Hate Crimes, Real and Imagined
“Hate crimes” — those motivated in whole or in part by the victim’s race, religion, handicap, or erotic orientation — are thought to be a very serious problem in America. The federal government and many states have laws that increase penalties for perpetrators, and Congress requires the FBI every year to compile a national record of all such crimes. They are often widely reported, and non-white victims of crimes of racial bias receive much attention and sympathy.
Few people realize that many reports of racially-motivated crimes are faked by the “victim.’ There is no government agency that counts hoaxes, so it is impossible to know what percentage of “hate crimes” are fake, but the number must be large. The first serious investigation of hoaxes was Crying Wolf: Hate Crime Hoaxes in America, written in 1995 by Laird Wilcox. It is a classic, and is still in print.
As Mr. Wilcox explains, it is easy to understand why non-whites stage fake hate crimes: They are showered with sympathy. “Racism’ is America’s most storied evil, and any bona fide victim is sure to be petted and fêted. The more acts of “racism” non-whites can cast in the faces of whites, the more privileges they can demand. Reports of “racism” can also be very useful when hate crime legislation must be pushed through, or when a university needs to be pressured to hire more blacks or set up a Hispanic student center.
Although the benefits for victims of “racism” are immediate and obvious, an astonishing number of the hoaxed are unable to understand what happened. Likely as not, the authorities that rush to the aid of the “victim” say they cannot imagine what could motivate anyone to fake an incident. It is the very people who offer the rewards who fail to understand why hoaxes are rewarding. This reflects a strange form of blindness: the belief that racial motives of non-whites are always pure and noble, and that only whites can do wrong for racial reasons
What follows is a small collection of hoaxes reported in the years since Mr. Wilcox’s study. We undoubtedly missed many that were reported, and yet others were no doubt undiscovered or unreported. An unknown number of hoaxes are counted by the FBI as genuine hate crimes, but there is little official interest in correcting the record.
There are racial hoaxes overseas. Europeans are just as ready as Americans to lionize “victims,” and have been rewarded with their share of fakers. This is a problem that will not go away until whites stop making heroes out of “victims,” and punish fakers as severely as they punish genuine perpetrators.
This report concludes with a summary of the black-church-arson saga of 1996, which is probably the largest-scale fake of its kind in American history.
On May 10, 2000, someone set fire to Mrs. Jaelynn Sealey’s 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier and painted “Go Home Nigger” on the garage door of her Huntersville, North Carolina, home. The police considered it a possible hate crime. More than 400 people attended an anti-hate rally a few days later, and the town gave the Sealeys $2,255 it raised in donations.
Police found inconsistencies in the Sealeys’ story, and asked the couple to take a lie-detector test. They refused. Later, in the Sealey garage, police found a can of the same kind of paint that had been used to paint the slur on the door. Just hours before the fire, Mrs. Sealey bought a new minivan, and called her insurance company to ask if the Cavalier was still insured.
On July 10, 2001, Mrs. Sealey was in federal court in Charlotte, facing charges that she burned the car herself to collect insurance money so she could pay off debts. She eventually pleaded guilty to wire fraud, mail fraud, and making false statements to federal investigators. The judge ordered her to repay the money neighbors gave her, and was to sentence her at a later date. Whites don’t regret their initial support for Mrs. Sealey but admit their feelings have changed. “Given what we knew at the time, we’d do it again,” says Cindy Dorman, vice president of the Wyndfield Homeowners Association, but she adds, “there’s a tremendous sense of betrayal for the whole town.” [Robert F. Moore, Woman Charged With Faking Hate Crime, Charlotte Observer, July 11, 2001, p. 1. Woman Admits Faking Hate Crime, AP, Aug. 9, 2002.]
An interracial couple living in Georgia, Freeman Berry and Sandra Benson, have been arrested for insurance fraud in connection with a self-administered hate crime. In August 1997, their home burned to the ground and the couple complained of hate calls and spray-painted swastikas. There was wide, sympathetic coverage. Miss Benson wept in the backyard of her burned-out house, telling reporters and investigators she was being punished for loving a black man. The FBI came to solve the hate crime and discovered that the couple had burned down their own house. Expensive computer equipment they claimed had been destroyed in the fire was later found in a rented storage locker. Nationwide Insurance rejected their $301,000 damage claim. [Chelsea Carter, FBI Probes Georgia Insurance Scam, Associated Press, Aug. 24, 1997.]
In December 2002, in Klein, Texas, the home of a black couple, Nicholas and Tracey Gatlin, went up in flames, and racial slurs were found spray-painted on the wall. The Gatlins received much sympathy from the community, and filed a claim with Allstate Insurance for more than $100,000. Arson investigators soon learned that the couple had burned the house themselves. There was a gasoline can in the living room, and 18 places around the house had been doused with fuel. Witnesses saw the Gatlins — who claimed to be in Louisiana at the time — removing belongings from the house shortly before the fire broke out at 4:00 a.m., and investigators found more than 100 personal items from the house, undamaged and intact, in the couple’s new apartment. The Gatlins were arrested and charged with arson and insurance fraud. Mr. Gatlin was sentenced to 10 years in prison for arson and insurance fraud. Mrs. Gatlin got four years deferred adjudication. The couple must also pay $13,000 restitution to Allstate. [Dale Lezon, Couple Burned Home to Collect on Insurance, Houston Chronicle, Aug. 21, 2003.]
