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"White people didn't shoot me. Three white people shot me."
April 5, 2010 6:50 AM   Subscribe

At age 15, Darryl Williams was felled by a sniper's bullet-- on a football field in Charlestown, MA, where he was huddled with teammates on the visiting Jamaica Plain High School Football team. It was 1979, 5 years after the Boston busing crisis.

The obit from Richard Lapchick, founder of Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society, mentions Williams' 10 year career as a speaker for the Center's Project TEAMWORK violence prevention program. Williams also worked for the MA State Lottery after earning his degree from Northeastern. "I always describe Darryl as an unknown American version of Nelson Mandela," says Richard Lapchick.

Darryl passed away, at age 46, two Sundays ago. He was buried this past Saturday.

Of the three white youths who were "shooting pigeons" that day, Patrick Doe got married and continues to live in Charlestown; Stephen McGonagle was shot by a cousin in 1988 (at age 26) after being released from jail in the Williams shooting; and in 1995, Joseph Nardone was sentenced to life in prison for murder for his involvement in a Charlestown drug ring.
posted by availablelight (65 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Boston Globe editorial.
posted by availablelight at 6:52 AM on April 5, 2010


Wow, how could anyone believe this was an accident?
posted by delmoi at 7:02 AM on April 5, 2010


Thanks for this post, availablelight. The Globe article is long, and it's my bedtime, but I'll surely read it.

I had moved to Boston (from my native Birmingham, Alabama) two years prior to this event, in 1977. Man, Boston was a tough fucking place. My neighborhood for most of the 8 years I lived there was Jamaica Plain, where Darryl's high school team was based. JP, as we called it, felt like a kind of oasis in that very racially stratified town. At least it was a little mixed. By contrast, on the ONE occasion I ever set foot into Charlestown, I had a very palpable sense that I was going to get beat up. The looks I got and the vibe from the young men on the streets there... it was scary. And I'm not black: it seems it was enough just to look like you obviously weren't from Charlestown to get a serious vibe from the knuckleheads over there. I can only imagine if I'd been black. Almost certainly would've been beat up or worse. I was relieved to get the hell out of that awful neighborhood, and I never went back.

Anyway, in the ensuing years, on those many occasions when I've met someone (many times in Europe) and said I'm from Alabama, and the inevitable black/white relations/history of the south topic arises, I've always mentioned Boston, and how race hatred was by no means limited to the former confederacy.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:10 AM on April 5, 2010 [15 favorites]


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posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 7:13 AM on April 5, 2010


Williams was still in the hospital when the two men convicted in his case—McGonagle, who admitted firing the bullet, and Nardone—each received only ten years for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, the result of a negotiated plea bargain. The third youth, Doe, was tried as a juvenile and found not guilty. As part of the plea bargain, the district attorney's office agreed to drop some armed robbery and motor-vehicle larceny charges that already stood against the two older defendants.

In a stinging legal irony, Nardone got a longer sentence—twenty years—for holding up a Medford store nine months before the shooting, than for putting Williams in a wheelchair.


It starts with shooting pigeons, goes to armed robbery, and ends in murder.
posted by three blind mice at 7:16 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


They showed part of the "Eyes on the Prize" documentary on TV last night (anniversary of the death of MLK Jr.), and it all came back to me how forced busing in Boston was NOT the solution to the problem at the time.

.
posted by Melismata at 7:18 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


My mom and I (I was almost 12) arrived in Boston in 1978. We stayed at the Y in Cambridge while my mom tried to figure out where we'd live.

We went to see an apartment in Bunker Hill. It was a nice place, and something my mom could afford.

We stopped in a coffee shop after looking at the place. It was full of regulars - we could tell by the way people turned around and looked at us when we came in. The waitress was nice. My mom mentioned that we had just moved to Boston and had looked at a place around the corner. A woman sitting near us looked at us carefully, and not unkindly. My mom was white; I'm part Hawaiian/Chinese and don't look particularly white. The woman asked my mom if she was going to send me to a private school. Oh no, my mom said - we can't afford that. If you take that place around the corner, the woman said, your daughter's going to end up getting bused; if she doesn't, she'll end up at [local school, whatever it was called]. She looked at me very steadily. I don't think she'd be very happy in either school, she said.

