Teen Walmart PA hijacker needs to learn empathy for victims of racism

Police have arrested a 16-year-old boy in the incident in which someone got on the public-address system in a southern New Jersey Walmart and ordered all black persons to leave the store, The Associated Press reports today.

Reports the AP:

Police said the boy, whose name is not being released because he is a juvenile, went on the intercom at Walmart’s Washington Township store Sunday evening and calmly announced: “Attention, Walmart customers: All black people, leave the store now.”

The teen was arrested Friday on charges of harassment and bias intimidation. Authorities said he was released to the custody of his parents; they did not know whether he had a lawyer….

[Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton] would not say whether the boy has a criminal record, citing the teen’s age, and would not disclose the teen’s race, saying that did not factor into the investigation….

Um, the accused perpetrator’s race is not a factor into an investigation of a race-based hate crime? WTF? Only a white person who doesn’t get the concept of racism could assert something as ludicrous as that. (I Googled Sean Dalton, and indeed, unsurprisingly, he’s a gray-haired white guy.)

I’m more than 90 percent sure that the teen who hijacked the Walmart PA system in order to order all black individuals out of the store isn’t black.

What I hope the teen gets is some sensitivity training. Not some touchy-feely program put together by guilty white liberals like Dalton seems to be, but the teen needs to spend some time with some ordinary black Americans so that he can hear, from them, what it feels like to be  at the receiving end of racism.

In December 2005 I attended an appearance by black scholar Cornel West at California State University Sacramento. His topic was race in the United States of America. In an audience of hundreds, I was only of a handful of non-blacks (including my Latina friend who accompanied me).

Isn’t that how it always goes? The students who don’t need extra credit are the ones who go for it, the people who already are physically fit are about the only ones in the gym, and the ones who really need to hear about how racism has affected and still affects black Americans don’t go to Cornel West’s talk on racism?

West’s poignant descriptions of racism against black Americans — and no, he wasn’t being a firebrand, but was just relating things to us in the audience — made me teary-eyed several times.

And no, it wasn’t white liberal guilt. It was empathy. No, as a white man, I cannot know what it’s like to be black in the United States of America, and I never would claim that I could. But as a gay man, I know what it is like to be discriminated against, to be considered a second- or third-class citizen. I know something about being shit and pissed upon by the tyrants of the majority.

What the teen who hijacked the Walmart PA system does not need is a harsh punishment handed down upon him by whites who probably have plenty of racism within themselves but are just too politically correct and socially aware to ever express it (or who express is unwittingly).

Such harsh punishment probably will only make the teen resent black people, whom he’d probably blame for his punishment.

The teen doesn’t need to be made to feel badly about himself — he needs to learn, from compassionate black people, about compassion.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Teen Walmart PA hijacker needs to learn empathy for victims of racism

  1. Agreed. He needs to realise that gem of understanding that people ARE all the same on the inside, and to be able to factor himself into that equation as well.

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