Attacked Because of Skin Pigmentation


This week was ripe for too many columns and stories. Those will now remain in the wings.

Unfortunately, a late evening telephone call a couple of weeks ago from one of my students changed directions. And because this article references the “other” newspaper in Columbia, The Columbia Daily Tribune, the election was to print the story here and not in my usual spot in the Columbia Missourian.

My student’s daughter is an Army reservist waiting to be deployed to Kuwait. For the time being, we will call her Private Smith. On March 26 at 1:00 AM, Smith was severely beaten at the Petro Mart in southeast Columbia, Missouri.  It appears that the beating was initiated not because of anything she did or say but because she is an American of African heritage.

The person arrested for the alleged assault is identified as Chance E. Garriott of Columbia. Because he has not been found guilty of the crime, it is “alleged.” According to the report and her mother’s description of the incident, Smith was with her friends for an evening of enjoyment before her deployment. In the store, she avoided Garriott’s racial slurs and was returning to her car when attacked.

She was not the first that evening. Smith and her mother confirmed that the clerk at the Petro Mart told authorities that Garriott had verbally assaulted someone else that evening because of race.

It is because of the use of racially inflammatory language that the Boone County prosecutor’s office might consider adding “hate crime” to the charge of assault.

The news report said that Pvt. Smith was taken to the hospital for “treatment.” She was struck in the face by a man almost twice her size and may have to have surgery on her eye. That injury may keep her from deployment. However, her injuries and the injuries that are spreading through her family are more severe and more traumatic.

The Smith family is now being assaulted by comments made online. Her mother told me that members of her family are beside themselves with anger and distained for Garriott and what is being written about her daughter. The family perceives the negative comments as allegations that the Private encouraged or aggravated the assault. Nothing can be further from the truth.

The problem is that online commenters can hide behind screen names precluding them from accountability. For example, “Pawn” wrote, “He (Garriott) was just playing “black eye king” – no hate crime.”

“sisyphus” wrote that, “if black kids can hit a white person in a parking garage and only get five years in prison, this white guy should be able to punch a black woman in the mouth and only get a $15 ticket or something.” The writer was referring to an assault by eight black men on a white man. The attackers were playing a “game” called “Knock Out King.”

Though there is a resemblance to Adam Taylor’s assault in a parking garage in downtown Columbia in June 2009, racism had nothing to do with his beating. That was strictly stupidity.

“tastes_like_chicken_2me” asked the unseemly question, “did she say or do anything to provoke him? as stupid and scummy as the guy is, something had to set him off to make him attack her.” Does it matter? This type of violence is never acceptable.

What Smith and her family do not realize is that the majority of the responses to the online article are positive and supportive. It is unfortunate that a few who either question Smith’s actions or appear to support Garriott’s based on speculation at best, ignorance at worse, seem to the surface like soured cream. Unfortunately, sometime we only see the soured cream.

Smith, a soft-spoken woman, seemed more upset that her injuries might prevent her from military deployment than of the assault. She talked about serving her country, regardless of its faults and history, to the best of her ability. She will serve and is the true patriot and hero in this story.

Any person who is assaulted because of skin pigmentation, religious belief or lack of belief, ethnicity, gender, gender orientation, or physical or mental ability is also a victim of ignorance and hate. In all such cases, prosecutors need to consider the hate crime provision.

As “vh1” stated so well, “All crime is a hate crime as far as I’m concerned.”

It is too bad that Smith was not wearing her uniform that evening. Then Garriott could have “terrorist” added to the hate crime charge of assault.

