There isn’t much left in the way of pejoratives that haven’t been said about Vester Flanagan. He was disturbed, deranged, a psychopath, maniacal, the epitome of evil, and a flat-out nut job. The gunning down of TV reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, and then having the gall to videotape it, and expect it to make the round of cable and network news chatter, was beyond the diabolic.
The twist in Flanagan’s heinous act is that he’s African American and the victims are white. So the inevitable finger pointing began that if it had been the other way around, African Americans would have screamed bloody murder and the furor would have raged.
This is a disingenuous argument. More than a few African Americans did call Flanagan what he was, namely a homicidal nut case, and did offer prayers and condolences to the victims’ families. It was a case of their showing that all really lives do matter.
Almost no one publicly or privately bought into Flanagan’s rambling so-called “manifesto” in which he tried to put a racial rationale on why he did what he did.
Yet, the troubling and inescapable fact is that he did just that.
This is more than enough reason not to shrug it off as the rant of a kook. If Flanagan had lived, he likely would have been slapped with a hate crime prosecution by the feds in addition to state capital murder charges.
The hate crime charge would have been justified. And I’m confident that many civil rights leaders would have called for hate crime charges against him. To not call a hate crime a hate crime when the perpetrator is black and the victims are white would leave them wide open to the slur that blacks are hypocrites and have a double standard when the victims are whites.
The victims of Flanagan’s rampage were innocents who, according to his manifesto, one could deduce were shot because they were white.
Blacks must mourn these murders as passionately as they do those of black victims of white attacks. And just as passionately call for the harshest punishment of the killer. The great strength of the civil rights movement was that it seized and maintained the moral high ground by never stooping to ape the violence of white racists.
The Flanagan shooting spree is deeply troubling for another reason. While it is a grotesque and extreme example of racial violence, it is hardly an aberration. Whites at times have been the targets of racially motivated attacks by blacks. While it’s true that some attacks are for their money and valuables, others are revenge assaults by blacks for real or imagined racial insults.
It is equally true that the vast majority of violent crimes against whites are committed by other whites, while the vast majority of violent crimes against blacks are committed by other blacks. It’s also true that the vast majority of racially motivated hate crimes are still committed against blacks.
Yet, even after discounting crimes that are erroneously tagged as racially motivated, many blacks do attack whites because they are white. According to FBI Hate Crime Statistics, among the single-bias hate crime incidents in 2012, there were 3,467 victims of racially motivated hate crimes. It found that nearly one in four were victims of an anti-white bias. In other words, blacks attacking whites because they were white.
A motley collection of white supremacists and rightist extremist groups has eagerly made black-on-white violence a wedge issue in their crusade to paint blacks as the prime racial hatemongers in America. Their websites and blogs shrilly rant about a so-called “wave” of black violence against whites and claim that it gets swept under the rug and the perpetrators handled with kid gloves.
A decade ago, the New Century Foundation, an ultraconservative think tank, launched a national campaign to alert whites to the danger of hate crimes committed by blacks. It uses the issue of black hate crimes to rationalize and bankroll its research into alleged genetic defects among blacks. These groups and individuals relentlessly magnify black hate crimes to oppose affirmative action programs, stronger hate crime laws and various social programs; to justify the proliferation of white-supremacist-tinged paramilitary groups, police violence and racial profiling; and to lobby for more prisons and police and tougher laws. Black-on-white violence also reinforces whites’ fears of blacks as the ultimate menace to society.
The Flanagan onslaught claimed innocent lives and caused monumental pain and suffering to the victims’ families and friends. It dangerously heightens racial distrust and further poisons racial attitudes. This is all the more reason for blacks to quickly and vigorously condemn these attacks. If not, it’s taken by some as a tacit signal that blacks put less value on white lives than on black lives. That notion is a terrible price to pay for not calling a hate crime a hate crime, no matter who commits it.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Los Angeles and KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.