We ended up in Brookline.
posted by rtha at 7:18 AM on April 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Since he was shot on the Charlestown High football field 11 years ago

The very first sentence left me very confused...until I realised it was supposed to read 31 years ago.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:20 AM on April 5, 2010


Wow, how could anyone believe this was an accident?

the Northeast Magazine article speculates on the nature of the flipflop:

Immediately following the incident, Boston mayor Kevin White labeled it a racist act. After arrests were made two days later, however, White said there was "no evidence, at this point, of racial intent against one boy." Speculation circulated that the mayor, anxious about Pope John Paul II's upcoming visit to Boston, was intent on quelling the city's racial tensions, still inflamed by the court-ordered busing that began in 1974.

The 1990 Boston Globe article linked, however, mentions that the Deputy Mayor at the time ended up retiring two years later on a disability pension, in part due to trauma from the environment revealed/created by the shooting.
posted by availablelight at 7:24 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, how could anyone believe this was an accident?

Well it would be difficult for a drunk teenager without much experience with a rifle to target Williams specifically and hit him in the neck, so there was probably at least some randomness involved. But given that the team was in a huddle, it's not to much of a stretch to assume that he fired into the crowd intending to kill one of them.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:27 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


But given that the team was in a huddle, it's not to much of a stretch to assume that he fired into the crowd intending to kill one of them.

Especially given the violent future for those kids. But obviously no one knew that at the time. They might not have been aiming for neck, but they might have been aiming at his head or torso. It was only 100m away.
posted by delmoi at 7:31 AM on April 5, 2010


(Oh wait, they did know it at the time. WTF?)
posted by delmoi at 7:33 AM on April 5, 2010


Well it would be difficult for a drunk teenager without much experience with a rifle to target Williams specifically and hit him in the neck, so there was probably at least some randomness involved.

Not only that, but

A .22-caliber pistol is meant for hitting a target at close range. This was the weapon used by Sirhan Sirhan in the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. After the initial arrests of Nardone and McGonagle, White, attempting to defuse the situation, said, "A hundred yards with a pistol? Even a police marksman couldn't have hit the target."

Now, that doesn't mean they weren't aiming at him or at the huddle. But if they were aiming at him, they had to know the chance of hitting him was low. So I'm not sure what that says about anyone's motivations, or the probability that the shooter intended one thing and not another.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:42 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


The very first sentence left me very confused...until I realised it was supposed to read 31 years ago.

The article (I believe) was written in 1990, so 11 years would be correct.
posted by specialagentwebb at 7:43 AM on April 5, 2010


on the ONE occasion I ever set foot into Charlestown, I had a very palpable sense that I was going to get beat up. The looks I got and the vibe from the young men on the streets there... it was scary. And I'm not black: it seems it was enough just to look like you obviously weren't from Charlestown to get a serious vibe from the knuckleheads over there.

Your instincts were right. In the words of shooter McGonagle:

"They look down on you when you say you're from Charlestown. They think right away you're a bank robber." He talked of trouble when strangers passed by his group hanging around outside The Godfather: "It depends on whether they stare or not. It depends on the mood. It might be a brick, it might be a bottle, it might be a knife."


Violence was chalked up to the code of silence Charlestown was well known for:

Ms. King said the code of silence was started long ago by Irish immigrants who distrusted authority. A longshoreman, for example, might steal a case of tuna from the docks but give a little of the fish to his neighbors so that when the police inquired about the theft, no one knew anything.

Over time, the silence allowed criminals to thrive.

Charlestown became known by law-enforcement officials nationwide for its small-time hoodlums, thieves, drug dealers and murderers. Crime became so commonplace that arguments normally settled in a fistfight often ended in murder.

posted by availablelight at 7:49 AM on April 5, 2010


I've always mentioned Boston, and how race hatred was by no means limited to the former confederacy.

Nearly everyone in Boston that I've spoken with about race relations, black or white, wishes that this image would just go away. You wont find another city more apologetic of its civil rights issues than Boston, and the fact that it was the center of the American abolition movement just compounds this. 120 years of confidence that our city was the epicenter of what's right smeared with the ugly, ugly tension of the 60's and 70's is very hard for a lot of people to reconcile. And while I'm very sorry that the modern struggles occurred, issues of race needed to be addressed to move this city forward. And we need the ugliness of the recent past to be front and center to remind us that we always have to be vigilant.

