Racism: Still Alive and Well

A white teenager got in a violent argument with a bunch of black teenagers at a party. He fled the party and ran home. He went inside and bolted the door and told his father about what had just happened. He said he was afraid some of those black guys — in a drunken rage — would come to the house to finish the argument. And they knew where he lived.

To make things even worse, this white family lived in a mostly black neighborhood. There were a lot of racial tensions, and the most trivial argument could easily explode into an ugly tragic incident.

And now the family’s worst fears have just materialized. Those black thugs from the party have arrived. They’re at the foot of the driveway. They’re in a drunken out-of-control fury and they’re shouting out threats to this white family. They aren’t gonna go away.

The panic-stricken father probably made the wrong choice — 20/20 hindsight and all. He took his gun and walked down to the foot of the driveway to confront the angry mob. One of the black thugs lunged toward the father and tried to grab his gun. The gun went off and the would-be attacker was killed.

And now the father — who was trying to protect his son from an out-of-control mob — has been convicted of second degree manslaughter. He faces up to fifteen years in prison. Do you think this is right?

Let’s see, I’m just gonna pore over this news article one last time to make sure I — OOPS!! Uhh…well, I got most of the story right; I just had one minor detail wrong. I had their races switched around. Doh! OK, so it was a black family living in a mostly white neighborhood, and it was a gang of out-of-control white teenagers who came to the house in a drunken fury, determined to settle a score.

So anyway, that doesn’t change the story or anything. Right???

16 Responses to “Racism: Still Alive and Well”

  1. Christopher Radulich Says:

    The article said that they were still deliberating. Not being at the trial I can not speak to the correctness of a jury’s decision. I would have to wonder why the police were not called. Down here in florida I believe he would have gotten off with self defense since they changed the rule so that now you do not have to back away..

  2. manapp99 Says:

    The black man was indeed convicted of the heavier charge of manslaughter. From what I could find I believe he was justified in the shooting of the white boy. It looks like this has more to do with the fact he did not exhaust all peaceful options before shooting however the kid that got shot tried to slap the pistol out of the mans hands.

    1. The group of boys who showed up in the mans driveway should not have been there in the first place. They clearly were the aggressors that caused there to be a situation in the first place.
    2. They were threatening a member of his family, his son.
    3. The attempt to slap the gun out of his hand was an aggressive act.

    I don’t know that race was the reason for the verdict however it is sure to be taken that way. I feel that this may have more to do with the fact that the government does not like it when a citizen takes their protection into their own hands. The NY Times story on this made much about the gun being “unlicensed” and the man who did the shooting admited that he had not hunted in years. This from the article:

    “The lead prosecutor, James Chalifoux, said the trial did not hinge on race, but rather on the rash actions of a quick-tempered man who kept an arsenal in his house in preparation for such a situation. Mr. White admitted in court that he had not hunted in years and that the Beretta was unlicensed.”

    None of those things have anything to do with defending your family, it makes it sound as if Mr. White was armed in the hopes of getting to shoot someone.
    Why is it relevent that he kept an “arsenal” or that he had not hunted in years. More to the point should have been unwelcome and aggressive intruders on his property. The boys came looking for trouble and found more than they could handle. There should have been no charges, IMHO.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/23/nyregion/23trial.html?ref=nyregion

  3. me Says:

    The first impulse, for me, when the white kids showed up at the house, would have been calling the police. The confrontation could have been avoided, maybe, by merely remaining in their home until the police arrived to defuse the situation and no one would have gotten hurt. It wasn’t necessary to go outside the house to confront the kids in order to protect his own child. Had the group of kids tried to gain unlawful entry into the home, shooting would have been more obviously defense of self and property. The race of the people involved is not relevant to this analysis.

  4. Lisa Says:

    There’s alot of things to consider here,the jury,the competence of the lawyers.
    How did OJ get off?

    This is very close to where I live and I didn’t see mobs of white people marching around led by a Sharpton or Jackson type threatening to riot and loot if this man was found innocent.

    Sarcasm aside I do agree with the fact that this man should get a lesser sentence. Now not being there when this went down I can’t say exactly how all this went down because I can’t trust the newspapers to give the real account of events. Plus I also agree the gun laws are too harsh because almost half of his sentence was for illegal gun procession not that he was a black man shooting a white boy.

