Final Call: There were some news reports that you had a relationship with one of the defendants, Bobby Brewster. Is this accurate?
Megan Williams: We were just friends. It was nothing like that.
FC: No dating relationship between you and defendant Bobby Brewster?
MW: No. They kicked me in the head with steel toed boots, they hit me in the head with several objects, I remember seeing a knife, and they tried to cut my foot off. They told me that is what they did to Kunta Kinte when they cut his foot off so he couldn’t run and that is what they were going to do to me.
I've been stewing on this moment in the Megan Williams interview ever since I posted about it. Stewing on it because I'm feeling uncomfortable with how it seems she might not be telling the truth about her past with one of the six Logan County, W. VA whites who tortured, raped and stabbed her.
It is on the record that Bobby Brewster was charged and jailed for domestic battery and assault against Megan Williams in July.
That suspect, Bobby R. Brewster, one of six arrested in the torture case, had a previous relationship with the victim and was charged in July with domestic battery and assault after a dispute between them, Sheriff Eddie Hunter said.
Court documents show that on July 18, officers responded to a 911 call concerning a domestic disturbance at the mobile home, where Mr. Brewster, 24, lives with his mother in far southwestern West Virginia. The documents do not make clear who called the police, but when they arrived, the papers say, they asked Mr. Brewster about the young woman, and he said he had not seen her in several days.
Upon searching the premises, though, the officers found her behind the trailer, and she told them she was hiding from Mr. Brewster and his mother. The complaint says the police determined that he had “verbally threatened and physically hit” her.
I can only speculate that Williams' lawyers have advised her to downplay her past with Brewster. Why? Because when people start talking about a possible past relationship, Williams' "poor judgment" or the fact that she passed some bad checks, they also start questioning whether this was really a hate crime and whether the fullest repertoire of charges ought to be brought against the scum of the earth perpetrators. Ellle, PhD summed up the problem in her post about white liberals who are hesitant to support the Jena 6 (via Amp) because of the
unspoken implication that African Americans had to be more than human, had to prove themselves worthy of fair treatment, of justice.
Similarly, when it came out that Williams may have been captive at the Brewsters' for over five weeks, even one of the bloggers who has argued most forcefully for treating the incident as a hate crime started to second guess herself.
So it now appears that what these people did to Williams may have been retaliation for her turning Bobby Brewster in to police for committing domestic battery against her. At least, maybe that’s what instigated it. That’s what’s causing me to believe that this may not have been a hate crime.
The immediate answer to this thinking is that we are talking about gang violence by a group of six whites against a Black woman. Even if it started as a domestic dispute, it stopped being one when the other five perpertrators got involved.
Furthermore a prior relationship and a possible domestic dispute do not disqualify the whites from hate crime charges or make Williams any less deserving of the fullest measure of justice possible. If anything, these possibilities only add to the racial dimensions of the case.
Southern whites have for centuries assumed that that they can violate Black women with impunity. Furthermore, the domestic sphere has long been a point of access to Black women. Writing about the early twentieth century, historian Jacqueline Jones explains:
White men's persistent violation of black women ... served as a backdrop for periodic lynchings throughout the South... A woman or girl found herself in danger of being attacked whenever she walked down a country road---"The poorest type of white man feels at liberty to accost her and follow, and force her." But her employer's home remained the source of her greatest fears. (Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present, 150)
But we are talking about more than accosting and forcing. What made these whites go ape shit at Megan Williams? What made them behave with such sadistic brutality? What excited their blood lust?
Jones' history provides some possible answers. The deadly intimacy of whites with Black women is, in Jones' analysis, part of a broader system of political control.
The races remained largely segregated in public pursuits. Yet black women constantly worked in the presence of whites of both sexes and all ages. A black newspaper in Orangeburg, South Carolina, highlighted the irony in 1889. The blackest woman, it noted, can "cook the food for prejudiced throats" and hold "the whitest, cleanest baby," but the angry passions rise when a well-dressed, educated, refined negro pays his own fare and seats himself quietly in a public conveyance." In the end, de jure segregation was a move designed to limit the political power of blacks as a group, rather than to curtail personal contact between members of the two races. (150)
The offense to racist whites is not so much social proximity to Blacks as it is Black assertions of political power. Segregation was not born from aversion but as a means to a political end.
West Virginia's history illustrates the principle of segregation as a method of "limit[ing] political power of blacks as a group, rather than to curtail personal contact between members of the two races."
West Virginia's legal system enforced racial segregation until the start of the 1960s. Laws were passed to ban interracial marriage and the education of black children together with whites. There was even a law requiring birth, death and marriage records for blacks to be kept in separate registers.
But unlike some states, West Virginia's government took an active role in building an alternate society of black institutions. The first publicly funded black school below the Mason-Dixon line was founded in 1866 in West Virginia, and by the start of World War II, the state also had two public colleges, a hospital for the mentally ill, vocational training schools, an orphanage and a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients.
"To tell you the truth, black people were able to do things here they weren't always able to do in other places, particularly the deep South," said Cicero Fain, an assistant history professor at Marshall University.
"But blacks were always aware they were supposed to be second-class citizens," he said. "The state funded these institutions, assisted in establishing them, but never tried to integrate them into the prevailing white power structure."
The state funded institutions for Blacks were used by the state to set pre-defined limits on Black participation in society.
If Bobby Brewster was retaliating against Megan Williams because she filed domestic battery charges against him in July, that just supports Jones' analysis of segregationist attitudes. Part of what may have made the six Logan County whites go ape shit and act like a band of Klansmen was that Williams utilized the legal system to resist white dominance.