I Need a Smile

I have been reading about the high school boy who rang the wrong doorbell when he was supposed to pick up his younger brothers from a friend’s house and got shot in the head because he was black. And shot a second time when he was on the ground. He lived. But only because his guardian angel was helping.

The shooter, an old white guy, was taken into custody only to be released within 24 hours.

And then I couldn’t help but remember Emmit Till. From before I was born. And I cried for half an hour.

If I were to pick the five kids I loved the most in the 31 years I was a teacher, two of them were black. Only one was a white kid.

How could we not have learned from that picture of Emmit in his open casket? Thank God it is in black and white.

Forgive me. I can’t write more. I have to cry some more….



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3 responses to “I Need a Smile

  1. The shooter of this young man has been arrested for real now. Like Emmett Till, his mother battled and won. The cops were satisfied that the man felt justified; mom didn’t care what he felt, she wanted Justice. He’s been arrested. I believe he is in his early 80s, and the boy remains alive (thank G-d). With Till, his mother demanded that picture of him be taken and blasted out to the country so that no one could say they didn’t really ever think about it. She was the epitome of ignorance (actual or willful) not being an excuse or defense.

    Sadly, race plays a part, yes; but so does archaic concepts about self-defense, access to weapons, and just plain stupidity. Not in relation to the mistake, but in relation to the shooters. Within days, two more people were shot due to simple mistakes. One, a white woman, who was killed. Why, a passenger in a car she was in pulled into the wrong driveway on the way to visit a friend.

    Trespassing, whether accidental or purposeful, should not result in irreversible injury to body and mind. In both cases, the shooter did not ask for identity or purpose; they shot first and asked no questions later. Why? “Dem folks was on my property.” It’s nonsense. They were on public areas, easily accessible without a warrant or emergency being in place.

    But then again, I’ve been fortunate. I have made good choices in relation to some things (formally dropping a letter in someone’s mailbox with a date and time that I will pay a visit with the brief explanation of why I was visiting, then dutifully arriving at agreed on time and date to discuss the idea of gaining permission to utilize a corner of their property to trespass in the mornings (with set times) so that I could cut off five minutes of my walk to make the school bus. I did the same for people who might see me walking past in the morning on the sidewalk in front of their homes (if the home wasn’t set back from the sidewalk), just in case. And this was 25+ years ago, before the massive, endless shooting spree; even years before Columbine.

    I have also been fortunate. More than once, I have gone to pick up my sisters for my mom. It was never far, or the car would be needed and she would do it (until I got my license). Or I’ve pulled into the wrong driveway. We all have. Including these hard-headed, self-absorbed shooters of late. Mistakes happen! I have been fortunate that in the majority of cases, when I’ve been spotted, I have gotten the cop-call (like a cat call but when you get threatened with the cops if you don’t leave immediately). Only once did I pull in (pre gps) and look at the number and think “of course” and before I thought it be greeted with an armed person on their step pointing the gun at me and my car. I did not focus to figure out if they were aiming it lethally or generally, I immediately flashed my headlights and hazards and raised my hands for three seconds (no, I don’t have a clue why I did it), reversed and left. Was I shook to my core, yes! Beyond belief, yes! Do I know why I did anything that I did in that 7 or 8 seconds that stretched on for 500 years? Not one single clue. I told my friends about it and they all told me to call the police. I never did because it was a person who would never get in trouble for brandishing a weapon – I was a trespasser and it was their property. I wrote a letter to the homeowner instead. I couldn’t remember if their mailbox was curbside or by the house, so I mailed it. Also, a stamp kinda makes people more likely to recognize that it was received via appropriate channels and actually open it before tossing it in the bin. I had written that I apologize for having frightened them. I was not there to harm anyone or anything, I merely made an error. That I was attempting to get to (inserted the real address) and believed I had chosen the right address until I pulled in and realized that the numbers on the house were not the ones I was looking for. I apologized again for getting the wrong address. I know this sounds crazy, especially since I was driving a yellow volvo. Volvo doesn’t scream “burglar” and yellow isn’t exactly “trying to hide from prying eyes,” so I clearly wasn’t intentionally doing anything wrong. But I did it because I would never brandish a gun within 10 seconds of someone pulling into my driveway. That homeowner was given the curtesy of me assuming that something had recently happened to them or someone they loved that made them a bit jumpy. I wanted to remind them that not everyone is cruel. Also, hopefully, they were a little less threatening to the next person who accidentally showed up. Was it my responsibility? No. But I could do it. Give them a little peace of mind that I really wasn’t trying to hurt them, give them food for thought that maybe coming out pointing a gun at someone is maybe not the best solution, and to come out NOT pointing it people might be a better option going forward. If you want to have it, cool, but… I shouldn’t be able to see down the barrel.

    There is most certainly a racial aspect to this crime, but the rash of these shootings on driveways and porches indicates that it’s a systemic issue that is bigger than race. Of three such shootings in the last week, only 1/3 could be considered racially motivated (this one), and I doubt they have hard proof it was. However, 100% of them are based on people brandishing deadly weapons and reverting back to the terrible twos: “MINE!”

    • Thank you for saying many of the things I was too overwhelmed to say. I am an elderly white man (although a white liberal man who knows what empathy means) and probably could not be identified as an evil socialist baby-eater just by looking at me. So you are able to make some points that I never could. Thank you for your considerable effort here.

      • I am honored you took time to read my lengthy comment. Thank you.

        I am an adult white female who is also liberal, understands empathy, does not subscribe to evil socialism, and feel that babies taste too chewy to really have any desire to eat them.

        So together, we come from generally the same place other than age and gender differences. I am glad that between the two of us, we were able to properly express the message of what we wanted to.

        Have an amazing day!

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