racism sucks

Racism sucks.  Most of us can agree on that.  The bad news is that many of us are racists.  We just are.  I fear that I may be a racist on some level or another.  It’ll help our conversation dramatically if we can all start from the presumption that we’re all racists in some way.  This way, we don’t have to all be so defensive.  And if we aren’t, we can all agree that we’re all racialized…meaning, we can’t help but see the world and others via the lens of race.

I know that dialogue isn’t sufficient in itself but conversation and knowledge can become foundations to action.  If you’re in the Seattle area, join us for our church’s 4th annual Faith and Race Depth Class.  Register HERE.  I can assure you that you’ll be disappointed by the class but that’s ok.  It’s still good a good discussion to have…

For five weeks in October and November [5 consecutive Mondays beginning Oct. 22] we will be hosting our fourth annual faith and race conference. We hope to learn more about racism in America, deepen our understanding of what it means to call ourselves a “multiethnic church,” and continue the dialog that began in 2003. We will be working through a reader using excerpts from the articles and books below as well as video clips from the Color of Fear documentary. The format will be both small group discussions and lectures led/taught by members of Quest. The charge is $10 to cover the cost of materials. 

By now, many of you have heard about the situation known as Jena 6.  But how many of you have heard about the rape and beating of Megan Williams on September 7, 2007?  Seriously, how many of you knew about this?  This is from a facebook group entry and the CNN news report:

It amazes me that articles of negativity against “black Americans” can always make the headline news, but situations like this just go un-noticed. OJ Simpson is back in jail again and we have heard about that since the 1st day it began and will hear about it from now until this time next year, instead of treating OJ Simpson’s case like any other similar crime, but how much have you heard about this? It’s sad to think this is 2007 and so many things still have not changed!This happened in West Virginia, USA very recently and on Wednesday, 9/12th 2007, Megan Williams was still being treated for this in the hospital.

She was tortured and raped for a whole week, by six white individuals, Three males and three females between the ages of 20 and 49. CNN normally does not reveal sexual assault victims’ names. But Williams, who is hospitalized, and her mother, Carmen Williams, wanted her identity revealed.Police said Bobby Brewster raped Williams, forced her to lick blood and drink from a toilet, and told his mother to kill Williams if she tried to escape.  Authorities previously said Williams was also forced to eat rat and dog feces.

According to criminal complaints filed in the county, Williams was assaulted, stabbed in the left leg, choked with cords and beaten for at least a week. When she was found, big parts of her hair had also been torn off of her scalp.
Williams says that Alisha Burton 22 cut her ankle with a knife while saying, “That’s what we do to Niggers around here,” police records show
“I don’t understand a human being doing another human being the way they did my daughter,” Carmen Williams told The Associated Press on Tuesday from her daughter’s hospital room. “I didn’t know there were people like that out here.” 

Deputies received a tip and Saturday visited a home owned by Frankie Brewster in Big Creek, West Virginia. As the deputies spoke with a woman on the front porch, “a female inside the residence limped toward the door with her arms held out, saying ‘Help me,’ ” according to a news release from the sheriff’s department.

“It’s something you’d expect to see in a horror movie, not in Logan County,” Abraham said. “She was subjected to unendurable torture down there.”

The six are charged with kidnapping, sexual assault, malicious wounding and battery. If convicted of kidnapping, a suspect could face a sentence of up to life in prison. The penalty for first-degree sexual assault is 15 to 35 years.
Abraham said he is seeking the maximum sentence on the kidnapping charges. In addition to the Brewsters, the suspects are Danny J. Combs, 20, of Harts, West Virginia; and George A. Messer, 27, Karen Burton, 46, and her daughter, Alisha Burton, 23, all of Chapmanville, West Virginia.

They all have previous records and have been arrested numerous times,” Sheriff W.E. Hunter said Tuesday. “They are familiar to law enforcement.” Frankie Brewster was charged with first-degree murder in 1994, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter in the death of an 84-year-old woman. She was released in 2000 after serving five years in prison, according to court records cited by the AP. All of the six individuals that are involved in this case are accused of 108 different cases of crimes all combined.

I was stunned when I recently read about this crime but still can’t find too much information about it.  Consider these words and perspective by “clammyc” – a white female blogger:

Imagine, if you could even think of the horrific situation, where a 20 year old “pretty white woman” was abducted by six black men and women, raped, stabbed, made to eat rat droppings, drink from a toilet, threatened with death if she tried to escape and tortured for around a week.  

