CNN recently reported the story of Brian Milligan Jr., an 18-year-old white man who was beaten by a group of 10 to 15 black men, possibly because Milligan was dating a black woman, 18-year old Nicola Fletcher. The couple from Buffalo, NY said they’d been regularly harassed by men and boys in the neighborhood because of their relationship. Milligan had even been shot with paintball pellets two days before the incident. His father now wants the attack to be treated as a hate crime.
Armed with a chunk of concrete, several assailants beat Brian Milligan Jr. on the back of the head on August 18, leaving a 3-inch gash. They kicked him in the face, breaking his jaw.
Bloodied and bruised, the 18-year-old managed to walk five blocks to his grandmother’s house before being rushed to the hospital.
Milligan’s father believes several African-Americans beat his son, who is white, because he is dating an African-American woman. He wants police to treat the beating as a hate crime. He also has criticized what he calls a deafening silence from the community, police and the national media.
“If this was a black guy who was beaten by a group of white guys for dating a white girl, people would be up in arms,” he said. “There’s a double standard.”
No arrests have been made. In the story it says he suffered blood on the brain and brain swelling from the incident. He also doesn’t remember the beating. Community response to the attack has been muted and one local pastor spoke out about why.
“At first, it didn’t affect me the way that it would have if I heard it was a black teen attacked,” said the Rev. Darius Pridgen, who spent years fighting for civil rights for African-Americans.
“But after I saw his father on TV pleading with the community to find the assailants, I decided I had to go after the people who beat this kid.”
Pridgen said he felt that the community has turned a collective blind eye to the beating. So he gave a fire-and-brimstone sermon at the True Baptist Church on a Sunday after the attack, appealing to his congregation to help find the culprits.
“He didn’t deserve to be beaten this way,” Pridgen recalled saying at the service. “If you believe this, put your hands together.”
If it was a black teen, Pridgen said, “We would have been protesting with flags and everything else.”
Rod Watson also addressed the issue in his column in the Buffalo News. Watson, who is black, pointed out that interracial marriages are nearly 10 times higher than they were in 1960, according to U.S. Census data, but still those couples have a tough time being accepted by society.
“If blacks in Buffalo in 2009 are acting like whites in Selma in 1959, this society has big problems, despite electing a president who is himself the product of an interracial union,” Watson said.
When I read this story I was horrified, as I am, whenever senseless violence occurs. I was also very saddened that this was black people acting violently and behaving as if another black person were their property and beating a man for dating, re: having a potential sexual relationship with their “property.” And that made me feel sick because as Watson points out, that is the same mentality white racists had and still have towards interracial dating. It wasn’t OK to hang, beat, maime, mutilate and murder countless black males for allegedly being involved with a white woman. I don’t see how black people could turn around and act out the same sick pathology knowing what we know about what was done to us. It’s not like this one particular white man was oppressing black people. He was just dating one. What sense does this make? And unlike some of the residents of Buffalo I am just as offended about this as I would be if the roles were reversed. People should be allowed to love and be loved by whomever they choose without fear of nearly dying over it.
But what do you think? Should the men involved with Milligan’s beating me charged with a hate crime? Is the community response slow because of a double standard? Is that double standard warranted? Is there every a scenario where it is OK to react in violence to a situation like this? Was anyone less horrified or unaffected because the victim was a white man and why?