Sticks and Stones

This story doesn’t look like much. At first glance you might think this is just a bunch of hicks getting out of hand and pummeling a black reporter woman for a short amount of time but on further analysis this story has everything: it has the privacy rights of the family of a murder victim in their hour of distress versus the right of a free press (the father of the woman fighting the reporter had just been murdered which is why the camera crews were on the scene). Also factored in is the question of the ethics of a journalist peppering these people with questions against their will at that time. Certainly it is legal for them to do so but is this acting like a decent human being? And if the answer is no, then should this be considered a mitigating factor if these people are brought up on assault charges?

Secondly, as much as I like reading the news, I admit to having a soft spot for people who physically attack pesky reporters. Whether it’s Sean Penn punching a reporter in the mouth (justified), a neo-Nazi breaking Geraldo Rivera’s nose when he refused to get out of his face (a victimless crime), or that man in San Diego who assaulted a reporter who was investigating him on some sort of corruption charge (unjustified), seeing a reporter get pummeled is always kind of funny to me. This case is a little disturbing however firstly because the family was being hounded, not for having done anything wrong, but because they were the victims of a crime. It is further disturbing because some members of this family used racial slurs against the reporters.

It is instructive to see how the use of racial slurs in this attack elevated the assault beyond a local news blurb into national news. The woman in the linked news report apologizes for the family’s action and she is asked (by a different reporter obviously) if the attack was racially motivated. She says no it was not and she seems genuinely repentant for her actions (or at least highly disturbed at having been caught) but it is interesting that there is more focus on the racial slurs than on the attack itself. Either she is highly concerned about the racial aspect potentially being used to jack up the charge to a hate crime or she is more concerned about the stigma of her family having been caught on film using the n-word that the attack itself. At any rate it is quite instructive to note that this society seems to be more concerned about names than they are about sticks and stones.

On a final note, I have long been opposed to designating certain crimes as “hate crimes” because it is simply absurd to punish some assaults and murders worse than others simply based on what the perpetrators think about their victims. That said, I will also add that it’s next to impossible to determine in cases like these whether race was the motivating factor in the attack. If I get angry at a guy who looks like Bum Phillips and get into a fistfight with him, I’m probably going to call him a Bum Phillips-lookin-mothafucka. That is not a priori evidence that the fact that he looks like Bum Phillips was the motivating factor in the attack. Fistfights are unpleasant by their very nature and in the course of engaging in one it is only natural to want to insult the object of your wrath at the time. So calling someone a chink/whore/faggot/dago/spic/slut or even the n-word during a fistfight might actually be a simple biproduct of the assault rather than the motivating factor behind it.

The family that attacked this reporter should perhaps be prosecuted for their actions (although the distress they were experiencing coupled with the intrusiveness of the reporters should certainly be considered as a mitigating factor) and the use of racial slurs in the attack should NOT be used to upgrade the assault charge to a hate crime. I don’t think the family in question goes around slinging black people around by their hair and calling them the n-word on a normal basis.

3 Responses to “Sticks and Stones”

  1. Phelps says:

    First, I think “she needed an ass whuppin” is a valid defense to assault charges. Second, I think it is pretty obvious that they aren’t throwing the N word out because they are racists — they are throwing it out because they know it will hurt her, just like punching her. If she really didn’t care when white people called her an N, they wouldn’t bother. They would call her a C or a MF or something.

  2. mexi says:

    Also it looks like as soon as the camera crews rolled up for the apology shoot this chick went back into the trailer and put on a whole heap’o eyeliner!

  3. Agreed and agreed. What if they hadn’t used the N-word? Would it have still been considered “racially motivated?” Seems to me that poor little verbally-challenged southerner needed a good slick lawyer to speak for her on camera. That reporter’s questions were asinine. Good grief. Her dad had just been murdered. People go nuts in a state of shock and grief. Should they have used the N-word? No. No one should. I don’t think they were motivated by the reporters’ skin color. I think they were enraged because they asked the reporters to leave and the reporters refused and got nasty with ’em. I say an ass kickin’ was justified.

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