Tuesday, September 10, 2013

NYC Attack Shows Hate Crime Fallacy

Jeffrey Babbitt has died after being attacked because he was a white male
So, how do we deal with this?

Jeffrey Babbitt, a white man from Brooklyn, is dead.  And his attacker, a black man believed to be homeless, claims to have been motivated by a hatred of white people.

Lashawn Marten is 31, and was quoted by bystanders in Manhattan's Union Square last Wednesday as saying that he was going to punch the first white man he saw.  Babbitt, 62, was that white man, and when Marten punched the unsuspecting Babbitt in the face, he knocked him down to the pavement, where Babbitt struck the back of his head.  He fell into a coma a short time later, and died yesterday in the hospital.

Two witnesses to the brazen attack in broad daylight in a popular park just north of Greenwich Village, and near a busy subway station, came to Babbitt's aid, but they were also assaulted by Marten.  At least one of the good Samaritans was also a white male.

So utterly senseless.

By all accounts, Babbitt was a mild-mannered man.  Neighbors in his building told reporters he was retired from some sort of railroad job in Florida and had moved back to Brooklyn twenty years ago to help care for his elderly mother, Lucille, who is now 94.  He had a deep interest in comic books and fantasy, and frequently commuted from his home in Brooklyn's middle-class Sheepshead Bay neighborhood to visit Forbidden Planet, a comic book emporium near Union Square.  He was likely walking either from or to Forbidden Planet and the Union Square subway station when he was attacked.

Simply because he was a white male.

His race and gender bear repeating, because they constitute the sole reasons behind Marten's targeting of him for what appears to have been a premeditated crime.  Perhaps Marten didn't intend for Babbitt to die from the wounds he would inflict on him, but that's up for the courts to now parse.  An innocent pedestrian is dead, and his mother now apparently bereft of any immediate family, since her daughter, Babbitt's sister, died of cancer a couple of years ago.

Yet, do we see Lucille Babbitt on the news, mourning her sudden misfortune at losing both of her children and caretakers?  And one of them through what is believed to be an overtly bigoted attack?  Where is the outpouring of sympathy from, well, the white community, or the black community?

Should there be some huge backlash somewhere in the political spectrum against this horrific crime?  What activist would be so aggrieved as to lead the charge in the press against... well, whom?

Even in some of the photos after the Union Square attack, black people can be seen comforting at least one white victim of the multiple assaults.  It was likely as shocking for blacks as well as whites - and pedestrians of any of New York's famous racial makeup - to see some guy being punched with such force that he fell down and hit his head.

Which brings us uncomfortably close to a strikingly similar scenario we've been told about in Babbitt's former home state, Florida.  A particularly ugly case that convulsed through our nation's consciousness just a few short months ago.  In Sanford, Florida, we were told that white bigotry caused the death of an innocent teenager.  People like Al Sharpton fomented throngs of angry demonstrators who vehemently denounced calloused white people for pre-judging individuals on the streets - and in courtrooms - based solely on their skin color.

So, now, practically the same thing unfolds in the media capital of the world, and it barely merits a headline buried in the local section of the New York Times, and nothing at all on CNN, which instead has devoted several prominent headlines to salacious family gossip regarding George Zimmerman, his wife, and his father-in-law.

For its part, the tabloid muckraker New York Post also ignored the Babbitt story, instead devoting some home page space on its website today to Al Sharpton's apology to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who wrote in his private diary that Sharpton "has done more damage to the black cause than George Wallace."  Sharpton says that the beleaguered Kennedy likely doesn't consider him so negatively today.

So we've got Sharpton forgiving a Kennedy, but mum on an innocent bystander killed for the color of his skin.

I guess we white folk are just supposed to take it.  And you know what?  For the most part, I think that's what we should do.  Marten's attack wasn't against me, a white male, or you, or even Babbitt, as a single, sixtysomething caregiver for his elderly mother back in Sheepshead Bay.  It was one individual full of rage, and probably hate, and almost certainly in a severely distressed mental state.  Actually, New York used to be full of these types of crimes, committed by people who should have been in a mental institution somewhere, but who, thanks to political correctness and tight prison funding, simply bounced from one halfway house to another.

Two days after the Union Square attack, a similar scenario unfolded on the M60 bus in Harlem, when a black man called a white male passenger a "cracker" and then pummeled him so badly, the white male passenger suffered a broken nose and fractured eye socket.  Unfortunately, witnesses to the bus attack let the perpetrator escape, but then again, we were told during the Zimmerman trial that "cracker" isn't a racist slur after all.

And it isn't really, is it?  Obviously, the reason whites in New York City - who are in the minority - aren't rising up in anger over these eerily similar attacks is because, first of all, they're relatively rare these days.  It's ironic that these two incidents have happened so closely to each other, and the second certainly sounds like a copy-cat crime.  But whites in the city - and around the country, who've stumbled upon these stories while the mainstream media has mostly ignored them - can tell the difference between unstable bigots acting unilaterally, and an entire race of people condoning such behavior.

Frankly, I believe most blacks can, too.  In fact, it's probably why Sharpton and his ilk have little ammunition even if they wanted to come out and bend over backwards, apologizing to white folk for at least Babbitt's death.  There's little opportunity for advancing a cause that really doesn't exist, when you know that institutionalized, enculturated racism is not in play here.  Sometimes, ugly freak incidents happen.  Maybe one of the actors can attempt to claim racism as a motivation, but we all know better.  It's mostly some sort of personal problem, a mental imbalance, an individual who can't deal with the circumstances in his life.

It's sad, of course.  And while we mourn for Babbitt's mother, Lucille, isn't it hard not to feel sorry for Marten, too?  He's in front of the District Attorney's office today, likely facing upgraded charges in the wake of Babbitt's death.  Prison isn't the best place for him to sort out his problems, which will only make things worse for him.

And what of the loss of Trayvon Martin?  Maybe Marten's attack in New York is indicative of the sentiments held by any number of bigoted black people in the United States.  But also, maybe Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon is only indicative of the sentiments held by any number of bigoted white people in the United States.  Either way, we cannot extrapolate motivations, sins, crimes, hatreds, racist intentions, and other evils across a broad spectrum of any people group based on the actions of one person.

This isn't even a racial issue, is it?  Random attacks against gays, for example, bring politicians out of the woodwork, calling for anti-hate legislation.  The same thing has happened when an elderly person is the victim of a violent crime, or even a white child younger than Travon was.  Gun violence does it, too.  It's just not politically correct to get all worked up over deaths like Babbitt's.  Which may point to the fallacy of not treating other targeted attacks with the same measured response.

Crime is crime.  Murder is murder.  Hate is hate.  And if you think about it, most crimes are crimes of hate, so how does it make a difference if we categorize them by the many ways people can hate other people?  We have a panoply of different hate crime laws, but what kind of crime prevention are they?  By definition, crimes are already illegal, regardless of whether they're motivated by hate. 

The media and its instigators like Sharpton won't parlay Babbitt's death into another bitter spectacle, because it doesn't fit conveniently into their lopsided narrative of minority relations in the United States, however inaccurate that narrative may be.  Or however motivated by hate it may be.

Meanwhile, the rest of us, regardless of our skin color, or even our age or sexual orientation, should regret any loss of human life that is ever targeted for any number of individual characteristics.

Underneath it all, the blood's still the same color red.

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