By Frederick H. Lowe
Texas has executed John William King for the brutal murder of James Byrd Jr., but I feel like strangling members of Byrd’s family for saying they forgive King, although he never voiced an ounce of regret or sorrow for his brutal crime.
King believed that a white-sheet-wearing audience should have applauded him and welcomed him into the Klu Klux Klan Hall of Fame.
The 44-year-old King, who was executed Wednesday by lethal injection, Lawrence Russell Brewer and Shawn Berry on June 6, 1998, chained James Byrd Jr., to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him for the three miles down a road in Jasper, Texas, until his head, neck, and right arm were severed from his body. Police later found other body parts in 75 locations in the area.
King, Brewer, and Berry took Byrd’s severed head and tossed it in front of a black church to scare the parishioners who would be assembling for Sunday morning services. The three then went to a barbeque.
Prison authorities executed Brewer by lethal injection in 2011, and a judge sentenced Berry to life in prison. He will be eligible for parole in 2038.
A police officer investigating the case also testified that witnesses said King had referenced “The Turner Diaries” after killing Byrd.
King wore several racist tattoos: a lynched black man, Nazi symbols, the words “Aryan Pride,” and the logo for a gang of white supremacist inmates known as the Confederate Knights of America.
Following Brewer’s execution, Betty Boatner, one of Brewer’s sisters, told reporters that she forgave him and her son, Ross, opposed Brewer’s killing, saying “You can’t fight murder with murder.” Renee Mullins, Ross’ sister, said she preferred a life sentence instead of execution for her father’s murderer.
Black people have stood in line to apologize to whites who murder our sons and daughters, sending a message of emasculation for black men. It also encourages blacks to kill other blacks because many of us have been led to believe our lives don’t matter.
On June 17, 2016, Dylann Roof, a then 21 -year-old white supremacist, shot and killed nine black members of Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof never said he was sorry for what he had done, but the victims’ survivors tearfully stood in line to tell the Roof they forgave him.
Is this a form of mental illness by blacks, especially African-American men, to say they forgive a killer who shows no remorse, and if he or she did, does it mean anything at all? Also, what does it say about the role of the black church telling members that Jesus has our backs?
The Byrd family has suffered profoundly, but black families, especially black men, have to rethink the wisdom of turning the other cheek and offering forgiveness.