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Amanda Knox

Maili linked to this very interesting column over at Racialicious.

Basically the columnist, Nadra Kareem talks about some of the American reaction to Amanda Knox’s conviction for the murder of Meredith Kercher. She makes some really excellent points, and some of her comments mirror some of my own thoughts during the trial and my bemusement over the seemingly overwhelming sympathetic reaction to her case.

Nadra starts:

I first heard the name Amanda Knox nearly a year ago. As someone, who like Knox, traveled to Europe to study abroad, even visiting Italy during my time there, I sympathized with the young Seattle woman charged with killing her roommate while an exchange student in Perugia, Italy. Numerous articles portray the University of Washington student as an innocent wrongly targeted by a corrupt Italian prosecutor and victimized by Italians who were misogynistic and anti-American.

She goes on to say:

Despite my sympathy for Knox—found guilty of murdering Meredith Kercher by an Italian jury Dec. 4—I take issue with the articles written in her defense. They reveal that America’s ideas about white womanhood have changed little since the 19th century, the whiteness of Italians remains tenuous and black men continue to make convenient crime scapegoats.

I recall wondering out loud to TTG if he thought she would have had as much sympathy had she been a black/Asian/Latino American woman. He didn’t think so.

Nadra continues:

some American journalists decided that she was innocent long before a verdict was reached. What’s disturbing about some of these journalists is that Knox’s race, gender and class background played central roles in why they considered her innocent. Moreover, in defending Knox, their xenophobic and arguably “racist” feelings about Italy came to light. New York Times columnist Timothy Egan is a case in point.

This is what Timothy Egan wrote:

“All trials are about narrative,” Egan remarked in the summer. “In Seattle, where I live, I see a familiar kind of Northwestern girl in Amanda Knox, and all the stretching, the funny faces, the neo-hippie touches are benign. In Italy, they see a devil, someone without remorse, inappropriate in her reactions.”

Nadra argues that the familiarity of Amanda Knox seems to be a good enough reason from Egan’s point of view, for her to be found not-guilty:

What makes these “touches” benign—simply the fact that, to Egan, Knox was “a familiar kind of Northwestern girl?” While waiting to be interrogated, Knox reportedly did cartwheels. Egan chalks this up to Knox being an athlete. But if Donovan McNabb or LeBron James were being investigated for murder and did cartwheels during an interrogation, would their behavior be taken as that of a benign athlete or make them look unfeeling and flippant? Egan attempts to undermine Italy by making it appear as if sinister Italians were angling to punish this girl who not only reminds him of numerous girls from the Pacific Northwest but also of his own daughter. Yet, non-Italian friends of British murder victim Meredith Kercher considered Knox’s behavior to be strange as well, counteracting Egan’s attempts to discredit Italian sensibilities.

Further on, Nadra comments on the other suspects:

The problematic racial overtones in the reporting of the case not only involve Italians but black men. Following her November 2007 arrest, Knox wrote to police that bar owner Patrick Lumumba killed Kercher.

“In these flashbacks that I’m having, I see Patrik [sic] as the murderer, but the way the truth feels in my mind, there is no way for me to have known because I don’t remember FOR SURE if I was at my house that night.”

Because of Knox’s repeated insinuations that Lumumba murdered Kercher, he spent two weeks in jail. Police ended up releasing him because he had a solid alibi. Lumumba sued Knox for defamation and won.

Nadra goes on to give examples of how Knox’s inconsistent and faulty testimony was mostly ignored by her supporters.

She concludes by looking at the similarities between this and the Lizzie Borden case:

But those who refuse to consider that Knox is guilty, all the while attacking the Italian justice system, remind me of those who struggled to believe that Lizzie Borden hacked her parents to death in 1892… Isn’t this the argument that Egan makes when he described Knox as a benign hippie type from the Pacific Northwest? Knox, we’re told, worked multiple jobs to save up money to study abroad. She excelled in athletics and academics, alike.

Girls like her don’t commit murder, many Americans believe. And if she were tried stateside, perhaps she would have gotten off like Lizzie Borden did. But apparently Italians aren’t burdened by the cultural baggage that weighs down America. White and female and from a good family don’t equal innocent.

Brilliant article, to read this in full, pop over to Racialicious.


  • Leslee
    December 10
    10:52 am

    The Lizzie Borden aspect is one I have seen from the start. Her behavior indicates that she doesn’t have a firm grasp on reality, wouldn’t recognize it if it hit her upside the head. Or she is a brilliant murderer, using her behavior to cast doubt on whether or not she could commit such a crime. I do not understand how this perception of white equals innocent, woman equals incapable of violence continues to persist. While it is true that women are seldom serial killers, we are just as capable of violence. Some Native American tribes had the women of the village torture captives in battle because they would be more vicious!
    I did find it very interesting that in Italy, the jury isn’t sequestered and can read, watch, hear, anything about the case! She was tried in the court of public opinion. That doesn’t mean I think she is innocent, just that it is a very different way of doing things.