Four California elementary school children have actually gone on trial for a hate crime that turned out to be a hoax. Jake Thompson, a black student of Encinal Elementary School, claimed that ten white and Hispanic schoolmates had beaten him up, torn his shirt, and held his head in the toilet. He also claimed that they had said “Stupid black boy” while they did it, so this became a sensational act of bigotry. The defendants, in what was classified as a felony hate crime, were all 10 to 12 years old. The prosecutors were so eager to try the case that when they learned that one of the accused had not been in school on the day of the attack they simply decided it had happened on another day. During the week-long trial, it became clear that young Jake had torn his own shirt, wet his head, and lied about the attack, probably in order to get out of afternoon classes. [Sandra Gonzalez, Four boys to go on trial in school hate-crime case, San Jose Mercury News, Oct. 25, 1993, p. 1B. David Sylvester, 4 Schoolboys in San Jose acquitted of hate crime charges, San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 30, 1993, p. A17.]
A ten-year-old Long Island white boy has been put on trial for a hate crime. Patrick, a 5th grader, got into an argument with a black boy named Gary. He reportedly called Gary a “nigger” and threatened to kill him. No punches were thrown, but the black child’s mother promptly called the police. Patrick’s mother called Gary’s mother to apologize, but police charged Patrick with a hate crime. Ordinarily, whites admit guilt, grovel, and are ordered to take therapy. Patrick’s parents refused to do so. They said they had not taught him to use the word “nigger,” and insisted there was nothing wrong with him. Patrick actually went on trial in juvenile court. Gary, the black child, also ten years old, was the key witness, so he had to take the stand. He gave 45 minutes of terrified testimony until, under cross-examination, the defense asked him if, in his entire life, he had ever lied. Gary looked like he was about to cry. The judge called a recess, and Gary’s mother decided to drop the case. Patrick is now a free boy. [Ellen Yan, Liars Put Bias Charge on Trial, New York Newsday, July 14, 1995, p. A7.]
A 14-year-old black boy in East Fallowfield Township, Pennsylvania, has already learned that faking a “hate crime” can really make things happen. The boy tied threatening messages to rocks and pitched them through the windows of his own house, prompting the usual uproar. Local police considered posting a ‘round-the-clock guard on the house. The boy apparently didn’t like the neighborhood, and was trying to persuade his mother to move house. [AP, Cops: Boy Falsified Hate Attacks, Coatesville, PA, Feb. 5, 1997.]
A black teenager in Lancaster, California, has admitted he lied when he claimed skinheads beat him up. The boy, whose name has been withheld because he is only 15, picked a fight with a black classmate, but got the worst of it when another boy pitched in against him. The fight banged up his braces, on which his mother had spent a lot of money, so he decided to blame the damage on “racists.” His mother promptly phoned the authorities, who put out an all-points bulletin. The teenager confessed when his tale began to fall apart and his friends started telling a different story. [Solomon Moore, Black Youth Admits He Lied About Hate Crime, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 27, 2000.]
Two black students at Wall High School in Asbury Park, New Jersey, face criminal charges and possible expulsion for putting racially threatening letters in their own lockers and in those of other black students. Police discovered the hoax by setting up pinhole cameras to observe the lockers. Faced with the evidence, two black girls confessed they had written the notes in hope of being excused from school. Because they are both 16, their charges of conspiracy, bias, intimidation, and making false statements to police will be handled in family court. School Superintendent Ed Miklus notes that a number of innocent students were treated as suspects, and says “the whole incident was very damaging to everybody.” [Naomi Mueller, Racist Notes Found at Wall High School a Hoax, Asbury Park Press, July 17, 2002.]
In April, the University of Iowa was wracked with racism. Someone put a bowl of red noodles outside a black student’s door with a note saying they were the brains of a dead black man. Then someone set fire to a lab coat at the school of dentistry, and sent e-mail to minority students threatening violence and bombings and asking, “Are you going to take us seriously, now?” A thousand people duly rallied on campus to protest these horrors. The university set up video surveillance and caught a black student, Tarsha Campbell, who confessed to sending the e-mail and making the threats. Police have charged her with a felony for the bomb threat, but university officials cannot think of a motive. After the arrest, University Relations Vice President Ann Rhodes said she never would have guessed the culprit would be a black woman: “I figured it was going to be a white guy between 25 and 55 because they’re the root of most evil.” Miss Rhodes later apologized for her remark. [Greg Smith, Black Student Arrested in Racist Threats at Iowa Dental School, AP, April 20, 2000. Scott Hogenson, College Official Calls White Men ‘Root of Most Evil,’ CNSNews.com, April 21, 2000.]
