In recent years, the number of hate crimes against nearly all minority races and cultures in the United States has increased dramatically, as white supremacists have emerged from the woodworks. The sheer magnitude of the racial violence against African-Americans, Muslims, Hispanics, Jewish citizens, and many minority groups has shed light on the fact that racism is still alive and abundant in America, despite the perceptions that such hateful actions were on the wane.
Earlier this month, 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein went missing from Orange County, CA while visiting his family over the holiday break. Bernstein, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, had been planning to meet with a former classmate of his, 20-year-old Samuel Woodward.
Woodward is believed to have picked up Bernstein from the home of his parents on January 2nd, before driving together to a nearby park where Bernstein’s body would ultimately be found, buried in a shallow grave. Bernstein’s body had more than 20 stab wounds when found.
According to a report by the Los Angeles Times,
‘A law enforcement source said that Woodward told investigators Bernstein kissed him on the lips while they were sitting in a parked car Jan. 2. The sources said Woodward told authorities that the kiss was unwanted and that he pushed Bernstein away, adding that he wanted to call him a “faggot.”‘
Authorities are now looking into the case as a potential hate crime, after finding indications of the suspect’s support for white supremacist and neo-Nazi ideals through his online activity. Woodward had posted fundamentalist and extremist rants supporting white nationalism on fringe websites, as well as having a photo in which he had pretended to stomp a friend’s skull against the curb. The photo is indicative of the infamous murder scene in the film “American History X”, which follows the horrific story of a neo-Nazi extremist.
— Megillah Guerrila ??? (@itsbensiegel) January 23, 2018
Woodward’s online activity spanned a wide range of other similarly hate-fueled beliefs, such as his support for the Confederate flag, and a supposed desire to learn waterboarding. In another instance, a user on one of Woodward’s frequented sites and claiming to be close to the suspect stated that homophobia and anti-semitism were trademarks of his beliefs.
On Wednesday of this week, Woodward appeared in court dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit as the judge ordered he be held without bail, until the arraignment takes place on February 2nd. The 20-year-old man is currently being charged for murder, with the potential of additional charges to follow. Specifically so, this would include the personal use of a knife in committing the murder, which would bring his maximum sentence to a range from 26 years or life in prison, depending on the outcome of the case.
The crime sheds light on the discrimination and violence faced not only by members of any minority group in the country, but most prominently the challenges faced by those in the LGBTQ community. Bernstein’s parents issued a statement after these potential motives were identified, stating that they will not only be shedding a tear for their own son, but also for any other LGBTQ individual that has to live with such fear from violence.
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