Imagine, not only what living hell that poor woman went through, but also the fact that she was still undergoing treatment for her injuries around a month later.  Imagine the 24 hour outrage on the cable news, the papers, every caring human being, not to mention the outrage by the racist people who would be decrying this, “the culture that promotes animals like this”, how this was a hate crime and the potential revenge for these horrific acts.

Imagine that the suspects all had prior arrests and records for prior crimes, including one who was arrested for murder of an 84 year old woman but pled to a lesser charge of manslaughter.  We would hear about this for months, and we would all know her name, the suspects names, backgrounds and every little development in her treatment, the case and the potential blowback to the community.

Now that you have finished imagining this hell that the poor woman was subjected to, ask yourself if you have ever heard the name “Megan Williams”.  I bet you haven’t.  I know I didn’t – at least before today when I got an email about this matter.

You see, Megan Williams is black.  And all of what you just imagined actually did happen to her a few short weeks ago, yet there has been so very little reported on this case.  No round the clock commentary on CNN.  No “panel of experts” talking about the degradation and breakdown of the justice system that allowed these six to even be in a position to kidnap, rape and torture Ms. Williams.  No calls for protests or help for Ms. Williams or her family in this time of need.  No “on the ground” reporters with live updates at the local jail, courthouse or even interviewing the locals.

No “special segments” advertised on any of the major news networks and programs.  At least none that I have seen.  But if you look at ABC News’ web site’s US News page, you will find a story about Natalie Holloway’s mother “still holding out hope”.  And the big poll on CNN.com is whether Britney can get her life back.

I am white.  I couldn’t even begin to imagine the subtle racism or discrimination that occurs on a day to day basis.  I wouldn’t even try to put myself in a position to discuss experiences, dirty looks, out of line comments or anything else.  No matter how much I am against this and no matter how much I speak out against it, I probably can’t do it justice or appropriately capture the emotions, anger and frustration of those who experience this.

All that being said, I can speak and have spoken out quite a bit about the “missing pretty white woman” syndrome that has taken over the reporting arm of the US corporate media.  When was the last time that a missing “non-white” woman was reported as missing for more than a few minute segment?  What kind of coverage would a story like this get if Ms. Williams was a “pretty white woman”?  And whose family has lots of money?

Yet, once again, we have a stark contrast here.  Ms. Williams is not white.  And I have no idea as to whether she is pretty or wealthy, but neither of those mean anything.  What does matter is that she was kidnapped, brutally beaten, tortured and threatened with death by six white people in West Virginia.  And that these six people have long records, her life is scarred beyond repair and unspeakable acts were committed against her while she was imprisoned by thugs and criminals for a week.

What also matters is that this got very little ongoing coverage, and the volume that the media silence speaks when the victim isn’t white, young, pretty and wealthy.

Why else wouldn’t this story get the coverage it deserves?

This is not a rant to demonize White Americans.  Hardly.  It’s simply to implicate all of us.  We live in such a broken nation and world.  I feel so depressed right now.


45 Replies to “racism sucks”

  1. I actually have heard about Williams. The story made me physically ill.

    I think its so great that Quest does the race and faith classes. I’ve always wanted to participate, but it still isnt going to work for me (the life of graduate school…)

  2. yeah… i heard about the story. but not from cnn or the times — i heard about it because i was invited to join a friggin facebook group about the case.

    everything about the case is sick and maddening. but what is convicting for me is asking the question — how do my actions and words reproduce and reinforce a system that allows for such a horrific case to go unnoticed, while britney’s life continues to dominate headlines? or in other words, how am i complicit in this system that i hate (and enjoy)? does my day-to-day life help make this injustice possible?

  3. Eugene,
    The most recent news article I could find was this one: from the International Herald Tribune.

    The most recent one with a W. Va attribution is this one.

    Thanks for alerting us to this heinous crime: I’ll admit it- it completely flew under the radar for me.

    And blessings on your gatherings this month.

  4. The facebook entry that Eugene quotes from says, “It amazes me that articles of negativity against “black Americans” can always make the headline news, but situations like this just go un-noticed.” However, it seems to me that the Duke Rape case illustrates exactly the opposite – a rush to judgment because the accused were stereotyped as rich white boys. I don’t think that is an isolated case, either. In today’s America, any discussion of racism really should include an honest examination of the racism of political correctness.

    As for the blogger clammyc’s comments about Natalie Holloway and Britney Spears – I think that the media is equally fascinated with young, beautiful women of all races. That’s a different problem – not racism.

  5. i actually heard about the horrific williams incident the day or two after she was found on msnbc.com. it was one of those top news stories and they had interviewed her mother and showed pictures of the perpetrators of this utterly tragic act of hatred. i think there was an article the next day about it in the New York Times, but as it was a month ago, I must admit that I’d forgotten. that being said, I think there was some media coverage of it in the very beginning, but there has been little outrage in the subsequent days and weeks. i, too, was reminded of the issue by a facebook group invitation.

