Wednesday, September 12, 2007

African-American Woman Kidnapped and Tortured for at least a week

Initially I thought I would post this without comment, thinking that the story itself is so horrific that any additional comment wouldn't add context, only outrage. And I really want this blog (and our efforts) to be more "Light" than "Heat". But I had to come back and say a few words because I believe this story offers us an genuine opportunity to explore race in a larger context than convention would ordinarily allow.

I am an avid reader of Blogs on various subjects and they always make for 'interesting reading' to say the least. But what I have found most fascinating about the 'blogosphere' is the seemingly ever-present undercurrent of racism and prejudice. Perhaps most alarming is the fact that no seems to be alarmed...

The Internet provides us with a truly open forum with a sense of anonymity and relative safety from reprisal. Therefore it represents a forum where we can have a 'truly' honest dialogue. Yet take a look around the blogosphere and observe our discussions on race.

As an exercise, go to Google and type in "You call me a racist". (This was the title of a post that began on "My Space" which argues if Blacks and Latino's have organizations that look out for their interests than Whites should have White History Month, White Entertainment Television etc...) For the sake of discussion, I'm reprinting it here:

There are African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, Native Americans, etc. And then there are just Americans.
You pass me on the street and sneer in my direction.
You call me "Whiteboy," "Cracker,""Honkey," "Whitey," "Caveman" and that's OK.
But when I call you, Nigger, Kike, KOON, Towelhead,Sand-nigger, Camel Jockey, Beaner, Gook, or Chink you call me a racist.
You say that whites commit a lot of violence against you, so why are the ghettos the most dangerous places to live?
You have the United Negro College Fund. You have Martin Luther King Day. You have Black History Month. You have Cesar Chavez Day. You have Yom Hashoah You have Ma'uled Al-Nabi You have the NAACP. You have BET.
If we had WET(White Entertainment Television) we'd be Racists.
If we had a White Pride Day you would call us racists.
If we had White History Month, we'd be racists.
If we had any organization for only whites to"advance" our lives, we'd be racists.
We have a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a Black Chamber of Commerce, and then we just have the plain Chamber of Commerce.Wonder who pays for that?
If we had a college fund that only gave white students scholarships, you know we'd be racists. There are over 60 openly proclaimed Black Colleges in the US, yet if there were "White colleges" that would be a racist college.
In the Million Man March, you believed that you were marching for your race and rights. If we marched for our race and rights, you would call us racists. You are proud to be black, brown, yellow and orange, and you're not afraid to announce it. But when we announce our white pride, you call us racists.
You rob us, carjack us, and shoot at us. But, when a white police officer shoots a black gang member or beats up a black drug-dealer running from the law and posing a threat to society, you call him a racist. I am proud. But, you call me a racist.

While the tone and tenor of this post is obviously racist to "me", what I find most incredible is when you do an advanced Google search, you will see that it has been re-posted 13,600 times on separate blogs and web pages. Yet the dark cloud of racism generates no meaningful dialogue because we are all so entrenched in our positions that our sensitivities interpret sincere disagreements as 'personal attacks' thereby stifling discussion.

Organizations such as the NAACP are routinely criticized for even dealing with or discussing discrimination. 'Racism', we are told, is a thing of the past and we should simply stop complaining then life will be good... After all, we have Black Mayors, and politicians, etc etc... People who claim to have been the victims of discrimination are automatically assumed to be poor performers using racism as an excuse for personal failure, and the people who speak out against it are regarded as opportunists out to build a reputation by playing the "race card".

And before I go on, let me say a word or two about "The Race Card"... I believe that the term itself represents the epitome of Political Correctness. What other term is used and intended with the sole purpose of stopping and dismissing a discussion? In fact, I believe it represents the most insidious form of political correctness; that is a basic intellectual dishonesty designed to protect us from confronting our personal hypocrisy. If someone mentions race as an issue or factor in nearly any context, reflexively others will shout "stop playing the race card", as though the very idea of race playing a role in our society was ridiculous.

Now that we've buried the "N" word, we need to bury that term right next to it...

A professor by the name of Marimba Ani once coined the phrase "rhetorical ethics" which she described as the set of ethical standards we all publicly proclaim, but don't even attempt to live... Our contemporary society's 'Public Face' would never condone racism, sexism, or homophobia. But when the citizens of this same community are given an anonymous forum to express their opinions a real undercurrent of hate becomes discernible.

