James Jackson, a white 28-year old racist from Baltimore, confessed to traveling to New York City with a plan to specifically kill black men. In a mission to deter interracial relationships and gain greater media attention, the Army veteran, prowled the streets of Midtown Manhattan. With total presence of mind and armed with a sword and 2 smaller knives, Jackson randomly targeted and repeatedly stabbed a 66-year-old black man, Timothy Caughman. He told the newspaper his aim was to force women in interracial relationships to reconsider, hoping to make white women think: “Well, if that guy feels so strongly about it, maybe I shouldn’t do it.”
“I had been thinking about it for a long time, for the past couple of years,” he confessed. He complained about the white race “being eroded” reportedly saying, “it’s like every other commercial [on television] in the past few years has a mixed-race couple in it.” Jackson admitted he “hates black men,” but would rather have killed “a young thug” or “a successful older black man with blondes. These younger guys that put white girls on the wrong path … people you see in Midtown.” Jackson, who was raised in what was described as a churchgoing, liberal family in a Baltimore suburb, said his ideal society is “1950s America.”
In a mission to deter interracial relationships and gain greater media attention, the Army veteran, prowled the streets of Midtown Manhattan.
After plunging a 2-foot blade into Caughman’s chest and killing him, Jackson’s murderous ambition diminished. “I’m sorry I killed that man. It was pitch black, I picked a dark place. I didn’t know he was elderly.” Upon completing his plan, he allegedly “got depressed … saw it was too late. It’s irreversible,” Jackson said, adding, “I figured I would end up getting shot by police, kill myself, or end up in jail.”
The victim was approached from behind, as he was standing alone and collecting bottles for recycling at a trash bin near his home last week. He was brutally attacked with a sword, staggered into a police station and later died at a hospital. Mr. Caughman, who grew up in Queens, was remembered as a gentleman, a celebrity autograph enthusiast and an overall good neighbor. Childhood friends of his attended the hearing and said he was a kind man who didn’t deserve the brutality. “Tim Caughman did not deserve to die like that,” said Portia Clark. “Nobody does. I mean, come on, we’re black, white, yellow, brown — that’s ridiculous. We’re trying to get along.”
District Attorney Cy Vance said in his statement Monday that the alleged killer chose Midtown Manhattan for his scene of the crime because New York was a city where “people of different races live together and love one another. We must never take for granted New York’s remarkable diversity. We must celebrate it, protect it, and refuse to let violence and hate undermine the progress we have made as a city, a state, and a nation.”
“Tim Caughman did not deserve to die like that…Nobody does. I mean, come on, we’re black, white, yellow, brown — that’s ridiculous. We’re trying to get along.”
Prosecutors say this was a hate crime and “most likely an act of terrorism.” Jackson is charged with murder as a hate crime and faces life in prison without parole if convicted of the charges filed by the city’s district attorney’s office. In addition to the terrorist charge, he faces illegal weapons possession charges. We should also think of it as a lynching, the latest episode in an American form of racial violence that stretches back to the 19th century. By understanding Caughman’s murder as a lynching, we gain clarity into how racial violence is more than hate—how it’s meant to enforce racial caste by making an example of violators, or anyone who might be a violator. And in turn, we can use today’s context to help understand the past and gain insight into how it felt for black Americans at the time. To call Jackson’s professed attack an act of terrorism is also to recontextualize the age of lynching as an earlier age of terrorism, forgotten by most, but whose scars still linger in the memory of black America.
While the President has called out specific terror attacks abroad by Muslim extremists, he’s been largely silent about the surge in hate crimes in the U.S., except to say he condemns racism and hate crimes generally. In response to Jackson’s arrest, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito issued a statement connecting the racially motivated murder to an atmosphere of hate enabled and encouraged by President Donald Trump’s election:
In the two months since the President has taken office, hate crimes in New York City – and across the country – have skyrocketed. The repulsive rhetoric and polarizing actions that have come out of this Presidential Administration are appalling and have only served to empower the ugly underbelly of racism that still exists in our country. The arrest of James Harris Jackson, a white supremacist who reportedly traveled to New York City intent on ‘murdering black people’ is deeply disturbing and indicative of a greater divide in our country which Donald Trump has only made worse. There is simply no place for hate or intolerance in our City. The Council will continue to work around the clock in close partnership with the NYPD, public safety officials and the Administration as we keep New York City safe, welcoming and secure for all those who live here.
White rage somehow seems to repeatedly lead to fallen black bodies and unfortunately this heightened white supremacist climate will only get worse before it gets better. Stay strong, stay alert & stay safe, especially our brothers.