  6. Shimai: I agree with your statement that “any discussion of racism should include” other things but let’s not be naive and not include the issue of white privilege.

    The media is equally fascinated with young, beautiful, women of “other” races? Really? Wow, I must seriously have slept through everything.

  7. shimai-
    since you brought it up, i thought it might be interesting to point out that for every “rich white boy” falsely accused of a crime, there are innumerable blacks wrongly convicted, sent to prison, and at times executed. oops. in nearly a third of the states in the country, if a white person and a black person are arrested on drug charges, the black person is 20 to 50 times more likely to go to prison. and that’s the tip of the iceberg.

    [source: http://hrw.org/backgrounder/usa/incarceration/%5D

    so while we can debate the equity or disproportionality of emphases within media coverage of various races (which, without hard data is predominately subjective), i think the idea in the post is that the case itself is illustrative of a much larger, underlying issue in america- of which the [in]justice system is just part of the problem.

  8. david, your post reminds me of a thing i heard on NPR the other day. lawmakers are finally looking at the gross inequity of drug charges brought against individuals who deal in crack cocaine vs. cocaine. apparently according to the law, 500 grams of cocaine is the same as 5 grams of crack. something like 90% of the defendants arrested for dealing cocaine are white, and conversely, 90% of the crack dealers prosecuted are black. not to say that i am pro-crack dealers… but geez! shouldn’t it be at least within an order of magnitude????

  9. No, jklam, I didn’t understand that you are in disagreement with my argument, based on any of your comments. You seem to imply that Britney Spears is a symbol of racism, and I think that’s a stretch, but apart from that, I don’t know exactly what our disagreement is.

    I actually did read about Megan Williams’s torture ordeal last month through BBC online, and I was stunned and nauseated. The word that immediately came to mind was “inhuman.” I don’t think we have any disagreement there. In fact, it is hard to imagine anyone having a different opinion.

    I understood the main point of the “racism sucks” post to be that the relative lack of media coverage of Megan Williams is evidence of bias in news reporting. I question that conclusion.

    Here’s a different take on it: This story faded quickly because Megan’s torturers were immediately apprehended and charged with kidnapping, sexual assault, etc. In this case, so far, the system is working as it should, and that’s not news.

    I brought up the subject of the Duke Rape case because it is a recent example of media bias against whites. Is that the part that you disagree with?

  10. here’s what i think:

    in america, there is a system of advantage based on race, and whites sit at the top of the hierarchy. the media is a significant part of that system of advantages. the stories that dominate headlines and shape the national agenda are almost entirely created by and in service of whites.

    hardly anybody knows who megan williams is. and sadly, hardly anyone will. if megan willliams were thin, white, and blonde, and if the perptetrators were black, you would not stop hearing about this story for weeks. she’d be a fixture in the american consciousness, like lacey peterson and jonbenet ramsey… names that many americans are familiar with. but she’s black, and she is not in the american consciousness, and she will be quickly forgotten. that is worth being upset over.

    when blacks are represented in the media, the representations are generally negative images. that’s racist.

    the media is flat-out not equally fascinated by women of all races. beauty is very narrowly defined in america, and she is white.

  11. jklam – do you know who Channon Christian is? Do you recall ever hearing her story on the news. You said that if Megan Williams were thin, white and blond we would not have stopped hearing about the story for weeks. Well, Channon was thin, white and blond and her killers were black and yet nothing about it hit the national news in any way. If you want to hear about her ( and Christopher Newsom’s) brutal kidnapping, torture, rape and murder you can follow this link, but I warn you that the story is as revolting as the murder of Megan Williams.


    My point is not to tell you that racism doesn’t exist. Of course it does! and it takes many forms – white against black, black against white, etc., etc.,

    White hatred (or even hatred of the “white controlled” “system” or media or whatever) will not solve the problem of Black hatred. If I repent for the sins of my ancestors I will not help cure poverty among blacks today. If I excuse the very real problems that exist in much of the black community today as a “legacy” of white racism of the past, I am not helping the black communtiy.

    This problem is rooted in the sinfulness of the heart of man. It will not be solved with simplistic arguments that the media is biased!

