Sounds like a John Grisham novel set in the 1960's deep south. You expect to hear Martin Luther King advocate a peaceful reaction to such gruesome violence. Malcolm X threatens a racial war. H. Rap Brown and Bobby Seale lead a protest march. George Wallace stands in the doorway of the school house to keep all the black children out. A story like this fits right in with the current 60's nostalgic retro craze, doesn't it?
It does, but unfortunately, the story is true and it occurred last month in rural western Virginia. Louis Ceparano and Emmett Cressell were charged with murder this week in the death of Garnett Paul (G.P.) Johnson. The U.S. Justice Department, no longer occupied with Ruby Ridge, is investigating the slaying, trying to determine whether it was a racially-motivated "hate crime" which would permit them to make a federal case out of it. Evidently, here in the 90's, there are still white trash, Tobacco Road, honky swine who live in places where the streets have no names and the family trees have no branches. They're still racists, but it's not quite that blatant 60's brand of racism. These guys have evolved. Here's what Louis had to say about his actions: "It's a pretty fat case ... because of the fact that a black person died and I'm white. Not that I have anything against blacks. I have black friends." Of course. Black folks from all over Virginia are flocking over to Louis's house for a dose of his equal opportunity hospitality. But he'll tell you that his white neighbors aren't nearly as progressive as he is: "Most Southern folks don't like black people and call them 'nigger' anyway. They don't seem to look at Johnson's death as anything wrong. It's like, 'Good, another one is gone."'
Them's fightin' words, Louis. Guess what the townsfolk call you? Worse than a racist - an outsider. "As far as the racial, it's not the community," says Mary Thompson, a black woman whose sister dated GP. "It's what moved INTO the community." Louis, you see, comes from New York, a more liberal region where you can get brutally killed regardless of your skin color.
All this posturing about who's a prejudiced pig probably doesn't generate a lot of interest on the part of the late GP or his family. Innocent, random victims of killers with hate-consumed minds, whether they're Jews in Israel, gays in Miami, federal building workers in Oklahoma, or poor old black and blackened GP Johnson, are still dead. Louis and Emmett and their brethren, north or south, 60's or 90's, hillbillies or terrorists, black or white, belong on society's scrap heap. The same goes for those who fan the flames of racism or allow it to fester for their own, usually political, ends. Maybe there's some room on GP's funeral pyre for a few more bodies.
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