How far has the United States of America come from its violent, racist past? What evidence do we have today that minorities, especially black people, have a better chance of being treated equally by a society dominated by wealthy white elites? Why are there still so many deaths and disappearances due to the color of a person’s skin? Many people believe that the United States has moved on from slavery and Jim Crow segregation to an era where one is judged by the content of his/her character and not by the color of his/her skin. Today, we tend to view racial tensions or frictions as minor aftershocks to an earthquake which has long passed. According to research conducted by Professors Maria Krysan and Nakesha Faison, for the Institute of Government and Public affairs on racial attitudes in the US, “fewer whites… acknowledge that African Americans are adversely affected by past and persistent discrimination.” In other words, today, a number of whites tend to see racism as a personal problem that some people have and reject feeling personally responsible for what others do or how their ancestors acted; which, naturally, they do not agree with. According to the same article, many blacks tend to view the problem of race in America as very real and institutional which influences their daily movements and actions. In all this black-white discourse, Hispanics, Asians, homosexuals, women and the general poor of America tend to be forgotten and pushed to the background as a sideshow. But, the truth of the matter is that race is still something one can die for in this country and about three months ago, someone did.
On June 26th, 2011, seven white teenagers from Jackson, Mississippi, murdered a man simply because of the color of his skin. According to a CNN report their victim, a 49-year-old James Craig Anderson, was targeted because he was black. The same article also reports that these young teens were at a party when they decided they wanted to search for “a nigger to fuck with”. In two separate vehicles, they drove sixteen miles across Jackson to a predominately black, western area, where they found their victim, James Craig Anderson. The teenagers jumped out of their car and proceeded to beat Mr. Anderson, and, while beating him, they yelled out racially charged slogans, like “White power!” After some time had passed, a few of the teens left, and the teen that remained got into his car and ran over the beaten James Anderson, killing him instantly. After this murder, the elated teens met at a McDonalds and celebrated their victory. What the jubilant white teenagers did not know was that the beatings and murder were caught on a surveillance camera pointed at the parking lot. Currently, only one teenager, Deryl Dedmon Jr, is facing two life sentences in connection with the murder. The only other teenager to be charged in connection with the crime is John Aaron Rice, and he is facing a simple assault charge.
Is this the society that is so free and just? Can this possibly be the country whose Declaration of Independence states, “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”? Was James Craig Anderson given these rights? Was justice truly served when only one young man has been charged with murder when they ALL decided to go out and “fuck with a nigger”? There are many layers to this question, and one article will never do it any kind of justice, but I wish to share my own personal beliefs on who is responsible for this death. To begin with, every single one of the teens who left the party and participated in the beatings of James Craig Anderson must be charged. What they are charged for comes down to the particularities of the law, but they all must be charged with something. Secondly, society as a whole is responsible for the attitudes of these young men, and this is an important point because some might try to solely blame these misguided teens. Furthermore, others might say, because it happened in the “South,” this type of action is understandable, which, in effect, separates them from the emotions, feelings and intentions behind the crime. All these counts are false. The fact that it was okay for anybody to believe that it was fine to find a “nigger” and kill him and even celebrate it afterwards shows that we as a society and human race have a problem. This problem is not restricted to the “South” or the US, so arguments articulated in this manner need to be discarded, and we as human beings who care for one another, need to take responsibility for the crimes we commit against one another.
In conclusion, I confess that I have much anger in my heart due to this event. That could have been me out there being beaten up and killed. It was not, but it could have been…. And in order for me to keep hate out of my heart, I must use love as preached by Dr. King because, when you love someone, indeed you can still reprimand and punish them for their mistakes, but you will never hate them. I wish nothing but blessings on the young people who murdered James Anderson and hope that as time goes by they see the error of their ways and make a change in their lives. The real killers and enemies’ humanity faces are hate, ignorance, selfishness and uncontrolled anger. Once we convict those criminals, then, I believe, we as a society can build a truly better world that embodies some of the ideals expressed in the United States Declaration of Independence.