Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Sword and the Fury

Timothy Caughman about to vote on Nov 8, 2016
"Why are you doing this? What are you doing?"

As horrific as it sounds, according to an eyewitness quoted in a New York Times article by N.R. Kleinfield, those may well have been the last words of 66-year-old New Yorker Timothy Caughman as he was being stabbed to death last Monday night by a 28-year-old white man from Baltimore named James Harris Jackson.

It's been hard to get those words out of my head this past week as I tried to wrap my head around the startling depth of racial hatred Jackson must have harbored in his mind to conceive of something as demented as traveling from his home in Baltimore to New York City in order to murder black men he didn't even know with a sword.  

I mean who even thinks up something like that, let alone makes the choice to do it?

As Ian Reifowitz observed on last Friday, those questions obviously didn't trouble Donald Trump. Despite the fact that he recently spent four days tweeting about a terrorist attack in Sweden that never happened, and tweeted about the American victim of the recent London terrorist attack Kurt Cochran - thus far 45 has made no comment about Timothy Caughman's death.

It's been hard to imagine the agony and indescribable horror of being stabbed in the back and chest with an 18-inch sword - a death so gruesome it defies belief given that it took place on a Manhattan street in the the 21st century.

Caughman managed to stumble into an NYPD station after the 11:30pm attack, but he later died at the hospital.

No manhunt for James Jackson was necessary as he turned himself into police on Wednesday after seeing street camera video footage of himself was broadcast on the local news.

Jackson being arraigned in court on Thursday
According to news reports Jackson told investigators that he'd planned to go to Times Square and use the sword to kill as many African-American men as he could.

Jackson claimed that Timothy Caughman, who was searching though a trashcan for bottles and cans to recycle when he was attacked, was supposed to be what he called "a practice run."

How do you even classify something like that?

Was Jackson a terrorist, a potential mass murderer, or was he a serial killer who was arrested before he could follow through with his plan to kill random African-American men?

According to an exclusive interview with reporters Ellen Moynihan and Stephen Rex Brown posted on the NY Daily News Website earlier today, Jackson further elaborated on his motivation for the killing.

He claimed that his intention had been to murder "a young thug" or a "successful older black man with blondes", corroborating statements he made to NYPD investigators about his anger over black men being in interracial relationships with white women.

Jackson, who attended a prestigious Quaker Friends school as a child and served in the Army as a military intelligence officer, was raised by parents who were liberal in their political beliefs, but he claims he began hating black men as early as 3 years-old.

He also told the Daily News that he felt that "The white race is being eroded" and that he wished that it was "1950's America".  

Thoughts that echo the kind of divisiveness cultivated by Donald Trump's campaign, views promoted by two of Trump's key domestic policy advisors, Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller.

Was Jackson somehow "inspired" to carry out his twisted act of hatred by Dylann Roof's heinous, cold-blooded murder of nine innocent African-Americans at a Bible study in South Carolina back on June 17, 2015?
Roof's friend Joey Meeks sentenced to 27 months
Back on January 12 federal jurors sentenced Roof to the death penalty for his actions.

And that horrific racist killing was back in the news again last week after 22-year-old Joey Meeks, a childhood friend of Roof's from Lexington, South Carolina was sentenced to 27 months in prison for telling others not to turn Roof in to authorities.

As Andrew Knapp reported in an article for the Post and Courier last Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel told the courtroom that Meeks "knew who (the gunman was)" and "affirmatively acted to stop someone else from reporting it" to authorities.

As Knapp reported, Meeks and Roof often spoke of their racist beliefs together while drinking, doing drugs and playing video games.

And Roof had specifically told Meeks of his intention to murder innocent African-Americans with a handgun.

After the killings happened, Meeks not only lied to FBI investigators about knowing about Roof's plans, he also told a younger friend not to say anything about knowing that it was Roof who carried out the attack.

US District Judge Richard Gergel
A decision that put the Charleston community in "serious" danger according to Judge Gergel.

As an African-American man, the attacks by both Roof and Jackson are extremely troubling.

With so many different incidents of racial and ethnic hatred having taken place since Trump's election back in November, I can't help but wonder how many other Dylan Roofs or James Harris Jacksons there are out there waiting to lash out at innocent people of color.

It was just last Sunday that I blogged about a man coming into my place of work and calling me a "fucking nigger" to my face because he was upset about the parking spaces in the apartment complex where I work not being cleared of snow.

I'm not saying someone calling me a racial slur in my place of work in any way compares to a man being stabbed repeatedly with an 18-inch sword or being shot multiple times.

But I'm not alone in feeling anxiety about the reality that some white people in this country now feel empowered to lash out at people of color.

Last week I listened to an interesting call-in segment on The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC about the growing sense of anxiety many people of color are feeling these days; it offers an interesting snapshot if you have a few minutes to listen.

Brian asked callers to share how they're coping with that anxiety, some are praying, one African-American woman now makes sure to always check in with friends and family via social media so they know where she is at all times in the event something happens to her.

Me personally, I try to use writing to explore and process my feelings about what's happening in the country - but as the horrific death of Timothy Caughman demonstrates, that's not always easy,

And it doesn't always offer comfort or solace in the face of such racially motivated fury.

No comments: