Horrendous hate crime video

Video has surfaced implicating seven white teenagers in a gruesome June 26 Mississippi hate crime that left one black man mutilated and dead.

The recently released footage shows the teens beating and ultimately running over 49-year-old James Craig Anderson. The suspects reportedly left a Hinds County, Mississippi party together with the intention of finding a black victim and drove to a nearby predominantly black area of Jackson where they attacked Anderson, the first black man they saw upon exiting the highway.

For more, go here.

9 thoughts on “Horrendous hate crime video

  1. This is just appalling! I do not want to watch the video. The story makes me sick.
    Here is a question though (we had a debate among friends over this): how necessary is it to show images like this to raise awareness about issues? Does the unbearable need to be seen? What purpose does it serve? I am concerned that it might end up desensitizing viewers…

  2. Agreed with Christine that it is appalling, and I too am forbearing from watching the video. Yet I do not agree that the unbearable need not be seen by anyone, and I believe it serves the purpose of resisting the desire to just ignore evil, on the part of those who would deny what Christine and I are clearly ready to affirm without looking. The risk that some viewers may be desensitized is outweighed, for me, by the need to sometimes point to evidence of evils that are routinely denied. I don’t think Christine needs to look, and I don’t think I need to; we credit the reports with horrified awareness. But to say Christine and I don’t have this need is separate from the need for the possibility that it is available to be viewed.

    My very skin cringed when I saw film of locals near a Nazi Concentration Camp being brought in to witness the remaining evidence of what was done there, and I suspect not everyone brought in from the community in the film had identical needs to see what they saw, either. But enough did, given the ongoing denial of the evils there.

    I taught in the States enough years to hear multiple white students deny that racism either existed or was/is a problem. Every student who said that in my hearing gives support for the need to be able to provide viewable evidence.

    I say all this knowing that a part of me really regrets having seen the video available a few months ago of a woman being stoned to death. I wish to scrub it from my brain.

  3. Dear Profbigk,
    thank you for your response. I think I agree with your argument even though I had not articulated it to myself previously. In fact, right after posting my comment here I did something in line with what you suggest: I forwarded the news clip with video to someone who is in the habit of emailing a list of folks messages with content that is sometimes overtly racist and xenophobic, most of the time not so overtly. These messages portray muslim middle-eastern people as violent, racist and xenophobic (the stoning of a woman video was accompanied by very problematic narrative). My hope was to show that such violence, hatred, racism and xenophobia also exists among “us”. I felt that those who would demonize racially and religiously different others should see those images to realize that horrendous violence and hatred can also be the fact of white Protestant/Christian Westerners.

  4. Gee, thanks, Christine. What an interesting example of its use, as well. It’s hard, isn’t it, to talk about our responses to something so awful?

    My research and teaching keeps returning, year in and year out, to responses to evil. They are freighted with negative feelings and risks, and they’re so painfully constrained. None of the choices are happy ones. We’re ever limited to just doing what we can.

  5. A little over a decade ago I lived in South Carolina, where I was teaching. When I first moved there, the local news did an investigative report: Racism: Does it Still Exist? In a region where there are billboards advertising ‘a true plantation experience’ and a public school bond referendum (to repair leaky roofs) failed, the answer was a shocking ‘yes, it does’. So I agree that there needs to be documentation of what happened that is in principle accessible to all.
    I watched the video, and I cringed. But I wanted to see how the incident was reported and how likely the evidence was to hold up in court. The reporting was actually surprisingly good. The footage is from a hotel surveillance camera and involves a degree of enhanced zoom to see what is happening, and even then there is a degree of speculation. There are a lot of inferences that will need to be made by jurors, though all of them seem quite reasonable. The report makes it seem like there were a slew of witnesses in a McDonalds to crowing by the accused after the fact about what he had done, which will help with those inferences.

  6. You are very couragous Lisa to have watched it. I can’t gather the strength.
    to go back to what was said by Profbigk… I wonder: is this not exactly why evil is hard to combat? Because language fails us in expressing what evil does to the victim and onlookers? Because of how it is impossible to articulate rationally why or how evil would even be possible? Damn… am I sounding like good ol’ Kant? But seriously, when your gut knots together and you cannot put words on your own reaction to evil… how can one educate others in possibly getting to that type of reaction which means a refusal of evil…. sorry… rambling.

  7. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with sounding like Kant sometimes! I’m a fan.

    Yes, seriously, the best and most sensitive treatments of responding to evil, like Primo Levi’s painstaking work in _Drowned and the Saved_, are amazingly articulate analyses of the extent to which articulation is inadequate, words fail, phenomenological understandings are not sensible even as they are sensed, and those who weren’t there cannot know many things. He quotes someone saying, with good intentions, “In your shoes I would not have lasted a day,” and thinks (paraphrasing): How can he know this? He can’t be in my shoes, nor imagine what he’d have done.

    And yet, he writes, and we read, because aporia is not absence, and limited understanding is still a kind of imaginative receptivity. It’s worth the effort to look at horrible things. Having said that, I may have reached some limits as to what I can look at.

  8. Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz was one of my first readings on evil. One of my last is Romeo Dallaire’s Shake Hands with the Devil. I begun reading it many years ago… still have not finished it. I feel we have a duty to listen, read, watch these stories, however horrible they are, but at the same time, like you, I seem to have reached a limit…

  9. Interesting conversation on the limits and merits of representing evil. Christine sent me the link where this discussion is being had along with the opportunity to click the hyperlink to the video. I appreciate knowing about the incident but did not watch the video. You see as a man of African descent I ask “what will I do with my rage, sense of disempowerment and desire for revenge” when similar acts were perpetrated during our chattel enslavemen? Reading descriptions of the incident was like reading C.L.R. James’ Black Jacobins. If the sadism of slavemasters could be said to have been for such cruelty to exercise a disciplining effect on their “property” what can be said to be the motivation of these teens. Here is where I take a slightly different move than Christine, profbigk and even Lisa. First, the evil the video documents is indeed monstrous but as with the verdict of the appropriately misnamed “Rodney King trial,” since King rather than Wind, Koon and Brisano was in fact on trial, I’ll wait to see what the (likely all-White) jury decide. In part their decision will be based on how the police decide to lay charges, how the district attorney decides to proceed and how a judges or judges will shepherd the trial(s). Hidden in all this, whatever the outcome of trials, is that the evil of the teens, as in all other manifestations of evil, is not merely a function of individual psychopathology. Hitler and his cronies were no more evil than members of the English ruling class who encouraged him, the US banks and corporations that sponsored him, and even the United States government that pilfered the Reich’s scientific minds for its space, aviation, nuclear and biological weapons programs. I am willing to consign the actions of these White teens to the category of evil but I’m not willing to accept they are not part of a social milieu and broader culture which led them to believe the object of their orgy was acceptable and legitimate. I’m not a philsopher and so do not have the discourse to speak it but wonder what Kant would have to say given he too gave slavemasters instructions on how to properly flay enslaved African? In the end though, evidence of evil must be chronicled not only to show the defects of humanity but as Camus noted to evince what is also the best in us.

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