Looking at the racial killing of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas, the author provides plenty of insight into this brutal dragging death that turned a small East Texas town into a three-ring media circus back in 1998. For starters, I enjoyed learning about the history of Jasper, which fell victim to hard economic times when the bottom fell out of the timber industry. And there was quite a lot I didn't know about both the killers, who seemed to be radicalized in prison, and the victim, who was no saint himself. Unfortunately, when the subject matter shifted to "hate" crimes -- not to be confused with violent crimes committed out of love -- the book really took a nose dive. While this was indeed a horrific murder and the perpetrators deserved the maximum sentence, which in this case was the death penalty, the author fails to inform her readers about the reality of interracial murders in the United States. Contrary to popular belief, an astonishing 90% of these killings are black-on-white, according to FBI and DOJ statistics. But while reading A Death in Texas, you would think that the Byrd slaying was the rule and not the exception. Which of course begs the question that she desperately tries to avoid: why do cases with a black victim and a white perpetrator receive wall-to-wall media analysis while the opposite (see Christian/Newsom, Wichita massacre) which are clearly motivated by hate only get local coverage at best?
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