It’s hard to imagine a better test of critical thinking skills in 2012 than reaction to the alleged hate crime recently perpetrated on Long Island by two Italian pizzeria employees against an African-American couple.
The husband and wife—Willie Marshall, 60, and Alfie Marshall, 65—visited Paesano II Pizza in Greenlawn the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and implausibly claim that they were sucked into a maelstrom of racial epithet-hurling, violence, and targeted retribution for President Obama’s reelection.
By the Marshalls’ account, the pizza they were served was stuck to the inside of the bag, so they requested new slices. The pizzeria employees—Frank Meringolo, 25, and Michael Meringolo, 20—refused to give them new slices or refund their $5.
The Marshalls claim that they decided to leave, but the Meringolo brothers started cursing, mocking, and insulting them—which is totally believable, because everyone knows that lowly service industry employees are far more likely to yell at and harass difficult customers than vice versa.
Not satisfied with showering insults upon an elderly couple, the Meringolos allegedly began flinging salt and pepper shakers. But plastic condiment holders weren’t enough for the Meringolo Klux Klan, who followed up by launching a heavy glass jar of Parmesan cheese at Mrs. Marshall, leaving her with a bloody head wound.
By this point, any disgruntled, racist pizzeria employee would have felt his European heritage thoroughly vindicated, but not the Paesano Mafioso! According to the Marshalls, Frank and Michael left their posts, stormed the front door, and started kicking and stomping Willie’s face, causing a “cheek fracture.” During the scuffle, one of the brothers supposedly shouted, “N*****, this is for Obama!”
Mr. Marshall claimed he was peaceful up till this point but became angry when he saw his wife injured: “As I was going out the door, there were some chairs standing there, and quite naturally, when I saw the blood I got very angry and I kicked the chairs.” This is a tactic known as conceding something while conceding nothing: to wit, no one had complained about Mr. Marshall kicking chairs, and chairs can’t be injured.
The fight spilled out onto the street, where the tail end was caught by a surveillance camera. The Marshalls called the police, and the Meringolo brothers were charged with misdemeanor assault and released on their own recognizance. The Marshalls hired an attorney and held a press conference in which they hinted that they might file a lawsuit against the Meringolos.
The first reaction of anyone with any critical thinking skills would be a flurry of questions about suspicious details and bizarre motives that don’t add up. For starters:
- Why, in this age of ethnic diversity and tolerance, would two twentysomething Italian brothers hail racial epithets and violent attacks on two frail elderly black people for the crime of making a polite customer service request?
- Even if the Meringolos were seething with anti-black prejudice, what made them think they could get away with such attacks, which would have unfolded in front of other customers and possibly surveillance cameras?
- Why, after the couple had accepted the brothers’ decision and turned to leave, would the brothers have escalated the matter by hurling dangerous objects at them? Why would they chase the couple down, kick them, and compound the attack with racial slurs? (As one commenter summarized the fracas: “‘Kind sir, the pizza cheese is clinging to the paper bag.’ ‘That’s for Obama, b*tch.’ That escalated quickly.”)
- Don’t the Marshalls have more to gain from a lawsuit than the Meringolos?
The first reaction of anyone lacking critical thinking skills—say, most liberals—would be, “I knew it—racism is alive and well in this country, and probably worse than ever! Right-wing teabaggers will stop at nothing to sully the legacy of our first African-American president.”
(The first reaction of MSNBC was to consider offering Willie Marshall his own talk show.)
The Marshalls’ physical evidence includes the wound in Mrs. Marshall’s head, dried blood on her sweatshirt, and blood on her sneakers; and Mr. Marshall’s bloodshot left eye and bruised cheek.
The Meringolos claim they threw nothing at the Marshalls and never used any racial epithets or Obama references. They say Mr. Marshall was the one who threw the cheese jar, and that he injured his wife when he charged toward the brothers and accidentally bumped his wife into the door.
Obviously we need more details about the case, a police investigation, and evidence of how the two parties’ stories hold up in light of surveillance video, testimony from other witnesses, and the passage of time. But already the Suffolk County Police Department is considering filing hate crime charges, and the Marshalls’ church is planning a march outside Paesano II. Al Sharpton and his circus can’t be far behind.
In this age of phony rape charges by black strippers, phony racial profiling cases, and phony racist hate crimes against teenagers in hoodies, why have we learned nothing? Why do we always accept the alleged hate crime victim’s splashy version of the story without subjecting it to a whit of scrutiny, while jumping to the pessimistic conclusion that America is a seething hotbed of racial resentment of the Obama presidency?
When is “Do the Right Thing” ever going to include refusing to accept reputation-destroying allegations until all the facts are in?
Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics
- Couple Alleges Attack By Racist, Anti-Obama Pizza Employees (atlantablackstar.com)
- L.I. Couple Allegedly Assaulted By Pizzeria Workers After Complaining About Slices (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- ‘This Is For Obama’: Italian Pizzeria Workers Allegedly Attack Black Customers, Workers Say Other Way Around (patdollard.com)
- L.I. Couple Allegedly Assaulted By Pizzeria Workers, Told “This Is For Obama” (Video) (thegatewaypundit.com)
- Killed for having black friends? (salon.com)