Monthly Archives: April 1981

1981.04.28: Racist violence: a pattern of official tolerance (Mass Media, UMass-Boston)

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Mass Media [UMass-Boston]
April 28, 1981

Racist violence: a pattern of official tolerance
by Michael Letwin

One myth about racist violence is that it is practiced by both blacks and whites. Boston Police figures, however, show that in the first half of 1979, 71 percent of ail crimes designated “racially motivated” in the city were perpetrated by whites against non­whites (Racist Violence in Boston, draft pamphlet of the Boston PeopIe’s Organization, Fall 1980).

At least as widespread is the belief that white racist violence is the work of an “isolated fringe group.” An examination of the current situation, however, shows that racist violence is both tolerated and organized by all levelsl of government in this country.

One type of government tolerance where black victims are concerned is clear in Atlanta, where 24 black children have been killed in recent months. For a year after black parents saw a pattern in the murders, the Atlanta police refused to investigate the possible connections between the murders.

When the investigation did begin, police ruled out in advance the possibility that the deaths were “racially motivated,” and continued to downplay any connection between them (New York Times, 3/15/81). The investigation has been plagued by police carelessness, the destruction of valuable evidence and police refusal to mobilize black volunteers for meaningful action (New Yo/k Times, 2/2/81).

The Atlanta police have also adopted a clearly racist blame-the­-vlctirn approach by suggesting that the black children were killed because of their alleged, but unproven, involvement in criminal activity (New York Times, 3115181). More recently, FBI agents announced, again without proof, that at least four of the children were murdered by their own parents (New York Times, 4/16/81).

The bottom line of police tolerance where black victims are concerned is that no suspects in any of the Atlanta murders have been arrested.

At times, government tolerance is hard to distinguish from actual complicity. When, for example, five leftists (four of them Third World), were shot to death by Klansmen and Nazis in Greensboro, NC in the Fall of 1979, white police made no effort to defend the victims, though police were stationed nearby. It was later revealed that a police informer and federal agent were involved in planning the racist attack (Militant, 8/29/80).

Taken before an all-white jury by a halfhearted prosecutor and sympathetic judge, the racists were acquitted of all charges, although TV news videotape clearly demonstrated their guilt. The federal government showed its concern by declining to prosecute itself, under federal civil rights legislation.

It’s not surprising, then, that local police around the country protect Klansmen and Nazis from anti-racist demonstrations, or that the federal government has taken no action against the multitude of legal military training camps operated nationally by the Klan and other racist groups for the open purpose of committing violence against non-whites.

And, despite the large and growing number of violent attacks on Third World people by Kiansmen, only 34 Klan members have been charged by the Department of Justice since 1977, and only two have received sentences of more than two years (The Boston Globe, 1/14/81).

In Boston too, organized racist violence goes unchallenged by the police and government. Investigations into the alleged role of the South Boston Information Center and South Boston Marshals in attacks on black people since busing began in 1974 have been made, but none have been released, and no arrests or prosecutions have been carried out against any of the leaders (Racist Violence in Boston.).

On the contrary, behind the Mayor’s annual sermon on the evils of racism, Kevin White has provided numerous city jobs for South Boston Information Center members, including one for its leader, James Kelly. Only public pressure forced White to reverse his approval of a $40,000 Community Development Block Grant to finance paramilitary training run by the South Boston Marshals in 1979. The racist movement, in turn, has turned out the votes for White (Racist Violence in Boston).

The government remains particularly threatened by efforts at black self­-defense; the Atlanta police can’t catch child killers, but they are quite efficient in arresting black members of the self-defense patrol at Techwood Homes in Atlanta (Boston Globe, 3/23/81.) And Curtis Lee Robinson has the dubious distinction of being the first black person ever convicted by an all-white jury (on 10/2/80) of defending himself and his family against an armed, robed Klansman in Decatur, Alabama (New York Times, 9/30, 10/3/80).

The police themselves are a primary instrument in the terrorization of the black community, and the courts always back them up. Perhaps the most nationally we|l-known recent example was the beating death of unarmed Arthur McDuffie in fate December 1979 by Dade County and Miami police. Although officers admitted to murder, all the killers were acquitted by yet another jury (New York Times, 12/18/80.) The last officer acquitted, Charles Veverka, signed a book contract that will make him rich (Boston Globe, 12/20180).

