Jazmine Barnes and the Explosion of Hate Crimes in America

Jazmine Barnes and the Explosion of Hate Crimes in America

There should be stronger hate crime legislation in America to protect Black citizens from white supremacist terrorism. That is my takeaway from the recent drive-by murder of 7-year old Jazmine Barnes who was shot to death by a white man in a red pickup truck near a Wal-Mart outside of Houston, TX.

People may say I’m jumping the gun and I don’t know the motivation of this killer. I say the writing is on the wall and there is a high probability that not only did this killer know he was shooting at Black people, but that was likely his intention. I can say this because that is the current trend in America.

The problem is that we live in a country where not only do people want to ignore the issue of hate crimes (because the culprits are usually white and conservative) but with the willful ignorance around the topic comes the allowance of it to grow out of control like cancer on society. Everyone should be disturbed by how the murder of Black people appears to be allowed in this country and how “leaders” tend to drag their feet on the issue and will talk about everything BUT the threat that white supremacist terrorism poses to Black people.

It just so happens that today is the day the new 116th Congress was sworn into office. There are great pieces of legislation on the table such as HR1, or the For the People Act, which will strengthen American democracy. It’ll make a commitment to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and curb gerrymandering - among other things.

It’s also important to put pressure on this new Democratic House to not continue to ignore racial violence that is growing in America. That is why we should also demand legislation to address the rise of hate crimes against Black people. It is clear that Black people need special protection from this form of terrorism. Speaking of which, I believe certain forms of racial violence should be classified as domestic terrorism.

Right now, there is no single, universally-accepted definition of terrorism. The FBI defines domestic terrorism as, “the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or Puerto Rico without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

If I am correct that Jazmine Barnes’ killer acted out in racial animus, then how is that not considered terrorism when it’s clearly meant to intimidate a civilian population (the Black population)? Racialized violence has always been about the intimidation of all Black people. In reality, terrorism is largely defined through a political and religious lens…not racial. So killing for your religion (and to attack other religions) and killing for a political cause is terrorism, but killing for your race isn’t? That makes no sense.

The skeptic in me says that’s because most people who kill for racial reasons will tend to be white men and that’s why racial killings aren’t included in the current definition of terrorism. That must change. We must demand stronger hate crime legislation that calls racial violence what it is - and that’s terrorism. They can include religious terrorism because religious terrorism has ‘social objectives’ as the definition above states. However, racial terrorism also has social objectives - but that’s usually not included.

So we can see very clearly that the usage of that word is selectively being applied to specific groups and not all groups that actually fit the definition. That is problematic on a number of levels.

Hate Crimes on the Rise

It was reported last year that hate crimes have risen for 3 years in a row and that the numbers we’re being given are likely inaccurate and under-represent the threat because departments are not required to submit their data to the FBI - it’s optional. So there are likely more hate crimes than what’s actually being reported. This is a huge problem!

Until Jazmine Barnes’ killer is found and brought to justice, we can only speculate. Based on recent history, I anticipate if he is caught, local authorities will look for ways to not call this a hate crime as is the case with Nia Wilson who was stabbed to death at a BART station last year. They’ll call it anything but a hate crime - even if the penalties are high for the killer. This is why I say the stats we have on hate crimes are not accurate because you have cases like Wilson’s that should be considered hate crimes that aren’t. The same may end up being the case for Jazmine Barnes’ killer even if/when he is found.

Activist and Journalist Shaun King currently has a reward that has gone up to $100,000 for information identifying Barnes’ shooter.

How much longer will this go on and nothing is done about it? Only time will tell.

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