Murder in Mississippi
Not sure why I picked this up – I think I heard John Safran talking about it on the radio, and it sounded sort of cool. The blurb from the publisher’s website is thus:
When filming his TV series Race Relations, John Safran spent an uneasy couple of days with one of Mississippi’s most notorious white supremacists. A year later, he heard that the man had been murdered – and what was more, the killer was black.
At first the murder seemed a twist on the old Deep South race crimes. But then more news rolled in. Maybe it was a dispute over money, or most intriguingly, over sex. Could the infamous racist actually have been secretly gay, with a thing for black men? Did Safran have the last footage of him alive? Could this be the story of a lifetime? Seizing his Truman Capote moment, he jumped on a plane to cover the trial.
The book explains some of the back story about how he came to meet Richard Barrett during the filming of Race Relations (the segment never went to television, because John Safran can be quite a naughty boy at times, and well, he may or may not have done some shonky business with a DNA sample). It follows John’s search to find out what actually happened to Richard Barrett and most importantly, why. It’s really very interesting and not totally what I expected. (I am partial to a spot of crime and death after all, although I don’t normally read True Crime). Still wasn’t 100% sure what the motivation was at the end of it, even whether the guy did it or not, and definitely wasn’t sure that he deserved 65 years of gaol as a punishment. Wasn’t hugely comfortable about John Safran paying Vincent McGee to talk to him, but I suppose he wouldn’t talk any other way, and I don’t really think John Safran was totally down with the endless paying, either.
Reading Murder in Mississippi actually made me quite uncomfortable, and made me even more aware of the casual racism that’s pervasive in Australian society in general; and how it’s so ingrained that the perpetrators aren’t even aware that there’s something wrong with what they’re saying (driving along the foreshore on Christmas Day – “Let’s play ‘Spot the Aussie'”. Um, no. Let’s not. And guess what, seeing families out enjoying themselves together and enjoying each other’s company isn’t actually a bad thing. Nor is seeing a bunch of young girls in burqinis cacking themselves laughing and having the best time ever in the water with their friends in the sun.) Especially when you call someone on their language, and they still can’t see there’s an issue because they’re not being nasty, that’s just what they always say. And not twenty minutes later, same thing over again. Everyone gets shoved in their box based on their country of birth or their parents or grandparents country of birth and that’s all there is to it, and they won’t be reasoned with. Ever. And as for those dole bludging sole parent whale hugging tree lovers. Well.