July 10, 2007

Tragic end for Texas hate crime victim

David Ritcheson was a popular 16-year-old at his Houston high school. He played football and was featured in a fashion layout in the school yearbook.

Then, last April, the young Mexican-American made the mistake of attending a party at which racist skinheads were present.

Ostensibly because Ritcheson had drunkenly tried to kiss a 12-year-old girl, two white supremacists shouting “White Power!” viciously beat and sodomized him with the pipe of a plastic umbrella stand. The attack lasted over an hour. Ritcheson was knocked unconscious and internally injured. He barely survived.

After months of hospitalization and dozens of surgeries, he physically recovered enough to testify before a Congressional committee in support of a hate crimes bill.

But psychologically, he never recovered. He declined counseling, and he never talked about his experience. In an interview earlier this year, he said it was hard to handle being known as “the kid” – the victim of an infamous hate crime.

Last week, the small, quiet young man leapt to his death from a cruise ship.

His attackers, David Tuck and Keith Turner, are serving prison terms of life and 90 years, respectively.

For more on the psychosocial motivations underlying these types of crimes, see my article, "Enacting Masculinity."

Hat tip to Jane for alerting me to this report.