Trayvon Martin's shooting death at the hands of George Zimmerman sparked one of the most contentious debates about race and America since Rodney King. It has brought more forgotten cases to the fore, and highlighted discrepancies in media coverage and justice. Those who felt George Zimmerman did not do anything wrong have made the uncomfortable point that white victims of black violence have received little attention.
One such example is the case of little Antonio West, also known as Antonio Santiago. He is the 13-month-old baby killed four months ago in a seaside neighborhood in Georgia. Initially, there was public outrage and plenty of media coverage, but that quickly waned once suspects were arrested. His mother claims she took him out for a walk in the stroller when she was confronted by two black teens who then shot her baby in the face and shot her in the leg when she said she had no money.
Now, here's where it gets tricky. Sherry West, Antonio's mother, claims she was alone, and that the father, Louis Santiago, was at a Wal-Mart at the time of the shooting. However, forensic experts discovered gunshot residue on both parents directly after the shooting. Authorities have not released the exact location on the parents' bodies where the residue was found, so it's hard to say if she is being dishonest or truthful.
West's daughter, 21-year-old Ashley Glassey believes her mother might have killed little Antonio for the insurance money. West lost custody of Glassey when she was 8 years old, but reconciled with her as an adult. She believes her mother may be culpable because on the night of the shooting, West allegedly asked Glassey, "How soon do you think life insurance will send me a check?"
Of course, this is all mere speculation, and the two suspects are no angels themselves. De'Marquise Elkins and Dominique Lang are awaiting trial in August. Mayor Pro Tem James Henry Brooks, Sr. was arrested and charged with obstructing justice for attempting to keep police from talking to Elkins' mother, Karima Elkins. Ms. Elkins was also arrested, along with her sister, for allegedly throwing the gun thought to be involved with the shooting in a pond.
Both suspects are under the age of 18, and even though they may be tried as adults in the case, they are not eligible for the death penalty due to their young age. Georgia law does not permit capital punishment for suspects under the age of 18. This has caused an outcry among many people who feel angry about all the attention given to Trayvon Martin while Antonio Santiago's case has been largely forgotten.
In fact, some folks are so angry about that the prosecutor is not seeking the death penalty, they are circulating a chain letter around the Internet. Apparently, they feel the prosecutor chose not to seek the death penalty, and angry white people feel this child's senseless murder is deliberately being ignored because he was not a black child killed by a white man.
Patch writer Sanchez posted a public letter which has since gone viral in email chains and social media. A portion of it reads:
"There is not a white equivalent of Al Sharpton [Unlink] becuase if there was he would be declared a racist, so there is no one rushing to Brunswick, GA to demand justice for me. There is not White Panther party to put a bounty on the lives of those who murdered me."
This argument would be compelling if it were not so fallacious. This is a tired old argument angry Caucasians make when they feel they black people are getting off easy, or when they see a perceived racial injustice against them. On the contrary, the United States' population is more than 70 percent white with African Americans making up barely 14 percent.
This is a nation built on white privilege. It is a nation built upon the backs of slaves, on the land stolen from the First Peoples, and then later, with the blood and sweat of immigrants. Through it all, the white population has grown and multiplied, controlling most forms of government, especially in the South. To this day, African Americans, Hispanics, and other ethnic minorities suffer from overt and subtle racism by the white establishment through political rhetoric, restrictive voting rights, stop and frisk programs (which disproportionally target young black men), and more recently, the reversal of portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
There is no need for a 'White Panther' party because white people are already in charge of most government positions. The fact that the United States has its first black president has only increased incidents of racist acts and rhetoric, with our lawmakers doing everything they can to subvert progress.
Little Antonio Santiago's death was tragic, there is no doubt. The evidence against Elkins and Lang could put them behind bars for a very long time. However, if Ashley Glassey is right, then Sherry West and Louis Santiago should be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, up to and including the death penalty. No one wants a killer to go free, and if the two teenage suspects are innocent, the justice system has the obligation to let them go and find the real killer