The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition
Confronting the New Faces of Hate: Hate Crimes in America 2009. LCCR Education Fund.

Hate Crimes Against African Americans

Despite the election of our nation's first African-American president, African Americans remain by far the most frequent victims of hate crimes. Of the 7,624 hate crime incidents reported nationwide in 2007, the most recent year for which data is available, 34 percent (2,659) were perpetrated against African Americans, a number and percentage of incidents that has changed little over the past 10 years. According to the FBI's HCSA report, more than twice as many hate crimes were reported against African Americans as against any other group.

From lynching, to burning crosses and churches, to murdering a man by chaining him to a truck and dragging him down a road for three miles, anti-black violence has been and still remains the prototypical hate crime, intended not only to injure and kill individuals but to terrorize an entire group of people. Hate crimes against African Americans have an especially negative impact upon society for the history they recall and perpetuate, potentially intimidating not only African Americans, but other minority, ethnic, and religious groups.

Examples of recent hate crimes committed against African Americans include:

  • On Election Night 2008, Ralph Nicoletti and Michael Contreras, both 18, and Brian Carranza, 21, of Staten Island, New York decided shortly after learning of Barack Obama's election victory "to find African Americans to assault," according to a federal indictment and other court filings. The men then drove to a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Staten Island, where they came upon a 17 year-old African American who was walking home after watching the election at a friend's house. One of the defendants yelled "Obama!" Then, the men got out of the car and beat the youth with a metal pipe and a collapsible police baton, injuring his head and legs. The men went on to commit additional assaults that night.

    Their hate crime spree culminated with crashing their car into a man who they mistakenly believed to be African-American, causing his body to shatter the windshield. While the victim ultimately survived the attack, he was in a coma for a period of time.26 Brian Carranza pleaded guilty to conspiring to assault Staten Island residents after the election of President Obama and faces 10 years in prison. Nicoletti and Contreras pleaded not guilty.27

  • Justin Sigler, 19, of Natchitoches, Louisiana, pleaded guilty in December 2008 to conspiring with two other individuals to violate the civil rights of a man in Lena, Louisiana who was the first African American to move into a home in the neighborhood. Sigler and two others fired shotguns at a target on a field adjacent to the victim's property before one member of the group turned his shotgun away from the target and toward the victim and his house. The next evening, Sigler, dressed in a white robe as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, went with his coconspirators to a field adjacent to the victim's residence and shouted, "White Power!" and "White Knights!" Shaken by these events, the family eventually sold their home.28

  • William A. "Bill" White, the self-proclaimed Commander of the American National Socialist Workers Party, a neo-Nazi group, was indicted by a federal grand jury for, among other charges, using intimidation to delay or prevent the testimony of African-American tenants in an official court proceeding. The tenants were involved in a discrimination case against their landlord. On May 23, 2007, White allegedly mailed letters to the African-American tenants at their Virginia Beach, Virginia homes. The letters displayed the letterhead of the White National Socialist American Working Party, a Nazi swastika and White's signature and title. The letters read, in part: "I do not know [name redacted] but I do know your type of slum nigger, and I wanted you to know that your actions have not been missed by the white community ... and we know that you are and will never be anything other than a dirty parasite — and that our patience with you and the government that coddles you runs thin." In addition to the letter, White also included a copy of the ANSWP Magazine titled "The Negro Beast and Why Blacks Who Work Aren't Worth the Cost of Welfare."

    The indictment also charged that White threatened to injure "LP," an African-American journalist. On June 3, 2007, at approximately 11 p.m., White called LP's personal telephone at his Bowie, Maryland home and spoke with LP's wife. Fifteen minutes later, White sent LP an e-mail, which read, in part: "You and your fellow black filth are quickly losing ground and I look forward to the rapidly approaching day when whites once again rise up and slaughter and enslave your ugly race to the last man, woman and child. Itz [sic] coming." White then listed LP's personal home phone number, date of birth, home address, and wife's name on overthrow.com and other websites frequented by white supremacists. At the end of the post, White wrote, "His wife gets very upset when you call."

    Another count of the indictment charged White with threatening to injure "CT," the African-American mayor of a town in New Jersey. On March 1, 2008, White contacted CT via telephone and spoke with CT's wife. He identified himself as the Commander of a Neo-Nazi organization and told CT's wife that he knew where she lived and was going to put a swastika on her front yard. Soon after, White sent an e-mail to CT, which read, in part, as follows: "I recently read of the racism you've faced in New Jersey, and I wanted to make something perfectly clear:

    1.You are a nigger unworthy to govern over any white man; and,

    2. Fuck you. You've gotten exactly what you deserve from your constituents.

    "Unfortunately, the days when white men would simply burn the local newspaper and run the nigger officials out with tar and feathers are past. However, your incidents give me hope that perhaps we shall see them again. … ps: we know where you live at [CT's address and phone number]. I just spoke to your wife [CT's wife's name]. I hope you got my message."29

  • Benjamin Haskell, 22, Michael Jacques, 24, and Thomas Gleason, 21, all of Springfield, Mass., were arrested on January 16, 2009 for allegedly burning and entirely destroying the Macedonia Church of God in Christ, a predominantly African-American congregation's nearly completed new church building. The building was burned to the ground on Nov. 5, 2008, hours after the election of President Barack Obama. Investigators determined the fire was caused by gasoline applied to the exterior and interior of the building.30 The three men were indicted by a federal grand jury on January 27, 2009 for conspiring to burn the church in retaliation for the election results.31

  • Steven Sandstrom, 23, and Gary L. Eye, 22, both of Kansas City, Missouri were sentenced to multiple life sentences on September 9, 2008 for the racially-motivated murder of William L. McCay on March 9, 2005. While McCay was walking to work one morning, Eye attempted to shoot McCay with Sandstrom's gun as they were driving in a stolen car. He missed and McCay fled. Eye and Sandstrom, afraid that McCay would report them to the police, pursued him. At the next block, Eye got out of the car and fatally shot him.32

Next Section: Hate Crimes Against Hispanics

26. U.S. Dept. of Justice, "Three Staten Island, NY Men Indicted on Federal Hate Crime Conspiracy Charges," January 7, 2009.

27. "Man Pleads Guilty in Election Attacks," The New York Times, January 26, 2009.

28. U.S. Dept. of Justice, "Louisiana Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Violate Civil Rights of Homeowner," December 18, 2008.

29. U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia, "Leader of American National Socialist Workers Party Indicted," December 11, 2008.

30. U.S. Dept. of Justice, "Arrests Made in Springfield, Massachusetts Church Arson," January16, 2009.

31. U.S. Dept. of Justice, "Three Men Indicted for Racially-Motivated Church Arson in Springfield Mass.," January 27, 2009.

32. U.S. Dept. of Justice, "Two Kansas City, Missouri Men Receive Multiple Life Sentences for Racially-Motivated Murder," September 9, 2008.

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