When the Hoodies Are White: Justice4SharmekaMoffitt

23 Oct

Sharmeka Moffitt

On Sunday evening, Sharmeka Moffitt went to a local park in Winnsboro, Louisiana to “walk a mile and run a mile.” Sometime later, she was approached by three men in “white t-shirt hoodies” who doused her with flammable liquid and set her on fire. For good measure, they scrawled “KKK” and “nigger” on her car. Sharmeka was able to get to a spigot of water, put out the flames, and then call 911 for help. She is now in critical condition with burns to over 60% of her body at the Louisiana State University Medical Center in Shreveport, LA.

As of late Monday evening, the local Louisiana authorities were still vacillating over whether or not to call this a hate crime. Part of their hesitancy stems from the fact that Sharmeka could not definitively identify the race of her attackers. 

The fact that the race of her attackers is being used as a gauge for this hate crime demonstrates the limitations of how we think about race and racism in this country. This Black woman was targeted and subjected to severe and life-threatening bodily injury for sport. Her perpetrators then thought they should punctuate their crime by scrawling hateful racially incendiary messages on her car. What isn’t hateful about that?

And what is with all the shock and bewilderment? Winnsboro, Louisiana is just about 60 miles from Jena, Louisiana, the site of the 2007 Jena 6 incident. I grew up in Ruston, Louisiana, about 75 miles from Winnsboro. As late as the late 1990s, the KKK marched in downtown Ruston, and my classmates bragged during class trips about having relatives who were high ranking officials in the terrorist organization.  Racially incendiary acts are commonplace in this part of the world. (Every damn part of the U.S. world) Like critical race theorists tell us, racism is not an aberration. It is part of the everyday, commonplace fabric of our lives. Before folks start decrying this act as an individual aberration of 3 sick individuals, perhaps we would do well to remember that their acts are symptomatic of the continued persistence of racism in this country.

Racism is like an autoimmune disorder. It attacks the body politic from the inside out, warring against itself, but frequently on the surface, things seem normal and healthy. We are only attuned to the problem when a flare up happens. But to continue to act as though the flare up is the disease is to engage in the most unhealthy and self-defeating form of denial there is. 

Then again, maybe it’s the hoodies. Selective historical amnesia being what it is, perhaps folks have come to believe that only Black men roam in public space under hooded covers threatening to do harm to other citizens.  Our rush into a postracial fantasy makes us too soon forget that white men, particularly rural Southern white men, are experts in terrorizing and policing racial minorities’ access to public space.

Even if it turns out that Sharmeka’s attackers are not white men, we should ask ourselves why her attackers would choose such a powerfully interpretive  historical narrative in which to play out their need to do harm to a Black girl’s body and personhood. Racism has a basic grammar, a set of rules, which we all learn to speak, having been immersed in it our entire lives. In a racist grammar, the subjects know that power is predicated on the ability to exercise violence (of various types) against a direct object, namely an innocent victim who bears the marks of the wrong skin color in the wrong time and place. 

And for all the folks who think Black women don’t use public parks for exercise because we want to maintain our hair styles, let this be an object lesson. Maybe Black women with modest resources who can’t afford to go to the gym  don’t use public parks because those spaces are unsafe. 

As of this point, the coverage of Moffitt’s attack has been minimal. I knew about it only because folks back home were posting info from local news sources. I guess it is left up to social media to convince the world yet again that violence against Black women matters. And I hope Black folks remember, too, that Sharmeka’s life deserves the same energy that we gave to the Jena 6 and to Trayvon Martin. 

Sharmeka, you are not invisible to us. We stand with you in your fight.

You can see updates on her story here.

38 Responses to “When the Hoodies Are White: Justice4SharmekaMoffitt”

  1. kalpal October 23, 2012 at 6:09 AM #

    America’s hooded legacy is rife with white racism and will remain that way. Racism is taught. It does not organically grow spontaneously. Someone thought out this crime and fabricated a plan then went out to commit it. As a rule no one carries flammable fluids along to a park nor do they carry writing instruments used to deface a vehicle unless they intend to caommit murder and mayhem. Both are long time hallmarks of the KKK.

