Bigotry strikes a child
|D. Barbara McWhite grew up in York County, S.C., and lives in Orange Park, Fla., with her husband and cat. Her column is published here each Tuesday. Opinions expressed are solely her own.|
By now we have all heard about 60-year-old Joe Rickey Hundley, the Idaho white man accused of slapping 19-month-old Jonah Bennett, who is African American, on board a Delta Airlines flight, after telling the child’s mother to “shut that n---- baby up.”
First, let me say that I applaud Ms. Bennett for her restraint in this matter. Whether from shock or whether she was able to make a quick assessment that her child was not seriously injured, Bennett refrained from joining the ranks of many other mothers who would have beaten Hundley down into the baggage hold compartment if he had so much as shook his finger at their child.
More astounding to me than the mother’s restraint is the evidence that, even in 2013, a racist white man would dare to strike a child because the child is black and the child’s presence and his voice are offensive to the attacker.
For African Americans, this story is not a new one. The names and the places are changed, but the story is one we have heard many times before. If we condense this incident down to its barest facts, it is a story our parents and grandparents told.
From Emmet Till to Medger Evers, from the little girls in the Birmingham church to Martin Luther King Jr., from Trayvon Martin to Jordan Davis, from James Anderson to black men who are stopped by police for no good reason, blacks -- especially black men -- have too often been struck by intimidation and violence stemming from bigotry and hatred based simply on race. Recently in Mississippi, a black man was targeted for death by racists, while in Florida, the Stand Your Ground Law is being used in attempts to cover the murders of young black men. Eighteen other states have similar versions of the same law.
In this latest version of the story, the twisted arm of racism lashed out at a child. Only this time, racists cannot claim he was provoking others to violence, as was said of King. This time it cannot be said that he was wearing a hoodie and looking suspicious while walking through his neighborhood, as was said of Trayvon Martin. It can’t be claimed that he played his music too loudly, as was said of Jordan Davis. Nor was he driving too slowly in an “out of the way” neighborhood, as so many black men are told by police.
The offense young Jonah Bennett committed, at least in the eyes of his attacker, was being born black. And in 2013, 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation and some 40 years since the height of the civil rights movement, our country still breeds this kind of bigotry. Bigotry that would seek to shut young Jonah up and deny him equal place.
The optimists among us would have us believe that we live in a post-racial society, citing equal educational, job and housing opportunities and the election of our country’s first African American president. But as an African American, married to a black man and mother to three black children, two of them males, these kinds of incidences serve as cautionary tales.
How can this country claim true equality while blacks are still expected to live and work under the evil veil of racism? America is not post-racial while African Americans are still being struck down for the offense of being black.
I find it ironic that the racist, Joe Rickey Hundley, is said to have been irritated that the black child was crying, so he hit him to shut him up.
That’s the thing about racism. Racism seeks to control and silence the voice of the victim through intimidation and threats of violence.
But like young Jonah Bennett, bigotry and racism could not silence the voices of Emmet Till, Martin Luther King Jr., Trayvon Martin, James Anderson and so many other victims of vile racial hatred.
Rather, they screamed even louder.
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