White Supremacy Is Deadly: When Will We Start Taking This Rhetoric Seriously?

The senseless killing of a Maryland student could be prosecuted as a hate crime.

We should’ve stopped tak­ing the white nation­al­ist move­men­t’s poi­son — the hate speech, the racist ral­lies — as a joke imme­di­ate­ly. The cur­rent cli­mate should have sparked a nation­al emer­gency instead.

Wasn’t Dylan Roof, with his cow­ard­ly 2015 mas­sacre of nine church mem­bers who invit­ed him in to pray, enough? The case fol­lowed that crime in March of James Harris Jackson, who police say con­fessed to killing Timothy Caughman, a home­less black man with a rep­u­ta­tion for help­ing peo­ple. Caughman didn’t even know that he was under attack until a knife was in him. Jackson has been charged with ter­ror­ism and sec­ond-degree mur­der as a hate crime.

As the media breaks its neck to paint hate crimes as the actions of trou­bled indi­vid­u­als, rather than as symp­toms of the many prob­lems in soci­ety that cre­ate, jus­ti­fy and co-sign these crimes, law enforce­ment gets away with not inves­ti­gat­ing or tak­ing mean­ing­ful action against the many dis­gust­ing, hate-filled Facebook groups and online pub­li­ca­tions like the National Policy Institute and the Council of Conservative Citizens, the web­site that orig­i­nal­ly rad­i­cal­ized Roof. The lead­ers of white suprema­cist orga­ni­za­tions may not be per­pe­trat­ing hate crimes them­selves; I believe, how­ev­er, that Roof’s mul­ti­ple mur­ders, as well as oth­er hate crimes, are a reflec­tion of the cul­ture and rhetoric being cir­cu­lat­ed. And as a result of our inac­tion, we have lost anoth­er life.

Around 3 a.m. on Saturday, Richard Collins III, 23, left a par­ty with some friends. While wait­ing for an Uber ride on the University of Maryland cam­pus, the group was approached by Sean Christopher Urbanski, 22, accord­ing to reports. He walked toward the group and addressed Collins. “Step left, step left if you know what’s best for you,” he said.
Collins didn’t step left and was stabbed in the chest area. Collins’ friends and the Uber dri­ver called for an ambu­lance, but it was too late. Collins died short­ly afterward.

Surveillance cam­eras cap­tured footage, and wit­ness­es have said Urbanski appeared to be intox­i­cat­ed. Urbanski has been charged with first-degree mur­der, and author­i­ties are inves­ti­gat­ing whether to charge him with a hate crime. As The Washington Post report­ed, accord­ing to cam­pus police, Urbanski was a mem­ber of a white suprema­cist Facebook group called “Alt-Reich Nation.”

Collins, on the oth­er hand, was a sec­ond lieu­tenant in the Army. A senior at Bowie State University, he was set to grad­u­ate on Tuesday with a busi­ness admin­is­tra­tion degree. But an act of vio­lence that may have roots in the hate that is con­stant­ly ignored or down­played by law enforce­ment denied him that oppor­tu­ni­ty and his fam­i­ly the chance to wit­ness it.

When will we start treat­ing white suprema­cy seri­ous­ly and inves­ti­gat­ing these groups like the gangs they are? Is that even pos­si­ble now that we have a pres­i­dent who sur­rounds him­self with peo­ple like Steve Bannon, who has prof­it­ed off pro­vid­ing a hos­pitable envi­ron­ment for white nation­al­ist rhetoric? Today I won­der where all of the right-wing I‑love-the-troops voic­es are — to speak up for Collins and his fam­i­ly. I do not see much con­ser­v­a­tive com­men­tary on his trag­ic inci­dent, and I’m sure that his fam­i­ly could use the support.

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a pro­fes­sor at the University of Baltimore and founder of the BMORE Writers Project. Watkins is the author of the New York Times best-sell­ers “The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America” and “The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir.”