Racists sense the sea change working its way through American society, and they are striking back in their usual stupid, brutish, half-sensate way. We could write stories two or three times daily of some white guy screaming about wearing a mask in Costco, or some white couple berating a black man for writing “Black Lives Matter” on his own property, or some pissed-off white guy going on a racial tantrum and taking a bike chain to a young black man, or a crazed racist pulling a gun on a black family (after apparently hitting one of them with her car), or so many others.
They know the near-limitless amount of privilege they enjoy as white Americans is slowly being dismantled around them, piece by tiny piece. And they don’t like it.
So, like any other fear-driven, hate-maddened gaggle of idiots, they are reacting with violence. Like this one in Stonington, Connecticut, where two of them tried to kill a black hotel clerk because…wait for it…their hot water didn’t work.
Here’s why this is important, aside from the bleak fact that two white people attacked a lone black woman for no reason. In days passed — like, say, January — they would have felt warm and protected inside their iron shield of white privilege. So they would have felt perfectly free to storm the hotel desk, call her racial slurs, demand their money back, whatever they felt like doing, because it’s how they felt free to act every single day of their lives.
I am thoroughly convinced that the Karens and Kyles of our society go out to eat, or go shopping, or whatever, with only one eye on buying that cute new set of deck chairs or chowing down on the shrimp ceviche at the local ethnic eatery, and the other eye on finding an opportunity to belittle and berate someone of lower class stature. Double points if the waitress you’re trying to make cry is black or brown. Triple word score if the employee you’re spitting on doesn’t speak English very well.
Then came the COVID-19 virus and suddenly they were facing weeks or months of self-isolation. Few to no opportunities to find and tongue-lash a Keisha or a Carlos. What fun is life without a daily affirmation of the white privilege which, let’s face it, makes their lives worth living?
Then comes the George Floyd murder, and all of those other people took to the streets, daring to protest because one of the sacred enforcers of white privilege actually used his privilege to kill one of the serfs. Who did they think they are?
After that, things started falling apart. Videos went viral. Behavior that would have been applauded at the weekly luncheons celebrating the shared privilege of the Chosen People were suddenly causing Their People to lose their jobs and sometimes even face criminal charges.
It went further. They started having statures honoring Their People pulled down. The flag they co-opted from the sad sacks of the Confederacy to honor the real “Lost Cause” — limitless white domination — was being taken down all over the country, from NASCAR refusing to allow them to be flown in the stands to having it removed from the Mississippi State Flag.
Not that the Chosen People of, say, Massachusetts, Colorado or California ever actually wanted to spend five minutes in the shithole country of Mississippi, but it was nice to know that in some places in the United States, the flag of white dominion flew high every goddamned day.
Hell, if the Chosen People don’t step lively, they’re gonna have a black woman in the White House.
Things are changing, and not in their favor. So they’re reacting as they always do — with insensate, murderous violence.
Back to the motel. On June 26, Crystal (or Chrystal) Caldwell, 59, was working at the front desk of a Quality Inn in Stonington, just outside of Mystic, Connecticut, when an irate white man, Philip Sarner, called the desk to scream about his room not having hot water. Caldwell, being professional and civilized, offered to switch them to another room or send someone to fix it. But, like most of his ilk, Sarner didn’t want a solution. He wanted an opportunity to light into one of the lower races.
Instead of accepting either offer, he began berating her and said he was going to send his girlfriend down to “kick her ass.” Caldwell hung the phone up.
Sarner himself came storming up to the desk minutes later. Caldwell alerted the general manager and executive housekeeper. Sarner refused to listen, and instead attacked Caldwell, leaping over the desk and punching her in the head, causing multiple injuries to her head and especially her eye.
Sarner called her an “old monkey” while beating her, Caldwell later said.
This is UNACCEPTABLE. Call Stonington Police at (860) 559-4411 and demand that they arrest and charge this white couple who beat Chrystal Caldwell and had the audacity to say that her black life doesn’t matter. Hold Stonington police accountable. #JusticeForChrystalCaldwell pic.twitter.com/yKSEh5ifbR
— Ariana (@arianastanb) June 30, 2020
The police were called. Here’s where Sarner’s white privilege got a temporary boost. The police asked Caldwell to wait in the employee lounge while the police reviewed video footage. Caldwell was told to stay in the lounge. Sarner was not restricted from doing anything. Roll that around your tongue for a moment.
