Sharmeka Moffitt, a 20-year-old black woman, is in critical condition with burns on more than half her body, after she claims she was set on fire Sunday by three men who wrote the initials “KKK” and a racial slur on her car in northeastern Louisiana.
According to the Franklin Parish Sheriff’s Office, law enforcement officers responded to a call around 8 p.m. near the walking trail at Civitan Park to find Moffitt attacked and burned, the Franklin Sun reports.
The Franklin Parish Sheriff’s Office along with Winnsboro police and Louisiana State Police are investigating the attack, but law enforcement officers acknowledged Monday they do not have any suspects in the case. They’re also not calling the incident a crime at this time.
Update 10/23/12 5:37PM EST: According to the Franklin Sun, Winnsboro Police Chief Lester Thomas, evidenced gathered at the scene of the incident shows 20-year-old Sharmeka Moffitt’s initial claims that she was attacked and set on fire turned out to be false claims made up by Moffitt.
Crunk Feminist Collective is reporting authorities have not called the attack a hate crime because “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.
Otis Chisley, the president of the local branch of the NAACP, told the AP that regardless of the investigation’s outcome racism and KKK activity remain a fact of life in the state.
“It’s prevalent throughout Louisiana,” he told the AP. “It’s hidden but it exists.