Halloween Hate Crime: A Ghost of a Story

"Southern California has a million ethnic fault lines, and any one of them can be triggered at anytime," observed veteran Los Angeles civil rights attorney Connie Rice. "The level of violence must be particularly atrocious to get coverage."

Another explanation -- at least when it comes to the attitude of the broadcast media -- is that cases involving minors are very hard to cover when a picture is worth a thousand words.

"When the defendants are minors, they can't be shown on television. You can't get show their faces. You can't re-create it. You can't identify them in any way," explained University of Southern California journalism professor Judy Muller. "That's a hard story for television to tell."

But social and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson sees something more significant: "Black violence against whites can't match the scale and history of white beatings and killings and intimidation, but that still does not cancel out, let alone justify kid-glove treatment and silence when blacks are the perpetrators and whites are the victims."

According to the Department of Justice, while whites still commit the majority of hate or bias crimes, attacks by blacks account for 20 percent of the reported offenses.

"When racism is manifested among minority groups, I think it is an interesting story," said Muller, a former ABC News correspondent "But it is not always a story people want to touch because it is delicate. But if we aren't capable of saying, yes, this is racism -- even in if it is black on white racism -- then we've lost our ability to tell the truth."

The trial is expected to last at least another week. If found guilty, the young suspects could face sentences ranging from simple probation to confinement at the California Youth Authority until they're 25 years old. Long Beach is a prosperous and racially diverse port city of about 490,000 residents. Whites make up about 45 percent of the population, Latinos about 30 percent, blacks approximately 15 percent and Asians 10 percent.

Kevin O'Grady of Orange County's Anti-Defamation League, said that away from the headlines, multiracial community groups have begun meeting in the wake of disturbing events of that Halloween night. "If anything good can come of this, it is a dialogue about race and race relations," said O'Grady, "and the condition of them."

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