  • Just because the Italian system is different to the US system does not mean it is unfair. The Italians clearly think it isn’t and it is their country. People who don’t want to be subject to the laws of other countries shouldn’t travel.

    Amanda Knox was not the only person convicted of the murder of Meredith Kercher. Oddly enough, the Italians don’t seem to think that their fellow countryman, Raffaele Sollecito, got an unfair trial. And what of Rudy Guede? Or is his conviction totally irrelevant because he’s neither white nor American?

    I don’t know whether or not Amanda Knox is a murderer. My feeling from the start was that she’s guilty. I am baffled as to why anyone would think she’s innocent just because she’s young, intelligent, female and American. The American media have certainly twisted it that way, so much so that I ceased to read American coverage of the trial. The obvious bias was making my blood boil.

    And let’s face it: if Amanda Knox were black, poor and uneducated, the American media wouldn’t give a shit -whether she was American or not. Honestly, the whole thing makes me sick.


  • MB (Leah)
    December 10
    2:10 pm

    People who don’t want to be subject to the laws of other countries shouldn’t travel.

    This… is what’s totally bugging me about all this at the moment. I live in WA and I know that one of our senators thinks she got an unfair trial and is in contact with all the embassies and gov officials involved. I keep hearing that Italian justice system sucks and is not as fair as the American one. Well, too bad. They have a right to decide their own system and don’t have to give foreigners the rights they’d have in their own country.

    I don’t know if Amanda Knox is guilty or not. I suspect that if she didn’t do it outright, she’s got some culpability in it. But still that’s neither here nor there.

    I’m no lawyer or any expert on Italian or American law, but all I’ve been hearing is that there was a distinct lack of physical evidence to prove her guilt. Also, that much of the crime scene was contaminated and not dealt with in a proper way. So that leaves that she mainly got convicted on bad character and popular opinion that she was guilty.

    That said, I’m with SarahT. If you go traveling and live in other countries you leave your rights as an American behind and are subject to the laws of those countries, no ifs, ands or buts. How many stupid idiot Westerners languish in Indian, Thai or other country’s jails because they got caught buying some drugs that would get them a slap on the wrist in America? Tough cookies.

    She got what’s considered a fair trial in Italy. Finished. Apparently, and only from what I’ve read or heard, their appeals system is way more lax than the American one and she probably has a better chance at getting off on appeal there then she would in America.

    And about the race, status issue… yes, totally at play in why it’s even still being discussed.


  • Westie
    December 10
    4:31 pm

    I don’t think Egan was arguing that, “Amanda’s like a lot of other girls so she’s not guilty.” I think it’s more that Amanda’s behavior seemed bizarre to Italians but in fact she’s like thousands of other spoiled, self-centered American girls.

    I don’t think anyone would say this fact should exonerate Amanda. But it does highlight the role of cultural differences in interpretation of her behavior. The act of turning cartwheels has different meaning for young female than for a young male.

    The real tragedy is that Amanda apparently never was trained in cultural sensitivity.

    More important, someone needed to tell her to choose friends carefully in a new environment and never, ever do drugs overseas. Several commentators in the blogosphere have speculated that Amanda and her boyfriend were stoned when they found Meredith and reported the crime. People familiar with the effects of marijuana and other recreational drugs have said, “That would explain a lot of the bizarre behavior.” Alas, you don’t look good when your response is, “I was drugged out.”


  • Good point, and the intial arrest of her (black) boss was overtly racist. But I would still say that if there is no evidence that she is guilty (and there *is* no evidence that she is guilty) I am going to assume she is not guilty.


  • I’ve watched a lot of courtroom tape from the Amanda Knox trial. She struck me from the first as a complete sociopath, a girl with no empathy gene. But white and physically attractive–well, until her herpes flared up. On this post, Karen, I totally agree with you. Why they had to choose the prosector they did is a mystery to me. Not so smart of the Italian system to muddy the waters with a probably-crooked prosecutor running the show. Gives all of Knox’s supporters more reason to ignore the facts of the case.


  • American justice system does NOT apply when you go overseas, even if you have an American passport. It wasn’t like some cultural misunderstanding. She committed murder.

    I’m so sick of Americans acting like they’re above the law when they travel overseas. It makes us look like a bunch of idiots.

    And to American media — shame on you! Being young, cute, female, white and privileged is not a get-out-of-jail-free card.

