White Supremacism and the Struggle for American Justice

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Tiassa, Oct 24, 2023.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Justice Whispers in the Wind: Her Name Was Mika Westwolf

    Six months ago, Mika Westwolf died alongside US-93, on the Flathead Reservation:

    Authorities said that 28-year-old Sunny White was behind the wheel of the Escalade with her two young children in the back seat and fled the scene. White is allegedly a white nationalist; she named her children "Aryan" and "Nation." Some speculated that Westwolf's death was a hate crime.

    White was initially charged in April with two counts of criminal child endangerment. But Lake County District Attorney James Lapotka dropped the charges, saying more time was needed for the Montana Highway Patrol to investigate.

    In May and June, Popular Information revealed that the investigation into Westwolf's death was under-resourced, haphazard, and focused on pinning blame on the victim. Trooper Wayne Bieber of the Montana Highway Patrol was the lead investigator. In a visit to Westwolf's family three weeks after her death, Bieber appeared unfamiliar with basic facts, confused about Montana law, and dismissive of White's potential connections to white nationalists.

    "Once they found out that she was a young Indian woman, and it was late at night, early in the morning, they started investigating whether or not she was drinking or doing drugs," Erica Shelby, a legal advocate for the Westwolf family, told Popular Information. "Then they started investigating if she was suicidal."


    And this is how it goes. Except this circumastance is untenable. Legum's reporting on Westwolf's death sparked coverage from a number of more prominent news-media organizations, and, "Shortly thereafter … the FBI had begun assisting with the investigation."

    And it is important to recognize that all the talk of how journalism is supposed to affect institutions comes to bear; Carissa Heavy Runner, after campaigning toward justice for her daughter, Mika, was "glad to hear" of White's arrest and charges, "but I'm still kind of in shock because it really seemed like this day was unreachable."

    And for so many, it truly is.

    But not today:

    Over the weekend, White was arrested and charged with five felonies, including vehicular homicide while under the influence, criminal child endangerment, and criminal possession of dangerous drugs. According to documents filed on October 19 by Lapotka, White initially told an officer that she "had hit a deer and not stopped." A search of White's car yielded "a small makeup tube with methamphetamine inside, five syringes, and two unopened packages of Narcan." A blood sample taken from White allegedly "came back positive for fentanyl and methamphetamine."

    It's one thing that Sunny White is the sort of alleged white supremacist who names her kids Aryan and Nation, but there is also a question of the rest of American society that in this case has to do with prejudice against tribal women, itself a slowburning American crisis harrowing heritage and future. And while that crisis is, itself, intertwined through generations, a tangled nest of knotted history, the arrest of Sunny White is significant because our American history made it seem so unreachable.

    And if we should wonder why what reads like the mundane course of a tragedy, that someone is charged with homicide in Mika Westwolf's death, might make such a powerful symbol, it is because the slowburning, harrowing unreachability of justice is how it goes for indigenous communities.

    And as US-93 connects Missoula and Flathead County, part of a route that Sunny White would have been traveling, anyway, along the route to and from Butte-Silver Bow, the thing about Sunny White being a white supremacist is that it might be entirely coincidental. The separate burglary and parental interference case↱ can easily appear to be related, compared to the incident dates.

    To the other, consider what it would mean if white supremacism was coincidental to the homicide, but an instrumental question driving the journalism and compelling law enforcement to look more closely.

    Among the living, yes, journalism appears to have done its legendary job, increasing pressure on public institutions to pursue the facts and case. But if reporters and readers alike should raise a glass to the power of the free press, it is a solemn tribute. Her name was Mika Westwolf and she cannot join in the salute. And without her, this cannot be a celebration, but a quiet, even sacred acknowledgment of duty attended in a world that should so demand.


    Buchli, Zoë and Nora Mabie. "Arlee fatal suspect arraigned in Butte on burglary, parental interference charges". Missoulian. 18 May 2023. Missoulian.com. 24 October 2023. https://bit.ly/3S9v4Pt

    Legum, Judd. "UPDATE: Woman charged with homicide of Mika Westwolf". Popular Information. 24 October 2023. Popular.Info. 24 October 2023. https://bit.ly/3QuP2Da
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