A racially motivated murder this summer in New York state is a reminder that hate is an equal opportunity employer.
Gripping a steak knife as he crouched in a parking garage stairwell, Phillip Grant was on a mission. Grant was determined to start a race war, and his devotion to his cause was such that he lurked in his hiding place for hours, watching and waiting for the right kind of victim to cross his path.
But Phillip Grant was a different kind of race warrior.
"The first person I see in this mall that looks white I'm killing," Grant, who is black, said in a videotaped confession that shocked the community of White Plains, N.Y., this summer. "As long as she has blond hair and blue eyes, she was going to die." The woman he allegedly murdered on June 29 would have been the first of many, Grant boasted, if police hadn't caught him so quickly.
As news spread of the slaying of Concetta Russo-Carriero — and the motivation behind it — the town of White Plains was outraged. The crime even drew commentary from black firebrand Rev. Al Sharpton, who called Grant's targeting of whites "a sick and racist mentality that cannot be tolerated in our society." At the same time, Sharpton also condemned a recent white-on-black attack in Howard Beach, N.Y., reminding his listeners that "whether the assailants are white, black or Latino, none of us is safe unless all of us are safe."
Sharpton had a point.
"People are surprised and even shocked to learn that minority Americans, especially black Americans, who have suffered such profound discrimination, would actually commit hate crimes against whites," said Jack Levin, director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University and co-author of Why We Hate. But according to an analysis of 2003 hate crime statistics — the latest of the admittedly shaky state hate crime statistics that are compiled annually by the FBI — blacks are actually slightly more likely to lash out against whites for reasons of race than the reverse, Levin said.
Of course, white supremacists like American Renaissance Editor Jared Taylor and former Klan leader David Duke routinely claim that blacks commit vastly more hate crimes than whites. And they are wrong. Taylor, Duke and the others typically describe all violent black-on-white crimes as hate crimes — a gross statistical error, as most crimes have quite different motives. But it is a fact that members of all ethnic groups commit hate crimes.
"In every group there are hate-mongers, ethnocentricity and bigotry," Levin said. "Whites don't have the monopoly."
From the Zebra killings in San Francisco in the 1970s, when radical black Muslims kidnapped, raped, robbed and murdered 23 white victims, to Colin Ferguson's 1993 rampage on a Long Island commuter train in which 25 people were shot and six died, to Grant's solitary victim in White Plains, there are plenty of black-on-white crimes that appear to be motivated by race hate.
In the White Plains case, Grant had been released from prison in 2003, after serving the maximum 23-year sentence for raping three women at knifepoint in 1979. During his imprisonment, he attacked another inmate with a pitchfork and was denied parole nine times before finally regaining his freedom.
Grant claims that white men raped his mother when he was a child and that every white he befriended over the years turned out to be racist at heart. "There are a lot of white people that really need to die," he allegedly told police. "I don't give a fuck what public opinion is about that. ... These people are sick, and they are getting away with it."
Grant was arrested four minutes after police discovered Concetta Russo-Carriero bleeding and clinging tenuously to life in a municipal parking garage next to a mall in White Plains. The 56-year-old receptionist and mother of two had been on her way to her car after lunch. Her two sons told reporters she had been so afraid of crime that she refused to watch murder movies. The terror she must have felt in her final moments haunts them, they said.
Grant told police that he was angered when Carriero-Russo opened her car door quickly. He said he grabbed her by the arm, holding the blade of the steak knife to her throat. Carriero Russo didn't scream when Grant stabbed her twice in the chest, then took off running. She died from her wounds less than an hour later.
Grant was indicted in July on charges of second-degree murder with a hate crime penalty enhancement. The hate crime designation would add five years to his minimum sentence if he is convicted. It is the first time New York's hate crime statute has been used in a murder case since its enactment in 2000.
Grant expressed no remorse, except to lament that his race war had only one white casualty. "My only regret is that I don't know anything about biological weapons," Grant said.