Winfred L. Stafford was a student at Hastings College in Nebraska. In March 2000, the 24-year-old black man claimed several whites abducted him at gun point and that he was getting hate mail. The police investigated these incidents as hate crimes but learned that Mr. Stafford imagined them all. The college was considering how to discipline Mr. Stafford. [Todd Von Kampen, Hate-Crime Incident a Hoax, Omaha World-Herald, April 13, 2000, p. 15. Cops Say Student Lied About Threats, Las Vegas Sun, April 12, 2000.)
2002 was the 40th anniversary of the integration of the University of Mississippi. There was much chagrin when, in the midst of the solemn celebration of this event, two black students found racial insults scrawled on the doors of their dorm rooms: “F*****g Nigger” and “F*****g Hoe [sic] Nigger.” Similar messages turned up in three other locations. Black students organized a “Say No to Racism” march, and demanded more protection against violence. The “Minority Affairs” director demanded “programs and procedures” to instill racial sensitivity and prevent hate crimes. There were meetings of the “Institute for Racial Reconciliation” and the “Committee On Sensitivity and Respect.” Activists called for criminal charges. There was national news coverage and much hand wringing about how little the campus had changed in 40 years.
It has since been learned that the culprits were three — or possibly four — black freshmen. Ole Miss chancellor Robert Khayat says the culprits’ race “doesn’t excuse their behavior.” Mr. Khayat made it clear there will be no criminal charges, even though the students caused over $600 worth of damage. [Andy Kanengiser, Black Students Allegedly Behind Racist Graffiti, Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Miss.), Dec. 12, 2002. Michelle Malkin, Another Fake Hate Crime — The Real Race Scandal in Mississippi, Creators Syndicate, Inc., Dec. 17, 2002.]
In April 1999, Omobonike Odegbami, a graduate student at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University, said she was getting threatening, racially-charged e-mail. The campus newspaper ran a front-page story about her, and the FBI started investigating classmates and instructors. Miss Odegbami eventually admitted she sent the e-mail to herself and in December was sentenced to 200 hours of community service, mental health counseling at her own expense, and was made to write a letter of apology in the campus newspaper. She gave no explanation for her behavior and apparently none was asked. [Jennifer Freehan, Woman Sentenced in Racist E-Mail Hoax, Toledo Blade, December 24, 1999.]
In October 1998, several people slipped into the Center for Black Culture and Learning on the campus of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. They left photocopies of a crude drawing of a black being hanged, and installed computer screen savers with anti-black messages. There was the usual hullabaloo, with black demonstrators stopping traffic, public agonizing about “racism,” and the university president James Garland promising to recruit more non-white teachers and students. Blacks wallowed in self-pity, with one telling reporters, “It’s been a very rough four years here. Every day, you are reminded of the color of your skin. It’s horrible.” Police later found fingerprint evidence that Nathaniel Snow, president of the Black Student Action Association, and his black sidekick Brad Allen were the perpetrators. They were, of course, in the thick of the demonstrations — so much so that Mr. Allen was even arrested for disorderly conduct — and Mr. Snow had been awarded with an hour-long meeting with President Garland. [Randy McNutt, State Investigators Enter Miami, Cincinnati Enquirer, November 14, 1999. Saundra Amrhein and Kevin Aldridge, Two Charged in Racial Vandalism, Cincinnati Enquirer, January 22, 1999, p. A4. Mark Ferenchik, Police: Students Faked Slurs, The Columbus Dispatch, January 22, 1999, p. 1D.]
A few days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Ahmad Saad Nasim, a 23-year-old junior at Arizona State University (ASU), reported he was a victim of a hate crime, in which assailants beat him, pelted him with eggs, and shouted “Die, Muslim, die!” He got the usual flood of sympathy. On Sept. 26, Mr. Nasim was found lying inside a locked lavatory stall in the university’s library, trying to fake another hate crime, and confessed to police that the first one was a hoax, too. ASU police may charge Mr. Nasim with false reporting, and the university is considering disciplinary action. His friends cannot understand why Mr. Nasim, whom they describe as passionately committed to multiculturalism, would do such things. [Lisa Chiu, Student May Face Charges in Hoax, The Arizona Republic (Phoenix), Oct. 2, 2001. Monica Alonzo-Dunsmoor, ASU Assault Called Hate Crime, The Arizona Republic, Sept. 26, 2001.]
Malcolm X has enjoyed enough of a revival among blacks to stimulate some scholarly interest in the man. In the process, some of the favorite myths about Mr. X have been exploded. According to tradition, a white supremacist group called the Black Legion burned down the young boy’s parents’ home in Lansing, Michigan, and the KKK murdered his father. In fact, argues Bruce Perry in his book, Malcolm, it appears most likely that the father set fire to the building himself because he was about to be evicted and that he died of natural causes. The mother probably built the man up into a race hero in order to hide from her children the fact that he was a wife-beating, adulterous, shiftless failure. [Gerald Early, Malcolm X: The Prince of Faces, LA Times book review, 9/8/91, p. 3.]
