I'm sixty-two years old and was raised in a family of bigots. I have a sister. So, it didn't take long before I first heard the statement, "If she ever brings home a (fill in the pejorative - based, of course, on color of skin and/or ethnicity), I'll kill him." Do you know how many times I've heard that statement or statements very much like it in sixty-two years? Well, neither do I. I just know it's too many.
About week ago, while standing in the cereal aisle at my local Safeway, there were two manly men talking at each other and, wouldn't you know it, one was talking to the other about his daughter. And, again, wouldn't you know it, he said those infamous words, "If she brings home a "n-word" - would it mean the same if I wrote, "if she brings home an "n-word" - I'll kill him."
I'm five feet two inches tall as well as being sixty-two years old. The shorter of these two guys had at least eight inches in height on me. I think that my age equaled the sum of theirs. Consequently, for these very legitimate reasons, I kept the fire inside inside.
Let me say that, yes, I overheard them, but I'm quite certain that the people at the deli overheard them as well. I wasn't trying to listen to what they were saying, I was merely looking for a box of Frosted Flakes.
Again, I don't know how many times I've heard phrases like the one above, but, when I heard it about a week ago, it became, for me, the straw that broke the camel's back. I've also heard fathers say, "If she brings (one of them) home, I'll kill her."
Really? With all of the violent death that happens on a daily basis not only in The Formerly United States of America, but throughout the world, the catalyst for another killing would be knowing that a man, whose skin is of a hue which is disagreeable to a father, might find that father's daughter attractive? That's it?
Friday, July 20 came to mind. Aurora, Colorado came to mind. The midnight showing of a Batman movie entitled "The Dark Knight Rises" came to mind. Some people in that town made the choice to go that theater to watch that showing of that movie. Another man who obviously feels that the world is falling behind in senseless killings chose that night to enter that theater at that time and begin shooting people. When it was over, twelve people had been killed because of the choice they made.
Really? It was their "fault" that they were killed?
First, let's get one word out of the way. That word is "fault". Since when is going to a movie theater a "fault"? Indeed, it was their choice to be there at that time. I'm relatively certain that, if they knew ahead of time that a man would walk into the theater, aim a gun in their direction and shoot them dead, they'd have chosen another showing. This isn't meant to be glib and, for certain, it isn't meant to be funny. It's really meant to relate to what I heard at Safeway only a couple of days after that shooting occurred.
I've heard the statement that I referenced above far too many times. I think that some fathers make such a statement, but probably wouldn't actually kill anyone. They may never speak to their daughters again and they may cut them out of whatever will they've prepared, but they wouldn't actually kill a person.
I absolutely know that some fathers I've heard make that statement would, indeed, kill the man the daughter brought home or both the man and the daughter. Killing people these days has become what 1950s and 1960s TV portrayed it to be like in "the old west". One person pulls a trigger and another falls dead. Can you just imagine the killer blowing the smoke away from the barrel of his gun and putting it back into his holster, tipping his cowboy hat and riding off into the sunset?
The people who went to watch Batman chose to attend that particular showing. I've heard people say that those who were killed were innocent victims. They merely chose to attend that particular showing. If they chose where they would be at that particular time, where's the guilt in possessing a characteristic that one had no choice in possessing?
James Brown recorded a song entitled "I'm Black And I'm Proud". I love James Brown and, when I was a singer in a band, I tried, without success, to imitate James Brown. However, James Brown didn't earn his Blackness and, in no way, could ever truly be proud of that "accomplishment". However, the hue of the skin of the late Mr. Brown was not a punishment, either. To say it wasn't his "fault" that he was born Black is just as absurd as saying that he should have been "proud" to be Black. It's no more a fault to be Black than it is to be Brown or Yellow or White. It is what it is. It's a fact, period!
And for this, there are men, all White in my experience, who, I truly believe, would kill a Black man for accompanying their daughters on a date. Most people have gone to the movie theater and all people were born. It hurts absolutely no one to go to a movie theater and, likewise, being born with Black skin hurts no one. This is not a "false equivalency". There's as much, or as little, logic in punishing people for going to a movie theater as there is for punishing someone because of skin color combined with an attraction to a certain human being. In fact, and this is to in no way play down the tragedy of July 20, if we absolutely had to choose, it probably makes less sense to kill a person because of the color of his skin and because of who he is attracted to than it makes for a deranged person to walk into a movie theater and open fire.
Don't get me wrong, they're both crazed and evil acts. And, again, this is not a false equivalency. It is every bit as crazy for a man to kill either his daughter's date because that date has Black skin as it is for a man to kill people in a movie theater. In both cases, the killers have never taken the time to know those that they've killed. The victims are obviously thought of by the killers as not human and are merely silhouettes of human beings. The victims in each case have done nothing, with malice aforethought, to offend the killer.
Fathers who say, "If she brings home (one of them), I'll kill him" or "I'll kill them" or "I'll kill her" are no more and no less crazed than the man who walked into a theater on July 20, 2012 and shot 12 people to death.