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Rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies © Robert Sommers 2017

Monday, August 25, 2014

Still Burning


We are now living in one of the most racially charged times in memory, hearkening back to the raw anger of the sixties civil rights era. I'm not sure if such things ever get truly fixed. A white majority has a very hard time believing that black kids getting blown away or strangled by white cops don't somehow have it coming. Or even the little old black grandmother getting punched out by the CHP officer for that matter.


Two stories caught my eye this week. We had an old fashioned cross burning, shooting and beating down south couple weeks back. Little town south of Jackson, Mississippi, in Cohay. Some people were reportedly upset that the white victim was visited by his mixed race grandchildren. The alleged assailant's mother says that her own son burned the cross. He denies it. But he beat her husband up pretty good.

45 year old Craig Wilson was shot in the stomach. Beaten with brass knuckles. Allegedly by his stepson, Jeff Daniels. Wilson's daughter married a black man. District Attorney refuses to call it a hate crime because both the victim and alleged assailant are white.
Wilson's sister-in-law, Anita Wilson, told AP on Tuesday that she talked to Craig Wilson the night the cross was burned in the yard of the home he shares with Gaylene Daniels. Craig Wilson has three grandsons who are 4, 5 and 6 and a granddaughter who's 3, and Anita Wilson said the grandsons were visiting the couple and inside the home when the cross was burned. She said Craig Wilson told her that Jeff Daniels had yelled a racial epithet about children, saying they shouldn't be at the home.
Anita Wilson said the children were not at the home the night of the shooting. She considers the shooting a hate crime, but the sheriff said the district attorney told him Mississippi's hate-crime law could only apply if both the shooter and the victim are not of the same race.
"How do they not understand it's a hate crime when it was over the kids?" Anita Wilson said.
The state hate-crimes law was enacted in 1994 but has seldom been used to prosecute cases.
Not a hate crime?
Under Mississippi law, the penalties can be imposed "if the felony or misdemeanor was committed because of the actual or perceived race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, national origin or gender of the victim."
Smith County Sheriff Charlie Crumpton said the wording of Mississippi's law won't allow authorities to pursue a hate crime enhancement in this case.
Slick Charlie, slick.

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In Tulsa, an off duty cop shot his daughter's new black boyfriend dead. And surprise, surprise, he was allowed to bail out of jail. No ankle monitor. Shannon Kepler did what any good father would do when confronted with her new beau of the wrong shade. He located his address, drove over to his place, pulled out a gun and executed him.

Jeremy Lake was 19 years old when he was murdered August 5th. Policeman Shannon Kepler, 54, reportedly pulled alongside his daughter and Lake in his SUV and shot at both of them, fatally wounding Lake at close range. Kepler's wife, also a cop, allegedly hid evidence in the case. She has been suspended, with pay but not charged.
According to jail records, Lake was walking with the Keplers' daughter when they were confronted by a man driving a black 2007 Suburban. The daughter told police she recognized the SUV as her father's so she walked over and spoke to him. She told police her father asked what she was doing in that area and she walked away. That's when Lake approached the Suburban and told Kepler he was the daughter's boyfriend, she told police.
The daughter said her father shot Lake two or three times, then shot at her two or three times, but missed. Kepler then drove off, according to the daughter.
A woman who said she's a relative of Lake told News On 6 he volunteered at the Day Center for the Homeless and met the Keplers' daughter there when she needed a place to stay, and she had been staying with him and his family recently. 
Kepler's 18 year old daughter had been kicked out of the house. Lake's family had taken her in.
Lisa Kepler told 2NEWS she met 19-year-old Jeremey Lake at a homeless shelter in downtown Tulsa.
"My parents kicked me out a week ago," said Kepler.
Kepler said she met Lake at the shelter and the two began dating immediately.
"He was just really sweet and caring and he didn't pretend," said Kepler.
Kepler said Lake's family allowed her to stay with them.
On Tuesday night, she said her father, Shannon Kepler, a 24-year veteran of the Tulsa Police Department, found the two of them outside Lake's house.
"We were outside for five minutes and that's when my dad pulled up," she said. "There was no argument. I walked away and Jeremey introduced himself and my dad shot him."
Lake died from his injuries. Lisa Kepler was not injured.
According to witnesses, Shannon Kepler fled the scene in a black 2007 Suburban.
Homicide detective Sgt. David Walker said Shannon Kepler later turned himself in. He was arrested for first-degree murder and shooting with intent to kill.
Kepler's wife, Gina Kepler, also a veteran police officer, was arrested for accessory to murder after the fact.
The Keplers' daughter said she does not know why her father shot her boyfriend or why her mother would be involved.
I read the other day where Kepler's attorney inferred that his client did what any good parent would do.
Kepler's attorney says the couple loves their three adopted daughters, but their 18-year-old daughter Lisa has well documented mental disorder. He said her parents have done everything to help her, but nothing worked.
"People were breaking into their house in the middle of the night," O'Carroll said. "Lisa, bless her heart, left the home. She wouldn't abide in the rules; men couldn't be in the house. She preferred to live in a homeless shelter among desperate people, violent people."
Kepler's attorney says the only two eye witnesses are teenagers - one with a mental disorder and one with a history of mental illness and violence.
"There is not one credible eyewitness at the scene. This is all about politics, and it's ugly," said Richard O'Carroll, Shannon Kepler's attorney. 
So Daddy shot her. And her new friend too. You gonna believe a respected policeman or his crazy daughter and her dead black friend?

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A friend loaned me a very excellent book, not new but still a great primer on the history of racism in the south, specifically as it affected the Mississippi Delta region. It is titled The Most Southern Place on Earth, written by James C. Cobb and published by Oxford University Press in 1992.

I really recommend reading this. For those of you who think that the pernicious disease of racism was solved by abolition and the Civil War, well it was apparently just getting started. A southern aristocracy of postbellum plantation owners could not stand to see the loss of their cheap labor force and engaged in all sorts of violence, chicanery and politicking in order to keep the blacks on the plantation, even in some cases failing to let them know for years that they had been legally emancipated.

This pattern of abuse, coupled with usurious sharecropping contracts, segregation, lynchings and cross burnings, stayed in place for at least the next hundred years. A reading of this book will definitely help the reader understand the root causes of racism and southern anger that apparently remain unabated to this day.

The author reveals the power both of the KKK and the even more dangerous upper class Citizens councils, how racist disenfranchisement has been historically given cover by vague protestations for state's rights and sovereignty. And the terrible toll of the 1898 Supreme Court decision Williams vs. Mississippi that upheld the Mississippi state decision of 1890 that disenfranchised the black population that were electing people of color to office and on their way to becoming a majority.

I approached this book wanting to learn something about the history of blues music but the historical information regarding endemic racism, hatred and exploitation in this country turned out to be far more important for me. I would advise those of you who think that we now live in a post racial world to read this book and see and better understand  how we got here.

2 comments:

Jon Harwood said...

A Political Science PhD I read from time to time is fond of asserting that the South more or less won the civil war with the emergence of the Republican 'Southern Strategy" and its consequences which is capped off by the emergence of the Tea Party. His solution is to arrange for secession legally this time. I don't buy the theory or the recommendation but it is interesting and rather thought provoking. I think the dynamics are more complex but there sure as **ck is a rift in the country.

North County Film Club said...

Sounds like a "must read".
Barbara