    I suspect that the KKK will now cry victim.

  2. verbalbanter October 23, 2012 at 8:55 AM #


  3. soyluv October 23, 2012 at 9:22 AM #

    Reblogged this on creative commess and commented:
    Powerful read. Don’t sleep on this!

  4. Potter October 23, 2012 at 10:49 AM #

    Having seen people who were openly racist against people “of their own skin color”, this is a load of bullshit.

    • witchsistah October 23, 2012 at 1:49 PM #

      This comment was about as useful as a rusty, iron dildo.

  5. s. mandisa moore October 23, 2012 at 11:48 AM #


    As always, you hit the nail on the head. Thank you for bearing witness and visibilizing her experiences. There is no doubt that Sharmeka (and Marissa Alexander, New Jersey 7, etc, etc) deserves the same energy and dedication as the Jena 6, Trayvon Martin, etc.

    I especially appreciate how you call out the ridiculous of waiting on this violent state (the perpetrator of the most MASSIVE hate crimes) to call this is a hate crime-as if this could be anything but that.

    Sometimes I want to make the t-shirt “black women matter.” and wear it every single day.

    • Jewel October 23, 2012 at 4:26 PM #

      You totes should.

  6. Dorothy Barnes October 23, 2012 at 11:56 AM #

    I pray they pursue this with all their might.

  7. borndiva October 23, 2012 at 2:54 PM #

    Reblogged this on borndiva.

  8. Becca October 23, 2012 at 3:42 PM #

    yo dudes this girl set herself on fire. it wasn’t white people or anyone else, it was her.


    • Paul B October 23, 2012 at 5:20 PM #

      Not so fast Becca – who is to say that it wasn’t the culture of white supremacy underpinning her reasons for harming herself? We need more time and information and apply thoughtful, critical analysis. Though these emerging details do make this case much more complicated, if a person is doing any harm at all, to themselves, to their communities, to their foes, then it means that they have serious needs which have not been met by this fucked up capitalist society we live in that does not care about anything but profit. There can still be important lessons learned here, and I honestly think that this new info does NOT make this piece any less pertinent.

      • David Adams October 23, 2012 at 6:23 PM #

        Paul B, Anytime you give up responsibility for your actions you are giving someone else power. We have to take responsibility for our own problems, our own actions. We have to start meeting our own needs instead of waiting for someone to meet them. Obviously, it’s not gonna happen. Stop the blame game, it doesn’t work and it keeps us in a self imposed bondage. Billy can’t read because Billy’s parents didn’t make sure he knew how to read, not because the system failed him. We have to act like we’re free or we will forever be slaves.

  9. Peter Jenkins October 23, 2012 at 3:47 PM #

    Police are now saying that she lied about being attacked and that she did this to herself. Just as a note.

  10. Jan'et October 23, 2012 at 4:12 PM #

    hate is hate is hate — it should matter not what color the perp is, nor what color the victim is. why can’t people just leave other people alone?

  11. Patricia Gil October 23, 2012 at 4:12 PM #

    My state! Your state? Barbarian terrorists just like Al Queda and the Taliban. This is why I detest any political party, religious institution, etc that spews rhetoric that pits one against the other, no matter what the differences are. My hope is for a speedy recovery for this lovely woman and the speedy arrest and incarceration for life for the individuals who did this.

  12. gravytop October 23, 2012 at 4:16 PM #

    Police are now calling it a hoax perpetrated by the victim. So, what does justice look like in this case?

  13. Suzi October 23, 2012 at 4:21 PM #

    My thoughts and well wishes for Ms. Moffitt along with a raised voice.

  14. Judah October 23, 2012 at 4:21 PM #

    Not to debate the points you make in your post, as they’re valid, but it appears that we may not know the full story, that the burns may have been self-inflicted.


  15. deshaml October 23, 2012 at 4:30 PM #

    It appears this did not happen as she reported. So sad. I hope they get this girl some help.

  16. aboriginalpress October 23, 2012 at 4:53 PM #

    Reblogged this on .

  17. dee October 23, 2012 at 4:56 PM #

    I’m sorry to say, but Sharmeka is a deeply disturbed woman. She needs prayer. Those burns are SELF INFLICTED!