The city's still not very well integrated, but no major American city is. What we have done is made great advances in is parity. Services are better distributed now than they ever have been, thanks in part to a long-serving mayor who works with communities. The tension that seethed when my father was a kid is much less severe-- I've been everywhere in Boston, and while I have felt like an outsider in some places, I've never felt imperiled. A black person can go to traditionially white, racist neighborhoods. The ugly, violent, racist people still exist, but they're too grossly outnumbered by neighbors who value tolerance and also by people who remember the shame that such incidents have brought to their neighborhoods in the past.

Darryl Williams helped this city to heal, and I hope that he died knowing that he was absolutely instrumental in bringing this city from a seething pot of race hatred to something closer to what it should be. Before its founding, John Winthrop declared that Boston was a "city upon a hill" that the world would watch. I don't know if he was correct or not, but if people are watching I hope that they remember Darryl Williams.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:52 AM on April 5, 2010 [13 favorites]


Do you like apples?
posted by bpm140 at 7:54 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


the Deputy Mayor at the time ended up retiring two years later on a disability pension

I hate to be the one to point this out, but retiring with a disability is the ultimate goal of many City of Boston employees.
posted by jsavimbi at 7:57 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah the late 70's. My freshman year in 1977 there were 5 stabbings at my high school. In Seattle.

If you were any type of other your ass was going to get kicked.

I actually had a knife pulled on me while on the way to a cub scout meeting. The cub scouts probably should have had a badge that you earned by learning kerchief based self defense tactics.
posted by vapidave at 8:07 AM on April 5, 2010


Shooting someone in the neck at 100 yards with a .22 pistol is a virtually impossible feat. I'm not sure anyone could do it on purpose.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:13 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was unaware of Darryl Williams' story. Everything written about him in the links you provided was fascinating. Thank you for posting it all. The world has lost an incredibly great person. May he Rest In Peace.

.
posted by mrzer0 at 8:22 AM on April 5, 2010


Shooting someone in the neck at 100 yards with a .22 pistol is a virtually impossible feat. I'm not sure anyone could do it on purpose.

Shooting at a clump of visiting football players on a field is a much larger target-- the attention may have just been to scare or harass them (the shooters were drunk 17 year olds who probably didn't think the consequences all the way through). Doe, who was 16 at the time and found not guilty in juvenile court, commented at one point to a reporter (his only statement to the press on record, probably due to the infamous code of silence among "townies" at the time) that they weren't shooting at birds.
posted by availablelight at 8:31 AM on April 5, 2010


attention = intention
posted by availablelight at 8:32 AM on April 5, 2010


Also, this has been a really interesting MeFi discussion-- my own interest in the story was how Williams managed to live his life without succumbing to bitterness, anger, and despair-- particularly given the death threats and invective against him in the early years, and the financial hardships in the latter ones (his suit against the city was dismissed, and a bill proposing to cover his lifetime medical care "went nowhere" in the years after the attack).
posted by availablelight at 8:37 AM on April 5, 2010


That's more likely, I suppose. It's just difficult to fathom. Theoretically, .22LR has a max effective range of about 500 feet, and that's from a rifle barrel. It's still not a large target, and drunk? With a pistol? Those things are hard to aim, no joke.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:49 AM on April 5, 2010


Forgot to add that it's also a very light round, quite susceptible to wind. Regardless, it was at the very least an extremely irresponsible thing to be doing.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:52 AM on April 5, 2010


Regardless, it was at the very least an extremely irresponsible thing to be doing.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:52 AM on April 5


Yes, firing a pistol at a group of people is very irresponsible. Doubly so on a windy day.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:24 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was just initially skeptical that they could shoot at a target that size and distance with any hope of hitting it, and was more inclined to believe stupidity and misadventure than malice, but I guess the "not shooting at birds" comment is pretty damning.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:33 AM on April 5, 2010


Forgot to add that it's also a very light round, quite susceptible to wind.

Quoted for truth, brother. They could have hit a "white" pigeon if you catch my drift ;)
posted by Damn That Television at 9:34 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ballistics issues aside the real story here I think is in the headline, "White people didn't shoot me. Three white people shot me."

The world is better for busing but not in the way you might think. I don't have the writing skills or inclination to elaborate here on the complexities of busing and race relations and what it was like in those unfortunately dramatic times. I am however comfortable surmising the net course correction gained from all that: Neither an asshole nor a nice person can be identified by sight.
posted by vapidave at 9:47 AM on April 5, 2010


But who would think to check the project rooftops for snipers?

