How could the story of the 11-year-old gang rape of a Texas girl get any worse? Add race into the discussion. The Houston Chronicle reports that the brutal rape has pushed existing racial tensions in Cleveland, Texas to the boiling point.
At a rally last night, Houston community activist Quanell X suggested investigators are racially biased because only black men and boys have been charged with the rape of the 11-year-old victim, who is Hispanic. "We do not want someone with a malicious racist motive to rid your community of an entire generation of black men," he said. (1,819 African-Americans live Cleveland, so 18 alleged rapists is hardly an "entire generation.") He then jumped on the "blame the mother" bandwagon, saying Hispanics, "have a right to be angry with black men who ravaged a young girl ... but the first house you need to stop at is her Mama and Daddy's house!" This prompted cheering from the crowd.
In this report from the Associated Press, Anita Ellis Hancock, the mother of one of the suspects, also says the girl's mother is responsible for not knowing where her child was.
U.S. Representative Ted Poe responded to the several accused rapists who say they thought the girl was of age, "Ignorance is no defense - especially in the rape of a child." He added, "Those accused will have their day in court ... Those found guilty should be shown no mercy for their crimes. May justice be swift and harsh."
The Chronicle story includes a carefully-worded paragraph noting that some in the town (and elsewhere) are blaming the victim:
The sexual assault case, which has rocketed into the national spotlight, is also upsetting many locals who fear the child is being victimized once more by those who try to blame her. Others have nothing but derogatory comments about the young girl, including a local website that posted a risque photo of the teen and also labeled her a "snitch."
As the unbelievable debate over whether a child is at fault for being raped rages on, the town is also dealing with other racial issues. There's a recall election scheduled for three black City Council members who are accused of mismanaging taxpayers' money, but some say are being targeted due to their race. Yesterday, white men with shaved heads were seen shouting from the back of a truck, "Kill all the niggers." According to ABC News, racial violence has always been a problem in the town. In 1988, white police officers were charged with beating to death a black man, who was in prison for allegedly stealing a fountain pen. They were acquitted and stayed on the force.
While it's unsurprising that a town would be torn apart by accusations that many of its young men committed a crime, it's incredible that concern for the 11-year-old victim doesn't seem to be the top focus. What we're seeing here is how deep rape culture truly is. Even in the most heinous of circumstances, people are managing to redefine who the true victim is.
Cleveland On Edge After Girl's Gang Rape [The Houston Chronicle]
Gang Rape of 11-Year-Old Girl Sparks Racial Tensions in Texas Town [ABC News]