AN UGLY RACIAL INCIDENT happened in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood over the weekend.
But strangely, black ministers and political activists are holding no angry news conferences. There is no mayoral campaign, so City Hall isn't publicly calling on the president or the county state's attorney for justice. The word is out in Bridgeport for the people to shut their mouths.
And official Chicago wants this one to go away.
Roy Trumblay, 55, and his daughter, Christine, 22, were walking on 35th Street toward Comiskey Park on Saturday, to watch the White Sox.
Roy also had two grandchildren, a boy, eight, and a ten-year-old girl, and other family members with him. As they passed the Deering District police station, with dozens of other fans, a man jumped out of a car, police said.
He was clutching a wooden table leg, with a chunk of metal on the end. Roy and Christine didn't know the man with the table leg. But he picked them out anyway, on that crowded street.
When he was finished, father and daughter were crumpled on the pavement. Their skulls were crushed open.
The man with the table leg has been charged with attempted murder. Roy and Christine were comatose, in critical condition at Cook County Hospital on Monday.
"We're all praying," said Roy's brother, Peter Trumblay. "But if they make it, their lives won't be the same. And the grandson? He's eight, and he broke down in school today. He saw what happened to his grandfather.
"For no reason, the guy starts swinging a table leg with some iron on it, some hardware. He hit my brother in the head and my brother goes down. He hits him again in the head.
"The kids are screaming. My niece came along to help her father. He hit her, too, in the head. They're both down. Then he goes after her boyfriend and misses. The police arrest him," Trumblay said.
When these types of incidents occur in Bridgeport, they usually make national news. And they're usually called hate crimes. Bridgeport is a tough white ethnic neighborhood that has spawned several Chicago mayors, including both Daleys, so the drama is set.
Ministers preach equal parts tolerance and anger. Political activists protest at City Hall. The mayor is blamed, then the cops, then the media. The desire for justice and political leverage gets muddled.
It's our liturgy of politics and race and media. The direction is inevitable, running like water in a dry riverbed after a thunderstorm.
But for this one, the direction has changed. There were no ministers on TV. And police say this is not a hate crime.
Perhaps it's because the Trumblays are white, from southwest suburban Burbank. The man charged with the attack is Thomas Cooper, nineteen, an African-American from the South Side.
Ask yourself. How would it be if the races were reversed? If a white man jumped out of a car and cut down a black father and daughter with a club in front of the police station in the Daleys' ancestral neighborhood?
"The media would be different, the politics would be different, City Hall would be full of protests and everything. But it's not that way for my brother and niece, is it?" Trumblay asked.
He didn't expect an answer.
Trumblay is also bothered by newspaper and TV reports that robbery was the motive. Robbery would be politically palatable.
But it wasn't robbery. Prosecutors said Monday that Cooper told them he attacked the Trumblays because he was angry over girlfriend problems.
"The Sun-Times said it was robbery," Peter Trumblay said. "But you don't rob people in a crowd with a table leg across the street from a police station, do you?"
Bob Benjamin, spokesman for Cook County State's Atty. Richard Devine, said there was no evidence it was a hate crime, which is a felony. The man with the table leg didn't say much.
"You can't just say because the attacker is of one race and the victim is another, that it's a hate crime," Benjamin said. "Everything I've heard to this point doesn't have him saying anything."
I've previously written about hate crimes that weren't hate crimes. There was the black cop in uniform who was being stoned by white Southwest Side teenagers who'd been drinking on the edge of the Nineteenth Ward.
They screamed "nigger" at the black officer and tried to crush his head with rocks, but the kids had political pull. So it was ruled a misdemeanor and it went away.
And that column about the five white Cook County sheriff's deputies with political clout who'd been drinking at a fundraiser? They chased a black man into Robbins and tried to kill him for no good reason. They haven't been suspended. And two of them were eligible to take a promotions test.
In these cases, Chicago's political leadership—black, white and brown—has been silent. Because silence was required by City Hall.
It tells you something about hate-crime laws. They're not about violent crime, which is hateful enough. Instead, they're all about politics.
Copyright 1999 by the Chicago Tribune.