A Nightmare in New Hampshire

They might as well have been shouting “You will not replace us!”

State authorities in New Hampshire are investigating a possible hate crime after a family reported that their 8-year-old boy was pushed by teenagers off a picnic table with a rope around his neck, injuring him. The boy, who is biracial, was treated in the hospital and released, the police said.

The attack occurred Aug. 28 in Claremont, a city of about 13,000 in the western part of the state, and came to light after the boy’s mother, Cassandra Merlin, posted a photograph of her son’s bloodied neck and a statement about it on her Facebook page. “It truly saddens me that even in a city so small, racism exists,” she wrote.

Ms. Merlin could not be reached for comment. She and other relatives told news outlets that their understanding of events came from the boy and his 11-year-old sister, and that there were no adults present at the time.

The boy’s grandmother, Lorrie Slattery, told Valley News, a New Hampshire newspaper, that he and others were playing in a yard in their neighborhood when the teenagers, who are white, started calling the boy racial epithets and throwing sticks and rocks at his legs.

Ms. Merlin, the boy’s mother, said in an interview with The Root that one attacker used a dangling rope that had held a tire swing. “The older boys had put the ropes around their necks,” she said, adding that they then told her son it was his turn. She said her son “got up on the table and put the rope around his neck, and another kid came up from behind him and pushed him off of the picnic table. And they walked away and left him there hanging.”

Ms. Merlin said the boy’s sister screamed for help and described her brother kicking his feet, grabbing at his neck and turning purple before dropping to the ground.

Something tells me the parents of the suspects in this case didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton.

Speaking of Clinton, one can acknowledge the controversy and sensitivity surrounding her use of the term in the 1990s while recognizing that anyone sociopathic enough to attempt to lynch an eight-year-old child because of the color of his skin more than warrants being characterized as a “superpredator.” This was an act of unfathomable evil, every bit as morally depraved as the murder of Emmett Till in 1955.

Next year will mark the twentieth anniversary of the lynching of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas. Back in 1998, Americans of all political stripes were horrified by Byrd’s slaughter; Byrd’s death shocked the consciences of Americans who thought that our society had embraced the idea that black lives matter a generation ago. Two decades later, with political tribalism far worse than it was during Fox News Channel’s infancy, one wonders how many folks on the right saw this New Hampshire story and immediately assumed it was being blown out of proportion by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

We know that this innocent child will never be the same. He is psychologically wounded for life. How could he not be after this experience?

If I were the New Hampshire prosecutor handling this case, I would absolutely push to have the suspects tried as adults–and I would push for the longest possible sentence. Hate of this nature simply cannot be rehabilitated. Those who attempted to murder a child based on his race do not warrant a second chance to contribute to society. They are menaces to society.

There are young sociopaths in our midst, young men who think human life–especially human life in a black or brown or yellow skin–is worth less than a penny. We saw them in march with tiki torches in Charlottesville. We saw them shoot up a black church in Charleston. We saw them hail Donald Trump’s election.

You may feel that the suspects in this case are just misguided teenagers, kids who can be led down the right path, people who can be convinced to change, young men who don’t deserve harsh prosecution. If so, think about this: let’s say these suspects avoid severe punishment for this hate crime. Let’s say they are tried as juveniles, basically get away with near-murder, and have their juvenile records sealed once they turn 21. Let’s say that they conclude that their attempt to kill a biracial kid was no big deal. Then, let’s say that a few years down the road, they actually wind up becoming members of law enforcement. What do you think is going to happen when they pull over a black friend of yours?

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.