Sunday, April 10, 2005

Young hate

I've been writing a lot here about the seeming emboldenment of the extremist right in America, particularly manifested in the growth of hate-group ideologies among young people.

A recent spate of incidents in Boone County, Kentucky, provide the latest incarnation of this trend, noteworthy because the perps appear to be not only unchastened about it, but have escalated the threats:
Chloe Jones, 14, is black, and Cassie Blanton, 13, is biracial. Chloe said Wednesday the boy started making racial comments to them a few weeks ago in school, when he told them he hates black people and wants to kill all blacks, using various slurs.

He talked to one of the girls' friends last Wednesday on the school bus, deputies say. Chloe said the boy told the friend he was going to "bring a .22 to school" and again threatened to kill all black people, especially Chloe and Cassie.

Ebe Orndorff, Chloe's mother, said she drove her daughter to school the next morning and told the principal and a school resource officer what had happened.

Tom Scheben, spokesman for the Boone County Sheriff's Department, said Wednesday that the officer filed the charge against the boy that morning. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 45 days in juvenile detention.

The school suspended the boy for 10 days (not counting spring break this week), but Cassie was once again harassed, she said.

A message was left on her cell phone from a person who said, "Don't (expletive) with my brother." The girl also said, "Just hang yourself from a tree and save me the trouble," and "I'll (expletive) hang you ... KKK style." The "n-word" was used at least 15 times in the message.

A week later there was a second incident in which four boys were caught vandalizing a local high school with white-supremacist grafitti, including a swastika, "KKK," and racial slurs.

Interestingly, school officials said this:
Scheben said he does not believe the two incidents were connected. Nor does he believe they are connected to a cross-burning incident in July in Burlington.

This is actually not very good news, because it means the total number of young people in the county participating in this kind of hate-mongering and threatening goes beyond just the suspects in hand. At the same time, the response suggests a certain naivete: These incidents aren't just occurring in a vacuum, either.

A follow-up report finds that parents are apparently conflicted about what it all means:
Concerns developed last week after an eighth-grade boy at the school was charged with terroristic threatening, accused of threatening to kill black people and singling out two eighth-grade girls.

Adding to the parents' anxieties, the boy has told deputies that he has guns and is a frequent hunter, Boone County sheriff's spokesman Tom Scheben said Thursday.

"I think he definitely needs to be kept away from school," said parent Pat Rowland. "It does concern me."

The problem is the extent to which we see this trend spreading: young people adopting white-supremacist beliefs as a rule does not just happen in a vacuum, either, especially on a national scale. A good place to look, I think, is in the atmosphere of general intolerance that has been sprouting up in all kinds of odd places in the past year and longer. Or would that be un-American?

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