each of these acts of violence were rooted in racial and/or religious hatred.

Not surprisingly, a number of politically far right websites and their equally rabid ultra right wing followers have eagerly seized on the attacks by Thomas. To be sure, Thomas deserves every bit of critical, merciless, verbal invective and other public scorn directed at him. No reasonable person would disagree with nor dispute this fact. That being said, these men and women, (conservative right wingers), many of whom harbor vehemently racist and anti-Semitic viewpoints themselves, are delighted at the fact that they can point the finger at a Black person and accuse Black people of being hard core hate mongers. While Black anti-Semitism does exist, and must be be harshly denounced and condemned, the truth, according to the SPLC and ADL, Hate Watch and other organizations that monitor hate groups, the vast majority of anti-Semitism still emanates from White, right wing outlets: Right-wing killings eclipsed all other extremist-related murders in 2018. The numbers don’t lie. 

The truth is that despite deep levels of denial, many individuals on the political, social and cultural right know this to be the case. Rather, such demonic aberrations like Grafton Thomas provide perverse rhetorical ammunition. It allows them to point the finger at left-wing factions and declare that liberals and left wing radicals are the real racially violent bigots. It also prompts certain people who are somewhat ambivalent about the prejudiced views they harbor, prompting them to feel less morally conflicted and guilty about embracing such problematic attitudes. Thus assuaging and reinforcing their bigotry, granting them license to believe that they are justified in their assumptions after all. This sort of intellectual dishonesty is nothing short of pathetic.

While he is not the originator of racism or anti-Semitism, the fact is that President Trump cannot be totally absolved of any responsibility for the current sate of affairs. Even before he took office as the nation’s 45th president, Trump, recklessly engaged in racial and religious venom. Shamefully and disgracefully referring to Mexicans as criminals and rapists. Generalizing Muslims as terrorists. Referring to Black residents of certain urban cities as “rats and rodents.” Telling congresswomen of color to “go back to where they came from.” Making thinly veiled comments about Jewish financial influence etc… This comments go on and on. In fact, the President’s twitter account is a ongoing database of hyperbolic, routinely retrograde rhetoric. He has given permission to those who would prefer to react with hate and malice the assumption that they have permission to do so.

It is important for all of us to confront or if necessary, combat anyone we witness espousing or directing hate filled rhetoric toward any group or person regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc…. This is particularly true for those of us who are Black Americans. Indeed, given the hyper levels of political, social, economic, psychological an other forms of state, regional and national sponsored terror, much of it legal prior to the 1960s.

From grandfather clauses, poll taxes, lynchings, Jim Crow, separate public facilities, church bombings, firebombing the homes of public and private figures etc, police brutality, mass incarceration etc… The list goes on and on. If there is any group of people who know what it is like to reside in habitual, abject violence, uncertainty, distress, duress and multiple other forms of oppression, it is Black Americans. Thus, given our history we must be ever vigilant in speaking out against any acts of racial, religious or other forms of terrorism.

As Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently and correctly argued “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.” The late, profound, self described Black lesbian, feminist , warrior poet Audre Lorde boldly argued “ the war against dehumanization is ceaseless.” In our current, fractured climate, such profound messages are of the utmost urgency to adhere to.

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