    BTW — Isn’t it ironic how this “wholesome” girl tried to pin the crime on her black boss? *shaking head* Guess she thought if she blamed a black man, the police would leave her alone. Murdering bigot.


  • MB (Leah)
    December 10
    5:06 pm

    I don’t think Egan was arguing that, “Amanda’s like a lot of other girls so she’s not guilty.” I think it’s more that Amanda’s behavior seemed bizarre to Italians but in fact she’s like thousands of other spoiled, self-centered American girls.

    This is true in most cases that cultural differences could explain a lot of behavioral misunderstandings, however, there are certain behaviors that are considered human and normal across cultural barriers and norms and one is that murder and being accused of it a serious offense. It’s not the time to act all cutesy and like you’re at some social event, smiling and joking around.

    And she had been in Italy long enough to understand cultural norms that differ from American ones. She also spoke and understood enough Italian to get what’s going on and that it was a serious situation.

    This is what makes her come across as being a bit off. If she were to have done the same in America, doing cartwheels and such, even Americans would have thought that she’s missing a card in the deck.

    Look at the Mendez brothers. During their trial they came across as spoiled, rich boys even with their claims of abuse. People could not feel sorry for them because during the trial they were acting so nonchalant as if the whole thing were a joke. Clearly they weren’t acting appropriate to the situation and it worked against them.


  • BTW – Wasn’t Meredith Kercher non-white? Meaning it was an American white girl killing a foreign girl of color. If so, maybe it had something to do w/ the media coverage. I wonder if the US media coverage would’ve been different if the victims had been a beautiful blonde white girl.


  • @NadiaLee I believe Meredith Kercher’s mother is Indian. I meant to point that out when I commented before but I forgot.

    I find it interesting that the British – and European media in general – rarely published an article on Meredith’s murder without including a photo of Meredith herself. From what I could tell, the American media were only interested in photos of Amanda Knox, not her alleged victim.


  • @SarahT

    I find it interesting that the British – and European media in general – rarely published an article on Meredith’s murder without including a photo of Meredith herself. From what I could tell, the American media were only interested in photos of Amanda Knox, not her alleged victim.

    Whenever I watch American news coverage of any major story, I always find that the reporting generally seems to be skewed towards one side or the other, so the fact that they hardly showed the murdered girl doesn’t really surprise me.


  • She was doing cartwheels while waiting to be interrogated for a murder? Even Paris Hilton had enough sense to appear contrite.


  • She was doing cartwheels while waiting to be interrogated for a murder? Even Paris Hilton had enough sense to appear contrite.

    Lol, this comment made me laugh for some reason.


  • Rosemary Laurey
    December 10
    8:56 pm

    So, nice white girls don’t commit murder. Had this writer never heard of Elizabeth Haysom?


  • I don’t know anything about this case, but the cartwheel thing is beyond disturbing. I’m in martial arts and if I’m being questioned by the police, I’m not going to blow steam by practicing my roundhouse.

    Part of me feels some pity for the woman for what she got involved in, but my heart breaks for the woman who was murdered.

    This woman took a life. I can’t feel sorry that she’s now got to face the consequences.


  • I don’t believe for a moment she was given a fair trial, not because she’s white and “white girls don’t commit crimes like this” but because the DA in this trial was under investigation for misconduct in another case when he took this one. Also, her so-called confession came only after several hours of detainment at the hands of people who are trained to break confessions out of the Mafia. Italy is a beautiful country with a rich history, but also one with a long history of corruption within its legal system. I also know that there is also a strong and often perverse sense of chauvinism (and I mean this in the original, patriotic connotation of the word) that is applied out-of-hand toward foreigners. And if there is one thing about Italians that shames me it is the general opinion they are more cultured and intellectually superior to Americans. So I don’t doubt there were exaggerations about this woman simply for the fact she is American. Cartwheels my ass.


  • If–as she said–she came home, stoned, and found the body that would explain the inappropriate affect.

    But really, a guy she did not know and never met had his DNA in the dead girl. There is absolutely no evidence she was there when it happened. If you think she did it, or she didn’t do it–both a prejudice if you base it on anything other than evidence. And there isn’t any that implicates her.

    Maybe she is a weird white bitch, what has that got to do with it? The world is full of ’em. One person left evidence of his crime, he did it. Another was convicted based on being weird and being a foreigner.

    I mean if we are talking prejudice here, the jury found it likely that she was a Satanist who killed her roommate in a sex ritual. That is cuckoo unless you have an irrational hatred of some demographic the person is in. It is pure fantasy and a sick fantasy at that.


