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The Dragging of James Byrd Jr



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    The amount of racism that still goes on today is sickening. People just can’t get along and too soon it turns into violence. Everyday, people get killed because they’re a certain color that others don’t like. For example, an African-American man got dragged by the back of a truck by three white men just because they hated black people. The black guy was innocent and did nothing wrong but these white men didn’t care. On June 7, 1998, in Jasper, Texas an African-American man named James Byrd, Jr. accepted a ride from three white men. These men were Shawn Berry, Lawrence Brewer, and John King.

    Brewer, the man that was driving, knew Byrd from around town. It all started when these three men were driving around to find a certain party but couldn’t find it so they just kept driving around and drinking beers. When they couldn’t find any girls to chase, somebody got the idea that it might be fun to tie a chain around a mailbox, uproot it, and drag it down the street. It was fun, for a while, but once the mailbox excitement faded and the beer in their cooler started to run low, they wanted to take their fun to another level (King 23). Moments later, these pranksters saw a black man walking in the road, minding his own business.

    So they asked Byrd if he needed a ride and Byrd believed someone would finally help him find the way since he was a little drunk and he got into the truck. Byrd got into the back of the truck and the men offered him some beer so he drank some. King was angry because of Berry’s offer to give a black man a ride. Then King started making very racist announcements and everyone just laughed, but Byrd pretended like he didn’t mind. The guys pulled over at a grocery store called BJ’s Grocery. There was no one around and though it was closed, it was at BJ’s that the events quickly built up to the beginning of the end for James Byrd, Jr. King 24). They drove down an old logging road, a trail that only a few people could find. When they were far down the road, King ordered to stop the truck and Berry stopped the truck. King and Brewer jumped out of the truck and violently pulled at Byrd to tear him from the truck. Byrd was disabled, a chronic arthritis sufferer and he was pretty short so we was in the battle of his life. Byrd fought hard and yelled for help. According to later testimony, Berry tried to make an attempt to stop the attack but King and Brewer continued to attack. After all the pulling, King was agitated and said to just kill Byrd (King 26).

    Once they got Byrd off the truck, they began to beat and kick him as hard as possible. During this, lots of evidence fell on the ground such as a Zippo lighter with the word “Possum” and “KKK” engraved on it as well as a brand-new baseball cap. These things were on the ground joined by beer bottles, a partially empty pack of Marlboro Reds, cigarette butts, and a nut wrench with “Berry” scratched onto it. This was all easy evidence for the state’s prosecution (King 27). Byrd was continuously beaten and kicked with very hard hits on his body and head; there were too many blows to count.

    Brewer then sprayed his face with black spray paint which causes Byrd to be unable to see. The hardest kick of all, straight to Byrd’s head, made him stop fighting and he dropped. Then, the guys pulled out a used, rusty log chain from their truck. They wrapped the chain around Byrd’s ankles and attached the other end to the truck. All three men jumped back in the truck and were prepared to drag a man while he was still alive (King 27). As Byrd was being dragged, he could feel every single weed, every little piece of grass and dirt, and every inch of asphalt.

    The dragging began on the logging road (King 28). Byrd’s body slipped from the chain so they slammed on the brakes to recover Byrd. But the driver backed up too far, too fast, possibly running over Byrd’s body and they just laughed about it. As he was being dragged farther, his body was dragged through rocks, dirt, tree branches and trash. Byrd tried to hold his head up off of the road but when he was flying from one side of the road to the other, he hit a culvert that decapitated him which happened in front of a church that the black people went to every Sunday.

    They continued to drag his headless body. Parts were torn from his body. They fell by the side and along the road. His head was also about a mile ripped from the lower torso. What was left of his body was taken near a small black cemetery where people witnessed this terrible deed. His body sent a message to everyone: You could be next (King 29)! It was Sunday morning and the area was filled with people who normally attended the church. Death’s path of three miles was there for all to see. People, mostly black people, had to walk this way.

    They lived here and had witnessed this kind of hatred before. But Byrd’s death made a difference. Because of his death, Obama signed the Matthew Shepard Act bill into law which provides grants and law enforcement assistance to local governments to prevent hate crimes based on victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity. The Matthew Shepard Law also expanded the 1969 United Stated Federal Hate-Crime Law to include crimes motivated by a victims’ sexual orientation, gender or disability (“James Byrd”).

    What encouraged this hate was that Brewer and King were in a white supremacist organization, the dragged King Byrd intending to promote their organization. Brewer was also a former “Exalted Cyclops” of a racist prison gang affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan (“Death Penalty”). Racist people think they need to be racist because their families are racist against the same kind. I disagree with this because it’s not fair to hate on innocent people who probably haven’t done anything to offend other races. Hate crimes happen all the time and now it’s time to put a stop to it.

    The Dragging of James Byrd Jr. (2016, Nov 27). Retrieved from

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