Monday, August 17, 2009
It would qualify as a national crime story. Depraved and horrific violence as well as a racial angle. Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom were out in their SUV when they were set upon by a group of thugs who took them to the house of one of the perpetrators. After gang raping Newsom, they then subjected Channon Christian to a day of rape and torture. She ended her life slowly smothering in plastic garbage bags, her neck broken.
Theft wasn't a motive. The SUV was abandoned. Any monetary take was negligible, particularly in comparison to what could have been taken had the couple been forced to max out their bank cards. Any analysis of the crimes would have revealed that a raw and savage hatred eclipsed any hope of monetary gain. Christian and Newsom died at the hands of a gang that despised them within seconds of setting eyes on them.
What was so hateful in the eyes of the gang? Had the victims been African American and the perpetrators white, it would be a foregone conclusion that this was a hate crime. It turned out that the perpetrators were African American and the victims were white. With nothing politically useful to say, our national news media has essentially relegated this trial to the back pages of the newspapers. There will be no demand for national introspection. There will be no questions what subculture and what milieu incubated such virulent hatred. A few stories will surface of Klansmen and Nazis labeling this a race crime. In a genteel and implicit way, it will tar those who label this rape-murder as hate crime with the brush of racism.
But these questions will not go away. Channon and Christopher can never say what awful words they heard in their final hours. The only living witnesses are the perpetrators, who seek to sanitise the portrayal of the horrific violence of Christian and Newsom's last moments on earth.
Handwriting can be analysed for insights into the mindset of a writer. Forensic experts are able to create detailed psychological portraits of unknown perpetrators. Despite an abundance of suchforensic evidence, crucial and inconvenient questions are unasked by our print and broadcast media.
In any dialogue about bigotry, all forms of racism must be put on the table. I can condemn the Klan and the Nazis for many things, but not for labeling the Christian and Newsom murders as anti white hate crimes. The Klan and the Nazis have their own hatred. But the shame is ours for leaving unasked the questions raised by this horrific crime.
My heart goes out to the Christian and Newsom families. They have waited two and a half years for the start of four trials. It must be agony reliving the loss of their children.
A death penalty would be far too merciful for the perpetrators of these bestial crimes. It will remain for the next world for these murders to be fully and properly avenged.
We are as a society discomfited by the questions being asked by Nazis and Klansmen in Knoxville during this trial. The best remedy for this discomfiture might well be to ask these questions ourselves. Sphere: Related Content