In October 2001, someone put leaflets full of racial slurs and threats of violence on school buses and in the mailboxes of black school-bus drivers for the Grandview School District in Kansas City. The perpetrator was discovered to be a black school bus driver, Lee Hooker-Medlock. On Dec. 12, 2001, Mrs. Hooker-Medlock pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor harassment in exchange for probation and mental counseling. Her attorney, Paul Katz, blamed the incident on depression. “She didn’t really know what she was doing,” he said. Depressed or not, Mrs. Hooker-Medlock was rational enough to try to cover her tracks by sending leaflets to herself and her husband. [Linda Man, Woman Pleads Guilty to Harassing Other Black School Bus Drivers, Kansas City Star, Dec. 12, 2001.]
A black Coast Guardsman who reported finding a note with a racial slur on his car has admitted he wrote the note. The man, who had made two other claims of racism, confessed to the hoax under questioning by Coast Guard officials. “To touch on something as delicate as racism in an effort to make a false claim for personal gain is reprehensible,” said Capt. Bill Peterson, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Group Port Angeles.” [AP, Coast Guardsman Admits False Report of Racism, The Register-Guard (Eugene, Oregon), May 7, 2003.]
Rubie Lee Mandy is a black who worked at REM Oak Knoll, a group home for adults with mental problems, in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. One day the home’s van disappeared, and the garage was spray-painted with anti-black graffiti. Miss Mandy told police four whites had shouted racial slurs at her the day before. When police recovered the vehicle, which had been similarly defaced, they noticed the steering column showed no signs of the tampering necessary to operate it without a key, and that it had been damaged in an accident. Police started investigating the employees of the group home, where the only key was kept. Miss Mandy confessed to police she had damaged the van while joyriding, and then painted the racist graffiti and concocted the story about the slurs in order to cover her trail. She was charged with motor vehicle theft and first degree criminal damage to property. [Cynthia Boyd, Woman Who Claimed to be Victim of Hate Crime Accused of Stealing Van, St. Paul Pioneer Press (Minnesota), June 12, 2001.]
On the night of May 2, 2001, someone painted white swastikas and other racial graffiti on one of Dallas’ most prominent black churches, St. Luke Community United Methodist. Several black elected officials are members, and the pastor, Zan Holmes, is a prominent racial ambulance chaser. The bellowing that followed was enough to push the “James Byrd” hate crimes bill through the Texas Senate, and Gov. Rick Perry signed it on May 11. Later it was discovered that a church member probably painted the swastikas. The choir practiced until 10:20 p.m. that night, and shortly afterwards a white couple driving by noticed a black man painting something on the outside of the church. Until the media eruption that followed, they thought he was taking part in a youth program, so did not report the incident until several days later. Police discovered that the swastikas were painted with white latex, which was the type of paint used recently to renovate a church office.
Needless to say, Pastor Holmes was indignant about the police investigation: “I consider that to be a worse attack than the attack of the painting, the defacing of the building, for people to deface our personalities, the integrity of this church.” [Hugh Aynesworth, Black Implicated in Desecration Case, Washington Times, May 28, 2001.]
In November 1999, the state legislature in Albany, New York, went into a frenzy when anti-black notes were discovered in front of the doors of the offices of two black legislators. “Kill all niggers because they don’t belong here,” the notes said, and were signed “Yours truly KKK.” Darryl Gray, a 35-year-old black janitor has now confessed to typing and distributing the notes. Police were reportedly unable to think of a motive. Mr. Gray was charged with aggravated harassment. [Black Janitor Accused of Hate Notes, New York Times, Nov. 9, 1999.]
On April 13, a black man was found bound and gagged in front of Buena Vista Park in San Francisco. The man, whom police have not identified, claimed he had been abducted by four “neo-Nazi types” who held him in a van and carved a swastika on his chest. San Francisco police investigated the incident as a hate crime and even went to Oregon to look for leads and interview potential suspects. Meanwhile, officials from the police crime lab turned up inconsistencies in the man’s story. He eventually confessed that he made up the whole incident, telling police that he scratched the swastika on himself and tied himself up “for personal reasons.” [Ray Delgado, Man Admits Inventing Racist Assault in San Francisco, San Francisco Examiner, May 8, 1999, p. A5.]
A black woman has been convicted of trying to defraud United Parcel Service by means of a phony hate crime. Angela Jackson of St. Paul, Minnesota, sent 28 pieces of hate mail to herself and to black congressmen Bobby Rush and Jesse Jackson, Jr. She scrawled racial insults on the packages she received, and then tried to collect $150,000 from UPS, claiming that “white supremacist” employees had vandalized her insured packages. On the witness stand she claimed that the charges against her were part of a “racist conspiracy.” The jury failed to believe her. [AP, Conviction in Phony Hate Mail Case, Nov. 21, 1998.]
