When a dispute over a bean-bag toss game ended in a woman shouting racial slurs at high school teacher Ernest Crim III this summer, it was an ugly encounter that he turned into a teachable moment.
But now, the woman who hurled the n-word at Crim and spit at his wife, has been charged with a hate crime. On Monday, she said the charge stunned her, insisting she is not a racist.
“It was wrong of me to use the word. To me it means ‘ignorant person.’ If they were Caucasian, I would have said the same thing. Latino, black. [Race] has nothing to do with it,” Sanders said in a phone interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.
The August encounter blazed across the Internet, because Crim captured it on his camera phone, filming the woman ranting at him and shouting racial slurs in the dispute at a South Side Cultural Center event.
The video, which Crim posted to YouTube and Facebook, has been watched more than 750,000 times, including the several times the south suburban high school teacher showed it in his history classes during a discussion of racism in America.
“There is usually a lot of surprised looks from the students,” Crim said Monday. “A lot of them didn’t think this sort of thing still happens, but it does. We’ve had a lot of interesting discussions.”
Crim said he’s pleased to know Jessica Sanders, the 26-year-old Alsip woman who spat on his wife, should learn a lesson as well: Cook County prosecutors last week charged Sanders with battery and two felony hate crime counts.
But Sanders, reached by phone on Monday, said she was stunned by the charges. The video that made her the subject of Internet scorn does not show what preceded her rant, said Sanders, who intends to fight the charges.
Sanders swats the phone out of Crim’s hand as the video starts, then shouts the n-word repeatedly — including six times in quick succession, staring into the lens — and spits on Crim’s wife.
“My best friend since I was 14 is black, and I lost her over this. I have nieces and nephews that are mixed,” Sanders said. “People are saying I’m a white supremacist. That’s not who I am.”
Crim and his wife, Cassie, encountered Sanders at Margarita Fest at the Cultural Center on July 30.
Sanders and some friends were playing bean bags, and Crim picked up what he thought was a stray bag so he and his wife could play. Sanders said the Crims rudely refused to return a pair of bags, preventing Sanders and her friends from finishing their game. A confrontation ensued, and escalated quickly.
Crim said Sanders had already called him “n—–” repeatedly before he raised his camera phone, and asked her to repeat what she called him.
Sanders said that the Crims goaded her, and that Cassie Crim threw bean bags at her.
Security removed Sanders from the event soon after the confrontation, and the Crims didn’t stay much longer at what had been a pretty fun evening, with a notably diverse crowd, Ernest Crim said.
When Crim got home, he decided to post the video on his Facebook page and YouTube, where it quickly went viral. Most, but not all, of the response has been supportive, Crim said, and people who saw the video on the Internet quickly identified Sanders.
Crim did share a copy of an anonymous letter sent to his home, saying “There is one irrefutable fact. You ARE n—–.”
Sanders said in the ensuing months, she was bombarded with messages on Facebook and via email, and that her phone number and home address were posted on the Internet.
“I haven’t slept at home since July 31st, I was afraid something was going to happen,” Sanders said. “I was depressed. I was upset. But I know myself. I know that’s not me, what was out there. I thought that it blew over a bit. I started to be out more, getting back to a regular life. Now it’s on the news and television, and it’s starting all over.”
Sanders said Chicago police arrested her at work, and only told her they wanted to ask her about “something that happened a few weeks ago” when they took her into custody.
Crim said the next time he sees Sanders, it will be in court, and he wants to see the hate crime charges stick.
“I feel that if you do the crime, then you should do the time,” Crim said. “You used that word, probably 30 times before I even hit record, and then you spit on my wife? I think that’s hate.”
He also said he isn’t willing to accept an apology from Sanders.
“I’m certain [an apology] wouldn’t be authentic. She was not remorseful at all on social media,” Crim said. “If she’s apologizing now, it’s only because she did get charged.”
The video can be found online; viewers are warned it contains offensive language.