Christopher Lane was Australian. But his death in Oklahoma -- allegedly at the hands of three “bored” teenagers -- has become entangled in uncomfortable conversations and innuendo about race in the U.S.
And nothing about the debate, of course, has been simple.
Take one announcement issued Thursday: A Los Angeles commentator and radio host urged civil rights leaders to condemn the shooting of Lane, a white man, after it was revealed that one of the suspects, who is black, had previously tweeted that he hated white people.
“This was a heinous murder irrespective of color. And this makes it even more compelling for civil rights leaders to publicly condemn the killing, no matter who the victim is or the alleged perpetrators are,” Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, said in a Thursday statement. “This is even more urgent given a recent report that one of the alleged shooters posted anti-white tweets.”
So why is the need for condemnation urgent? Perhaps because condemnation has been urged. Look to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial Wednesday, which oozed with accusation.
“Three teenagers were charged Tuesday in the killing of a white college student in Duncan, Okla., and part of the story is what didn’t happen,” the Journal’s editorial stated. “There was no saturation cable TV coverage, no press conference featuring Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, and no statement from the Oval Office. The death of Christopher Lane, while as troubling as that of Trayvon Martin, will not become a national touchstone of racial and cultural debate or reflection.”
“But maybe it should,” the Journal added.
And while it took weeks for Martin’s 2012 shooting to brew into a national controversy -- including a comment from President Obama and eventually George Zimmerman’s arrest -- it appears to have only taken a day for the paper to get its wish for racial and cultural debate over the Oklahoma shooting.
By Thursday, CNN was debating whether the killing should be prosecuted as a hate crime; Jackson had condemned Lane’s slaying via Twitter; and conservative personality Rush Limbaugh was using his radio pulpit to ask, “Why does the left protect racism? They’re doing so here in the killing of this Australian college student.”
In Duncan itself, the question of race proved a difficult one for locals to discuss, as the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
Officials also have not formally tied race to a motive for Lane’s slaying last week. Police identified two of the suspects as black and one suspect as white, and each of the suspects have family or friends who identify as white.
And at the time of the shooting, James Francis Edwards Jr., 15 -- who had once tweeted “90% of white ppl are nasty. #HATE THEM” -- had a white girlfriend, Edwards’ sister told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday.
WAS RACE A FACTOR? a CNN graphic asked on Thursday, as Australia’s ambassador to the U.S., Kim Beazley, was posed the same question by CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“Nobody in Australia would see it as that,” Beazley replied.
At this point, you couldn’t say the same for the U.S.