The “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” was written seven months before I was born, and just under five years before Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered.
The 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed just under two months before my birth, and JFK was assassinated within my first 20 days on the planet.
This shit is toxic, it’s REAL, and it’s deadly. Continue reading “Another black man dead…Only this time?”
And these children
That you spit on
As they try to change their world
Are immune from your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through…
A little under two years ago, I wrote this post in reaction to Philando Castile’s murder:
In that time, nothing changed, until last February, kicked off when a series of white males took up arms against their social circle and inspired a movement in the aftermath of their destruction. Except, that’s not the whole picture.
Compare and contrast.
Four articles from The Guardian, a somewhat left-leaning source with roots in the United Kingdom:
1. Florida shooting: suspect escaped scene by hiding among students as they fled
Nikolas Cruz, 19, charged with 17 counts of murder as officials confirm the AR-15 rifle used to commit massacre was purchased legally
(Incident: February 14, 2018. Dead: 17, injured: 17)
2. Austin bomb suspect left video ‘confession’ before he died
Police say footage portrays ‘a very challenged young man,’ but nothing to show he was motivated by hate
(Incidents: March 2-20, 2018. Dead: 2, injured: 5)
3. ‘They executed him’: police killing of Stephon Clark leaves family shattered
A young, unarmed black man was shot 20 times in his grandmother’s backyard. Now his brother is fighting through grief to demand justice
(Incident: March 18, 2018. Dead: 1)
4. Maryland student who shot classmate dead killed himself, officials say
Austin Rollins, 17, fired a fatal shot to his head just as he encountered the school resource officer at Great Mills high school
(Incident: March 20, 2018. Dead: 2, injured: 1)
Wait. Did I say four? I meant five.
5. Alton Sterling shooting: two police officers will not be charged with any crime
Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II won’t be charged for incident that occured [sic] in July of 2016 that sparked unrest throughout Baton Rouge
(Incident: July 7, 2016. Dead: 1)
Two of these incidents are not like the others. In fact, the victims in those two incidents stand in stark contrast to the others, even though they are connected by the way in which they died. And in how the victims were described. And in the accountability of those who perpetrated their murders.
On March 22nd, I wrote this piece, after the Associated Press put out a horrendous article describing the Great Mills murderer as a “lovesick teen.” The phrase AP used seemed completely tone deaf, wholly inappropriate given the reality that, according to the Violence Policy Center, 11 murder-suicides happen every week, and that 9 out of 10 murderers use a gun.
As the article above shows, the Resource Officer originally credited with stopping the murderer actually hit him in the hand, and that the kid died from a self-inflicted gunshot.
Think about that.
In contrast, Stephon Clark was shot twenty times in his own backyard, murdered in cold blood, and the only thing the cops could find after the dust settled was a cellphone. And nobody could explain why they had to turn off their body cameras.
When Alton Sterling was shot, he did have a gun on him. And it shouldn’t have mattered. After all, Louisiana is an Open-Carry state, and Sterling was within his legal 2A right to possess and carry the gun.
According to an eyewitness report from his friend inside the store, near where Sterling was murdered, the gun was in his waistband, not in his hands.
People of color have been targets since the first of the slave ships landed on these shores. And cops have proven that lynching isn’t necessary as long as they feel free to pump lead into any individual they view as a threat, regardless of reality.
Being born with dark skin isn’t inherently threatening unless one wants an excuse to pump the entire contents of a gun clip into a human being and call him a target, to exercise summary justice outside of the legal system, to shut down any possibility of accusations of police brutality or corruption.
Any excuse will do, regardless of whether the victim’s legal and civil rights say otherwise.
I’ve been writing about racism since the first few posts I wrote in this blog, way back in 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when the Bush family turned a blind eye to reality and cost the lives of almost 1,500 people and displaced a huge number of poor families, many of color, in New Orleans.
#BlackLivesMatter, which started as a hashtag on social media, came into existence in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman’s acquittal finally drew attention to the massive disparity between being black and being white in America.
