Joshua Chellew Who?

Victim of Black Gang Is Posthumous Right-wing Propaganda Tool

This Example of Rightwing Intellectual Dishonesty Starts With a Death

The story began, according to news reports and arrest warrants, after 1 a.m. on Sunday, June 30, when Joshua Chellew, 36, an unmarried, redheaded white man stopped at a Chevron station in Mableton, Georgia, where he lives. According to the 19-year-old woman who was waiting in Chellew’s car, he went into the gas station to get something. When he came out he met up with four young black men, ages 18 and 19, the witness said:

“He was coming outside of the store talking to himself like he always does and one of them asked him what he was talking about…. I don’t know them and have never seen them before…. They were hanging out by the gas station, getting gas.”

Whatever was said, the four young black men attacked Chellew, hitting him with their fists but not weapons, driving him into the five-lane road, where he fell, apparently unconscious, into a traffic lane. The four men left him there and, moments later, a car hit him and drove on.

The young woman who was waiting for Chellew said the entire incident took less than two minutes. She said that when she went to him, “He was unconscious after he got hit by the car and he was taking his last breath when I got to him…. He was a good person, one of them funny, outgoing kind of people.”

Attackers Arrested and Jailed Within Three Days

After police arrived, Chellew was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. That Sunday afternoon the first police press release described the event as “a pedestrian struck by a vehicle” and killed. The release mentioned the missing driver, but not the four men.

By 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, July 2, police had three of four suspects in custody. The fourth turned himself in soon thereafter. The hit-an-run driver also turned himself in and was not charged. The four suspects, also all from Mableton, are being held without bail on charges that include Violation of the Georgia Street Gang Act, Aggravated Assault, and Felony Murder.

The Marietta Daily Journal reported the Sunday morning attack and the arrests the next day, Wednesday, July 3. The case remained “active and ongoing” as of July 22, according to the Cobb County Police Dept.

Also on July 3 the local NBC-TV station talked to Chellew’s aunt, Cindy Standard, who described him as a sweet man who worked in landscaping and liked to write music and never hurt anyone. She said, “He was a beautiful person who had a lot of life to live and he didn’t deserve that. Nobody deserves that.”

Police said little about the teenage suspects other than that they were likely members of the Re-up gang and had been arrested before for gang activities.

So Why Do Some Compare This to The Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin Case?

On July 16, Reader Supported News ran my piece “United States of Zimmerman” that was a critique of aspects of the trial of George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. That same day, a reader calling himself JackB posted this comment on my piece, reproduced here in full to make clear how political and ideological this right-wing cliché is:

You have to understand there are only white racists. Even people like Sharpton & Jackson who are best described as being professional racists since that is how they make their living – they are not racists. They are liberals & it is an immutable law of nature that liberals are never racists. At least that is how they describe themselves.

Google Joshua Heath Chellew. He was a white man killed last month in Georgia by four black teenagers. What do you think the chances are that:
– Obama will think at least one thug could have been his son if he had one?
– That Holder will start an investigation into the crime or call it a hate crime?
– That there will be a media circus over the crime (or even coverage)?
– That Jackson & Sharpton will be marching for justice.
– That there will be groups of white liberal demonstrators marching for “justice”?
– That RSN will have an article supporting those demanding “justice”?
– That the “Thumbs Down” folk on the board will go all righteous & sanctimonious demanding “justice”. The can recycle all these posts – just change the names?
I think the chances are a number between zero & none.

How Many Black Men Does It Take For a White Racist to See a “Mob”?

While ignoring the sarcasm, spite, and inaccuracies of the first paragraph, it has in common with the rest of the post a parrot-like quality that started turning up on rightwing websites with no purpose more apparent than inciting hatred for dark-skinned people. As early as July 8, Examiner.Com was pitching the event as a “black-on-white hate crime attack” while making several other errors in the text, where four attackers became “a mob.”

That sort of dishonest exaggeration is needed to justify the claim that people like JackB make: that the media are somehow at fault for not giving more coverage to what is, so far, a crime story in which the most unusual feature is a hit-and-run driver who’s not charged with anything. Like JackB’s opening, the Daily Caller of July 12 mockingly titles a piece “Warning: This Post is Racist” and begins: “Who’s Joshua Chellew? The fact that you don’t know his name is the whole point. But that’s not your fault.”

The fault, say Daily Caller, JackB, and their ilk, belongs to the national media. But right-wing parrots don’t even attempt to offer context, much less understanding. There were 42 gun deaths in America on June 30, according to Slate, which names none of them. Death in America is too common to make national news. Who knows the names of any of those 42 who died by gunshot on the same day Joshua Chellew was beaten, run over, and died?

Will Black People Never Stop Lynching Whites?