  5. manapp99 Says:

    You could be correct on the outcome being different if the man had of stayed in his house and waited for the cops, me, but I do not find it to be required that we cowar in fear waiting for the government. The driveway is his property and the kids had no right to be there. There should be a sharing of the blame at the least and I still contend that Mr. White was in his rights to defend his family. The kids could have not come in anger in a mob to his house or left when they saw the man come out with a gun. Instead the youth attempts to slap the gun out of his hand. Perhaps something he saw in a movie but it shows he was not scared of the man or the gun. If I were holding the gun and the mob was at my house and one of them attempted to disarm me I would consider them very dangerous and certaintly myself outnumbered. You have but second to act and you would have to wonder if the brazen act did not indicate that the kids were armed as well. Perhaps a warning shot would have diffused the situation but I think you have to give the home owner the benefit of the doubt.
    Again, I think this is the governments way of saying that they do not want you to defend yourself, they want you to call them. Especially in liberal New York. I think this is presumptious of them.

  6. me Says:

    Manapp99,

    I was speaking of prudence, not legal obligation. I don’t know enough of the law to opine on the limits thereof. Prudentially speaking, I prefer to avoid shootouts on our streets (or in our homes for that matter), where stray bullets can kill others even if they are in their own homes. Going out to meet the crowd alone and armed seems more like unnecessary escalation than self-defense. This ain’t the OK Corral that we’re talking about, it’s a modern residential area and Mr. White ain’t Marshall Dillon. The fewer armed conflicts in residential areas the better, is my motto. As mottos go, it’s way too long and cumbersome and not snappy and easily remembered but it does seem the better part of wisdom. and the possibility that the group of white kids might have been armed themselves simply argues the more strongly for remaining in one’s home and awaiting the authorities.

  7. christopher Radulich Says:

    I think it is amazing how we keep saying life is so precious and yet seem to show such utter disregard for it. If he did not call the police in attempt to solve the matter peacefully, then I have no problem with the verdict. As far as I can tell there was no destruction of property and nothing was going on that required immediate action.

  8. Tom Harper Says:

    I used an older link for this post because so many other issues have developed over the past few days, it’s almost a separate post. At least one juror told the press he wanted to acquit but he was railroaded by the judge and other jurors. It’s like that movie “12 Angry Men” coming to life only without the happy ending.

    And the New York area, as liberal as it is, has had several racially-motivated murders in recent years. Whether the father did the right thing or not, he had reason to panic when that mob appeared at his driveway.

  9. Christopher Radulich Says:

    If he wanted to acquit then he should have. It really does not take much guts to stand by your convictions in that situation. The one crim9nal jury I was on I hung. When they asked me who the hell I thought I was I simply told them I was one innocent vote that would stay that whey until the supplied me with the facts I needed to convict.

    I guess we will never know why he did not call the police. Why he thought it was a bright idea to further incite the situation. Why he would use an illegal hand gun.

    Speaking of which I thought we were a nation of laws, I mean the current dust up about illegal immigrants is supposably because they are doing something illegal. Now we are defending someone for doing something illegal. Are we only suppose to obey they laws we like.

  10. me Says:

    To some extent, we are selective law abiders: is there anyone who can say they haven’t ever exceeded the speed limit or rolled through a stop sign or that we won’t again? On the other hand, no one appears to be defending Mr. White for doing something illegal. It’s more a matter of disagreeing about when, if ever, the use of deadly force might be justified in defense of self, others, or of one’s property. The law does recognize justification as a defense and Manapp99 has invoked that. That is to say, in Manapp99’s mind, Mr. White did nothing illegal (okay, the illegal weapons charge but manapp99 doesn’t appear to be defending that, only the shooting). Hence, not even Manapp99 is talking about only obeying laws that we like nor does his position violate the rule of law.

    As for me, I think Mr. White was foolish to leave his home or to do so armed. Confrontation in such a situation was very likely to result in someone getting hurt or dead.

    On the other hand, had he called the police, remained in the house but shot a youth who was threatening his son and who was attempting to enter his home, after warning the youth that he was armed and would shoot if he didn’t immediately leave, I’d be defending his actions, myself but those conditions would have to have been met. That is, the youth would have to be (a) threatening his son (which they apparently were) (b) illegally entering his home (which they were not) and Mr. White would have to (c) have warned the youth that he was armed and would shoot if the youth did not immediately leave his home.