But not enough. Not nearly enough.
No, it took a major tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in a privileged part of Florida’s Broward County, to focus the movement like a laser. These students are articulate, driven, privileged kids. They have finally, firmly, seized that banner of truth and anger and sadness, raised it high, and reached out to their siblings across the country who have been targets far longer.
Inclusive, determined, driven by force of will, these kids who founded the March For Our Lives movement, who have declared #NeverAgain in places across the country, are defining the future in their terms.
Now that they’re coming of age, their movement looks a lot like the Vietnam War protests of our past. And no wonder.
We ARE at war.
We are deep into Civil War, and we have no idea where it will lead, but the children…OUR children…have declared in more than a million clear, strong voices of all ages, ethnicities, genders, and cultures, that #EnoughIsEnough.
Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky and their friends speak not just for the students at MSD, but for kids across the country, and they will sit in silence no longer.
It’s no surprise that they have welcomed their siblings of color, who are considered “at-risk” merely for existing. After all, they’re theatre kids. They understand diversity in ways only some of us fully understand.
In a time and place where our people of color are maimed or killed in disproportionate numbers, simply because they’re not white, these kids see only one thing: Themselves.
In our gun-saturated society, there’s a reckoning coming. It’s coming at the ballot box this year.
May these children succeed where we have failed, in the ten years since the District of Columbia v. Heller decision, to force change. I only wish David Bowie was still here to see it.
David Bowie – Changes (Olympia)
My friend on Facebook says: “This kid was a domestic abuser. His girlfriend had broken up with him, so he SHOT HER. This headline is BS.”
Boy, howdy, is it ever. Entitled asshole with access to deadly weapons. But this isn’t the first time I’ve had trouble with headlines.
From the Associated Press via all sorts of media outlets, but notably the New York Times earlier this afternoon:
Here’s a link to the original article, via Time.com, because the New York Times has updated the title and removed the above (which I suspect was a wise move on their editor’s part): Maryland High School Shooter Was Lovesick Teen, Police Say.
But that’s not all:
This afternoon, as reactions to the article’s original title lit up my FB feed, a different friend asked a question that generated the hottest post I’ve had on my wall in a long time. The post is here. It’s still active.
This article is the result of that conversation, and so here’s my take on it. Buckle up.
The cops and the press have GOT to stop painting these kids as forlorn and pitiful. If the kid had been any better at aiming, or if he’d had access to anything more deadly than Daddy’s Glock, this would have been much more than attempted murder / suicide with collateral damage.
Just stop it.
It’s a bullshit line. Imagine the headline if this wasn’t a teen: “Heartbroken man shoots ex-girlfriend and then himself.” The only difference is the age of this entitled little shit.
First off: This is domestic abuse taken to its extreme conclusion. Don’t know what I mean? Here are several places to read up:
- The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)
- NBC News: Domestic Violence: Nearly Three U.S. Women Killed Every Day by Intimate Partners
- The United Methodist Church: Domestic abuse and gun violence: A fatal intersection
- NPR.org: In Texas And Beyond, Mass Shootings Have Roots In Domestic Violence
Second, does premeditated murder get a pass because of arbitrary chronological age?
Kids as young as 16 are allowed to operate vehicles in Maryland. And while I loathe the false gun/car dichotomy, in this case it proves a point.
I was a lot younger than Austin Rollins when my dad took me to the shooting range the first time. Rollins couldn’t buy the gun he used on his own. If you’re under 21 in Maryland, it’s illegal to buy a gun like that anywhere. Instead, he used a deadly weapon that belonged to his dad when he exacted punishment on his ex-girlfriend for leaving him.
Who should be held responsible? The kid holding the weapon or the parent who bought it and left it accessible? Are the parents punished enough by losing their child? We still don’t know whether Rollins took his own life or the Deputy on the scene did the job, and now we will never know the complete motivation for the incident, because that died with Rollins.
