The uncomfortable silence surrounding Ray Widstrand

Widstrand was set upon by the youths, who beat him into a bloody state of unconsciousness and stripped off his pants. Widstrand was hospitalized with potentially fatal brain swelling and needed to be placed in a medically induced coma; he is currently in stable but critical condition. There is a strong possibility that Widstrand will suffer permanent brain damage as a result of the crime.

The attack on Widstrand, and the subsequent arrest of four alleged assailants, received no coverage in any national media outlet – no mean feat, considering the outrageous and excessive nature of the incident. Within the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, there has been some media attention about what occurred. However, the coverage of the crime failed to mention a somewhat crucial aspect of the crime: Widstrand is white and all of the gang members that nearly killed him are African American.

Why is this important? Well, lest we forget the aftermath of the recent trial of George Zimmerman in connection to the death of Trayvon Martin, there was a great deal of talk in the media about having a “conversation” on race relations. Even President Obama weighed in on the Martin case following the acquittal of Zimmerman by a trial jury, a rare instance where he waded into racially charged waters to discuss the problems faced by young African American men in today’s society.

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The hue and cry that was raised over the death of Martin and the subsequent prosecution of Zimmerman trafficked in the belief that Martin’s death was an act of undiluted racism. As a result, an isolated crime in a small Florida city was ballooned into an international story that monopolized news broadcasts and Internet sites.

But now, a white person is the near-fatal victim of an African American mob, and no one in the media wants to talk about the racial aspects of the crime. There are no media-based calls to spark a “conversation” on race in relation to the assault on Widstrand. Indeed, the race of the attackers and their victim is absent from all coverage of the incident. Independent bloggers have called attention to the media’s silence on the racial demographics of this crime, but their impact is limited to the relatively small readerships that stumble over their websites.

In fairness, the media is not alone in its silence. The attack on Widstrand took place two blocks from a local police precinct. The police have specifically not ruled the attack as a hate crime, although no other reason for the assault has been put forward. And, to date, no elected official in the Twin Cities or Minnesota’s state government has made any public comment on this crime.

Why are the racial elements of this story being ignored and omitted? Perhaps it is because that Americans are not capable of addressing the complex and problematic nature of racially motivated crimes.

If anything worthwhile can arise from this tragic incident, it could be a long overdue expression of truth:  Hate crimes are not the exclusive domain of one race against another, and there will be no genuine maturity in solving the problems of racial divides until we come to acknowledge this very obvious fact.

Hall is the publisher and editor of Business-Superstar.com.