It's Not Just Trayvon: 9 Other Cases That Prove People of Color Can't Safely Walk the Streets of America
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5. Donnell Harrington
Hurricane Katrina is already notorious as a dark period in American history. The response to the 2005 hurricane was roundly criticized, with race remaining an undercurrent throughout the national discussion. But an underreported part of the fallout was racist violence against people of color in the Big Easy. Assailants shot Donnell Harrington with a shotgun while shouting racist epithets. No one was ever arrested or charged. Indeed, there wasn't even an investigation. Unlike nearly everyone else on this list, Harrington was fortunate enough to escape with his life. Still, his case underpins a disturbing trend that is also expressed in the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. Working-class whites and blacks are pitted against one another, with gun laws and crime used as wedge issues. In the case of Donnell Harrington, the shooters expressed in an interview with the Nation their surprise that they were never investigated.
6. Aiyana Jones
In addition to racist mobs, militias and vigilantes, people of color have good reason to live in fear of the police. Aiyana Jones acts as a brilliant illustration of what happens when police shoot first and ask questions later. While details are sketchy, what's known is that in 2010 police tried to serve a search warrant to locate shooting suspect Chauncey Owens. After firing a flash bomb and entering the home, police officer Joe Weekley reportedly fired a shot that struck and killed Jones, who was only 7 years old at the time of her death. Weekley has since been charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment with a gun by a grand jury.
7. Ramarley Graham
Earlier this year, Richard Haste, a 30-year-old NYPD officer, entered 18-year-old Ramarley Graham's grandmother's apartment. Haste entered the apartment without a warrant and shot Graham, who was unarmed, in the chest as he emptied a bag of marijuana down the toilet. This is only the most recent example of the NYPD using excessive, sometimes deadly force. (The names Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima immediately come to mind.) New York City is also home to the controversial "stop-and-frisk" rule that many believe is selectively enforced in poor neighborhoods and neighborhoods with a plurality of people of color and has led to record arrests for marijuana possession in the city.
8. Cornel Young, Jr.
Not even policemen are safe. In 2000, Sgt. Cornell Young, a police officer in Providence, was having a meal at a late-night diner when he saw a disturbance involving two other patrons. A suspect approached two uniformed officers with a gun drawn and Young attempted to aid them by drawing his own weapon. The officers demanded that he put his weapon down and he refused. They shot him dead where he stood. The suspect who first drew his weapon was charged with murder in relation to the incident, but a broader issue is raised: If the cops can't trust one of their own because he has the wrong skin color, who can they trust?
9. Alan Berg
It's not just blacks and Latinos who have to worry about racist vigilantism. Alan Berg, a white Jewish talk show host in Denver found that out in 1984. His murder at the hands of white nationalist group the Order (named after the protagonists of The Turner Diaries) made international news. Berg was fired upon by unknown assailants at his home after returning from a dinner date with his wife, in an apparent anti-Semitic attack. Four members of the Order were indicted on federal charges of conspiracy, racketeering and violating Berg's civil rights. Noted white supremacists David Lane (who coined the infamous "fourteen words") and Bruce Pierce were convicted and sentenced to jail terms of nearly two centuries. The events later inspired the films Betrayed and Talk Radio.