It is in THIS context that the movement to resegregate schools becomes understandable. (After all, Brown Vs Board didn't convert the Segregationists to the idea of deseg, it was just a ruling on the constitutionality of Segregation. The segregationist ideology and movement continued forth through the hundreds of legal challenges to busing, and is now reflected in the Neighborhood or Community School concept. The conceptual "Neighborhood school" is a masterful piece of semantic ju-jitsu that allows people to openly support segregation and feel ok about it) In this context the continuing wage and unemployment disparities become understandable. In this context disparate sentencing for like crimes becomes understandable. In this context Racial Profiling and Police misconduct become understandable. And it is only in this context that we can produce and witness an atrocity such as this:



LOGAN, W.Va. — Authorities said Tuesday they are considering hate crime charges in the case of a woman who was tortured while being held captive for at least a week. The victim was repeatedly called a racial slur while her captors sexually abused, beat and stabbed her, her mother said.


Six people, all white, including a mother and son and a mother and daughter, were arrested in connection with the alleged abduction of the 20-year-old black woman, who was held captive at a home in Big Creek in Logan County, about 50 miles southwest of Charleston.

"I don't understand a human being doing another human being the way they did my daughter," Carmen Williams said Tuesday from her daughter's room at Charleston Area Medical Center General Hospital. "I didn't know there were people like that out here."
Megan Williams, with a cast on her arm, spoke barely above a whisper.

"I'm better," she said.

The Associated Press generally does not identify suspected victims of sexual assault, but Williams and her mother agreed to release her name.

Deputies also interviewed the victim Tuesday morning. State, local and federal officials planned to meet later in the day to decide whether to file hate crime charges, Logan County sheriff's Sgt. Sonya Porter said. An FBI spokesman in Pittsburgh, Bill Crowley, confirmed that the agency is looking into possible civil rights violations.

The woman's abductors called her the N-word "every time they stabbed her," Carmen Williams told The Charleston Gazette earlier.

Authorities were still looking for two people they believe drove the woman to the house where she was abused, said Logan County Chief Deputy V.K. Dingess.

Neighbors said the were shocked to hear about the crime. "This is awful," said Cabin Whitt, who has raised five children in Big Creek and was trimming his lawn on Tuesday. "You don't expect to hear anything like that." The case is "something that would have come out of a horror movie," Logan County Sheriff W.E. Hunter said.

Deputies found Williams on Saturday when they went to Frankie Brewster's house to investigate an anonymous tip from someone who had witnessed the abuse, Porter said Tuesday.
Brewster was sitting on the front porch and told deputies she was alone, but moments later Williams limped toward the door, her arms outstretched, saying "Help me," the sheriff's department said in a news release.

Carmen Williams said doctors told her daughter she may be well enough to leave the hospital within a few days, although a nurse said the young woman's condition was listed as "under evaluation." "I just want my daughter to be well and recover," Carmen Williams said. "I know the Lord can do anything."

Besides being sexually assaulted, Williams had been stabbed four times in the left leg and beaten, Porter said. During her capture, Williams was forced to eat rat and dog feces and drink from the toilet, according to the criminal complaint filed in Logan County Magistrate Court. She was also choked and doused with hot water.

One of those arrested, Karen Burton, is accused of cutting Williams' ankle with a knife and using the N-word in telling Williams she was victimized because she is black, according to the criminal complaint. Brewster, 49, is charged with kidnapping, sexual assault, malicious wounding and giving false information during a felony investigation. She was released from prison in September 2000 after serving five years for voluntary manslaughter and wanton endangerment in the death of 84-year-old Polly Ferrell, according to court records.
Her son, Bobby R. Brewster, 24, also of Big Creek, is charged with kidnapping, sexual assault, malicious wounding and assault during the commission of a felony.

Burton, 46, of Chapmanville, is charged with malicious wounding, battery and assault during the commission of a felony. Her daughter, Alisha Burton, 23, of Chapmanville, and George A. Messer, 27, of Chapmanville, are charged with assault during the commission of a felony and battery. Danny J. Combs, 20, of Harts, is charged with sexual assault and malicious wounding.
All six remained in custody Tuesday in lieu of $100,000 bail each, and all have asked for court-appointed attorneys.

The state and local chapters of the NAACP plan to meet Saturday to discuss the case, said the Rev. Audie Murphy Sr., President of the Logan County branch. Until then, both he and State President Kenneth Hale declined to comment Tuesday.

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