    As I’ve said, I’m not a lawyer so I have no idea what the gun laws are in Florida (so I’m not giving a legal opinion on this particular case) but these seem like reasonable requirements in this situation in order to make a shooting justifiable. In other words, I feel that any use of deadly force must be a last resort. It just doesn’t seem like Mr. White did due diligence to avoid confrontation and violence. He may not have intended to fire the gun but going out to confront a group of angry youths, brandishing a gun at close enough range that a youth could try to bat the gun away invited life threatening violence rather than tried to avoid it.

  11. Christopher Radulich Says:

    Having read one of the articles in newsdayI am sadden by what the jurors have said. Not about racism but about their lack of conviction and lack of empathy. Basically the article says that they voted guilty because they were afraid that the judge would keep them over christmas. So we send a man to jail because we do not want to spoil our christmas.

  12. me Says:

    I disagree. Mr. White was convicted and sent to prison because 11 out of 12 jurors were convinced of that man’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and one juror was not in great enough doubt of that man’s guilt to keep the jury longer.

    And what do you mean “We…”? We didn’t convict Mr. White. Twelve ordinary men and women, jurors of his peers and fellow residents, did. Jurors are human. They don’t act like actors reciting a script the ending of which the playwright has determined. The acting goes the other way. Convincing actors who are reciting lines written for them leading to a preordained climax and conclusion, as in Twelve Angry Men, are attempting to act like jurors. No one writes the script for real jurors and no one predetermines the outcome for them. The alternative is to place the decision in the hands of one human judge rather than 12 human jurors, a choice that Mr. White could have made, I presume. Jurors aren’t all strong enough to stick to their convictions in the face of eleven angry, quite certain others. It’s why we have appeals.

    The juror that caved is right to feel guilty about having done so though.

    Craig R. Harmon

  13. me Says:

    I need to make one change from the above. There appears to have been two jurors who had reasonable doubt about Mr. White’s guilt who nevertheless changed their vote to guilty, not one as I wrote above. With that change, I stand by what I wrote above.

    Craig R. Harmon

  14. christopher Radulich Says:

    So two out of 12 sent a man to jail that they thought was probably innocent because they wanted to make sure that they were home for christmas. Again being home for christmas was more important than a man’s life or their convictions.

  15. me Says:

    I don’t know whether “…they thought was probably innocent…” accurately describes their position. All they needed to think was that they were not convinced he was guilty. Take O. J. I think he was probably guilty but what I saw of his criminal trial didn’t convince me beyond a reasonable doubt of his guilt. Based upon what I saw of the trial, I’d have voted to acquit in spite of thinking him probably guilty. Given that they both caved, it’s entirely possible that their opinion was that they thought him probably guilty so they decided to convict. I don’t know but it’s possible. I’m just saying that “entertaining a reasonable doubt about guilt” isn’t the same as thinking a person is “probably innocent”.

    But yes, they shouldn’t have caved. If they were genuinely not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, they should have stuck to their guns and hung the jury. On that, we’re agreed.

    Craig R. Harmon

  16. Independent Mind Says:

    Seems to me both parties share the blame for this tragedy. The teenagers were wrong for going to the house, threatening bodily injury and using racial epithets. Mr. White was wrong for confronting the teens without first calling the police. I could support his actions more if the kids were throwing rocks at the windows, or were otherwise trying to damage the house in some way. Even then, I’m not sure deadly force would be appropriate for the situation.

    That said, however, once he confronted the teens with the firearm and told them to leave, he was justified in shooting the teen that attempted to disarm him. And yes, I see the slapping of the gun barrel as an attempt to disarm Mr. White. A reasonable and prudent person would have run away from that situation. This teen obviously was not convinced that he would be shot if he continued his acts of aggression. He was wrong.

    Mr. White should have been found not guilty. I see his case similar in some ways to the gentleman in Texas who shot two Hispanic burglars that had burglarized a neighboring house. The only significant difference is that the man in Texas called 911 before confronting the burglars.

    The use of an “unlicensed” firearm is of minor consequence to me, though I admit I don’t know the gun control laws in New York. I wonder why the NYT thought it important to put into the article that Mr. White had not been hunting in years. Is that the only way private citizens can own guns in New York? Curious.

    As for the Jurors, if they believed Mr. White was innocent, then they should have held their ground.

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