Racism in the Linden incident

“The black boy was somewhere he shouldn’t have been.”

The case of the four white men in Linden, Texas, who beat up a retarded black man and dumped him on a fire-ant hill, but received only minor punishment as a result, generated an exchange between Orin Kerr and Arvin Tseng about the role of race in the handling of the case. I thought Arvin, aguing for the significance of class, had a good point, though not one that really undermined Orin’s well-expressed outrage.

Now comes Howard Witt of the Chicago Tribune with a detailed account of the case, including a quotation from the recently retired mayor of Linden:

I don’t think there was anything racial about it. These guys were drinking, and this guy [Johnson] liked to dance. I’m not surprised when they get to drinking and use the n-word. The black boy was somewhere he shouldn’t have been, although they brought him out there.

(Emphasis added.) Note that the “boy” is 42 years old.

Witt also reports on what seem to be two relatively fresh lynchings, neither leading to prosecution:

There was the case in 1994 when a black man who had been dating a white woman was found dead from a gunshot to the groin. And another in 2001, when a black man who had been dating a white woman was found hanging from a tree. Local officials ruled the first case a hunting accident and

the second a suicide, despite the persistent doubts of family members and civil rights officials.

Case closed, I’d say.

(Any bets on which Presidential candidate carried the white vote in Linden last year?)

Aside from Witt’s truly excellent account, the MSM still isn’t paying much attention to what Orin correclty called a “sickening” story. Neither is the Blogosphere.

Full text of the Chicago Tribune piece in an update to this earlier post.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com