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The cover up on a possible hate crime in New Jersey continues

I can't believe the dead silence in the New Jersey media about the possibility that the murder of three young black college students — Terrance Aeriel, 18, Dashon Harvey, 20, and Iofemi Hightower, 20 — in Newark, N.J. was an anti-gay hate crime.

The Washington Blade and Blue Jersey started connecting the dots and rolling this story out in the gay press/blogosphere. Juan of Blue Jersey:

We are told that friends of the victims have come forward to ask why the identities of the murdered teenagers, and the lone survivor, have been suppressed, claiming that “at least one or more of the victims were gay”. Media reports indicate that two of the victims were sexually molested before being killed. Though authorities suggest robbery was the motive, some in the community say they were targeted because they were gay.

The case, as reported in the mainstream media, had robbery as the motive for the slayings. The facts trickling out, don't appear to support this. Kevin Naff of the Blade:

Police have claimed the motive in the gruesome killings – some of the gorier details of which the Blade has so far declined to publish – was robbery. But you don’t slaughter a group of college kids over petty theft. And one Newark gay activist claims nothing of value was taken. If nothing of value was stolen, then the motive wasn’t robbery. So what was it?

A friend of one of the victims, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Blade that one of the victims went to high school with one of the suspects. It doesn’t take brilliant detective work to piece together a scenario in which the suspect recognizes one of his former classmates, someone he likely perceived to be gay, and initiates a confrontation.  

There are more troubling details in the Blade account that you won’t find in mainstream coverage. This grotesque crime occurred in the backyard of the New York Times. Where is its coverage and why are mainstream journalists ignoring the multiple gay angles to this story? The Blade found out about it via a tip from a mainstream journalist, whose own employer refused to follow up on the story.

This is an unacceptable dereliction of duty for New York- and New Jersey-area journalists, who milked the original story of the murders for sensational front-page headlines, then walked away when arrests were made. And where are the nation's gay rights groups?

Indeed, where are they? As I mentioned in my earlier post on this, Alexander Robinson of the National Black Justice Coalition pointed out how radioactive this topic is for Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, and other community leaders.

Sources say that the Newark mayor and other prominent black leaders in Newark may have known that some of the victims in this case were gay but withheld that information because, among other things, they felt it would be hurtful to the surviving families if word got out that their fallen relatives were gay. Other sources think the mayor, who was elected as a reform candidate pledging to clean up Newark's image as a crime-ridden city, felt uncomfortable delving into the sexual orientation of the victims because at least some in the black community view homosexuality as a negative characteristic.

Does this silence mean that gay black youth cannot count on advocates and support from the gay advocacy groups because of reticence to touch the third rail of black homophobia? If so, that's a terrible message to send, if not, it's clearly reflects a blind spot, but that can be remedied with a public declaration of support to find the truth. 


What this also tells me is that people in a position to effect change need to step outside of their comfort zones to call for justice for these three young people of color. The hate crime laws should protect them as well.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding