Picture a man being surrounded by 20 men outside of a Mississippi diner. Picture that man being beaten into a coma. Now open your eyes. Pretend the victim is white.
Warned not to go inside a Mississippi Waffle House because it “wasn’t safe for whites,” Ralph Weems and his friend, David Knighten, entered the diner ignoring the warning setting off a chain of events that left Knighten beaten and Weems in a medically-induced coma.
Inside the Waffle House, a racially-charged conversation about Ferguson was escalating among the patrons. When Weems and Knighten entered, a verbal altercation ensued and Weems and Knighten were asked to leave.
Trailed by an estimated 20 patrons from the Waffle House, Weems and Knighten were confronted in the Huddle House parking lot a mile down the road. Weems was kicked and beaten within inches of his life.
Little sympathy is being felt for Weems. His case is one of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, not heeding a warning and ultimately not knowing his place.
Instead of Weems being considered a victim of a hate crime, he is dismissed by some as the rightful recipient of retribution; by others a casualty of ignorance and bigotry; his story fictionalized. Even West Point Police Chief, Tim Brinkley, shrugged off the charge that the incident constituted a hate crime.
“This does not appear to be a hate crime,” he said. “It’s very early in this investigation but thus far the evidence and statements suggest that a verbal altercation turned physical and somebody got hurt.”
West Point police are investigating the incident as an aggravated assault. Authorities have obtained video surveillance tape of the altercation between Weems and the unidentified men from the Waffle House. One man, Courtez McMilliam, 22, of Okolona, Mississippi has been arrested. The FBI has launched an investigation into the matter. More arrests are expected.
As the facts surface it is unlikely that any observer or pundit will retract from his or her initial theory of events. Prejudices have become entrenched to the point where facts are of little import.
Perhaps the Department of Justice will order multiple encephalograms to reach conclusions of their making.