Troy D. West Jr. allegedly punched, kicked and hurled racial slurs at army reservist Tasha Hill as she entered a Cracker Barrel in Georgia last week with her seven-year-old daughter. The FBI is investigating whether he committed a hate crime.
Hill was approaching the Cracker Barrel with her daughter when, she says,
The man slung open the door pretty hard and fast and I had to push my daughter out of the way. I turned to the man and I just said, 'Excuse me sir, you need to watch yourself you almost hit my daughter in the face.' And from there it just went downhill.
West apparently flew into a rage, pushed her to the ground and began hitting and kicking her. Hill says he yelled, "You're a fucking black nigger bitch." According to police, Hill's daughter was "crying uncontrollably and her body [was] shaking/trembling" after the attack.
West has confessed to hitting Hill "after she spit on me and accused me of trying to hit her daughter with a door." Hill's lawyer Kip Jones says that she never spit on West or provoked him in any way, and that surveillance video from the Cracker Barrel will prove this.
Of course, there's absolutely no "provocation" that would make West's actions acceptable. He currently faces charges of misdemeanor battery, disorderly conduct and cruelty to children — a felony cruelty to children charge was dropped — but the Clayton County district attorney says she may file more felony charges. The FBI is also investigating whether a hate crime occurred.
Congress defines a hate crime as a "criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation." Given the slurs West yelled, it seems very likely his attack was motivated by racism (and sexism). The Anti-Defamation League also explains the need for special prosecution of hate crimes:
Hate crimes demand a priority response because of their special emotional and psychological impact on the victim and the victim's community. The damage done by hate crimes cannot be measured solely in terms of physical injury or dollars and cents. Hate crimes may effectively intimidate other members of the victim's community, leaving them feeling isolated, vulnerable and unprotected by the law.
West's crime seems to have very directly intimidated a member of Hill's community — her now-traumatized seven-year-old. The ADL says hate crimes hurt society by "making members of minority communities fearful, angry and suspicious of other groups — and of the power structure that is supposed to protect them." Hill's daughter is probably going to grow up a lot more "fearful, angry and suspicious" as a result of this attack, but she might be a little less so if justice is done.
Cracker Barrel spokeswoman Julie Davis said yesterday that, "It's just terrible when something like this happens anywhere, let alone in one of our stores." But Cracker Barrel has been the site — and even the perpetrator — of racism before. Chris Rock's mother alleged in 2006 that Cracker Barrel had refused to serve her and her daughter. This accusation came after lawsuits from the U.S. Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for gender and racial bias and racist practices including allowing white employees to refuse to serve black customers. While Cracker Barrel itself didn't seem to have anything to do with West's assault on Hill, its track record shows racism is alive and well in America — something Hill's daughter had to learn too soon.
Update On The Racist Beatdown Of Tasha Hill At Georgia Cracker Barrel By Troy Dale West [Pandagon]
FBI: Beating At Cracker Barrel May Be Hate Crime [CNN]
GA: White Man Beats Down Black Woman In Front Of Her Child At Cracker Barrel [Pam's House Blend]