James Hood, who in 1963 was the first black man admitted to the University of Alabama, has long fascinated audiences with a story about seeing his uncle hanged and burned by Ku Kluxers in the 1950s. A typical public airing was at an April 26, 1998 “racial unity” rally in Madison, Wisconsin, where he said: “I crawled over to the window and pulled aside the drapes, and I saw a man hanging, burning. And the next morning, I learned that the man was my uncle.” His listeners reportedly “groaned and murmured in shock.”
A local newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal began looking into the story and contacted the Times of Huntsville, Alabama. Mr. Hood was informed that there was no record of such a lynching. At first he stuck to his guns: “These things happened every day, particularly in that area. I can verify it as a human being. Yes, it happened. I saw it. And I know there won’t be any written record of it. If I had to stand on a stack of Bibles, I would do it. But ask me to show documentation, I can’t do it.” Later he admitted he made up the story. Mr. Hood is now chairman of police, firefighting, and paramedic training education at Madison Area Technical College. He appears to be in no danger of losing his job. [Activist Admits Lynching is a Lie, Washington Times, May 8, 1998.]
In February of 1996, an Oregon black man named Markus St. James gained much press attention when he reported that the house he shared with a white girl friend had been ransacked and that racial slurs had been scrawled on walls and mirrors. The FBI has now arrested Mr. St. James, whom they say did the ransacking and scrawling himself. [Man Arrested in Attack on House, The Oregonian (Portland), Oct. 25, 1996, p. B15.]
Joseph Abdullah, whose mother is German and father Iraqi, drowned in a swimming pool in 1997 in the small German town of Sebnitz. In 1998 local authorities judged the death an accident, but in 2000 fresh witnesses stepped forward to claim skinheads opposed to mixed marriage had drugged Joseph and held him under water. The country worked itself into hysteria at the news. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder set the tone by visiting the boy’s parents and issuing ringing denunciations of skinhead thuggery. The parents claimed to have gotten death threats. A massive police effort swung into action, and three young Germans were arrested. It was later discovered that Mr. and Mrs. Abdullah paid the new witnesses (race unspecified) the equivalent of about ten dollars each to claim to have seen things they did not see, and that the alibis of the suspects turned out to be unshakable. The prosecutor concluded that “grounds for suspicion against the three suspects cannot be supported” and released them. It has not been reported whether charges will be brought against the Abdullahs. [Adam Tanner, Suspects in German Boy Death Freed, Reuters, Nov. 27, 2000.]
In Berinsfield, in Oxfordshire, England, a 17-year-old mulatto claimed he was attacked by whites who sprayed him with gasoline and tried to burn him. The community erupted in indignation and the police went into high gear, assigning a large number of officers to the case under the direction of a senior investigator. They found that the attack was a hoax, and charged Chris Barton and two adult confederates with conspiracy to commit criminal deception. [Colin Blackstock, Three Held as Police Say Race Attack Bogus, News Unlimited (UK), April 13, 2000.]
In Birmingham, England, a 24-year-old black man claimed he was attacked by white racists and set on fire. Ashley Cane did, indeed, have serious burns to his face and arms, and the incident became so notorious it came up during debate in the House of Commons. Now it appears Mr. Cane burned himself while setting fire to a stolen car. Police have charged him and two accomplices with wasting police time, and conspiracy to defraud. News that the “racist” attack was a hoax appears not to have been debated in Parliament. [Maurice Weaver, Race Hate Victim ‘Made Up Attack,’ Daily Telegraph (London), May 18, 2000.]
Chris Cotter, a white man also from Birmingham, is the ex-boyfriend of black female track star Ashia Hansen. In March 2000, he was allegedly stabbed in the back and slashed across the forehead by white thugs who told him, “We warned you not to mix with niggers.” Miss Hansen got hate mail and went into hiding, while the country wailed about racism. Police warned other black athletes to look out for attackers. Now it turns out Mr. Cotter and two accomplices staged the knife attack and mailed the hate letters themselves. In Britain it is common to charge large sums to grant exclusive interviews, and Mr. Cotter hoped to make a bundle telling his story to the papers. Miss Hansen, the black athlete, is now worried there could be “a danger of distracting attention from the legitimate racist issues we have in society.” [Nick Hopkins, Black Athlete’s Partner Attacked, London Guardian, March 25, 2000. Richard Ellis, Race Hate in Britain is Rife — Just Ask My Wife, London Guardian, March 26, 2000. Paul Kelso, Ex-Lover of Black Athlete Charged, London Guardian, May 23, 2000.)
A 1994 German television documentary showed a group of Germans wearing KKK robes and burning a cross. The producer, Michael Born, now confesses that he got a group of friends to stage the event because he knew the footage would sell. The truth came out when German police mounted a search for the wicked klansmen. [Terrence Petty, German Documentary Producer Faces Charges, Charlotte Observer, Feb. 15, 1996, p. 20A.]
In London, non-white police officers started getting messages saying, “Not wanted. Keep the police force white. Leave now or else.” After the usual breast-beating, the sender turned out to be Gurpal Virdi, a Sikh police sergeant who had been denied a promotion. Mr. Virdi has been dropped from the force. [Sikh Seeks Sneaky Solution, London Guardian, March 4, 2000.]
