On August 10, 2020, it was reported that a 25-year-old man had been arrested in the shooting death of a neighbor’s child in Wilson, NC. Darius Sessoms, who allegedly shot 5-year-old Cannon Hinnant the night before as he rode his bicycle, is now facing a murder charge and may very well face the death penalty if convicted. The outcome of this horrific crime, in all likelihood, is that justice will be served.
But because Hinnant was white and Sessoms is Black, the far-right, particularly white nationalists, exploited Hinnant’s death for their own purposes. The hashtag #SayHisName — traditionally associated with Black people who have been killed by law enforcement — trended on Twitter. An online fundraiser took in hundreds of thousands in donations.
And several prominent conservatives used the occasion to smear the Black Lives Matter movement. Far-right pundit and police apologist John Cardillo tweeted, “He was targeted and executed by a black man for one reason. Cannon was white, and #BlackLivesMatter declared war on him and all other children who look like him.”
The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh wrote, “Reverse the races and this is the only thing anyone talks about for a month.”
In a separate tweet, Walsh claimed that there was a media “conspiracy” to suppress the story. “This is an actual conspiracy,” he wrote. “These media companies have to make an editorial decision to blacklist stories like this. … This is a considered and intentional decision to ignore the murder of a child, and the reason is that he’s white.”
Federalist contributor Jesse Kelly falsely claimed that there was an “epidemic” of anti-white hate crimes. “What if I told you we had a violent, racially-motivated hate crime epidemic in America and it’s the one nobody wants to talk about?” he asked, retweeting @ThatOldSheepDog, a white supremacist account that called for “re-segregation” to protect whites from “feral non native colored people.”
On August 19, racist Twitter troll and failed congressional candidate Peter D’Abrosca tweeted: “Last week, his name was Cannon Hinnant. This week, her name is Veronica Lee Baker. She is America’s latest black-on-white murder victim. She was 17.”
The rhetoric of white nationalists was remarkably similar.
White nationalist vlogger Paul Ray Ramsey tweeted, “His name was Cannon Hinnant. Say his name.” Three days later he retweeted an article about the killing by far-right outlet Breitbart News. “He was executed by a black,” Ramsey wrote. Neo-Nazi Mark Collett asked “Where are the crying celebrities? Where are the protests? Where are the virtue signalling ‘influencers’?”
During the August 11 episode of America First, podcaster Nick Fuentes went on a racist tirade. Fuentes said it was “important to know the names of our people,” and called for Hinnant’s killer to be “lynched.” “I think this Darius Sessoms character should hang from a tree because of this, and forget the criminal justice system and forget anything like that,” he said. “I mean this is an animal.”
He whined about being reminded that the lives of “degenerate criminals and thugs” — like George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and Ahmaud Arbery — matter. “But what’s curious about all of this is all the victims everyday of black crime and other things,” Fuentes said. “How about all the white people that apparently don’t matter? How about this young man, Cannon Hinnant? Does his life matter?”
Minutes later he explained to his white audience that they “can’t afford to not care about this” when deciding “where you’re going to put down your roots and raise a family.” He urged them to ask themselves if they wanted to live in a country or a neighborhood where “your family will be destroyed, like this unfortunate family in North Carolina.” And he said it was like “that old adage: in this day and age you cannot relax.”
Fuentes was referencing a political cartoon published by the defunct Neo-Nazi organization White Aryan Resistance which depicts a caricature of a Black man holding a knife. Its caption, “…AROUND BLACKS…NEVER RELAX,” has become a meme in white supremacist circles.
A day later the white supremacist co-hosts of The Daily Shoah lamented what they believed to be a lack of mainstream media coverage of the crime, and called for a “show of force” in the town of Wilson. Mike Peinovich announced grimly that Hinnant had been “shot by a Black, just shot right in the head,” while Alex McNabb referred to the killer as a “pit bull.”
“So, I’m like why is it that we are expected to believe that Blacks — why are we bending over backwards for these people?” asked Peinovich. “Like … this is an old thing to say but, I mean, this is not the first time something like this has happened, either. And … the same points have to be made. Like, A) can you imagine if the races were reversed? But B) we all know like that just doesn’t happen.”
McNabb added, “Yeah so there’s not gonna be a White Lives Matter march. There should be. There should be a [march where we say] ‘Hey look, we don’t wanna live with these people. We do not wanna fucking live with these people.'”
Peinovich responded by claiming the murder “got people real fired up” and that “people have been saying things like, ‘We should go and do some kind of show of force or march through this town, or to send a message about this.'” But he said that any march or protest by white supremacists would attract federal law enforcement.
Guest “Jazzhands McFeels,” who typically co-hosts the white supremacist podcast Fash the Nation, alleged that the murder will be buried by the media, and that search results will be actively suppressed. McFeels claimed that “if you bookmark this stuff, and then go back and look at it two years later and try to find other articles” they’ll have been removed.