  • eggs
    December 11
    12:46 am

    What I can’t figure out is this: There were 3 people found guilty of this crime. Many American media articles just take it as given that the very black man was guilty. I dunno what the evidence against him was, but apparently it was “comprehensive”. They then strongly dispute the very white woman is guilty, giving a laundry list of why she couldn’t have done it. Fair enough. Yet they do not then go on to the next obvious step of addressing the guilt/innocence of the Italian man (her boyfriend) that was also found guilty of the crime.

    I haven’t been following this case closely, but it seems the American woman’s defense is that she spent the evening of the murder alone with her boyfriend? If he is guilty of the crime, and she was with him the whole time, then how can she not be complicit in some way? This is what strikes me as so strange: if the American woman’s innocence hinges on the Italian man’s innocence, why is there never any matching laundry list of all the facts that point to his innocence?


  • jane
    December 11
    12:23 pm

    This is a very interesting website. It has a lot of information that the mainstream media have been ignoring. They have been translating the Italian documents.


  • Amanda
    December 11
    11:33 pm

    I have to agree with Tuscan on this one. All of the legal professors have said the same thing, she wouldn’t have been convicted here because there is NO evidence, that she committed the crime. NO DNA, NO Hairs, NO fibers, Not even skin cells under the victims finger nails. NOTHING!

    The man who was Convicted for 1st degree murder was the girls boyfriend and he CONFESSED to the MURDER.

    I think those facts get lost somewhere because of the fact that she acted so weird. What the Italian press doesn’t tell you is that she was interogated for 14 hours asked repeatedly the same questions over and over again, when she didn’t answer the question the way the investigators liked, she was left isolated in a room with nothing, so if she did cartwheels, I wouldn’t blame her. She probably at that moment felt INSANE…wouldn’t you?

    She even tried to tell the judge when she went in for pre-trial, half of what was forced out of her in her written statement wasn’t true and that she was told the only way she could go home was to sign the statement and admitt to something she didn’t do. She told the judge also that she really didn’t understand Italian and that she was tripped up when asked questions because a slang word or whatever was used and she didn’t know what was being said.

    But you know, I would admitt I was messed up, I would tell them I was baked and I don’t remember. At least it would be the one truth that came out of this trial.

    Its a shame that a girl because she is “a little off” Is condemned a Murder.


  • Amanda
    December 11
    11:35 pm

    Oh and why did she get more coverage here then the victim, the guy confessed, it was story over there. But she is an AMERICAN. And we were watching to see what the world would do.


  • Barbara B.
    December 12
    12:37 am

    ” have to agree with Tuscan on this one. All of the legal professors have said the same thing, she wouldn’t have been convicted here because there is NO evidence, that she committed the crime. NO DNA, NO Hairs, NO fibers, Not even skin cells under the victims finger nails. NOTHING!”

    What a joke. Americans are delusional and ahistorical. Anyone with the slightest bit of awareness knows goddamned well innocent people are frequently convicted in America. What do you think Barry Scheck’s Innocence Project is about?

    You know what? I agree. Knox wouldn’t have been convicted but many other Americans HAVE been convicted on no evidence at all. They’re MOSTLY not white, though. I remember one specific case from years ago, Lenell(sp) Jeter. There was even a movie made about it. He was an engineer at EDS in Dallas. He was convicted of robbery or theft, even though there was evidence that he was at work when the crime occurred and his co-workers TRIED to come forward to testify on his behalf. He was convicted anyway and spent years in jail before he was exonerated. He was black, of course. I was very young at the time but I’ve known since then that it could happen to me, too. The American justice system is utterly corrupt and racially and class biased. We have no room to criticize the Italian justice system. Ours is pretty primitive.

    There was also a case where black high school football players were part of a burglary ring. They were guilty and deserved to go to jail. However, around the same time the same thing was happening with a group of white football players. Guess who went to jail and guess who didn’t. Because paraphrasing the judge, “They were basically good boys from good families who just got up to mischief. Boys will be boys.” I was incredulous, it was so blatantly unfair. It reinforced my knowledge that some people get the benefit of the doubt and some don’t.

    It’s completely disingenuous for Americans to pretend that our justice system is fair and sophisticated. It’s also completely predictable how mainstream America responds to the white damsel in distress. If that was my black ass over there in Italy nobody would give a damn except for my family. None of you would have even heard of the case, much less cared.


  • Karen Scott
    December 12
    6:36 am

    I think Barbara is right, the American justice system isn’t in any position to be pointing and mocking.

    Had Amanda been black, I suspect most Americans wouldn’t have even heard of the case.


  • […] Knows Best has a post on the American media’s sympathetic attitude towards Amanda Knox, who was recently convicted of the murder of Meredith Kercher. I stopped reading American coverage […]

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