Editorial courtesy of ECF.
I read my friend Steve Juon’s editorial, announcing his decision as RapReviews.com editor not to publish pictures of the girls nor their names. His reasoning behind the decision not to do so is understandable on the surface – perhaps even a touch noble, but as I peruse his words expressing his desire to not subject these girls to further shame and embarrassment, I can’t help but feel a sense of unease.
Many Americans who talk about youthful indiscretions and kids doing dumb things forget that this is a nation where cops can legally shoot black boys to death for playing with a BB gun in an open carry state, or for jaywalking and/or running away from cops. We live in a nation where black girls can be beaten and brutalized by law enforcement for refusing to leave class or even attending a party. In America, a white man can legally stalk a black boy first in an automobile then on foot, and afterwards gun him down when the kid, scared for his life, tries to defend himself.
In America it seems, childhood is a conceit reserved for whites only. Many children of color, especially Black, Latino and Native children, do not get to use childhood as an excuse. They are not allowed to be innocent, nor to make mistakes. The color of their skin – of my skin – makes them as well as myself unforgivable in America’s eyes. How can I reconcile that with the expectation that I forgive those who would dehumanize me, such as the Desert Vista Six? How can I be expected to forgive in a nation that deems people like me unforgivable because of the simple crime of skin color? And perhaps more importantly, why should I?
As for harming the Desert Vista Six or the community, as far as I know no sane, authoritative voices are advocating physical harm against the girls, which wasn’t the case when black and brown folks were being lynched in the 1800’s so the comparison is definitely overblown. Ridicule, criticism and harsh invective is a long way from hanging people and burning them alive. Yes the school is in the best position to mete out punishment (although if one black former teacher’s words are true – it looks like accountability for racism isn’t exactly a priority in that school) but the Desert Vista Six are not 8 or 9 year olds mindlessly parroting a word that they heard and thought it was cool sounding – these are high school seniors and they knew better.
This nation is caught in the grip of racial divisiveness in part because we spend more time trying to coddle racists and making learning about race more about comfort and forgiveness than being honest and demanding accountability. If the Desert Vista 6 believes that learning about this nation’s racism the hard way is difficult, they need to imagine living under it.