Many Americans seem to only remember one of the two namesakes of the 2009 federal hate-crime bill signed into law by President Obama: Matthew Shepard. Similarly, many Americans also seem to only remember the bill as the Matthew Shepard Act. However, this abbreviated mention conveniently leaves out the other person for whom the act is named: James Byrd Jr.
Shepard was a white, gay college student who was brutally assaulted by two homophobes near Laramie, Wyoming, and died six days following the heartrending attack. His death now haunts our collective consciousness, reminding us that hate against LGBT people might surely mean death.
James Byrd Jr., on the other hand, was a Black man from Texas. Byrd was ruthlessly murdered by three men, two of whom identified as white supremacists. His ankles were chained to the back of a pickup truck, and he was dragged approximately three miles along an asphalt road in Jasper, Texas. In the process, his head and right arm were severed from his body. His torso was eventually left in front of a cemetery that mostly contained the bodies of other Black people. Whereas Shepard was murdered because of his perceived sexual identity, Byrd was killed because he was Black.
Read the rest on Huffington Post….