Caldwell, whose face was swelling from the beating Sarner inflicted on her, went to get some ice for her face. Sarner and his girlfriend, Emily Orbay, who were lurking around the lounge, saw her and pounced. They slammed her against the wall, knocked her on the floor, and began kicking and stomping her. Sarner tried to stomp her face — attempted murder, in my view — but she was able to dodge the blow.
Caldwell later said both of them hammered her with racial slurs as well as punches and kicks, with one saying: “Black Lives Matter? Your life doesn’t matter, you don’t deserve to live on this earth.”
A news report with clips from the motel video is here:
— ????King .???? (@AtlKing83) July 4, 2020
A longer, less edited video of the attack is embedded on this site. It is short but brutal. Remember: this is the second time they attacked her, and this attack occurred with the police still in the building.
An ambulance took Caldwell to a local health clinic, where she was diagnosed with injuries to her back, ribs, wrist, head and eye. As for Sarner and Orbay? They were allowed to go to a hospital to have their own injuries treated (what injuries, precisely?) and then…leave without charge. (Video surveillance later showed them arriving at the hotel via Lyft, getting in their car, and leaving the hotel.)
Here’s where Their People found out that the world was indeed changing.
It’s not clear that the Stonington Police would have done anything more than discreetly high-fived Sarner and Orbay if things had taken their usual course. Instead, on June 29, protesters gathered outside the Stonington Police Department to demand justice for Caldwell. They demanded the police arrest Sarner and Orbay — whose names had not then been made public — and charge them with felony hate crimes. They also demanded to know why the two had been allowed to leave without being arrested and charged. They demanded the 911 calls associated with the attack be released as well as surveillance video from the Quality Inn.
Caldwell’s nephew received a message on Facebook by someone calling herself Keli Arias, saying that she and her boyfriend were the ones who called the police, and threatening Rawls and Caldwell with further police action: “their coming to make a report about u monkeys again. Dont get shot. Enjoy ur ghetto news I know the old bitch wants to feel important.”
Apparently Orbay (who may well have been using the name “Keli Arias” on Facebook) also sent a message to the local news station claiming Caldwell attacked then, and that Caldwell’s “case would unravel in court.”
The Stonington Police apparently lied to the press, telling them that they fully intended to arrest Sarner at the hospital, but the hospital staff asked them not to enter the building due to COVID-19 restrictions. According to the police, they later called Sarner in New York to say he would be charged, and he apparently cursed them out and hung up. Captain Todd Olson said: “We have every intent of arresting him. …We reached out to the [Black Lives Matter] organization so they have the correct information, and we understand their concerns as well.”
The police did not interview Caldwell until June 30. They also minimized and disputed Caldwell’s version of events, calling the second assault a “verbal altercation” that turned physical.
Did they see the same video footage we saw?
Caldwell’s attorney, John Strafaci, told a reporter, “Up until now, quite frankly, it’s just been lazy police work.” I would call that an understatement.
Gwen Samuel, head of the Connecticut Parents Union, rightly said she thought Sarner and Orbay were being protected by the police. “The dangers of what Stonington police did by allowing these suspects to leave emboldens other people who are evil who want to hurt people.,” she said.
On July 3, Sarner and Orbay were charged — not arrested — in Nassau County, New York. Local police said that they had not apprehended them yet, and asked the local populace for assistance in finding and apprehending them.
Sarner is charged with assault in the second degree: a class D felony in Connecticut, which is the assailant “intend[ing] to cause serious physical injury to another person. Then, they do cause serious physical injury to another person or third party.” Orbay is charged with assault in the third degree: a class A misdemeanor.
The reason why I write about this is simple. Before the Floyd murder and its aftermath, it’s a near-certainty in my mind that Sarner and Orbay would have never been charged for viciously assaulting Caldwell. It would have caused a minor stir on Facebook and Twitter, and been added to the mountain of outrages carried out by privileged white people against blacks, Latinos, or Native people without redress.
Another day, another outrage. Or, more accurately, another hour, another outrage.
Now, that is starting — so, so slowly — to change. The Caldwell case, like the others cited above, are the first tiny snowballs rolling down the face of the mountain. The snow is starting to shift and crack. The avalanche is coming.
If we keep pressuring. If we keep protesting. If we keep making the videos go viral.
Bring it all down, people. Bring it the fuck down. Do it for Chrystal Caldwell. Do it for George Floyd. Do it for your children. Just do it, for God’s sakes, and for all of ours.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.