In Byker, near Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Asian shopkeeper Mohammed Bashir made headlines when he complained of harassment and intimidation at the hands of whites. Soon afterwards someone bombed his shop, and Mr. Bashir immediately blamed “racists.” A police investigation found that Mr. Bashir, his two sons and a neighbor planted the bomb and set fire to the shop. According to Chief Inspector Gary Shaw, “the motive for this crime was money. Mohammed Bashir had taken out an insurance policy on the shop shortly before it was destroyed.” [Paul Wilkinson, ‘Racist’ Attack Set Up to Claim Insurance, The Times (London), June 13, 2000.]
The 1996 ‘Church Burnings’ Scam
During the summer of 1996, the national press was filled with reports about a terrible wave of “racist” arson. In a terrifying upsurge of anti-black hatred, whites were reportedly burning down hundreds of black churches. Anyone who was not reading the papers at the time will have a difficult time imagining how great was the uproar that greeted these reports.
This is how American Renaissance reported what may be one of the greatest racial hoaxes ever perpetrated:
From the Aug. 1996 issue:
The reaction to recent church fires is becoming a full-blown case of national hysteria. Even in a country that manages to work itself into a frenzy over virtually any rumor of white “racism,” the whooping and roaring of the past two months have been a fantastic fuss over what may turn out to have been nothing at all.
How many black churches have been burned, and who burned them? Is there an upsurge of “racism”? No one really seems to know. In a comprehensive survey reported on June 28, USA Today counted 64 Southern black churches put to the torch in the year and a half since January 1, 1995. Is that more than usual? Compared to the previous several years there seem to be more black church burnings in some Southern states — Tennessee and South Carolina — but fewer in others — Arkansas and Georgia.
Ordinarily, there are about 600 cases of church arson every year, but this is a sharp drop from a high of 1,420 in 1980. So far, the number of fires is part of the normal range of annual variation. Spokesmen for the insurance industry say they expect this year’s totals — both black and white — to be within anticipated figures.
Who has been burning black churches? Of the 64 counted by USA Today, eight appear to have been set by blacks, 12 by whites, and one by a mixed group of two whites and one black. In only three cases have there been detentions or convictions of whites who may have had racial reasons for burning a church.
That leaves 43 fires in which there are no suspects. Some may have been set by “racists,” but the evidence is circumstantial: one black church was burned on Martin Luther King’s birthday; another was burned while a nearby white church was not; in one town, two black churches went up on the same night.
John Robison, Fire Marshal for the state of Alabama, has investigated all 15 cases of black church arson in his state since 1990. He has found no evidence of “racism” in any of them and says “I don’t think this state is much different from others.” In the midst of all the hand-wringing about “racism,” Mr. Robison makes a point everyone seems to have forgotten: “Most times until you identify the perpetrator you can’t know the motive.”
Of course, when it comes to “fighting bigotry,” facts don’t matter. From the President on down, the country has had a marvelous time “sharing the pain” and mobilizing against “hate.”
At William Clinton’s urging, Congress has passed an utterly unnecessary new law to let the feds poke their noses into any attack on a church that might have racial overtones. The old law required that there be at least $10,000 in damage and some kind of interstate activity. Every state, of course, prosecutes arson, but now you can go to the federal pen for painting bad words on a church down the street.
In June, the President held an urgent session with the governors of southern states “to coordinate a strategy for battling the outbreak.” Likewise, in Washington, a group of black preachers was flown in to berate Attorney General Janet Reno for not catching enough racists.
The President then made a well-publicized trip to a burned black church, where he knelt in what we are told was prayer before handing the pastor a plaque that read: “We must come together as one America to rebuild our churches, restore hope and show the forces of hatred they cannot win.”
In his zeal to fight hatred, the President has slipped a few cogs. In one of his weekly radio addresses he said, “I have vivid and painful memories of black churches being burned in my own state when I was a child.” There is no record of any black churches being burned by “racists” in Arkansas when Bill Clinton was a child.
Well, never mind. In July, the President announced he was going to squeeze $6 million out of Congress to toughen up the “struggle against racism and religious bigotry.” The money would pay for security patrols, extra lighting, and whatever else it takes to scare off night riders.
Christian denominations across the country have declared “sabbaths of support” and “solidarity Sundays,” in which white congregants stand symbolic vigil in front of black churches, offer to pay for building materials, and generally apologize for being white. Some denominations were urged to festoon their sanctuaries with charred boards to help whites understand how awful arson is.
As for the churches themselves, liberal Christendom’s central committee, the National Council of Churches, promptly whistled up $4 million for a rebuilding fund. As the council explained:
“The primary purpose of the Burned Churches Fund is to restore the burned and desecrated African-American church buildings and other places of worship that have been victimized in the current wave of racism and bigotry. Many have no insurance coverage and many more are finding their coverage woefully inadequate. Of the fund’s $4 million initial budget, $3,725,000 will support reconstruction. The remaining $275,000 will focus on the underlying racism that drives the burnings… .”
|Hate crime? Probably not.|
Foundations such as Annenberg, Ford, Kellogg, MacArthur, C.S. Mott, Rockefeller, and the Pew Charitable Trusts have all promised money. Did they wait to find out if there have been more church fires than usual? Or that there has been a surge in “racist” arsons? No. When it comes to fighting “racism,” even imaginary enemies are worth a $4 million campaign.
