The disturbing face of hate on trial - Ed Brock

There's an important back-story to the next "shocking" trial about to get under way in Fort Worth, Texas.

It's the trial of Chante Jawan Mallard, charged with murder after she supposedly hit 37-year-old Gregory Biggs with her car while driving drunk on Oct. 26, 2001, then drove home with Biggs wedged in her windshield, still moaning, and left him in the garage to die.

Of the many disturbing aspects of the case, the one with the widest implications for humanity is the statement Mallard made to some friends that eventually led to her arrest. Apparently the group was looking to appoint a designated driver for the evening when Mallard, giggling, explained why they couldn't use her car.

"I hit this white man," Mallard allegedly said.

The first image that ran through my mind when I read about this remark was one of a group of Good Ol' Boys gathered in some honky-tonk with sawdust on the floor and a spittoon in every corner.

"Yup, I hit me a (racial slur deleted) the other day with my truck and boy did it make a mess."

Then I thought about whether Mallard could be charged with a hate crime if race was really a factor in her decision not to get some help for Biggs, but I don't think so. Apparently she also went in and out of the garage constantly and apologized to Biggs as he begged for help.

What I think generated Mallard's response that night was a desire to ease her guilt. I wonder if her two friends, Clete Deneal Jackson and Herbert Tyrone Cleveland, both of whom have pleaded guilty to helping dispose of Biggs body, fueled that perspective.

"Come on, Chante, you don't want to go to jail for some white man."

But in the end Mallard suffered from that age-old tendency of human beings to demonize and dehumanize those they perceive to be enemies. The movie "Frailty" shows that instinct brought to psychotic point.

The lead character, played by Bill Paxton, receives visions from an angel that directs him to kill "demons" that appear to be regular people. When his oldest son accuses his father of murder, the father defends his actions by pointing out that he "destroys demons," and he appears horribly distraught when circumstances force him to commit what he considers his first murder of a human being.

Demonization of the enemy was common practice in every war we fought until about 30 years ago when psychologists and sociologists began pointing out this unsavory tactic. If you're going to firebomb an entire civilization it's a lot easier if you make that civilization as alien as possible.

That's why it was OK to kill Asians in Japan, Korea and Vietnam. That's why we referred to Germans as "the Huns" in order to make those Caucasians seem less like us.

This is also why the Jews were harassed and slaughtered from the time of the Roman "Diaspora" in which their kingdom was disbanded and the Jewish people were scattered throughout Europe. They were strange, they were outsiders everywhere they went and in their effort to maintain their culture without a homeland they only appeared even more out of place.

This is why the Tutsie hate the Hutu in Rwanda and vice versa. That's why the Israeli army and Ariel Sharon think it's all right to shoot missiles into populated areas in order to take out one target. The innocent bystanders who get killed are just Palestinians and they're all terrorists, anyway.

The same reasoning makes it easier for a suicide bomber to blow themselves up in a marketplace that is crowded with children and mothers, all of whom appear to be merely evil creatures in the eyes of the martyr.

There's even a somewhat benevolent form of the instinct to be found in athletic competition between to rival schools.

At one point most of us have been guilty of generalizing, of categorizing other people in order to justify our personal actions against them, to make ourselves seem more right and to cut ourselves off from the human feelings that our enemies are suffering.

Don't worry about that man bleeding slowly to death in a crushed mass on your dashboard. He's just white, black, homeless, gay, Arab, Jewish or something else unworthy of life to begin with.

Ed Brock covers public safety and municipalities for the News Daily. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or via e-mail at ebrock@news-daily.com.