  12. hi paulg, good thoughts.

    regarding channon christian: no doubt, there will be many cases of thin white girls that never receive national attention. you could come up with many more counter-examples. it’s my fault for not being more clear, but i wasn’t trying to argue that all such cases are lifted to national prominence; i was trying to suggest that of the stories that do rise to the national stage, there is an unfair representation of race that, imho, reveals a great deal of bias — a quick overview of any academic journal on mass media would say as much.

    here’s what i think you’re trying to say in your second-to-last paragraph:

    there are significant problems in much of the black community. those problems may be attributed to their tumultuous history in america. but pinning the blame on history alone is inadequate for real change.

    if i’m misinterpreting your thoughts, ignore the rest. if that’s about right, here’s a couple of reflections:

    first, i can respect that opinion. folks that i respect would say similar things ( billy cosby, john mcwhorter).

    i agree that repenting of the sins of your ancestors alone is inadequate for social change; you must also repent of the ways that you are reeping the rewards that result from the sins of your ancestors. it seems strange to say, “i regret my ancestors sins, but will continue to enjoy its harvest.”

    so you are right: excusing the very real problems within the black community today as a legacy of white racism in the past is NOT enough — you must confront the ways that you are, today, still perpetuating systemic racism. in this model of social change for whites, “helping the black community” no longer entails going in and fixing them; it means examining your responsibility in oppression.

  13. The problems of the black underclass are entirely due to black behavior. Entirely. Successful blacks do not make behavioral choices that characterize ghetto blacks. Black crime, illiteracy, disdain for education, drugs, 70% illigitimacy, noise, trash, unemployment, stupid profane rap, are not caused by white oppression. It is what blacks choose to do. Black behavior before the mid 60s was characterized by achievement, not angry entitlement.

    Behave yourselves!

  14. The problems you mentioned for the ‘black underclass’ are the same problems or characteristics found in ALL races. For example, that stupid profane rap music is purchased by 80% of people who are not black (i.e. whites and other races). Look William, I am not here to teach you respect because obviously that home training was not taught to you. But don’t post comments, just be to offensive which shows your lack of understanding of people characteristic traits as a whole. Your understanding of the ‘so called’ underclass is so far from the true reality……’blacks’ didn’t invent evil or bad hehavior.

  15. paulg and others: i think most of us here agree that the core reason for racism or any other prejudices comes from our human sin and depravity. ultimately, we are all in need of the mercy and grace of christ.

    but having said that, we can also be honest that there are systemic structures in place and those structure need to be addressed. for example, i’m not demonizing MEN but shouldn’t we address the injustice done to women in so many countries. this isn’t to say that there’s not injustice against men but simply to address a systemic structure.

    re; racism, there’s certainly a system in place and the systemic gives benefit to those who are white. it doesn’t mean that i’m calling you a racist or white folks racists but simply to convey that the system needs to be challenged. not simply for the sake of fairness and justice but because as a follower of christ, we’re called to the ministry of reconciliation.

  16. william goldsmith,

    ok. i wasn’t going to even respond but can’t help myself.

    you’ve given all of us reason why people must engage this issue.
    and as we engage, to take some time to listen and act.

    your comment makes my top 3 most ludicrous comments i have ever received via this blog…

  17. i’m neither white or blonde, but neither am i racially hurt when the media gives gross mega-coverage to white, blonde girls in distress. such non-stories represent media sensationalism at its diseased worst. to clamor for equal amounts of wasted airtime to non-whites-in-distress is hardly a cause of justice worth my time. frankly, i’d rather the tabloid obsessions of the jonbenets and laceys and natalies all go away completely, not because they’re white and i’m not, but because *it ain’t news*!

  18. I think you guys are seriously missing the point of what Eugene and others are trying to say here. csy: The end goal is not to try to get equal coverage. The point is to say that we live in world that’s clearly fallen. Race is one of the results of the fallen world.

    So, what will we do?
    Can we even acknowledge there’s such a problem as racism? It appears that we still live in a society that some can’t even do that.

  19. I think the statement that I fixated on was that we all may be racist at some level. While I am not sure that I would classify us as all racist, at some level we all have prejudices. (I tend to differentiate between the two). We are taught to have prejudices on a daily basis. I recognize this within myself, that inside I do indeed harbor prejudices, therefore it is easier for me to recongnize my own weaknesses. Sun Tzu said in the Art of War, that if we can recognize our weaknessess we can overcome them and we can turn them into a strength. I fight against the prejudices within me whenever they rear their ugly head, so that has to make me stronger in resisting them in the future.

  20. (continued)
    My opinions were neither hateful nor ignorant. That’s just name calling. The opinions are backed by facts which you choose to ignore. e cho describes my comments as ‘ludicrous’. When you use big words, I’m not always sure you know the meanings. ‘Ludicrous’ implies humor, mirth. Nothing funny about black underclass behavior. I don’t hate you. I do admit contempt mixed with wonder that you who live in a land of boundless opportunity and freedom squander it in illiteracy, sloth, mindless anger, drugs, violence. Incidentally, e cho, ‘Christ’ should be capitalized.

