When the motivating factor for the murder was a response to a perceived or real “act of disrespect;” not a self-defensive act in response to a physical threat, not an “it-was-me-or-him” moment; and I venture to say that the verbal affront, was, in fact, nothing near worth taking another young person’s life away from their family, this world and their future.
And probably, a life could have been saved if not for the peer (“you gonna take that son?”) audience and the “I’ll-hold-your-coat” so-called friends in attendance.
But, unfortunately, too much of a sad and tragic societally learned logic is in play in these situations: “The deliverer of the disrespect looks like me—my life is worthless—and therefore their life is worthless!”
And when you are asked to speak at these funerals, and every comforting word you have creatively crafted the night before feels like it will fall far short of adequate when you look down on the grieving faces of what is one of a parent’s worst nightmares —burying their child. That moment is as far from “meme-worthy” or “entertaining” as Earth is from Jupiter.
I’m standing by my professional, ethical standards, even if I stand alone. As a professional educator and an African-American man, I will never condone violence due to unthoughtful, insensitive, stupid, ill-intent, or mean words. It does not matter if these words are uttered in a school’s classroom, hallway, cafeteria, bathrooms, or in the streets outside of school, or even by “grown folks” on international television.
As professional educators, we also know that children are always learning, in and outside of school. And last night (3/27/2022), and in the weeks and months to come (via social media), many young people would have learned a terrible lesson well, one we educators spend so much time trying to get them to “unlearn;” and that is their “learned understanding” that any actual or perceived act of “disrespect” must be met with crowd pleasing-witnessing violence; no matter the consequences to themselves or the recipient of their violent retribution.
A distorted and deadly definition of “manhood” has, through cultural aggression, been imposed on our most disenfranchised and disconnected from the “American Dream” populations. It’s a graveyard and prison filling violent philosophy of “handle your business” instead of being adequately educated to successfully work in or own a business.
Professional school experiences and events can frame how you think about things, like the LGBTQ issue becoming less religious and political and more painfully personal when a teenager is sitting in your office who has just been kicked out of their home and into the streets or that same or another LGBTQ student is threatening suicide.
And so, for those who say: “it’s only comedy!” Forgive me if this old-fashion retired principal doesn’t get the joke. But, I am sticking with my old-fashioned non-violence standards because the memories of those teenage funerals won’t leave me after so many years have passed.