Lynching as a Misdemeanor

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

Lynching as a Misdemeanor

Four white San Jose State University students who assaulted a Black teenager for nearly two months have been charged only with misdemeanors when their crimes actually constitute “felonious battery, terroristic threats, and kidnapping.” The corporate media portrayed the “racist assaults and threats of lynching as nothing more than white rites of adolescent passage” – like “hazing” and “bullying.”

White society is incapable of acknowledging – or even perceiving, on the cognitive level – the violence that it daily perpetrates against Blacks.”

A 17-year-old Black student is set upon by four white males that inhabit the same suite of rooms on a college campus. Over a period of almost two months, his tormentors force him into a closet and twice fasten a “U” shaped bicycle lock around his neck, once chaining him for at least ten minutes and bruising his lip in the attack. The whole time, the perpetrators prominently display a Confederate flag, a board scrawled with the word “nigger,” and a photo of Adolph Hitler, the mass exterminator of “lesser species” of humanity, while verbally assaulting the victim with racial slurs, calling him “three-fifths” and “fraction” to dramatize their view that he is nothing but a slave to whites. The victim would sometimes barricade himself in his room to escape the assaults.

The initial police report describes the assaults as “hazing.” CNN insists on calling the prolonged attacks a form of “bullying.” Journalists refer to “three-fifths” and “fraction” as the victim’s “nicknames.” Ultimately, the four whites are charged only with a misdemeanor hate crime and simple battery, for which they face a maximum of one year in county jail and possible fines.

The criminal offenses committed against the unnamed victim at San Jose State University should, under California and federal law, constitute felonious battery, terroristic threats (which, under California Penal Code section 422, can be charged whether or not the person making the threat has the ability to carry out the threat or even intended to carry out the threat), and, if the police were serious about deterring such atrocities, kidnapping. If vigorously prosecuted in the penal dystopia that California has become, the four white boys would emerge from prison as middle-aged men, covered in Aryan Nation tattoos. But that’s not going to happen, because these are the children of a white society that is incapable of acknowledging – or even perceiving, on the cognitive level – the violence that it daily perpetrates against Blacks.

Black students and the local NAACP made the same point in a demonstration beneath the 22-foot statue commemorating Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ “Black Power” salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. "The community will not stand idly by and allow for any student of color to be terrorized simply due to the color of his skin," said the Rev. Jethroe Moore II, president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP. But, there is no Black Power on San Jose State’s campus. At just three percent of the student body, there is hardly a Black presence.

Qayoumi has assimilated the values of his adopted country.”

African American enrollment was reduced by one back in 2008 when Gregory Johnson’s body was discovered in the basement of the Sigma Chi fraternity house. The police ruled it a suicide by hanging, despite the wound in the back of his head. “He died like a dog,” said Johnson’s tearful mother, Denise, holding pictures of her son as students consoled her at the demonstration.

University President Mohammad Qayoumi, who had initially failed to even suspend the white supremacist assailants, presented words of contrition for his cognitive dysfunction. “By failing to recognize the meaning of a Confederate flag, intervene earlier to stop the abuse, or impose sanctions as soon as the gravity of the behavior became clear, we failed him. I failed him.” Read Full Message Here.