On the morning of Dec. 21, 2019, a white man from Colorado walked into an Arby’s restaurant in Ontario, Oregon. He spotted a Black man who he’d never so much as laid eyes on before the moment he decided to walk up behind him and stab him twice in the neck with a knife. The white man told the Arby’s worker who took him down, and later the authorities who arrested him, that he attacked his victim, who survived his wounds, for one reason and one reason alone—because he is Black.
According to a press release published Thursday by the Department of Justice, 27-year-old Nolan Levi Strauss pleaded guilty in June after a federal grand jury charged him with a hate crime involving an attempt to kill. He was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison and five years of supervised release.
No one who understands the power and pervasiveness of white supremacy could possibly think that’s enough time. No compassionate person could possibly think a man who intended to kill a man he never met over the color of his skin should be let out of prison by the time he’s 43 with the assumption that he won’t still be a danger to any Black person who happens to cross his path.
After Strauss stabbed the Black man—who wasn’t identified by name in the press release, which noted that he was waiting to meet with the restaurant’s manager “to provide documentation for a pending job application”—a worker helped bring him down as his victim “struggled to wrest the knife from Strauss.”
After Strauss was disarmed and pinned down, the worker asked him why he did what he did, to which the apparent white supremacist reportedly responded, “Because he was Black, and I don’t like Black people.”
Later, Strauss doubled down on that sentiment explaining to the authorities that he believes Black people are manipulative, lacking morality and “not good people.”
Please, let’s not gloss over the sheer degree of caucasity on display here. The admitted racist who stabbed a complete stranger twice in the neck nearly killing him came out of the side of his face to say Black people are lacking in morality and are not good people.
“This defendant is being held accountable for his brutal and racially-motivated attack against a Black man carried out because of the color of his skin,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said after Strauss’ sentencing. “Racially motivated attacks have no place in our society, and the Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously enforce federal laws that prohibit bias-motivated violence.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug said in his statement, “We hope the lengthy sentence imposed today will bring some measure of peace and closure for the man viciously attacked by Nolan Strauss,” and that “The sentence should also send a clear message to anyone contemplating similar acts of violence: hatred and bigotry will not be tolerated.”
OK, but is the sentence “lengthy” enough to send that message?
One can only wonder what a federal sentence for attempted murder looks like without a hate crime enhancement if just over a decade and a half is all Strauss gets with one included.
To quote my favorite Rick Ross song featuring Andre 3000—16 ain’t enough.