Jewish World Review March 12, 2002 / 28 Adar, 5762

Stanley Crouch

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Race-baiters can
forget this Tex. case | In Texas, the state where James Byrd was dragged to his death by three white men who were convicted of homicide and sentenced to death by an integrated jury, a black woman was just charged with murder.

She is accused of running into a homeless white man who got caught in the glass of her windshield, driving him home, parking her car in the garage, closing her garage door and allowing him to bleed to death as he begged her to call for help whenever she checked on his condition.

If she is found irrefutably guilty, is this Texas woman's crime different from that of James Byrd's murderers?

Sure, on one level. Byrd was lured to his death by men who had killing on their minds. There was clearly a racial subtext. The homeless man's tragic story began as an accident and allegedly descended into astonishingly cruel treatment, followed by the woman and some friends dumping his body in a park, where the cops initially assumed he was the victim of a hit-and-run driver. Not a hit-and-carry driver.

We know, of course, that if the situation were reversed, we would see all the civil rights establishment speaking on somebody's steps somewhere in the area. We would see a march, a candlelight one if by night.

There would be loud talk about hate crimes, and someone would say predictable things about the white woman who ran that black man down and refused to call for help while he bled to death. She'd be accused of locking hands with all those white women in the past who've been central to the murders of black men. The incident would be described as another example of the war against black men.

We might even see a march by the new Black Panthers announcing that homeless black men should arm themselves so that, if caught in the windshields of white women, they could shoot their way out or avenge themselves.

What we really need to do is to remember less expected kinds or responses that express our collective relationship to the threat of lethal violence.

In 1989, when a gang of black and Latino teenagers attacked a white woman who was jogging in Central Park, bashed her skull with a brick, beat her with pipes, raped her repeatedly and left her for dead with 75% of her blood creating red mud, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry and a number of black ministers held a daily prayer vigil for her as death tried to rock her to sleep. It was one of the most civilized actions I have ever seen in this town.

In 1992, Titus Murphy, Teri Barnett, Bobby Green and Lei Yuille, four black men, saw on television that Reginald Denny, a white man, was being stoned to death during the Los Angeles riot after the first trial of the cops who beat down Rodney King.

In all the talk that has taken place since then, little mention is made of the fact that Murphy, Barnett, Green and Yuille, shocked and outraged, exhibited both compassion and top-of-the-line courage by driving to the scene and pulling Denny not only out of the lion's den, but out of the lion's mouth.

In this latest case in Texas, someone who almost surely is black tipped the police after the accused woman supposedly was overheard talking about the dead homeless man at a party. Let us see if the civil rights leadership celebrates that person.

JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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