Jan. 6, an explosive device was detonated at a NAACP office in Colorado Springs, Colo.
No one was hurt in the attack, but FBI Special Agent Thomas Ravenelle said, “I’m not going to be naive, I know what the NAACP means to some extremists in this country.” The device, considered unsophisticated by police, did not fully ignite, but there was an explosion and minor damage.
The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information about the balding white man, approximately 40 years of age, who left the scene just before the explosion. He was driving a dirty white pickup truck with missing or covered license plates. Representatives of the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and local police are investigating this attack as a possible hate crime.
African-Americans are victims of the majority of hate crimes in America. FBI statistics show that 7,242 hate crimes were reported nationwide in 2013. Of those reported hate crimes involving racial bias, 66.5 percent involved crimes motivated by the offenders’ anti-Black bias. The 2013 data are the most recent available.
A steady rise in anti-Black hate crimes may correlate with the election of America’s first Black president. President Barack Obama has received triple the number of death threats received by President George W. Bush, amounting to approximately 30 threats a day, according to Ronald Kessler, author of “In the President’s Secret Service.”
Lapses in Obama’s security detail have brought international attention to the under-resourced and over-stretched Secret Service. The agency has protected Obama against plots such as white supremacists in “Tennessee who planned to rob a gun store, shoot 88 Black people, decapitate another 14 and then assassinate” Obama, as reported by Toby Harnden of the Washington Post.
African-Americans remain the object of hate crimes that can result in death. One day after the NAACP bombing, white defendants in Jackson, Miss., pleaded guilty in federal court to a series of assaults against African-Americans in Jackson. The 10 defendants randomly found and attacked Blacks for fun.
“The hate crimes to which these defendants have pleaded guilty were as shocking as they were reprehensible—targeting innocent people for racially motivated acts of violence that inflicted grievous harm and even claimed a life,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, . The life taken was that of James Anderson, an African-American.
Defendant Deryl Dedmon, 18, and his co-conspirators would seek out Blacks to assault and harass in the Black communities of Jackson. June 25, 2011, they left a birthday party in Puckett, Miss., and drove to Jackson, where they found Anderson alone, walking to his car in a motel parking lot.
Anderson was beaten and fell to the ground. Then, while yelling “white power!” Dedmon and his friends ran over Anderson with a Ford F250 truck several times. Anderson was left to die. Video from the motel’s camera captured the murder and license plate of the truck. Dedmon received a life sentence. The eight men and two women with him were convicted under the Matthew Shepard–James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
In 2011, Kevin Harpham, a white supremacist in Spokane, Wash., was convicted of placing a bomb along the route of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade. The bomb contained 128 quarter-ounce weights coated with rat poison, an anti-coagulant. The device was meant to cut through flesh, and then the rat poison would cause the victims to bleed to death.
Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, an associate professor of Constitutional Law at John Jay College, is the author of the book “Race, Law, and American Society: 1607 to Present” and the U.S. Supreme Court correspondent for the African-American News & Information Consortium.