I might have . . . but for a wholy different reason. A teacher of "court-related youth" I was driving the school van back to Columbia Point during the high of the initial busing mania. Columbia Point, a largely African American housing project, had been the subject of random shots fired the night before.

This day one of my students screamed "There's a roller on the roof with a gun!" All I heard was the word GUN and the panic in his voice . . . I took evasive action and then asked the kid what the !@#$ he was yelling about.

It seems a few of Boston's finest were on the rooftop using a deer rifle's telescopic sight to conduct surveillance. Of course if you point the sight, you are also pointing the gun barrel. So much for the sensitivity of the "Rollers" (local slang for cops from the habit of them never getting out of their patrol cars.)
posted by ahimsakid at 10:05 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember being in 1st grade when my parents received the busing letter. It was either go to private school or go to Englewood in Chicago. I was shipped out to the private school down the road in a matter of 2 weeks.
posted by stormpooper at 10:07 AM on April 5, 2010


this is unbelievable on so many levels.

thanks for the post.

darryl williams, wherever you are, i hope you can not only walk & run, but fly.

.
posted by msconduct at 10:21 AM on April 5, 2010


I grew up in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools immediately after the Swann decision created a new and better integration plan there involving busing. That decision led to busing in other places including Boston. I know little about busing in Boston, but in Charlotte is was a net good for the whole city and the recent demolishment of busing by short-sighted people who had recently moved to the area was a huge blow to the city.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:29 AM on April 5, 2010


I lived in Newton at the time and I remember the era. We had the METCO program, which bussed inner city kids into Newton and it seemed smooth from my elementary school age perspective by the early 80s - but it probably still wasn't.

Later I read a really wonderful book, Common Ground, that chronicles the time from MLK Jr.'s assassination through the busing from the perspective of several different families, including a white family in Charlestown (I want to say Jane Curtain played the mom in the miniseries?). C
posted by Pax at 10:41 AM on April 5, 2010


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posted by Hutch at 11:46 AM on April 5, 2010


My heart goes out to Darryl Williams and his family, but I can't help but sense a certain bias in the reporting. Darryl's shooting, in the reporter's mind and in his own and family's mind, was racially based, thanks to the new busing law. Personally, I don't believe the pigeon theory, but I do lean toward the three drunk teens playing with a loaded gun scenario. The article even mentioned that, due to their uniforms and helmets, it wasn't immediately apparent that some players were African-American. The three teens were certainly guilty of firing a gun willy-nilly into a crowded playing field, and should have been punished much more harshly than they were, but I can't see any indication that this was a deliberate hate crime. What sort of frosts my shorts when it comes to hate crimes is how the media takes such care to keep black-on-white crimes under wraps until more details are known, and even then the coverage may be minimal. Let's be honest - if the victims of the Wichita Massacre had been black and the two perps white, wouldn't this heinous crime been highlighted on every major news outlet? Instead, very few news outlets outside of Kansas carried this particular story, simply because the victims were white and the perps African-American. And Kansas had no "hate crimes" statute at the time.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:45 PM on April 5, 2010


Let's be honest - if the victims of the Wichita Massacre had been black and the two perps white, wouldn't this heinous crime been highlighted on every major news outlet?

It got covered well enough that I was familiar with it before I read the link, and as previously stated I live Massachusetts. But that's irrelevant because the crime you cite wasn't primarily a hate crime-- the motive was primarily financial. The Carr brothers targeted white people for the same reason Dillinger did banks-- that's where the money is. They had extensive criminal records prior to the massacre and didn't care what color their prior victims were.

It's valid to discuss whether Williams' shooters were really committing a hate crime, but if the accepted story is correct, he (or he and his classmates) were targeted specifically because of malice towards their ethnicity. This is a bit different than not being above hurting anyone, but targeting people of a specific skin color because it will yield more financial reward.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:31 PM on April 5, 2010


Yes, Jonathan and Reginald Carr are horrible people. This is not a thread about them, nor do their terrible crimes somehow absolve the shooter of a fifteen year-old child. The fact that you find it very important to tell us a) that you think this was an accident for some bizarre reason and b) that there are black-on-white hate crimes and why aren't we talking about them is pretty telling. Just fucking say what you want to say instead of dancing around it. Go on.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:48 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I've spent a lot of time shooting 22LR at 100 yards, and it's not easy. Doing it accurately with a rifle without any calibration is not trivial (although a really good shot could probably do it, if they were used to estimating wind effects and so on). I mean, on repeated shots I can hit fairly accurately (groupings of 2" or less, which would be sufficient for the kind of target here), but the first couple shots are much tougher (since thats what you usually use to adjust sight / compensate for wind / etc). From a pistol? No way.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:00 PM on April 5, 2010


