Jay Phillips living up to dad’s example: Assault victim taught to stand up for himself
Swarming victim’s dad taught his son to be proud and stand up for himself
By Sam Cooper, The Province [British Columbia]
July 12, 2009
Many people were shocked by the video that surfaced recently of three young Caucasian men apparently swarming a lone black man in a strip mall parking lot on a hot summer night in the Vancouver Island city of Courtenay.
But having to fight because of his skin colour was no surprise for that black man, 38-year-old Jay Phillips. It was just history repeating itself.
His father also had to defend himself in B.C. because he was black.
On Friday, David Samuel White, 19, Adam David Huber, 24, and Robert William Rodgers, 25, were charged with assaulting Phillips on the evening of July 3, in an apparent racist attack captured on video and broadcast on the Internet.
The trio were allegedly involved in a separate attack on a young Caucasian man later that evening, RCMP Const. Tammy Douglas told The Province.
Phillips and his mother, Kirsten, who is Caucasian, responded to the charges in separate interviews with The Province.
Both remembered Jay’s father Reginald Phillips, who died before Christmas, as a man who taught his son to be proud of his colour and to defend himself.
Reginald and Kirsten first started dating in the 1960s in Prince Rupert.
“He was the only black man in town, dating a white woman, so of course he had to fight plenty,” Jay Phillips said with a laugh.
Racially-motivated fights continued in various B.C. towns, Kirsten said.
Reginald taught Jay Phillips to box from a young age, both mother and son recalled. Those skills are apparent in the July 3 video, as Phillips, a 210-pound man who can bench press 300 pounds, fought three men to a draw at the very least.
But it’s the way Jay has acted after the fight that Reginald would most appreciate, Kirsten said.
“He’d be extremely proud of the way Jason is handling this with his brain.” “He’d be beaming; he’d be so proud that I did this the right way,” Jay said. “My dad told me stand up for yourself — don’t be racist. Don’t take s— from anyone.” The family is well aware that the video of Phillips repelling three brawlers has become an Internet sensation. But the ugly incident can be used to teach and spark dialogue, they say.
Initially, Kirsten felt the gut-wrenching emotion of a mother watching her son on the pavement getting hammered by six fists.
“My heart stood still and I still choke up when I watch the video,” she said. “But I had to cheer when Jason got up and they started to scatter like little flies.” “It shows racism is alive and well,” she added. “First and foremost, people are talking about it.” Phillips says the media sensation around his actions has led to offers to teach in classrooms and even run for politics, as he proves he can “speak well” with his message against racism and gang-up attacks.
“I was at a rally [in Courtenay against racism] and eight mothers came up to me and said the same thing has happened to their kids,” he said.
“There’s a mentality bubbling up [with bullying and fighting in Courtenay] and I don’t want to see it explode.” Phillips says he will eventually show the now-famous fight video to his baby son, Malik. And like his father taught him, he’ll teach the boy to box.
“I’ll let him know racism is out there. I just hope he doesn’t have to go through this.” Before they were charged, the alleged attackers appeared in a TV interview with faces obscured under hooded sweaters. They admitted to racist language easily heard on the video, but claimed racial motivation in the fight was “blown out of proportion.” “We’re not white supremacists,” one said.
Police have presented evidence to Crown prosecutors and if the three are convicted, a judge will decide whether hate-crime law is warranted during sentencing, RCMP say.
Phillips told The Province he’s convinced he was the victim of a hate crime, but he’s not at all interested in vengeance on the three.
In fact, he hopes they get proper instruction — in the justice system.
“They’re young and stupid, so hopefully they’ll learn from this,” Phillips said.
“You start running around and doing this kind of stuff and sooner or later, someone loses their life.”