    As you know, but won’t address, thousands and thousands of young black women have multiple children by multiple fathers, are uneducated, use drugs, have no marketable skills, and don’t want them.

    Can you find any Jewish, Chinese, Japanese, women who meet that description? Come on, find me ONE.

  21. The first part of my response was lost. I am a 68 year old practicing physician, retired Air Force flight surgeon, veteran of 3 wars. I’ve been caring for black patients, among others, of course, since 1965. I put in time in New Orleans after Katrina. Did any of you? I held sick call at a black store front church for a year after the Rodney King riots. (The place was filthy. They had an $8000 unpaid water bill. When I tried to set up a small pharmacy, everything was stolen between my visits.) I visited homes in South Central L.A., saw floors covered with trash. But the finest man I’ve known was Sam Wright, my black sergeant in Viet Nam.

    So, you see, I’m qualified to speak. Prefer commentary from those with equal or superior experience, rather than the mindless anger of dolts. None of you presented any facts to counter my opinions. You couldn’t.

  22. No Mr. Goldsmith, I can’t find a Jewish, Chinese, nor Japanese woman that fit that bill that you attribute to African Americans. However, I do know quite a few white women that fit that bill. My boyfriend mother for one. Five children, five different husbands. Drug Addict to Meth Amphatamines. A woman who drinks away her wellfare, and the children go without heat during the winter, and often without electicity in the summer. She ruins her childrens credit ratings by opening up utillities accounts in their names, and doesn’t pay the bills, without their knowledge. And she is a Christian (I made sure to capitalize it so I don’t get people’s feathers in a ruffle). But I try not to judge all Christians, by the Christians, I know like her, even though sometimes it is a struggle.

    But is this the facts you wanted, Mr. Goldsmith? How my white boyfriend was systematically abused both physically and emotionally by his white mother, lived in squaller where often he couldn’t eat, because they had no food, no utilities, and their mother was a drugged up drunk woman of lose morals.

    I would like to say that she is a random occurance in any race of woman, but she is not. I have lived in many states in the U.S.A, and she is not a random occurance among white women. So therefore by your ideals of the “black underclass” are very much the same of the “white underclass or poor white trash” whichever you prefer to call the group of people I come from (and unfortunatly probably the group that brutilized Ms. Williams).

    Strangely enough I know a lot of intelligent, well schooled, articulate, non boozing, drugging, African American men and women. I would say on par with the Whites, Jews, and Asians I know.

    My appologies to Mr. Cho for using this forum for this reply. If you wish to remove it, please do so.


  23. william gsmith:

    ludicrous = nonsensical, crazy, stupid, ridiculous, etc.

    your sweeping statements to generalize the “black underclass” is LUDICROUS.

    and congratulations to you on your life achievements. i honestly don’t doubt the stuff that you listed as your personal resume. they still don’t justify your sweeping, prejudiced, and racist comments.

  24. I think this is why “the church” doesn’t address the racism issue. There appears to me no way to handle it without inciting arguments like these.

    william gsmith: I think you were closer to being right than many others on here seem to believe.

    To all: I think you let unimportant details get under your skin for the wrong reasons. Discussion is good, but would Jesus be sitting here typing away about how wrong someone’s argument was, or going out and loving someone? White, black, yellow, red … covers everyone in this blog.

    E cho: I like your fire. I like the ballsy approach you take to your posts. This one I don’t entirely get, though. If this depressed you, why depress others? Journaling is one thing. But you know people read this.

    Of course, I guess I didn’t HAVE to read it haha … and for the record, I knew about Megan Williams. And I’m pretty positive that anybody with a soul would be pretty sickened to hear about it.

    This world broke when God kicked Adam and Even out of Eden. If the world wasn’t broken and wasn’t going to remain broken, there would have been no reason for Jesus. We weren’t created to heal the masses, but to love Jesus, and let him heal us.

    This will sound weird, but read these couple of sentences all the way out … if we focus on ourselves – not in a selfish way – and what we need to do to get closer to Jesus, then we become what God needs us to be to touch people. To help individual people’s worlds heal.

    Anyway, just rambling … I don’t know if this sounds hostile or bitter or anything because it’s kinda late and I’ve been up abotu 20 hours so I’m going to sleep now.

  25. Wow … I don’t know how I stumbled on this last night. I didn’t realize it was from half a year ago … my bad. Feel free to delete my comment if you wish haha.

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