News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.
Friday, March 18, 2005
News: Humanizing Brian Nichols
My initial reaction to opinion pieces I read about the Atlanta murder suspect who engaged in a murderous crime spree last Friday was revulsion. I was appalled to see piece after piece dehumanize Brian Nichols, often with racist language. He was referred to as a monster. There were cries to kill him without benefit of trial. His previous contacts with the criminal justice system, minor until he was accused of aggravated assault, were exaggerated. This entry from is La Shawn Barber's Corner is typical.
So, it is with some relief that I've read an increasing humanization of Nichols in the mainstream press. A sin of media in the relatively recent past, when few newspapers or television stations would even hire people of color, was supporting and sustaining stereotypes. It is evidence of an increasing fairness that coverage of the Nichols episode is examination of a life gone awry instead of Birth of a Nation revisited.
Newsday has traced Nichols path from early childhood to his present incarceration pending four charges of homicide. The article provides the most convincing theory of Nichols' personality I've read so far. He seems to have be a capable person who performs well when he is grounded in family and friends. Left adrift, he drifts into trouble. The degree of that trouble has increased over the years until its culmination in alleged crimes that may land Nichols on Death Row.
The Baltimore Sun reports that the trigger for Nichols's eruption may have been the birth of his child three days before.
A former cellmate describes a man who was becoming increasingly psychologically disturbed. Rodney Johnson told KLTV that he observed the deterioration.
Johnson says he reported Nichols' agitation to jail officials, but no action was taken.
Earlier, Nichols' young daughter engaged in a touching display of innocence and loyalty toward a man she has seldom seen, broadcast on ABC.
Nichols is emerging as a troubled man who lost control, not the stereotypical black savage being promoted in conservative commentary.
Among the persons creating a lynch mob mentality in regard to Brian Nichols are the African-American talking heads promoted by Project 21. As some of us in the blogosphere have previously said, these people are not to be trusted.
Though its spokespersons, including La Shawn Barber, are black, their views are those of the far Right white conservatives. How depraved and self-hating are these people? View from the Right, one of the sources Barber cites with approval above, is the blog of white supremacist Lawrence Auster. He believes that black people are genetically inferior, inherently unintelligent and criminally inclined. Yet, Barber considers him someone to rely on.
When a crime spree such as Nichols' occurs, it provides fodder for political reactionaries. They feel free to present their biases as fact. Therefore, it important that progressive people be ready to refute the racism and misogyny that emerge. Claims urged by participants in Project 21, and, other supporters of white supremacy, include:
1) Nichols set out to murder white people, and
2) The fact that Nichols was guarded by a female deputy proves that women should not be allowed to be law enforcement officers.
Both are easily refutable, Nichols' victims were those who had participated in his trial or got in his way as he escaped. Two male law enforcement personnel who had guns were killed during the crime spree. If maleness is the criteria for effectively stopping an escaped suspect, they should be alive. The truth of the matter is that there was negligence in guarding Nichols. To focus on the gender of the injured officer misses the point.
A week after the crime spree, balanced and believable commentary has become more common. That is a relief to people who care about justice. Brian Nichols should be held responsible for his alleged crimes. But, racism and misogyny should not be the determinants of how he is perceived.posted by J. | 7:45 PM
Monday, March 14, 2005
Commentary: In re: Sam Francis
I had intended to mention the demise of Right Wing commentator Samuel Francis sooner. Two occurrences reminded to do so. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has ruled that a commercial featuring an interracial embrace is not indecency under the rules governing broadcasters. Blogger DC Media Girl has posted entries about Francis (pictured). Let's consider the second reminder first. DCMG is one of a few bloggers to recall who and what Sam Francis was.
Though there is no question that Francis was as excreable a person as described, I do not believe the Washington Times' asserted reason for his dismissal in 1995. The cover story was that after Indian immigrant and bigot Dinesh D'Souza outed Francis as a racist in a book, Francis' status as a columnist was no longer tenable. But, the Times is a virtual dormitory for bigots. Several of its editors and reporters, including neo-Confederate advocate Robert Stacy McCain, are just as bigoted as Francis. Its sister organization, United Press International (UPI), is the stomping grounds of Steve Sailer and Fred Reed. Indeed, McCain likely attends the same conferences sponsored by the white supremacists at American Renaiisance Francis did. So, something else has to have been going on. Methinks there was personal animosity between Francis and the largely neo-Confederate bigots at the Times. Though he believed blacks and Hispanics to be genetically inferior, and, opposed immigration of non-whites to America, Francis mocked the neo-Confederate belief in a new secession. A similar explanation explains why D'Souza, whose own credentials as a bigot are unassailable, clashed with Francis. The man had nothing positive to say of anyone who was not a whiter shade of pale. So, the 'honorary white' pass that non-white racists rely on from their white brethren would not have been available to d'Souza. Francis consigned him to the same trash heap as other people of color. The result was an attack on a white white supremacist by a brown white supremacist.
My second spur for this entry is the FCC's recent ruling on the Monday Night Football ad featuring Nicolette Sheridan and Terrell Owens. The Mercury News reports.
Francis penned one of his last columns for the racist site VDare. It was an hysterical rant about the ad being part of a conspiracy to encourage interracial relationships. He also cited the fuss over Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction." (The man's columns often had an undertone of sexual frustration that may have had something to do with his unfortunate appearance.) That was the world in which Samuel Francis lived -- one in which everything was an attack on the shrine of white supremacy by dusky 'Others.' His demise means there is one fewer source of such poisonous nonsense.
•Read the full Washington Examiner article about Sam Francis.
•White supremacist David Duke and a few other far Right commentators have written homages to Francis. However, he had become so obscure that his death was not much remarked on otherwise.
•The Southern Poverty Law Center has published accounts of bias at the Washington Times, including this three-page discussion.posted by J. | 10:00 PM