[6 October 2009]
The video beating and subsequent murder of Derrion Albert is incredibly disturbing. In surfing for the video, I stumbled upon a very young girl who left her response to seeing the raw footage, and reading what she called ‘racist’ comments left on the web about Albert’s death, as well as direct racist comments (“monkey”) towards her—a child.
YouTube user sepulturantera posts the comment:
and btw if you wanna know what killed him, its the countless other useless niggers that watched the other apes with the boards…
“What if that were you, or your son, or daughter,” the young girl asks in her posting, then counts to five, giving viewers the chance to get rid of their racism. YouTube is much more apt at protecting music industry copyrights than protecting children from cyber-terror. This girl is young, and it hurts my heart that she has to learn about this aspect of our society. No, we cannot just count to five and expect to rid our society of racism, no more than we can erase our commitment to violence. Our society’s tolerance for youth violence is already incredible, but sitting here surfing the net, it’s just sad to realize what youth today are exposed to at home. And yet it’s great that the net exposes this murder—perhaps these youth will be the ones to finally create change.
Jozen Cummings’ article “The Beating of Derrion Albert Is Must-See TV”, on TheRoot.com was a common sense reminder:
So let the video of Derrion Albert’s life-ending beating get as many views as the video of Kanye West jumping on stage in the middle of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech (as I write this, this one currently has 1,959,026 views). Let #derrionalbert be a trending topic on Twitter and make sure it stays there as long as #musicmonday or #jayz. Blog about Derrion Albert like you would your own relationship woes, remix the video of his beating by layering it over Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” to drive the weight of Albert’s loss home, or get a camera, record your own thoughts about this horrific tragedy, and in the words of YouTube, “broadcast yourself.” But most importantly, watch the video. It hurts, it’s disgusting, but it might be the first step we need to avoid seeing a sequel anytime soon.
Folks tend to forget that we’re always about moving forward, and must therefore always re-frame our pain and anguish into something that sparks us into action, and fuels efforts for change. Like Jozen Cummings’, “I [too] winced when I saw the wooden railroad plank being smacked against Derrion Albert’s head.” Yet, do we worship death, or life? Do we simply mourn, or shake things up to refocus ourselves on life?
Photo: Nadashia Thomas, 6, a cousin of
Derrion Albert, holds a sign beside
a poster of Derrion Albert at Fenger
High School in Chicago, Sept. 28, 2009.
A vigil for Derrion Albert was planned
outside of Fenger High School.
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Our society relies so heavily on martyrs, and even invents a menagerie of superheroes to descend upon us as our saviors. Yet, I believe that we could earnestly use the net to spread the message of change so that fewer and fewer of us have to be sacrificed in order for folks to get the message. What happened to Emmett Till had been happenin’! What happened to King—both the good Rev. Dr. and Rodney—had been happenin’! And even Homer Plessy stood, or sat rather, for what was already a probable cause to abandon racism: the trouble with reinforcing ‘race’ (because sometimes we can hardly tell white from Black, so therefore race cannot matter).
But, alas, “they keep on sayin’: Go slow” And we go slow, too; we all seem to sit and stew until somebody—literally someone places their body on the line—gets arrested, beaten, mutilated and/or shot. We are a society that has even preferred placing kids on the front lines of our massive discomfort over race can class, and potentially crossing the boundaries of those rigid social lines. Even the multi-culturalism celebrated in schools tends to fizzle out over time, another myth betrayed by the web: Take a look at old high school pictures of integrated schools, versus the parties and families in which we live now, where we’ve gone back to Black and white, rich and poor. Our social lines are as rigidly divided along class as before the Civil War, and as racially segregated as we were after the Second World War, thanks to suburban sprawl, leading to these concentrations of chronic poverty where the Derrion Alberts live and die. No wonder that our films and media are, too, more retro than Technicolor.
Now that marching and mass movement of people as forms of protest are out, and the age of video coupled with the web is upon us, what us gon’ do! This been happenin’, so what us gon’ do? Wonder what lynching would have looked like on a Nokia!?!