Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Thursday, April 28, 2005  

Commentary: Nothing is subtle about arson

While Silver Rights was on hiatus, I kept up with several situations involving civil rights issues. Right Wingers we know as the puppet masters of a front group that claims to represent African-American views are among the organizations that have participated in House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's influence peddling shell game. Some disability rights groups are in bed with the Right to Life movement because they share conservative views on civil rights issues, including so-called 'life' concerns. Former NAACP leader Kwesi Mfume has been accused of favoring female employees he had romantic relationships with while chairing the civil rights organization. Eric Rudolph has been convicted and Matt Hale has been sentenced. More on those topics later. In my first two new entries, I want to consider racism and subtlety.

We're often told that racism has become more subtle -- less obviously identifiable as what it is. That is definitely true if one is comparing the 2000s to the 1960s. "Whites only," signs are no longer features of the city scape. Nearly all laws that discriminated against people by race are off the books, including in Southern states. But, what one sees, if one keeps one's eyes and ears open, is that attitudes haven't changed so much. A young white man in Maryland has brought that message home this week.

The Washington Post reports.

One of five young men charged with setting fires that devastated a Charles County subdivision in December pleaded guilty in federal court in Maryland yesterday, admitting that he targeted the housing development because a large number of black people were buying homes there.

During an hour-long hearing in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Jeremy D. Parady, 21, a former volunteer firefighter, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit arson at Hunters Brooke in Indian Head.

Parady admitted that during the early morning hours of Dec. 6, he drove a vehicle from house to house to light the fires.

He acknowledged the accuracy of a statement of facts submitted in court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Donna C. Sanger. The document said Parady "selected or aided and abetted the selection of the Hunters Brooke development as the object of the arsons because he knew or perceived that many of the purchasers of the houses in that development were African-American."

Neither Parady nor any of the other defendants has been charged with a hate crime, and federal prosecutors have said there was more than one motive.

The fires, Maryland's biggest residential arson in memory, destroyed 12 unoccupied new houses, damaged 15 others and caused an estimated $10 million in damage.

The oldest of the defendants is 22. Obviously, none of them were even motes in anyone's eye during legal segregation. Yet, somehow, the same beliefs that led segregationists to burn black people's homes in that era have been communicated to this generation. And, apparently, whoever did the communicating forgot to say "Be subtle." An out of control fire set to destroy homes sends a message of racial hatred loud and clear. The young adults responsible have somehow concluded they are supposed to control what African-Americans can and can't do -- and punish them when they get 'out of their place.'

It can be accurately said that the fires at Hunters Brooke have a dual message. Middle-class African-Americans can now afford to purchase comparatively expensive houses, despite the long history of housing discrimination against them. Suburban Charles County, Maryland, saw its black population increase 25 percent in just three years -- 2000 to 2003. But, at the same time, there is resistance to the increased prosperity of African-Americans. The arsonists are the visible tip of the iceberg of that resistance.

posted by J. | 11:15 PM