Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Identifying the object of our outrage: Some notes on the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones

On Sunday, May 16, at a little after 12:40 am, Detroit police executed a raid on a home in which a murder suspect was thought to be hiding, and in the process of executing that raid, a police bullet entered the neck and head area of a seven year old girl, Aiyana Stanley Jones, sleeping in that home, and she subsequently died.

That much is known for sure; however, practically every other aspect of Aiyana’s tragic death is in dispute. And since I first learned of the incident, I have been calling around and scouring the internet for additional news, but the only thing forthcoming are accusations, speculation, and calls for and promises of justice.

And in my best estimation, we seem so caught up in the swirl of emotions surrounding the moment that the moment itself is momentarily forgotten and has become a victim of politics and personal agendas.

Everyone seems angry to the point of utter outrage that police should be so careless in their part in setting the stage for this child to lose her life, and rightly so, but this should not be the only reason we are outraged, and our outrage should not stop here.

First and foremost, we should be outraged that another child’s life has violently and tragically ended all too early. Keep in mind that it was the violent death of another child that led to the violent death of this child.

And we should be in a constant and unwavering state of rage that the violent deaths of children are not even that unusual anymore; they are, in fact, quite commonplace now. The United States has the dubious distinction of leading the world in homicides against children; this country alone accounts for about seventy-three percent (73%) of these homicides.

But it seems that only when such stories make the front page does our shock and outrage manifest itself; suddenly for a week or two, if that long, we are up in arms. We rant, and we rave. We point fingers and demand change. But the moment the media moves on to the next story, we forget.

Remember Derrion Albert? How long did we sustain our outrage over his death?  A week after his death it was all but forgotten.

Why are we not outraged all the time? Why is it not enough just knowing that somewhere right now some child is being abused to the point that death seems more desirable than life? Or that somewhere some child is being raped or otherwise sexually abused? Or that children are being sold for the purpose of sexual exploitation?

There are a number of questions that arise from this case. For instance, why would police stage a commando like raid using military style weapons and tactics in a residential neighborhood in a home in which they knew children were present?  That seems just an blatant and absolute disregard for the safety of everyone else in the home.  They seemed so intent on getting their man that nothing else mattered.

And why would the suspect, if he is indeed guilty of the charges brought against him, seek refuge in a home and area populated with children knowing that police were hot on his tail and how they would react once they found him? He, in effect, put that child in harm’s way. What is his culpability in this matter?

I am not saying that there is something inherently wrong with being angry; often anger is a natural and understandable response given the gravity of the situation. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that there is a certain romance in anger. Often anger and discontent with the status quo become impetuses for change.

However, anger just for the sake of being angry, anger just because everyone else is angry and/or because you think you should be angry, anger un-sustained even while the antecedent of that anger remains unchecked and unchallenged, is simply self-serving. I understand that you are angry.  You very well should be.  But as we move forward, what are you going to do about it?

A comprehensive list of links of organizations concerned with the welfare of our children.
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