Fault Lines
16 August 2017

Torture in Chicago: Some People Are Just Awful

January 6, 2017 (Fault Lines) — It’s such a horrible story that it was destined to end up all over the national news:

A young woman who broadcast the beating and racial taunting of a man on Facebook Live has been arrested with three others in connection with the gruesome attack, Chicago police said Wednesday.

The disturbing 30-minute video shows a man tied up and his mouth covered, cowering in the corner of a room. His attackers laugh and shout “f*ck Donald Trump” and “f*ck white people” as they kick and punch him.

The video shows someone cutting into his scalp with a knife, leaving a visibly bald patch.

Sadly, it seems like people record and share on social media videos of them doing all sorts of terrible things to other human beings every single day. This one might’ve been extra brutal, and the fact it’s a beating accompanied by racist comments might make it stand out a little too, but it’s the fact the victim here is white and the assailants are black that probably catapulted this to the national stage. Mention of Trump in the midst of the crime essentially guaranteed national media dominance.

Brittany Covington (clockwise from upper left), Tesfaye Cooper, Jordan Hill and Tanishia Covington

Brittany Covington, 18, of Chicago; (clockwise from upper left) Tesfaye Cooper, 18, of Chicago; Jordan Hill, 18, of Carpentersville; and Tanishia Covington, 24, of Chicago, face charges of aggravated kidnapping, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. | Chicago Police Department

Whatever worldview you may have, there’s something in this story for you. Think black-on-white crimes don’t get enough attention? Look no further! Are you a Trump supporter who perpetually feels reviled or belittled by condescending voices from the right as well as the left? This is your story! For people across every spectrum, it may seem like proof about which is the truly hateful, racist, and violent group amongst us.

Even more powerful is how compelling this story may be to those who are worried others will see it as proof there’s something wrong with their ideology.

Consider this article by Shaun King, who latches onto a hashtag, supposedly “the top trending topic in the country,” linking the crime to Black Lives Matter. The product is a roughly fourteen-hundred word article discussing crimes against black people for which the perpetrators were able to escape punishment, white people who just generally got off pretty easy, black people who’ve suffered disproportionate punishment, and how much Donald Trump sucks.

King does at least say that he sees “thousands of white folk online asking me why I’m not speaking out about it.” That’s something that would reflect badly on both the intelligence and disposition of those white folk. King has a cause, and it isn’t to speak up generally against any sort of bad thing anyone does. He’s trying to address a certain wrong he views as particularly important. Criticizing him for not also being just as vocal about something else is foolish. No one is entitled to have their cause given equal weight by anyone else just by virtue of the fact they think it’s just as important. But none of that makes King’s article any better.

You’re an idiot if you’re wondering why a guy who’s deeply involved in the Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t also decry every really bad thing a few black people happen to do every now and then. You’re not much better if your response to black people torturing a special needs guy while making anti-white and anti-Trump comments is to talk about how awful Trump is, how things are even worse for black people, and how white people are constantly getting away with stuff.

Can’t anyone just enjoy their moment of perceived victimhood in peace and quiet for one little second without someone else trying to assert the elevated importance of their own victimhood?

As that first article makes quite apparent, even the police seem to be aware of how sensitive the situation is for everyone:

Though he may have voluntarily gotten into a van with the group, police are considering kidnapping charges.

Because the victim is white and the people in the video are black, police also are investigating whether hate crime charges are appropriate, Duffin said.

Kidnapping in Illinois can occur when someone knowingly and secretly confines another against his will or by deceit or enticement induces another to go from one place to another with intent secretly to confine that other person against his or her will. It seems implausible that those four didn’t commit kidnapping based on the text of the law regardless of the circumstances under which the victim entered the van.

Similarly, a hate crime in Illinois just covers when a person by reason of the actual or perceived race of another commits assault or any other of a number of crimes obviously depicted in that video. Arguing there was no racial motivation for the crime won’t be an easy defense for the person on the video yelling “f*ck white people.” Nor will it be much better for the others who continue to kick to a soundtrack of racist commentary.

The cops are showing remarkable caution by doubting the sincerity of the comments. Given the  “f*ck Donald Trump” comment, they’re showing either an overabundance of caution or plain old stupidity by saying they don’t believe the attack was politically motivated.

Things aren’t great in Chicago, as the article notes. There were a ridiculous number of homicides in 2016. People also don’t trust the police. The police give the people reason for that at times. Everything is touchy. Everyone is sensitive.

What’s most important to keep in mind is that these four young co-defendants are awful.

Most people, even those who hate white people and Trump with a passion, would never dream of doing anything like what those four did. Even if there exists a rational basis for their anger toward whites and Trump, they’re doing a disservice to those who are trying to constructively address race relations and the bad things they fear might happen in a Trump presidency.

Similarly, most people who love Trump aren’t getting any sort of satisfaction from the fact we now have a sensational news story making an anti-Trump crowd as opposed to a pro-Trump crowd look like violent racists.

This is a criminal justice story. It may have a race component, but Illinois’s hate crime laws make that relevant.

It’s a sensational crime video-recorded by the perpetrators. The media isn’t going to not report it. It would be nice, though, if people on every side wouldn’t keep vilifying the others or going on the defensive. Sometimes, people just do evil things.

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