You know, I grew up in Chicago, and I got in a lot of trouble/trouble often found me. Yet somehow I have managed to go 39 years without holding a weapon more powerful than a BB gun. I remain amazed that so many people in this country run around with guns, fire them with malice and/or an exceptional lack of judgement, and then people natter around about the technicalities and what a person could/couldn't hit from that distance with that gun.

Don't shoot a gun, because when you shoot a gun you will likely injure or kill a living thing. If you want to enjoy shooting a gun, do it at a target range and do it responsibly. Why is this so hard for people to understand?

grumble grumble my lawn
posted by davejay at 2:13 PM on April 5, 2010


I remain amazed that so many people in this country run around with guns, fire them with malice and/or an exceptional lack of judgement, and then people natter around about the technicalities and what a person could/couldn't hit from that distance with that gun.

Well, my point certainly wasn't that they were behaving responsibly. But it's almost certain they couldn't have been targeting him, which is pretty relevant to this article (arguably the central point).

The remaining question is whether they targeted people at all, or were just drunk/clumsy enough to shoot someone while being really stupid. The latter is hardly beyond question, as I knew people who were similarly careless shooting while drunk growing up.

Either way, it's a criminal act, but motivation seemed to be a key question here.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:18 PM on April 5, 2010


But it's almost certain they couldn't have been targeting him, which is pretty relevant to this article (arguably the central point).

They weren't targeting him personally. Any black person would do. This is the nature of hate crimes. Do you get this yet?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:22 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact that you find it very important to tell us a) that you think this was an accident for some bizarre reason and b) that there are black-on-white hate crimes and why aren't we talking about them is pretty telling. Just fucking say what you want to say instead of dancing around it. Go on.

I'm saying it was an accident because the perps were drunk and apparently firing randomly from a rooftop. They may have been firing at humans, but from the evidence presented it sounds like they were not aware of the racial makeup of the folks they were carelessly firing at. My point is that even if it was an "accidental" shooting, the three teens involved should have tried for the crime that ultimately resulted - a person was rendered a quadriplegic due to their actions. From the evidence given, it was not a hate crime - again, other than the un-helmeted coach, there was no way to tell from that distance which players were black and which were white. It was a senseless tragedy and the shooter(s) should have been given a much harsher sentence (IMHO) just by virtue of the fact that someone was so critically injured by their actions. My point in mentioning the Wichita Massacre was simply the first case off the top of my head where the national media coverage was suppressed to a good extent because the perps were black and the victims were white. Had the races been reversed it most certainly would have been trumpeted as a hate crime. There are many other similar cases (Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, as just one example) where the crime was originally reported only locally and not picked up by national news sources as a "hate crime." Yet when, say, Tawana Brawley alleged that she was raped by white police officers, Al Sharpton, Bill Cosby and others immediately made sure her case was headline news. But when various stories including medical evidence that suggested she might have lied about her attack, none of her supporters reneged and admitted "oops, maybe we spoke too soon." When James Byrd was tortured and murdered by whites it was rightly reported as a hate crime, but again, the media outrage occurred in print immediately after the incident, before anyone was tried in court. The same did not happen for the killers of Channon Christian, Christopher Newsom, Heather Muller, Aaron Sander, Jason Befert, and Brad Heyka. No activists came to town and arranged protest marches declaring "no justice, no peace."
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:32 PM on April 5, 2010


The football team was mixed-race, though. But I suppose they could have been fine with collateral damage.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:34 PM on April 5, 2010


Quoted for truth, brother. They could have hit a "white" pigeon if you catch my drift ;)

Do I get to check the "implied you are racist" box on my MeFi bingo card here? I'm not sure.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:39 PM on April 5, 2010


The same did not happen for the killers of Channon Christian, Christopher Newsom, Heather Muller, Aaron Sander, Jason Befert, and Brad Heyka. No activists came to town and arranged protest marches declaring "no justice, no peace."