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About David Rosman

David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com, InkandVoice.com and NYJournalofBooks.com.
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4 Responses to Attacked Because of Skin Pigmentation

  1. Dana says:

    I am pleased with all the support that our family and friends have given us during this troublesome time. However, on a much sadder note, I feel as though not enough is being done to Mr. Garriott. It has been an emotional ordeal for my daughter and I to know that Mr. Garriott is back out on the streets after posting bond for only $450. In my opinion he should have been required to sit behind bars long enough to reflect on his actions of stupidity and hate that he directed towards my daughter simply because of her ethnic background. In my heart of hearts I think Mr. Garriott should be charged with a Hate Crime simply because his actions stemed from a dislike for African Americans, which produced an anger so strong in him that he viciously attack my daughter physically and emotionaly by calling her degrading racially charged names. I do not want people to think that it is okay to attack someone just because of the color of their skin…it’s not! As a mother, it is so troubling for me to feel helpless not understanding all of her rights and the legal steps to take to ensure that justice be serve to the full extent. Equally troubling is having to explain to my two youner children and teenage daughter that racism lives today in the city we call home. Respectfully, we Americans have made great progress in understanding that racism has no place in this great Country of ours and it is not acceptable…although we are not fully there yet, but continued progress is good. My dear daughter does not have medical insurance outside of her Army Reservist drill service which poses another burden for our family. Not only does she have to worry about the physical and emotional pain, she is now faced with the financial burden of having to pay medical bills. She is also faced with the possiblity of having to have eye surgery which is risky and presents no guarantees that she will come out with perfect vision. Without surgery she faces the possiblity of having deformities of the eye for the rest of her life. My daughter does not have any hatred towards Mr. Garriott nor do I, but she wants her voice heard and for people who have those same beliefs that Mr. Garriott have to understand that this type of violent behavior is not acceptable for any person.

    Most sincere,

    A loving mother of a beautiful daughter inside and out.

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  3. Nana of 2 says:

    I am sorry to say this happens in a town that is supposed to be so progressive. I think this man should be charged with a hate crime, but I think most crimes are committed by people with hate in their heart. I would think the court would require this man to pay for her medical bills and assume the responsibility of his actions.
    I will be praying for this family and this man as well, for them to forgive him and not harbor any ill feelings toward him and for him to understand why he hates someone just because of the color of their skin, eyes, hair, or whatever it is that causes him so much anger.

  4. Joseph says:

    Well let your daughter know her voice is being heard. I have heard her story and it makes me sick. I am so sorry that racism still exists in this nation, I don’t know for sure but I suspect it may exist on both sides of the fence, but it does seem to have manifested itself more since the election of our president. I served ten years on active military duty 1971 thru 1980 we had very little problem with racial differences there, in combat, there are only two colors, red and green, we all hoped we were to remain green, one of the finest commanders I ever had was Captain James Young, it wasn’t until one night in Germany on the border that I realized he was a black man, because he was such a good commander, and outstanding human being, it never occurred to me to look at him as anything other than my commander who was the first to give me a big smile and slap on the back when my first son was born.

    I also served with James Jester who was my first Sergent for about two years,not a finer human being walks. the last time I saw him was in 1978 when he was rotating back to the U.S. from Germany, but we still to this day talk on the phone at least once a month. While in Germany my family and his spent most Saturday evenings together, it was helpful as he had married a German National Woman, and of course she knew all the best places away from the hub bub to eat and hang out. One after noon we had gone to a festival, and I ran into a young German student who we had gotten to know, he was a good kid and enjoyed learning about we Americans, but I introduced Jester as my brother, meaning brother in arms, the look on that kids face was enough to write a novel about, It never occurred to me that Jim was Black, it was never an issue to me. To this day he is like my Big Brother, there is doubt he would come running this night if I called him and needed him to, and the feelings are mutual.

    I’m, telling you this because I admire your daughters courage, and her lack of hatred, I am appalled that any man would strike any woman for any reason, and I’m very grieved by the damage done to her by this act of terror. I’m hoping you will pass on to her that her story is getting out, that her actions are making a difference and that there are a lot of us out here who are sick of racism and want it gone. I for one am hoping the day will come that we will realize ther4e is only one true race on this earth, the human race, and each of us will be free to be who and what we are and learn to accept the good tings about the other, until that day we need to teach the lesson.

    God Bless your daughter, and I really mean that.

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