See, I come at this from two directions: I have kids in high school who could be likely targets of this sort of abuse. I also have a brain that still thinks I’m only a couple of years removed from high school myself. Because of these things, I harbor an overwhelming level of empathy with the kids who are the targets of these violent offenders.
Rochester isn’t a small town, but it had plenty of places for gun shopping when I was a kid, and I can still smell the gunpowder and oil inside the last gun shop I visited with my dad. His collection included two .22s and a repro Kentucky musket for which he cast his own ammo. He had other guns that were higher caliber, which hurt to shoot. The .22 rifle was sweet, though. And I could hit the center of the target with it when I still had access to it. I’m still here. I haven’t shot anyone.
No, it’s not about the guns or the location of the individuals in question. And I’m sorry, but I have no stomach for any of this crap. I’ve seen more eyerolling article titles in the last three weeks because cops can’t figure out the motives for the Parkland shooter, or the serial bomber, or the kid down in St. Mary’s County. Why?
I have a guess: I think it’s because they’re afraid if they give any credence to the possibility that easy access to guns makes these incidents possible, they’ll get a raft of shit from the gun lobby and all those “my guns are legal so why hurt me” people who love the NRA, and you know what? They’re probably right. We can’t admit we have a problem or we’ll be forced to do something about it. And so we go another day or two, or maybe a week, and Great Mills will be old news as we turn to the next entitled asshole with access to weapons and an axe to grind.
I am truly sick to death of all this soft pedaling of white violence. All these armed snowflakes are a lot more dangerous to our society because of this crap language. We have GOT to stop protecting people just because they have a melanin deficit. Call them what they are and stop finding excuses for why we couldn’t see it coming.
Let me tell you: I listened to the hateful rhetoric against members of the Obama administration while I sat in the bleachers during a rodeo way back in 2011, in Logan, UT (with my kids in earshot). I watched a couple of guys get two wheels off the ground in their pickup as they exhibited road rage against my liberal bumper stickered car outside of Cheyenne during that same trip. And that was years ago, before Sandy Hook even happened. Years before the current administration in the White House that gives white violence a pass.
I can tell you exactly what this sounds like.
We are broken.
“But if he’d had a knife…”
Sure, Rollins could still have tried to kill his girlfriend, but it’s also possible that he might also still be alive and she might not be fighting for her life right now. Yes, it would still have been violence, but it’s far less likely that it would have been fatal.
Bottom line: The police need to change their methods and their language.
Pretending that the motive for violence is unclear–that we have no idea why a kid would do such a thing–has the effect of giving violence against women a pass. It’s the same willful ignorance that lets people describe a domestic terrorist who plants serial bombs as a troubled youth.
I’m talking about language. When we soft pedal with words like “lovesick teen” and then can’t figure out that a kid is dangerously close to murder, is it because we give kids the benefit of the doubt or because we soften the language? How is it that Trayvon Martin was a thug but these kids were just misunderstood?
The Parkland murderer was after his girlfriend and chose Valentine’s Day on purpose. And now 17 kids are dead.
When the discussion is “walk up” instead of “walk out” and women are told to be nice because otherwise they could be dead? Why is a stellar black musician with a bright future dead, blown up? Police can’t imagine. Why is a black man shot dead in his own backyard for holding a cellphone? We have no idea. That’s what I’m talking about here. Body cameras won’t fix this.
The police can’t imagine why Rollins would do something like this? So why can all the women on the aforementioned thread come up with a reason?
You’d better believe if these kids were anything but white, there’d be different language in use and we’d be in a state of emergency trying to figure out how to get the kids and their guns off the street.
“Shooter.” Too subtle. Too polite. Let’s use a new word: Murderer. That’s what these kids are.
These kids assassinate the people they think have hurt them. The culture in which they live gives them access to the tools they use and tacit permission to use them at will by making them available and telling them they’re entitled to whatever they want. And god forbid we should try to make it harder for them to get access, or to hold their adults responsible for the aftermath.
We’re not talking about a temper tantrum. We’re talking about death.
When men stop solving their relationship problems with gunpowder, talk to me.