Saturday, August 7, 2010

Thoughts of Omar Thornton and the Families

Omar Thornton, a 34 year old black man who drove a beer delivery truck for a living, drew a line this week that cost the lives of nine people, including his own. It cost more than that because every one, I believe they were all men, had families, who now share in the pain. Omar's pain. Now Omar's pain has inevitably bled into theirs, whether they recognize it or not. His family surely knows that their pain comes from his as well as that caused by his actions. For surely that's how he got to drawing this line in murder. I have not heard from his family of origin, only his girlfriend, who happens to be white, who happens to confirm reports of his racial harassment. Does her skin color make her a more credible witness than say his black relatives?

Earlier today I read a piece on Salon about Omar and comments, Most of them discounted the racism issue and preferred to see Omar as simply "a nut," an ungrateful thief, or a disgruntled employee. They seem to reflect reports from the management of his company that in essence indicate they have no knowledge of any racial "insensitivities." Union officials' indication that they received no complaints of racial harrassment seem to bolster the denial. It is reported that Omar killed the person representing him at the disciplinary meeting, whom I presume was an union official.

It is extraordinarily tragic that so many lives were destroyed and families maimed by the rage in his body, the fingers that fired the 9 mm trigger again and again. The pain beneath that rage does not justify Omar's actions. And yet, even if he did steal the beer, does it preclude the occurrence of racial intimidation and devaluation? It may be hard for some to wrap their minds around how things such as the n word or display of 'nooses" and other provocative gestures/comments could lead to such horrific actions, but it is not difficult for me. People get tired of the microaggressions and many of these racial provocations are triggers to a long legacy of cruelty and subjugation that we as African-Americans have inherited. And if you also live with a long history of being on the edge of a financial cliff you are even more tired. You have even less power to change things. You feel like people keep f___ing with you, and you just get to the place where you are going to take control, or so it seems, you are going to go down f___ them up to the max -- that final line in the dirt. It is a lose lose place to be.

I am sorry that Omar arrived at that place. I am sorry that so much destruction of life and family went down that day. But I hope we all open our minds and our hearts to the fact that racism is an assault, it is a trauma, and rage and despair are often a response to it, especially when there are other assaults coming at you as well. Add in the presence of guns and...

May the sacrifice of these lives give rise to some higher good in our minds, hearts, and in our practices.

Photo courtesy of Facebook