Meanwhile, 3 black teenagers convicted of killing 3 whites in the uprising that followed the acquittal of McDuffie’s killers, recently received sentences ranging from 45 years to life (Boston Globe, 3/27/81).

The scene was replayed in Boston last summer when 14­-year-old Levi Hart (also unarmed) met McDuffie’s fate at the hands of white cop Richard Bourque, who was not even indicted (Boston Globe, 10/17/80). In November 1979, the federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) reported that of the 6,000 people officially killed by police in the US between 1967-77, 45 percent of the victims were black. (New York Times, 11/25/79). Many of the remaining victims were non­white.

The figures have led Amnesty International to report that in the US “police brutality ties, especially toward ethnic minorities, is widespread and severe, resulting in in death in many cases. (New York Times, 12/10/80).

It is clear that federal, state and local governments are not opponents of white racist violence against black people — they are among the main perpetrators of that violence, by their tolerance, complicity and own initiative.

(Next: Conclusion — What’s Behind White Racist Violence?)

1981.04.15: Atlanta murders are not isolated incidents (Mass Media, UMass-Boston)

Mass Media [UMass-Boston]
April 15, 1981

Atlanta murders are not isolated incidents
by Michael Letwin

Is the murder of 21-22 Black children in Atlanta an isolated, freak crime, or is it related to a racist upsurge in this country?

Local and federal government, the press, and some respectable Black “leaders” assert that racism has nothing to do with Atlanta, that, though tragic, the child­-murders are simply victims of “normal” crime.

Although there is no hard evidence that white racists are responsible for the Atlanta murders, it is hard to ignore the connection between the still unpunished and ongoing mass killing of black children, and the individual and organized attacks on black and other third world people in the US today, which, at the very least, have created an atmosphere in which black people can be attacked without fear of punishment.

Nationally, openly racist attacks on black people are epidemic: the killing of an interracial couple, Jessie Taylor and Marion Bressette, in Oklahoma City on October 21, 1979; the murder of five blacks and leftists by Klansmen and Nazis in Greensboro, NC on November 3, 1979; the attempted assassination of Vernon Jordan in Ft. Wayne, Indian on May 20, 1980 (Guardian, 4/1/81); and the brutal murder of at least six black men in Buffalo in September-October 1980 (New York Times, 11/30/80).

Most recently, Michael A. Ronald was lynched by three white men in Mobile, Ala., in what white authorities insist was a “non­racial” incident (New York Times, 3/28/81).

The same pattern is visible in Boston. For example, in the last year and a half, we’ve seen the shooting of Darryl Williams in fall of 1979; the murder of Michael T. Robinson (a white sailor) defending a black shipmate Anthony McGhe, a black sailor in July 1980; and the murder of Billy Rae Kelly, a black worker at Schraffs in Charlestown on May 1, 1980. All of these men where victims of white racial assaults. And Boston has its own Atlanta: the murder of 13 black women in 1979.

In the background of these and many other racist attacks on black people looms the dramatic growth of the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazis and other racist organizations who organize openly to attack non­whites.

In late 1979, the B’nai B’rith Anti­-Defamation League reported that the KKK’s strength was greater than at any time in the 1970’s. It said that the Klan had at least 10,000 hardcore members in 22 states, with another 100,000 close sympathizers (New York Times, 11/11/79). At the end of last year, Rep. John D. Conyers (D.MI), announced that the Klan and related groups are running numerous paramilitary training camps scattered throughout the country (New York Times, 12/30/80).

Racist organizations are also flourishing in­ Boston, the most prominent of which is the South Boston information Center, and its para­military wing, the South Boston Marshals, which both have links to the Klan. These organizations, under the banner of anti-­busing efforts, have organized attacks on black students at South Boston High School, on anti-racist demonstrators, on arbitrarily chosen nonwhites throughout Boston, and on white South Boston residents who oppose them (Racist Violence in Boston, draft pamphlet of the Boston People’s Organization, Fall 1980).

Not every racist attack is coordinated by racist organizations. But the individual racist assaults are made possible by, and contribute to, a growing and consciously racist counterattack on the gains which black people have made in the last two decades.

Atlanta’s not a fluke; it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

(Next week: The Government’s role in racist violence)