Last month, the ire of unchecked hatred gripped Tulsa for a weekend. April 6 had to seem like it had extra hours tacked onto it as the Black community watched one, then two, then three, four and five innocent, seemingly unrelated people plucked off in horrifying randomness. There had to be a tension hanging in the air as residents tried to make rhyme or reason of who was getting shot and why and who would be next and why, particularly since the shootings seemed to be intentionally concentrated in one area—the Black area.
Now, as we know, Jake England and his literal partner in crime, Alvin Watts, were behind the shootings, not because there was anything personal between them and the individuals they killed or wounded. It was all based on race. England’s father had been shot and murdered by a Black man two years ago and, in a lurid show of get-back, the pair unleashed retaliation on anyone who had the misfortune of being on the street, out in the open and most importantly, Black, while they were in full-on vengeance mode until they were arrested two days later. A long two days later.
Like everything else, racism has a tipping point, and the murder of Jake England’s father took his preexisting prejudices and generalizations about Black folks and shaped them into an excuse to go on a killing spree. He went from an armchair racist, like a lot of other people, to a headline-making, gun-wielding sociopath murdering innocent victims because they just so happened to be the same color as his father’s killer.
Sometimes all it takes is a spark to move a latent belief into cause for violence. The same thing happened to Muslims after the September 11 attacks. People had been kind of suspicious of them before but generally dismissive—until that day. Crimes and flagrant discrimination against that community went through the roof and next thing you knew, everyone in a hijab was being stared down, tailed and profiled.
Now, in the wake of the Trayvon Martin murder, young Black folks are using his death as a reason to beat down unsuspecting White people in the streets. I’m not so sure what’s misdirected anger and what’s just an excuse to give someone who represents all the cops, bosses and snooty jerks in your past a long-awaited punch upside the head. Somehow, I doubt all of this carrying on in really as much about that boy dying and more about just general mischief. But my question is: do we all carry around the potential to snap and act out based on a belief we’re carrying around about one group of people? If you were attacked by a band of White girls or an angry Indian, would you be able to separate the crime from the person who did it?