Remembering Rosanell Eaton, An Outspoken Advocate for Voting Rights

When the Supreme Court shot down a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act — which required that certain places with a history of discriminating against voters get federal

With Trump At The Border, A Look Back At U.S. Immigration Policy

President Trump traveled to a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, today, continuing on his campaign to drum up support for a $5.7 billion border wall. The visit came after

What A Case Of Mistaken Identity Tells Us About Race In America

Jazmine Barnes, a 7-year-old black girl, was buried this week in Harris County, Texas. She was fatally shot while sitting in the car with her mother and siblings on the

What A Case Of Mistaken Identity Tells Us About Race In America

Jazmine Barnes, a 7-year-old black girl, was buried this week in Harris County, Texas. She was fatally shot while sitting in the car with her mother and siblings on the morning of Dec. 30.

Initial reports stated that the shooter was a white man. Those reports led to a national outcry that this was a racially motivated attack. Activists and politicians demanded that the shooting be investigated as a hate crime. But in the days since the shooting, deputies in Harris County have charged two black men in relation to the shooting.

Gene Demby spoke to David Greene of Morning Edition about what this incident reveals about the current landscape of race and violence in the United States.

The interview has been edited and condensed.

David Greene: Could you walk us through the timeline of events in this story?

Gene Demby: Jazmine Barnes was in a car with her mother and three sisters on Dec. 30 near a Walmart when shots rang out. Her mother was shot in the arm but survived. But Jazmine, who was 7, was shot in the head and died at the scene. The other girls in the car during the shooting said the gunshots came from a red pickup truck driven by a white male. And The New York Times reports that there was another still unsolved shooting in 2017 in the same area that witnesses say was committed by a white man in a Ford pickup.

So that, in combination with a police sketch of the suspect, created a real fear that this was a racially motivated attack.

But we now know that the suspected shooter was black

Right. This week, the police have charged two suspects, Larry Woodruffe, the alleged shooter, and Eric Black Jr., the alleged driver. The police say they think the shooting was a case of mistaken identity. Eric Black and the alleged shooter, they say, were trying to retaliate against someone they had gotten into an argument with earlier, and they misidentified the car Jazmine Barnes was in.

The police said that they believe that both the white male and the red pickup the girls in the car saw were real, but probably belonged to an innocent bystander who sped away during the confusion of the shooting.

Race In America

What did race have to do with this story capturing national attention?

In the days after the shooting and before the arrests, Shaun King, an activist who is very prominent on social media, offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the suspect’s arrest and helped publicize the police sketch of the presumed white suspect. During that same period, Sheila Jackson Lee, a congresswoman from Houston, called Barnes’ killing a hate crime.

The context here is important. Remember, it was only two decades ago that a black man named James Byrd Jr. was lynched by white supremacists about two hours away from Harris County. That killing helped fuel federal hate crime legislation. More recently, there was the mass shooting by a white supremacist at a historic black church in 2015 in South Carolina, and the fatal car attack by a white nationalist in Charlottesville in [2017]. The FBI said in a report last fall that hate crimes were up 17 percent in 2017 — the third straight year that hate crimes went up. So the suspicions that this was a racially motivated attack, even though they were wrong, are based in this very real trendline around interracial violence.

If this suspect were identified as black from the beginning, how might that have changed this story?

Crimes with both black victims and black perpetrators tend not to make national news. Just two weeks before Jazmine Barnes was shot, another 7-year-old in Harris County was seriously injured in a drive-by shooting. When these crimes do bubble up to this level, it’s usually invoked to wave away concerns around structural racism or police violence — you know, concern-trolling like, “Well, what about black-on-black crime?”

There are sadly a lot of Jazmine Barneses in America, and lots of neighborhood rallies and memorials for slain little kids like her. It’s telling that the relatively less common instance is one of a very few conditions in which those deaths would garner national coverage.

A Blue Clue In Medieval Teeth May Bespeak A Woman’s Artistry Circa A.D. 1000

Tiny bits of blue pigment found in the teeth of a medieval skeleton reveal that more than 850 years ago, this seemingly ordinary woman was very likely involved in the production of lavishly illustrated sacred texts.

The unexpected discovery, described in the journal Science Advances, astonished scientists who weren’t setting out to study female artists in the Middle Ages. It adds to a growing recognition that women, and not just monks, labored as the anonymous scribes who painstakingly copied manuscripts and decorated the pages to dazzle the eye.

This particular woman lived in a small religious community at Dalheim, Germany. Little is known about life there, says Christina Warinner of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany.

“Basically all that remains are the stone foundations. A broken comb was found, but almost nothing else,” Warinner says. “There are no books that survived. There’s no art that survives. It’s known only from a handful of scraps of text that mention it in passing.”

She and a colleague were examining the teeth of skeletons from this community’s cemetery to see what had been preserved in the dental calculus, or tartar. Tartar forms from sticky plaque that traps remnants of food, bacteria and even pollen and then hardens over time.

“It’s really an extraordinary material,” Warinner says. “It’s actually the only part of your body that fossilizes while you’re still alive.”

It is true that simply grinding lapis lazuli can produce fine, airborne dust that ends up on the lips and in the saliva, the researchers found — because Radini tried it herself.

However, given the small size of this religious community — only around 15 people — it’s likely that this artist produced her own materials rather than making them for sale or for someone else.

Medieval Teeth

“You’re going to be creating your own pigments and using your pigments,” Cyrus says. “This individual may, in fact, have been doing both of those activities.”

In Cyrus’ view, this finding is extraordinary.

“It is a brand-new kind of evidence for scribal activity, and one that we haven’t been on the alert for,” she says. “We now know that evidence from teeth, and other skeletal remains, can really point towards what the daily life of a particular monastery was like. That will lead us to ask different questions when we’re doing excavations and combine different kinds of evidence to get a better understanding.”