Hate crime against a child

February 27, 2013

Kirstin Roberts looks at what a recent hate crime against an African American child says about our image of who is racist in our society.

THANKS TO a mother's outrage, the story has spread in the media: An aerospace executive from Hayden, Idaho (that Hayden, Idaho, known as a home base for Nazi compounds and preferred retirement destination for Los Angeles police officers caught on tape beating unarmed Black people) gets drunk on a Delta flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta and slaps a fellow passenger's child for crying, while hissing at the mother, "Shut that nigger baby up."

The mother and father of the 19-month-old child took their story to the national press, describing the shock and trauma of the attack. Jessica Bennett described how her son Jonah had been outgoing, but had turned apprehensive of strangers due to the assault.

The attacker, 60-year-old Joe Hundley, turned himself in to federal authorities back home in Idaho. He faces a single federal count of simple assault. The maximum sentence would be a year in jail. His lawyer has said Hundley is pleading "not guilty" and denies he is a racist.

While earlier reports indicated that the FBI was investigating the case for possible hate crime charges against Hundley, that now appears unlikely.

Joe Hundley
Joe Hundley

As a result of the incident, Hundley was fired from his job as president of the Composites and Structures unit of AGC Unitech, an Idaho-based aerospace components company with large military contracts. The company's press release claimed, "[T]he behavior that has been described is contradictory to our values, embarrassing and does not in any way reflect the patriotic character of the men and women of diverse backgrounds who work tirelessly in our business."

Hard to imagine that this was the first indication of Hundley's character flaws, but one thing is certain: This is the first time his behavior made national news. Apparently, reported earlier brushes with the law for drunk driving and a domestic dispute weren't as "contradictory" to the values of the company.

While most news outlets, not to mention the general public, have rightfully voiced shock at the incident and the hatefulness Hundley displayed, none have asked the bigger question about the extent to which vicious racist attitudes permeate the culture of corporate boardrooms and executive suites.

The typical media image of racist attackers is that they are "lowclass" hooligans: the deranged Neo-Nazi skinhead, the hillbilly Klansman. Hate crimes, we are led to believe, are committed by the poor, the uneducated, the fringe.

And yet Joe Hundley is far from the fringe. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Hundley has held senior leadership positions with aerospace and defense corporations such as Safran, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, M7 Aerospace and A&T Systems--all industries with large military contracts.

And far from uneducated, Hundley holds a masters of business administration in finance, and has completed senior leadership and lean enterprise programs at the Lockheed Martin Institute, and Program Management at the General Dynamics Institute.

Long story short: This guy wasn't just some drunk freak. He's a well-connected and powerful member of the 1 percent. It defies logic to think this was the first time he ever dropped the n-bomb or made his abusive tendencies apparent.

How many Joe Hundley's are sitting in U.S. boardrooms today? Hard to say, since the mainstream media won't investigate the question, but judging by the impact of their executive decisions on our society, I'd guess Joe Hundley wasn't the odd man out at the country club.

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