The only reason the right has talking points about Chellew now is because he provides a handy opportunity to make racist political points. These people don’t tell us about the man himself, the human being, that’s left to the local paper. For the right, Chellew is a useful white cipher for beating black people. Top Conservative News says of the Chellew case, “If the races had been reversed, this would be the biggest news story in the United States….”

Think about that for a moment. Top Conservative News is suggesting that four white men killing a black man is unusual enough to be big news. Really.

The anonymous blog UrbanBaby makes several errors of fact about the event, but assures us with remarkable certainty that: Joshua Chellew was killed because he was a white man. Its [sic] that simple.”

That is simple indeed, but to get there the right needs to distort the event, even in its current, skeletal form. The distortion takes the form of oversimplification, as above, as well as omission to fit the agenda:

• omitted is any explanation for what started the beating – not that the beating is excusable, but there’s no evidence it had more to do with race than drugs, gambling, debt, or any other speculation.

• omitted is the precise cause of death – charged with felony murder, the four suspects may not have killed Chellew.

• omitted is that still unidentified hit-and-run driver, who may or may not have provided the immediate cause of death.

Turning Racism Inside-Out Doesn’t Make It Any Less Racism

The right reduces Chellew’s death to a simplistic racist killing without knowing the race of the gas station attendant or the girl in the car, neither of whom managed to help Chellew in time. They don’t know the race of the driver who hit Chellew, or of any of the police and medical responders. And they don’t know what relationship Chellew had with any of these people, if any. All the right wants is a real white victim, it’s happy to invent the rest.

Facts don’t matter. What matters is promoting the fear of ethnic crime against white people. As GOPUSA asks about the Zimmerman case, “Would this have even been a national story if the perp was black and the victim was white? Of course not.” GOPUSA then uses the Chellew case and two others, featuring an illegal alien and a South American Indian, to illustrate how preyed upon whites are.

Rush Limbaugh told the Chellew story on July 15, reading from the Marietta Daily Journal. He pointed out that: “They published a picture of Joshua Chellew, and he’s a redheaded white guy. And then they published pictures of the four people that beat him up, killed him, and they are black. And so these stories… They just don’t get reported. Black-on-white crime like this, or black-on-black crime, doesn’t get reported. Like in Chicago.”

Rush has the racist meme down pat, even if he rushes to judgment about who “killed him (Chellew).”

Yes, 30,000 Parrot-Heads Can Be Wrong

Google Joshua Heath Chellew, as JackB suggested and you will find this politically pointed version of the Chellew case repeated over and over by fellow travelers on the right. They don’t care that it’s incomplete, and at least partly wrong. It looks like a black-on-white racial crime, so they call it one – even though the local police disagree.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of July 12 reported: “The deadly assault of a Mableton man has become a national story, at least online, with several web sites and blogs claiming Joshua Chellew was killed because he was white” – even though Cobb County Police Sgt. Dana Pierce says the crime was not racially motivated but probably gang-related.

The Atlanta paper, a major regional if not national media outlet, added: “But not everyone is convinced. A Google search on Chellew’s name produces about 31,200 results, most of which focus on race and an alleged cover-up by local media outlets.”

As for the Zimmerman case, there’s little comparison:

• In the Chellew homicide, suspects were arrested promptly; Zimmerman, who admitted to the killing, was not arrested for more than 40 days.

• In this homicide there is already a national publicity effort by a dedicated corps of partisans; in the Zimmerman case, coverage developed more slowly, and then only because there were no charges against the admitted killer.

• In this homicide the authorities appear to be doing their job; in the Zimmerman case, authorities including the police, coroner, state attorney, and jury failed in a variety of aspects of their jobs.

• In this homicide, the case is fresh and still under investigation, which makes comparison to a case that’s had a jury verdict meaningless at best, dishonest and manipulative at worst.

JackB and friends carry on about “justice,” without ever saying what they mean. What “justice” is missing here? Justice is a function of the legal system (in theory) and so far the legal system in Georgia appears to be on a path of justice (except, perhaps, for the hit-and-run driver). Calls for “justice” in this case would be about what? Probably not the driver.

These calls for “justice,” framed as mockingly as they are, have no substantive meaning. They are fundamentally dishonest in denying centuries of actual injustice perpetrated by white people against the whole range of people of color. The way JackB uses “justice” it’s just a coded style of race-baiting.

This is probably not what JackB had in mind for an RSN article supporting those demanding justice. But that’s what it is.

UPDATE: As of the morning of August 16, the four accused remain in the custody of the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office at the 2,100-bed Cobb County Adult Detention Centre in Marietta, Georgia.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. A collection of his essays, EXCEPTIONAL: American Exceptionalism Takes Its Toll (2019) is available from Yorkland Publishing of Toronto or Amazon. This article was first published in Reader Supported News. Read other articles by William.