The Christian Coalition likewise pledged $1 million to help rebuild churches, and $25,000 in bounty for people who turn in arsonists. Ralph Reed, the coalition’s executive director has the usual dust on his knees; he has confessed that evangelical Christians have been wrong about race in the past, but now claims they are prepared “with broken hearts, a repentant spirit and ready hands to fight this senseless violence.”
Some blacks have blown Mr. Reed a raspberry. Jesse Jackson says “they contributed to the race baiting that goes on in this country,” and that their money is tainted. Al Sharpton says, “we must be aware of those who set the climate for racial storm and we must not let them hand out umbrellas.” Joseph Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference also says Mr. Reed’s group helped foment the atmosphere of “hate” that prompted the burnings.
Many blacks seem to think anyone who is opposed to affirmative action or welfare is, at heart, an arsonist and cannot offer sincere condolences when a black church burns. An elder at the church where President Clinton presented the plaque took a typical shot at Republicans: “Ain’t no way we’re going to let nobody — no KKK, no skinheads, no Nazis, no nasties, no Republicans, no Pharisees — nobody turn us around.” Pharisees carrying torches have reportedly been sighted in the area.
Members of something called the New Black Panther Party drove from Dallas to Greenville, Texas, where there had been two church burnings. They marched around with rifles and shotguns, vowing swift justice. Khalid Abdul Mohammad, who used to declaim for the Nation of Islam, set the tone: “You catch a cracker lighting a torch to any black church, or any property of black people — we are to send him to the cemetery.”
In addition to 200 federal agents looking for racists, there are an estimated 800 state and local officers involved in the largest arson investigation in the history of the world. The extra effort may have flushed out a few extra criminals. A black ex-deacon, who set fire to the Tucker Chapel Baptist Church near Columbia, South Carolina in 1992, was recently caught in the dragnet. Media attention has been so great that it became national news when a 15-year-old Vietnamese boy living in Queens used weed killer to burn the letters KKK into the lawn of a Seventh-Day Adventist church.
Except for those troublesome 1,000 investigators, these are tempting times for unbalanced blacks. If a church burns, the media will flock ‘round, everyone will get to bellow about racism, the National Council of Churches will pay for a brand new building, and the President may come for a visit. Indeed, at least 18 church fires obligingly occurred in the weeks following President Clinton’s first big harangue.
Like all chest-thumping campaigns against “racism,” this one will fade away. There will be no final accounting of how many millions of dollars it cost to catch each arsonist, or how much foundation money was spent on churches that turned out to have been burned by blacks. There will be a steady trickle of small, embarrassed news stories about how this massive manhunt collared a few pyromaniac nuts and drunk teenagers.
The police will probably pick up at least one half-wit white with a Klan pamphlet in his pocket. This man will be made to wish he had never been born and will go to jail for longer than most murderers do. And America will get ready for the next round of national race hysteria.
From the Sept. 1996 issue:
There have been developments in the once-huge but now fading story about black church arsons. The massive manhunt for perpetrators has, since last month’s report, snared three firebugs, all of them black. On July 24th, Al Hatcher was detained for burning a black church in Selma, Alabama. His sister explained that Mr. Hatcher’s Vietnam war experience had left him “basically homeless and troubled since he got back.” That would be for about the last 20 years.
On August 4th, a black teenager named Mark Young was charged with burning two black churches in Greenville, Texas, back in June. This is where the New Black Panther Party had such a jolly time tramping around with rifles, vowing to kill any “cracker” who set a fire. The NAACP promptly insisted that Mr. Young’s confession was coerced.
The National Council of Churches (NCC), it will be recalled, has rustled up huge sums to help rebuild the burned churches and to “fight racism.” On July 8, the world’s largest forest products company, International Paper, promised to supply enough free lumber, paneling, and other wood products to rebuild all the churches. The company’s CEO, John Dillon, urged his employees to give money to the NCC’s Burned Churches Fund, and promised that the International Paper Foundation would match contributions, dollar for dollar.
On July 10, President Clinton signed the unanimously-passed Church Arson Prevention Act, which doubles jail time for church burners from 10 to 20 years and provides loan guarantees to help congregations rebuild. On the same day he addressed an NAACP convention, saying that the burnings were “an attack on the whole idea of America.” A fire-blackened crossbeam from a black church lay before President Clinton’s podium; he solemnly touched it after his remarks.
Meanwhile, a cable network called the Faith & Values Channel has scheduled two airings of a National Council of Churches production called “The Churches Are Burning.” The show highlights the NCC’s central role in calling attention to this vicious arson scourge, and to NCC’s sterling record in combating racism. The program is available on videotape for $19.95, postage and handling included, by calling (800) 251-4091.