I don't agree with you that there's a double standard. But if I did, so what? Are you suggesting that life would be easier if you were black?
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:56 PM on April 5, 2010


To posit my point otherwise, I ask: Had Darryl Williams been shot by three drunken African-American youths playing with a gun on a nearby roof, would he have been afforded the same amount of media coverage?
posted by Oriole Adams at 3:15 PM on April 5, 2010


Had Darryl Williams been shot by three drunken African-American youths playing with a gun on a nearby roof, would he have been afforded the same amount of media coverage?

But he wasn't. He was shot, accidentally or not, windy day or not, by three Townies perched on the top of a housing project in one of the roughest, whitest, Irish neighborhoods in Boston shortly after some of the nation's ugliest the busing protests--a place he and his fellow players discussed feeling ambivelant about walking into beforehand. At least two of his three assailants went on to play true to type: one grew up to be the enforcer-murderer in an infamous drug ring, and another died at the hand of his own cousin shortly after his release.

To answer your other "what if", if a white Darryl Williams from Brookline been shot by three black teenagers in Roxbury during a high school football game in 1979, you bet your ass it would have been handwringing front page news, and a festering sore, for decades.

I don't understand why this bothers you so much-- are you really begruding attention paid to crimes against African Americans in racially charged environments? Given the history of lynchings, and legal lynchings, staining our nation's history, do you really think we have an equally concerning "white on black hate crime" problem? Jesus Christ.
posted by availablelight at 3:25 PM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


"white on black hate crime" = "black on white hate crime"

mental dyslexia is a bitch
posted by availablelight at 3:26 PM on April 5, 2010


See, I fucking knew it. You're the person who comes into these discussions changing the subject and saying "see how much worse whites have it? Every time we kill or maim a black kid it's a big deal!"

The existence of black-on-white hate crime does not erase the centuries of white-on-black hate crimes. It does not erase or mitigate or forgive the hate crime we're discussing. My liberal heart bleeds for your white person problems, it does, but don't try to make us forget Darryl Williams because it's inconvenient to your needs.

"Oh I'm just pointing out that sometimes it goes the other way." No shit. And eleven out of the twelve months are white history month but god fucking forbid you give up one of them. "Why isn't there a WHITE Entertainment Television? Why can't I say 'nigger'? THEY say it!!" You're found out, Oriole Adams. Give it the fuck up already.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:26 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


BookFilter: My experience of Boston consists of only one brief visit more than fifteen years ago, so a lot of what I know comes from accounts from people that have lived there. I was particularly taken by All Souls, in which a native of Southie confronts a lot of the myths that residents of South Boston had, and still have, about their neighborhood. Parts of Nixonland that dealt with Chicago segregation and white resistance to blockbusting were also a revelation to me, despite having lived in Chicago for several years not too long after that era. Perhaps Oriole Adams might find a bit more historical perspective by reading these, rather than concentrating on a few high-profile criminal cases.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:28 PM on April 5, 2010


P.S. Did you read the part in the article where Darryl received multiple "Die soon, n*****" letters while still comatose? The attack took on racial overtones whether his shooters meant it to or not.
posted by availablelight at 3:28 PM on April 5, 2010


Had Darryl Williams been shot by three drunken African-American youths playing with a gun on a nearby roof, would he have been afforded the same amount of media coverage?

No, because it wouldn't have been a hate crime. It would have been run of the mill violence which doesn't evoke the same reaction from people or the media.

Perhaps you meant Had Darryl Williams been white and shot by three drunken African-American youths, and in that case the answer is "in 1970's Boston? Yes." It would have gotten more press coverage than the actual incident because the National Guard would have been dispatched to prevent the residents of Southie and Charlestown from burning down Roxbury.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:29 PM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


As I was living south of Boston in Quincy when busing was instituted, I can't tell you how implausible it is to me that this shooting was an accident. Quincy, an all white blue collar town which wasn't subject to busing, was utterly up in arms over the court order which required it. The talk in my city was wholly racist, as this short quote from the Globe article illustrates:

Politicians were coming to the fifth floor of Boston City Hospital with heavy hearts, but there were also threatening cards arriving, one of which said, "Nigger, die soon!
"

Moreover, the racism in my city was nothing compared to Southie and Charlestown, which were bastions of racial hatred. This is something which Common Ground, cited above by Pax, a book that deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize, also illustrates in great detail.

