Hatred still a stain on United StatesHatred still a stain on United States

There’s a serious problem when, less than two weeks after a national election, the Ku Klux Klan’s recruitment and high-powered firearm sales have jumped significantly. Last week, there was a murder less than a six hours’ drive from where we live in Houston. A woman drove from Tulsa, Okla. to St. Tammany Parish, La., to join the KKK. When she apparently balked during the initiation ceremony, she was shot by the group’s leader, her possessions burned and her body dumped under some brush alongside a rural road.

So what does that have to do with UH students? Why should we care? Granted, we live in a cosmopolitan city with any number of different cultures and races, in which many of the subtle barriers have been eroded, if not outright shattered, over time. However, this incident so close to our home is a sobering reminder that the work of integration and the erosion of hate crime are far from over.

Houston, although not largely publicized as having significant racial tensions, has its share of concerns and has a number of significant incidents occur within half a day’s driving distance or less. There is the recent incident in St. Tammany just outside New Orleans, the concerns of Vidor, Texas, where cross-burning was still occurring less than a decade ago and of course, Jasper, where a man was dragged to death behind a pickup truck just years ago.

But the concerns are not only out of town, there are serious issues in Houston as well. One of the most horrific race-based attacks in this city was that of skinhead teens on a Hispanic boy, only two years ago. In 2006, a group of teenagers nearly killed 16-year old David Ritcheson for daring to kiss a 12-year-old white girl at a party. He was burned with cigarettes, kicked with steel-toed boots, slashed bone deep in the chest and had a steel pipe kicked into his abdomen through his anus, rupturing the organs in its wake and then left for dead in the backyard, while the rest of the group went inside to continue their party. Ritcheson lived to testify, but after medical setbacks and unimaginable trauma, he committed suicide from the deck of a cruise ship in the summer of last year.

The kids who were at that party are college age now. They may be in your classes, they may be in your dorms. They may be your co-workers. That crime was never labeled a hate crime by the Texas court system, and the two kids who committed it are incarcerated. However, no one at that party called an ambulance for the kid lying in the back yard. He lay there for 10 hours. That is an indictment of all those who were there and for all those who believe that the struggle is over.

The race battle in the U.S. is still claiming lives. Hispanic immigrants are still facing rampant legislative discrimination all through the Southern states and still must be careful where they go after dark and whom they work for. There are still people here, in this city of many colors and races, who believe money is more important than equality.

The bell tolls for all of us when it tolls on the behalf of those who are discriminated against on the basis of anything other than their own abilities. We all face the shame of bigotry when we do nothing to fight it. The tragedy of Ritcheson’s life is not only that of what monsters live in human skins, but also of what happens when good people do nothing.

Mohammed, an anthropology freshman, can be reached via [email protected]

Leave a Comment