  18. "False" Claim, Trust the Cops? October 23, 2012 at 5:14 PM #

    This is a wonderful post, thanks so much for writing. It should be noted, however (not because we should trust the cops) that the “authorities” are saying the wounds were self-inflicted, and the story made-up… I hope that yall can keep following this story, because whatever the “truth” is, it will require rigorous, radical anti-oppression analysis to understand. Thank you.


  19. crunktastic October 23, 2012 at 5:36 PM #

    Thanks for alerting us to these recent developments. We are putting together a response.


    • James October 23, 2012 at 9:28 PM #

      So, the police are saying she may have done this to herself? Perhaps. But I grew up in North Louisiana and know that local authorities and persons of power can be corrupt or racist and cover up or manipulate incidents. Especially if one of the culprits just happen to be related to them. I am not making accusations, I am just saying that sometimes here in the South, things aren’t exactly the way the authorities say they are.

  20. Aprel B. October 23, 2012 at 9:51 PM #

    Not sure about the details of the case. But to be sure, the paragraph about racism being an autoimmune disorder is so true for this country in general. Racism is not necessarily race specific, continually perpetrated by one race on another. It is usually perpetrated by whoever feels in power or wants to maintain power at that moment. Its essentially a power struggle. But no matter what it is…it harms us all and makes us divide ourselves into man-made color-based factions.

  21. siskinbob October 24, 2012 at 1:18 AM #

    The points in your post are well made. This was a truly horrific incident and it is upsetting to think that anyone could do this to another individual. Worse still that someone can arrive at a mental state where they can do it to themselves. And yet, what I find truly disturbing are some of the comments posted in reply. Especially those who having been alerted to the fact that these injuries were, most likely, self inflicted. Some of the responders still see this as a racist act. Those folks bother me because they can turn any act into one that has a racist bias. And those are the folks that fuel most of the terrorism in the world today.

  22. SoWeTo? October 24, 2012 at 2:32 AM #

    Amandla. It’s hard to “like” this post, so I had to comment. I stand in solidarity with you, I a black woman from South Africa. To Sharmeka love & strength to you sister. Thank you for sharing.

  23. Kim Lee Harveston October 24, 2012 at 5:05 AM #

    I;m sure the black police chief who led the investigation along with FBI who analyzed all the evidence is lying and covering things up…..get over it, she did it to herself for attention…..

  24. penyada October 24, 2012 at 8:19 AM #

    Why would the race of her attackers matter! It’s the KKK sort of infamous for hate crimes. Either way it’s attempted murder!!! When nothing is done about injustice, Eli Weisel rolls over in his grave

  25. penyada October 24, 2012 at 8:21 AM #

    Reblogged this on VIVA Penyada! and commented:
    I couldn’t believe reading this, Eli Weisel is rolling over in his grave and I am disappointed.

  26. Ressurrection October 25, 2012 at 12:44 PM #

    Hi, I’m sure you know that this woman set herself on fire right? I also wanted to share something with you. I was nominated for “Women Who Shine”. I would love to have your support in sharing my nomination on your status so others can vote. If I win, I will get a COVER STORY on Yahoo and will have the opportunity to talk about child sexual abuse prevention and healing. http://shine.yahoo.com/photos/healer-1344925552-slideshow/ressurrection-graves-photo-1350867150.html;_ylt=Ari0T3XY7LynW1Qpc2xyH7UOEnU6;_ylu=X3oDMTNyNHJnMjRzBHBrZwNkZWFlNjA2ZC03YTk3LTM4OWYtYWU4OC01YzY3NmRkZGYzMDEEcG9zAzkzBHNlYwNNZWRpYUNhcm91c2VsUGhvdG9HYWxsZXJ5Q0FYSFIEdmVyAzM3Zjg5M2UyLTFiZTMtMTFlMi04NzhlLWE3YjMyMzJjZGY5ZA–;_ylv=3

  27. Joseph Morales October 28, 2012 at 4:02 PM #

    Mad love for Ms. Moffitt. I can’t believe things liek this are still happening in 2012. Some ppl need to catch up and step out of the cave man years.


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