Don Belton. Photo credit: Indiana University.
The ranks of Black and openly gay professors, already not large, has been tragically diminished, again.
Two days after the accused murderer of UC Riverside (and formerly UC Irvine) English Prof. Lindon Barrett was found dead in his jail cell, another Black, gay English Professor has been murdered, this time in Indiana.
Don Belton, an English Professor at Indiana University, was viciously stabbed to death 27 December 2009 at his Bloomington, Indiana, home by Mike Griffin, a blue-eyed ex-Marine who had served in Iraq. Griffin turns 26 next Monday. According to friends of Prof. Belton, Griffin has an ongoing relationship with Belton and invited him and his girlfriend over to his home on Christmas day. A policeman's affidavit notes that Belton, in a diary entry written a week before, had expressed happiness about "Michael" coming into his life.
Griffin, who was turned in by his girlfriend, is now claiming that Belton sexually assaulted him twice on Christmas Day and when Belton would not apologize, he killed him two days later, stabbing him "until he quit moving", with a "peace keeper" knife he acquired before heading for Iraq, according to the police. However, in court today, Griffin pleaded not guilty.
Belton's friends have rallied to the slain professor's defense, arguing that Griffin's claim of being assaulted is nothing short of a dubious "gay panic" defense, used to inflame the public and stirr up homophobia. They have organized a vigil for New Year's Day and also created a web page to ensure justice for Don Belton: http://justicefordonbelton.com/.
The site also links to research materials debunking the gay panic defense.
Hopefully, the truth will prevail, given that Griffin appears to have acted with premeditation, arriving in Belton's home with a change of clothes (he later dumped the bloodied clothes) and his peace keeper knife tucked in a scabbard on his belt.
The parallels with the Lindon Barrett case are inescapable. Both professors (Belton was 53; Barrett, 46) apparently had younger lovers, in their 20s, and both lovers in the end betrayed them.
According to Belton's profile on the IU web site, he is the author of a novel, Almost Midnight and editor of anthology on black masculinity, Speak My Name.
He previously taught literature, fiction and world cinema at Macalester College, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the University of Pennsylvania.
Belton's own web site, still up, shows some of his quirkiness and humor: "Greetings! Don Belton here. I am an author, educator, jazz fiend, bibliophile and cineaste. Welcome to my website and blog. In the coming weeks and months you will find here what I trust will be an exciting and growing compendium of culture, arts, and commentary. So, stay tuned!"
His own bio states, tongue in cheek: "Don was born in posh penthouse on the Right Bank of Paris with a silver spoon in his mouth, listening to Miles Davis playing live in celebration of his birth."
Another life snuffed out. Rest In Peace Don.