During the August 14 episode of Flashback Friday — a weekly show produced by white power media outlet Red Ice — co-hosts Lana Lokteff and Henrik Palmgren complained that the races of the victim and perpetrator were not highlighted. They also said media outlets should be connecting Hinnant’s murder to other acts of black-on-white violence and reporting on crime statistics.
Palmgren said he thought the mainstream media was “forced” to cover the crime, and that if the “racial roles here involved would’ve been reversed, you know that this would’ve been front and center in the national press.” Lokteff agreed and said that if Hinnant were a Black child murdered by a white man it would have been “world news.”
After playing a CNN segment in which Hinnant’s father was interviewed, Lokteff admitted that, yes, the media was covering it but said the problem was how it was being covered. “They’re not getting into the crime stats here, and telling other stories — ‘Oh this reminds me of this story and this story and this story. These kids were also shot,'” she said, ignoring the fact that other crimes would be immaterial.
The pair approvingly cited a headline by the fringe, far-right website National File, which proclaimed “Black Man Executes White Child in Broad Daylight in North Carolina Neighborhood — Police.” Palmgren said this would have been the headline used by outlets like CNN had the “racial roles been reversed,” and said that headline “is how it should be.”
Lokteff then cited the allegation that the killer had eaten dinner with the victim’s family prior to the murder, and added, “That’s why, you know, can’t ever relax anymore.” In making that statement Lokteff was likely referencing the same racist meme alluded to by Nick Fuentes.
Two days after this video was uploaded, white nationalist YouTube personality Jason Köhne used the murder to go on a rant about “anti-whites” whom he insisted had blood on their hands. During his Going Free show, Köhne told his audience how to use Cannon Hinnant’s death as a rhetorical weapon against “anti-whites,” with a scripted response listeners could use.
He recommended that people blame more than just Cannon Hinnant’s murderer, and instead say “the anti-white professors pulled the trigger, the anti-white politicians pulled the trigger, the anti-whites in the streets destroying Western civilization, they pulled the trigger.” He added that they “will continue to be responsible for Cannon’s murder for all time.”
“There isn’t enough punishment,” he continued to rant, “for the actual murderer that is going to be enough to get the rest of the anti-whites off the hook! You are mad as hell, righteously angry, until the end of time! Against every — and you are directing your ire against every — your righteous anger, your just and law-abiding, righteous anger — against every anti-white for all time!”
On Telegram, channels that routinely publish violent, Neo-Nazi propaganda began exploiting Hinnant’s death. One channel posted a picture with the phrase “WHITE CHILDREN MATTER” emblazoned on it, along with a list of white children who were murdered or assaulted by Black people. Another posted the following message: “White men debate optics while a nigger shoots a white child in the head.”
Michael Edison Hayden, Senior Investigative Reporter at the Southern Poverty Law Center, explained that right-wing extremists often use the murders of white people to further their own agenda. “Far-right extremists typically seize on lurid, violent crimes like the murder of Cannon Hinnant because they understandably horrify people,” he said via email.
“It’s a deliberate tactic. For example, in his emails to Breitbart News, [White House advisor] Stephen Miller repeatedly highlighted specific, seemingly random violent crimes perpetrated by people with Latin or Muslim surnames while seeking to distract from the ideologically motivated hate-murders perpetrated by Dylann Roof.”
In 2015 after Kate Steinle was allegedly killed by José Inez García Zárate, an undocumented immigrant, white nationalists used her name as a rallying cry and pushed for anti-immigrant policies. And before that, Neo-Nazis protested the brutal slaying of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, a white Knoxville couple, by Black perpetrators in 2007.
“Fascists want to exploit the emotions triggered in us by hyping specific crime stories in order to corrupt people’s trust, and inject the same hate and fear in people’s hearts that they feel,” Hayden explained. “Ultimately, the men who are using Hinnant’s death don’t care about that boy or creating a more peaceful, equitable world. They want to exploit his family’s pain in order to stoke hate and maybe make a little more cryptocurrency while doing it.”
Indeed, nowhere is that lack of genuine empathy more pronounced than when grieving friends and family members reject the message of white nationalists. Cannon Hinnant’s mother, Bonny Waddell, told reporters her son’s killing was not racially motivated. “This is not a race issue,” Waddell said. “This was a — I don’t even know what it was.”
At Stormfront, the Internet’s oldest white supremacist forum, users reacted by lambasting the boy’s parents for not making race an issue. “I hope the parents really don’t think that way,” wrote “PaleIsPretty.” “There’s no way you can see your little kid get shot in the head by a drugged out buck and still wish to kiss their feet.”
“The whole family is mudsharking methhead trash,” declared “Devin Pearson.” Another blamed their reaction on the “increasing mongrelization of US Whites.” They added that “these parents are guilty of gross neglect,” because “letting their child grow up in an area around criminal Negros, or any Negros for that matter is unforgivable!”