Race Talk

keeping up with the "national conversation on race"

Racial Killings Pt 2

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We’re in the part of the summer when “race” in the news is typically associated predominantly with the “pennant” or NASCAR and occasionally early handicapping of November elections. Not this year. Quick on the heels of a midsummer featuring the protracted, perplexing story of Shirley Sherrod, the NAACP, and the Tea Party, we have a frightening, loose collection of tales of racial killings (see previous entry below). Two emerged in tandem as largely “regional” news items but each took on added significance because of the racial element. Omar Thornton attributed his killing spree to racism in the workplace; the “Flint serial killer” is a young white man who appears to be targeting blacks and Latinos. Thornton’s story awaits a fuller accounting that may yet turn it into a story with larger significance; and when it does, its larger meaning will likely remain disputed. But the “Flint killer” story has gone national, not due to heightened media coverage as much as the movement of the killer, who seems to have attacked victims in Virgina and Ohio. The police in Leesburg, VA were quick to identify his motives as racial, though police in Michigan, where two of the victims are white, were more reticent. Now that there’s been an arrest in the case, the kind or type of race story this is only becomes more complicated.

Elias Abuelazam was apparently not what people expected the suspect to be. The suspicion was of some white supremacist targeting blacks. But now, it seems people aren’t even sure if he’s white, given his Middle Eastern background. As Matt Helms reports in today’s Detroit Free Press, which has led on coverage of this story. Abuelazam’s neighbors were surprised at his arrest, “because they thought the suspect would be white.” Also in today DFP, Zlati Meyer offers the following commentary:

“The vast majority of serial killers are white men, experts say.

Most serial killers choose victims of their same race.

Practically every serial killer focuses on the opposite gender, therefore usually women.

Almost all serial killers plan their attacks.

But Flint serial killer suspect Elias Abuelazam contradicts those patterns.”

This is yet another suggestion that he’s not white. Apparently Arab Israelis are not considered so, even though the U.S. census lists people of North African and Middle Eastern origins as “white.” But the confusion here is two-fold. He also doesn’t fit the pattern because he apparently didn’t select “victims of their same race.” And all of this is muddled further by the way serial killers are racialized as white, probably due to the associations of superior intelligence (think “criminal mastermind”) with such killers. But as this summer’s earlier story about the “Grim Sleeper” suggested, the way we think about these kinds of criminals is about due to be revised.

There’s so much more to write, but time does not permit. More soon!

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Written by jhartiganj

August 13, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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