Portland, LeBron, the Smithsonian nooses: America’s ugly week of hate
In an America roiled by bitter divisions, the hate keeps coming.
The past week has been especially bad. Two Oregon men died defending a pair of high school girls from a train passenger’s bigoted taunts. A noose was found hanging inside a shrine to black history in the nation’s capital. And a vandal spray-painted a racial slur at a home of one of sport’s biggest icons.
These are just the latest high-profile examples of hate crimes that have jarred the country in recent months. The Southern Poverty Law Center documented 1,372 “bias incidents” in the three months after President Donald Trump was elected.
The SPLC said blacks or immigrants were targeted in the majority of incidents, which leveled off weeks later.
But the events of the past week — which also included racist reactions to a Japanese driver winning the Indy 500 — have left many wondering: More than five decades after the Civil Rights Act, how is the country is still experiencing this sort of senseless behavior?
The Portland train stabbings
Micah Fletcher is one of three men who intervened when, according to police, Jeremy Joseph Christian barraged two African-American teenagers, one wearing a hijab, with religious and racial taunts on a Portland, Oregon, MAX train last Friday. Fletcher is the only one of the three who survived.
Christian, who had been captured on video the day before making bigoted remarks on another train, allegedly slashed the throats of Fletcher, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best, killing two of them.
While the trio have been hailed as heroes and Fletcher has received much sympathy and support, he asked in a Facebook video this week that people direct their concern toward those who he considers the real victims: the girls he stepped in to help.
“The little girl who had the misfortune to experience what happened on that MAX, her life is never going to be the same,” Fletcher said.
The Smithsonian nooses
Amid the 36,000 artifacts at the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., tourists on Wednesday found a noose hanging.
As if the noose itself weren’t a clear enough message, it was found amid a segregation exhibition in galleries opened last year by the first black president of the United States, according to Smithsonian.com.
The case is under investigation, and details are slim.
“The noose has long represented a deplorable act of cowardice and depravity — a symbol of extreme violence for African-Americans,” said Lonnie Bunch, the museum’s founding director.
This is the second time in four days a Smithsonian property in Washington was targeted in such a way. A noose was found hanging from a tree outside the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden over the weekend.
As Smithsonian.com noted, in recent weeks someone hung nooses at the Port of Oakland in California, inside a University of Maryland fraternity house and outside a Crofton, Maryland middle school. That’s in addition to the nooses and bananas found on American University’s campus recently after students elected the first-ever black woman to head the student government.
“This was a horrible act, but it is a stark reminder of why our work is so important,” Bunch said of Wednesday’s incident.
The slur at LeBron James’ home
It’s June, and basketball fans are supposed to be focused on tonight’s NBA Finals tipoff, a third consecutive showdown between the two most recent champs — James’ Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.
The news surrounding James on Thursday morning had nothing to do with the King defending his crown. It had everything to do with someone spray-painting a racial slur on the gate to James’ $21 million Los Angeles home.
Rather than talking about his team’s three-point defense or the Warriors’ pesky Draymond Green or how James can avoid repeating his calamitous Game Three in the Eastern Conference Finals, James found himself assuring reporters that his family was safe.
The 33-year-old, who is no stranger to speaking out on racial strife, further found himself lamenting the state of race relations in the country.
“No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough,” he said.