Humbug Square - Honkie Alert

Cable news networks (heart) white chicks

A few of us were eating fried chicken at Son's Place in Inman Park the other day. Mayor Franklin was at a table nearby. When she finished her meal, the owner, Lenn Storey, rang his bell and greeted her. Everybody clapped and cheered. She came by, said hi, then left.

At our table, we were having a high-level journalism discourse about Jennifer Wilbanks, the runaway bride from Duluth who was around-the-clock fare for the cable news channels.

"Those eyes!" I theorized. "She's got to be on dope!" Even if Jennifer wasn't on dope before her run, I imagine she'll be knocking back massive doses of the finest pharmaceuticals for some time to come.

My theory was mild compared with the vicious prose of ex-Atlantan Andrea Peyser, a columnist for the conservative New York Post, who wrote, "Jennifer Wilbanks hails from a slice of the South where 32-year-old never-married women are either insane, in prison or gay." Not even Ann Coulter could be so cruel.

On CNN, ex-Atlantan Nancy Grace, the Bloodlust Blonde, confidently declared before Wilbanks surfaced in New Mexico: "This is not cold feet, all right?" Grace was itching to send someone, anyone, to the chair. And we should all be grateful that Grace is no longer a prosecutor in Fulton County. A federal appeals court recently said she played "fast and loose" with ethical rules in a 1990 case. Now she plays fast and loose with the facts on TV.

Wilbanks allowed CNN, Fox News and MSNBC to keep pounding their hysterical and incessant coverage of missing and murdered white chicks like Laci Peterson, Lori Hacking and even Terry Schiavo, who was missing in her own sad way.

God, this country is crazy about white chicks, especially when they've been kidnapped, ravaged or killed - either by a rogue husband or an "other," like the phantom Hispanic guy Wilbanks lied about. Did you notice how she handled that racial slander in her statement to the media? She asked forgiveness from "others I may have offended unintentionally." Actually, it wasn't unintentional at all. She said it on purpose when she was lying to the cops.

Maybe "Jennifer's Run" was a bigger piece - an unconscious retelling of the nation's concerns about integration and immigration, with Jennifer as a metaphor for a vulnerable white America.

Americans are psychological primitives who view white women as those swooning damsels in the silent movies. The cable news networks have figured out the formula and are taking it to the bank. Personally, I think white women are mean. Especially in court.

I felt sorry for Wilbanks' fiance, John Mason, when the cops and the media were turning on him. But I was uncomfortable watching him in the interview with ex-Atlantan Sean Hannity because Mason kept deferring to the preacher beside him, as if a man had to get pastoral permission to have feelings. He gazed at the preacher the way a puppy looks at his master. Mason lost me completely when he said Wilbanks' escapade was none of Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter's business. Oh, yes it is. Especially since the Mason family's political connections helped mobilize an entire community to join the search. Do they expect Duluth taxpayers to cover the $43,000 bill for them, like royalty?

Note to suburban conservatives: You are responsible for your own actions. Yes, even you.

Porter exuded star quality in his countless interviews on cable TV. A wry expression drifted over his face as he suggested Wilbanks was too self-absorbed to feel remorse. He came across as smart, calm, witty and professional, not taking the ludicrous story too seriously.

A few days later, Porter was exposed for whitewashing a vicious taser attack by Gwinnett deputies on a troubled jail inmate who later died. Porter didn't even bother to show a videotape of the attack to the grand jury.

Nobody's perfect!

My theory is that Wilbanks' escape to Las Vegas and Albuquerque was a desperate bid to avoid becoming a Stepford wife in the Christian-male-dominated culture of Duluth. Who could blame her? Her flight was eerily similar to the melancholy adventure of the androids in Blade Runner who were trying to extend their pre-determined lives.

TV viewers witnessed the horror that awaits Wilbanks: The only people doing the talking for her were the menfolk - the pastors, her fiance, her dad, an uncle, her stepfather. She probably realizes how much biblical cleaving and submitting she'll experience now that she's at home with the key in her back.

The media turned on Wilbanks with stories of shoplifting charges, a boob job and 18 months of sexual abstinence. Don't people know that abstinence is what happens after you get married?

We settled nothing at Son's Place except that the fried chicken is still the best in town. On the way out, I noticed a flier for a missing person - a teenage girl - taped to the glass in the door. I started to pull it off the door. A man in a blue T-shirt walked up and said there was no need to take it down.

"I've got plenty more," he said. "She's my daughter."

Sequay Jackson has been missing since Dec. 10. She was headed to class at Decatur High School that morning, but never got to school and never came home. Her father, Trey Jackson, says the police and the media don't care about his daughter, but he's still going around metro Atlanta putting up fliers. Sequay's 16th birthday was April 17. "Sequay is a chronic runaway," says Decatur police investigator Travis Kelley. For many girls, life on the street has a powerful allure, he says. "From that initial runaway, it's like an addiction. It's pulling tooth and nail trying to keep them off the street from then on. We can only try to find them and pray that once we get them, they stay home and don't leave."

Sequay's mother, April Smith, aches to have her daughter back. She's so distraught that she has sought counseling, just as Jennifer Wilbanks is getting help. Smith can't sleep. She quit her job at a day care center to look for Sequay every day. Until Kelley called this week, she says, she hadn't heard from him in two months. She hasn't seen Sequay in five.

Sequay has been spotted at Underground Atlanta, in Mechanicsville, at the MARTA Kensington Station, and on Second Avenue in Decatur, just a few blocks from her mother's apartment on Electric Avenue, Smith says.

The mother has found out some things that break her heart: Sequay has been seen in the company of an older man with a terrible reputation.

"What if she got in the wrong hands and is trying to get away?" Smith asks. She says she called Fox/Channel 5 and WVEE-FM (V-103) but was told by both stations that they only report on runaways when requested to do so by police.

I asked Smith if she had watched the coverage of Jennifer Wilbanks. She had indeed noticed the story and all the other stories about missing women and girls. When she watched the coverage, she recalled, "I said, 'Why does it always get to be somebody white that gets on the Amber Alert?'"

If you have any information about Sequay, call Kelley at 404-373-6551 or Trey Jackson at 404-484-7190.

Senior Editor Doug Monroe thinks Wilbanks' generic apology sounds suspiciously like his alcoholic fraternity brother who always said at Sunday breakfast, "I'm sorry if I offended anyone last night." You can contact Doug at