Here's the enduring image for me about the youth of Boston and busing: "Soiling of Old Glory," of another 17 year old using an American flag against an African American man on the steps of the Boston city hall. To quote Rakes, who held the flag, he acted from "blind anger" over busing.
posted by bearwife at 5:12 PM on April 5, 2010


Oh, and did I mention that the event Rakes brought and used his family flag at was an antibusing demonstration at city hall by youth from South Boston and Charleston? Again, knowing the atmosphere, the attitudes, and the violent demonstrations, including stoning of school buses and other assaults like the flag incident, I just can't buy the "accident" claim for Darryl Williams' shooting.
posted by bearwife at 5:19 PM on April 5, 2010


And eleven out of the twelve months are white history month but god fucking forbid you give up one of them.

And (as Chris Rock or some other comedian pointed out) the shortest one, at that.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:38 PM on April 5, 2010


Yet when, say, Tawana Brawley

Oh for Jesus. Really?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:07 PM on April 5, 2010


And (as Chris Rock or some other comedian pointed out) the shortest one, at that.

Yeah, but I bet it was another BLACK comedian who said it, AMIRITE? I mean if a white comedian yadda yadda yadda...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:28 PM on April 5, 2010


The more reasoned reply:

apparently firing randomly
It's okay to say that their intent isn't clear. However, there's a big difference between "it's not 100% clear why they fired the bullet that hit Williams" and "they were definitely just firing randomly." It's a little odd that their first random shot went toward a huddle of people.

sounds like they were not aware of the racial makeup
Assuming they were wearing jerseys, it was at least visible that Williams and his teammates were not from the neighborhood. I don't think it's a stretch to believe that a bunch of teenage asswipes who spend their days bullshitting in front of the local pizza parlor might have known that the high school would be playing a game, known where the opposing team was coming from, and given the atmosphere in Boston at the time, maybe even known that the opposing team was mostly black. Either way, "it's not clear if they knew" isn't the same thing as "it sounds like they didn't know."

From the evidence given, it was not a hate crime
Again, "it's not clear" is not the same thing as "it was not."

Tawana Brawley
Bringing this up in a discussion about race or hate crimes is the equivalent of Godwinning. Nobody disagrees that the Tawana Brawley fiasco was—well, a fiasco. But it's not nearly parallell to Williams's story, and as far as I can tell, you're using it to warn people against a sort of mindless bandwagoning that isn't taking place in this thread.

As for your gripe that...what, sometimes black people commit crimes against white people? That something's less likely to be considered a hate crime if it's committed against a white person? That people shouldn't consider crimes against black people hate crimes because sometimes white people are victims, and that isn't considered a hate crime? It's not a particularly good point, and you're not making it particularly well.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:29 PM on April 5, 2010


What sort of frosts my shorts when it comes to hate crimes is how the media takes such care to keep black-on-white crimes under wraps until more details are known

I literally rolled my eyes when I got halfway through the sentence, because I knew exactly where you were going. Literally rolled. my. fucking. eyes. I thought maybe next you might ask why they're isn't a White History Month.

Optimus Chyme is right - this kind of crap really doesn't fool anyone anymore. The coded-racism tropes are so obvious and familiar that it's not much of a code. When you type stuff like "the media under-reports black on white crime", it might as well be invisible fucking lemon ink that fades away to reveal I AM A RACIST.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:09 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Let's be honest here" is another good one - what it says is "we all know this ignorant racist crap I'm about to say is the truth, and you're just too 'politically correct' to admit it, while I, unfettered by such claptrap, am able to see things clearly".
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:13 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anybody remember the Charles Stuart case?

(White) guy shot his (pregnant) wife and himself and blamed it on a black guy who was trying to carjack them! Boston PD started stopping pretty much every black man in Boston and surrounding towns who wasn't 90 or 9. The media went completely off the rails. The cops arrested someone, and Stuart identified him in a line-up as the shooter.

Stuart's brother turned him in, and Stuart jumped off the Tobin Bridge before he could be taken into custody.

Anyway. In answer to your "question" about the media caring if black people commit crimes against white people: Yes, yes, it does. Can you imagine how many newspapers this story sold? Can you imagine how easy it was to spin it in order to play on - and make money off of - the fears of white people?
posted by rtha at 6:25 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't forget Susan Smith, rtha. (Actually, sometimes I wish I could.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:46 AM on April 6, 2010


Oh, jeez, Halloween Jack. I'd almost succeeded in forgetting about her, may she rot in the hell I don't even believe in.
posted by rtha at 11:37 AM on April 6, 2010


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