Another massive campaign to humiliate white people seemed to have worked up an unstoppable head of steam — except that a few people began to ask what was really going on. On July 8, the Wall Street Journal published a story pointing out that there has been no sudden wave of arson, that blacks are burning many of their own churches, and that there is no plague of pyromaniac “racists.” The Journal traced the entire hullabaloo to a deliberate fraud perpetrated by the Center for Democratic Renewal (CDR). On July 29, the New York Post devoted its entire editorial page to exposing the fraud. [Noted later: The CDR is an Atlanta organization that calls itself “one of the nation’s preeminent organizations working to combat racism, bigotry, and white supremacy.” To this day, it’s web page brags about its role in stoking the hysteria over the churches — which is again proof of how light the penalties are for falsely accusing whites of “racism.”]
As the Aug. 9 Wall Street Journal explained, of the $9 million raised by the NCC, $3.5 million was set aside to “fight racism.” Who is to get a good chunk of this swag? The Center for Democratic Renewal, which launched the fraud in the first place.
The story (and the money) have certainly come full circle, though the sordid details have not received anything like the attention the initial lies about “racism” did. Fire investigators agree that the media whooping prompted “copycat” church burnings that would not otherwise have occurred. As the Wall Street Journal makes clear, this means the Center for Democratic Renewal and its friends appear to have brought about some of the very acts of terror for which they have cynically blamed white “racists.”
From the Nov. 1996 issue:
The con game about a non-existent racist plot to burn down black churches has been so brazen that even a few mainstream organizations have decided that enough is enough. A Washington-based organization called the Institute for Religion and Democracy has just released a report on how the National Council of Churches (NCC) hit upon the hoax as a way to raise money for “progressive” causes.
A large part of the report details the lurid career of Don Rojas, the black man who is supposed to administer the nearly $10 million that the NCC has accumulated in its Burned Churches Fund. For four years, Mr. Rojas worked for the Communist regime of Maurice Bishop in Grenada, first as editor of the party newspaper and then as press attaché to Prime Minister Bishop. Mr. Rojas was the real thing, raving about “the comrades in Cuba” and describing political enemies as “imperialist lackeys.” His government service came to an end only when the United States invaded Grenada in 1983 and overthrew the Bishop regime. Mr. Rojas then removed to Havana, where he served as secretary for propaganda and information of the Anti-Imperialist Organizations of the Caribbean and Central America. In the early 1990s, he edited the anti-white Amsterdam News in Harlem.
Although Mr. Rojas has no church-related experience, he was hired by the NCC’s Associate General Secretary for Racial Justice (!), Mac Charles Jones, to dish out the money. Rev. Jones is a standard-issue “activist” minister who has unbosomed the view that the election of Ronald Reagan meant “it was OK to be racist again” in America. In his younger days he organized a support committee for Angela Davis, then leader of the U.S. Communist Party. [Mark Tooley, IRD Special Report, Sept. 1996, Institute on Religion and Democracy.]
The October 1996 issue of Commentary also contains a good account by Michael Fumento of the trickery engaged in by the National Council of Churches and the “watch-dog group,” the Center for Democratic Renewal, in promoting the hoax about church burnings. Better still, the article goes further and places much of the blame where it really belongs: on the media. Mr. Fumento notes that although Fred Bayles of the Associated Press won an award for his work showing the real extent of the so-called church-burning epidemic, only a handful of subscribers to the AP actually ran his stories. The New York Times, for example, mentioned the church burnings in more than 100 articles — some of them huge — but never touched on the questions raised by Mr. Bayles and other critics.
Mr. Fumento draws the right conclusions:
“One would think at least some journalists might have been led to wonder what this episode says about the way ‘news’ is manufactured, packaged, and shipped these days, or to reflect on their own role in plunging so many Americans into a paroxysm of utterly baseless recrimination… . As for admitting that they were wrong, and wildly irresponsible, that is a prospect apparently too horrible for them to contemplate.” [Michael Fumento, Politics and Church Burnings, Commentary, October, 1996, pp. 57ff.)
Meanwhile, another “racist threat” to black churches has proven to be a hoax. A black woman named Gloria Taylor has been arrested for mailing letters, filled with slurs and swastikas, threatening to kill blacks and burn black churches. She was caught by means of a DNA match with the saliva used to seal the envelopes. [Woman Charged With Sending Hate Mail, Tallahassee Democrat, Sept. 20, 1996. p. 4B.] [From the Nov. 1996 issue of AR.]
From the Feb. 1997 issue:
In November 1996, in the wake of national hysteria about church burnings in the South, the Boston Piano Co. established a fund to help congregations victimized by “hate crimes.’ In December, the trust decided to send $500 to Trinity United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg, Florida. The church, which has a mostly-black congregation, suffered fire damage on October 24th, during riots following the shooting of a black criminal by white police officers. [Florida Church Gets Hate-crime Money, Washington Times, Dec. 8, 1996, p. A2.]
To our knowledge, all the rioters were black. [From the Feb. 1997 issue of AR.]