Sunday, November 17, 2013

Horrible. Just horrible.

Before you watch this video, I should warn you that it is quite disturbing on quite a few levels, not the least of which is its brutality. But I urge you to watch it through to the end.

For me, this video stirs a certain rage. Perhaps it’s my since of justice, my sympathies for the defenseless victims. When I was growing up, this behavior wasn’t called a “game”, but rather a “sucker punch”, and anyone guilty of delivering one was called a coward. Today, apparently, this is a thing, roving bands of teenagers randomly picking an unsuspecting, unprepared stranger and targeting him for a blindsided attack. The kids interviewed in this video are in many ways more disturbing than the scenes of brutality. When asked what the point of it all was, they say, “for the fun of it…”

My discovery of this video comes on the heels of news that the Virginia State football team has been banned from postseason play because of a fight that broke out in a bathroom during a celebration luncheon prior to the championship matchup between Virginia State and Winston-Salem. The two teams had both had tremendous seasons, both 9-1 and playing for a spot in the NCAA Division II playoffs. Winston-Salem QB Rudy Johnson made the mistake of going to the bathroom alone. A group of six Virginia State players followed him inside and viciously beat him. The championship game was cancelled, and one of the attackers is in custody.

We are constantly lectured by our political leaders that we need to have a conversation about race in America. But, these two stories are perfect examples of why that conversation will never happen. How do you ask difficult questions about this sort of behavior without being accused of racism? How is it possible to watch this video and then listen to people excuse it with airy nonchalance and academic gibberish about root causes or institutional racism?

My mind and my heart tell me that all African-Americans don’t approve of this behavior. As a thinking, informed person, I also know that there are perhaps millions of white teenagers both capable and guilty of similar behavior. As a Christian, I know that all we like sheep have gone astray, and there is none righteous. No community of people has a monopoly on either vice or virtue. But, honestly, I watch this video and I read story after story after story of unhinged, pointless and sadistic violence that seemingly runs rampant in African American communities, and part of me thinks having a conversation about race is both pointless and hopeless. The chasm is too wide and too deep.

I watch the smiling teenagers flippantly describing their new game and I shudder. Where is the humanity? What of empathy? Is there not even the slightest scintilla of compassion for that poor teacher carrying his briefcase after a long days work, walking along minding his own business? The reaction of this band of cowards to his fall is to laugh and swagger on their way. Man’s inhumanity to man is an awful thing to watch.

At this point, I have to fight against bitterness. I must guard against creeping hatred, fight off easy and thoughtless judgment, and remember that all of us possess an inhumane impulse. But God Almighty, some days it’s hard to do.