My Dear Readers,
Earlier this month, a man was severely beaten by three other men in a racially motivated event in Detroit, Michigan. This sad and regrettable incident reflects yet another setback in racial understanding in America—the chronic inability of some Americans to look beyond the color of another’s skin, reacting emotionally with hate and resulting in the emotional suffering and despair of others.
This incident is reminiscent of an event in Jasper, TX (1998) when three white men, two of which were known to be white supremacists, murdered James Byrd Jr., an African-American man, by dragging Mr. Byrd behind a pickup truck for three miles on an asphalt road, resulting in Mr. Byrd’s decapitation and severing of other limbs.
In this situation, a similarly innocent man is targeted and physically beaten to a state that required him to be placed into a medically induced coma simply because of his race.
But—there is one major difference. In this incident, the victim of racial hatred was Caucasian, whereas his assailants were African-Americans. The story is as follows:
Steven Utash accidentally struck 10-year-old David Harris with his pickup truck when the child who had stepped off the curb in his path. Utash, who is 54 years old, immediately stopped and got out of the pickup to check on the condition of the child when he was attacked by four males aged 30, 24, 19, and 17. He was eventually rescued by Deborah Harris, an African-American woman, who also responded to the accident.
While David Harris was treated for leg and other injuries and released from the hospital, Mr. Utash suffered head injuries so severe from that attack he had to be placed in a medically induced coma in order to save his life.
Witnesses say that over 100 onlookers watched over 12 people assault Mr. Utash before Hughes intervened, but currently, four of the assailants are being held without bond, with the fifth, a juvenile, being held on a $400,000 bond.
What happened here? It was an emotional reaction.
- An emotional reaction that resulted in severe physical harm to an innocent man who did nothing more than respond appropriately given that a child had been injured in auto-pedestrian accident.
- An emotional reaction that leaves a family in shock, maintaining a vigil and praying for the recovery of their loved one.
All of the men charged with the beating bear their share of responsibility, but let’s focus on the juvenile and the impact on his life and family. The district attorney prosecuting the case, in describing the participation of the juvenile, stated the following:
“What actually occurred was the savage beating of an innocent man. By his own admission, he was one of the first to throw punches.”
The child’s parents have declined to speak to reporters. It is possible that they too are devastated by the events and reeling as they prepare to respond to the impact on their family and the legal consequences of his behavior.
As impacted as they may be, this is the time that the adolescent needs the support of his parents. In responding to the fact that he chose to participate in this terrible act, the parents may want to model the following actions:
- Advocacy-Stand as a parental advocate for their son
- Balance– work together as mother and father observing and balancing their internalized feelings during this difficult time
- Consultation-Be available for consultation as their son wrestles through choices and decisions that will impact his life
It is widely known that within the legal system in the United States, officials understand that there may be mitigating circumstances to be considered such as age, emotional maturity and development stages of the adolescent. Despite this understanding, it is the expectation that parents, not lawyers, have the duty to groom their child into a caring member of society.
In essence, this is what Mr. Utash was doing when he stopped to provide assistance. As parents, adults and significant individuals in the lives of our young people, we can and should not only mentor them, but also model appropriate behavior for them.
The following model, “Four Stages of the Journey of Self Discovery (Adolescence) R.A.C.E” is one that may be utilized to assist our young people in understanding the realities and ramifications for one’s behavior & actions.
The stages include the following:
- Responsibility-One accepts the burden of well being within society
- Accountability-The individual, and no one else, is answerable for their actions.
- Consequences– For every action, there is a reaction. Reactions are not punishments, but are responses to actions and behaviors taken (or not).
- Empowerment-Comes from within the psychological self. The individual is the “captain of one’s ship” as well as the “master of one’s destiny.” It is up to the individual to set their own direction as well as achieve the intended goals and objectives.
It would be insane to place logic into what resulted in a heinous crime and senseless act. However, unless we as a society learn something from this unfortunate incident, such occurrences will continue to repeat itself in similar communities such as Jasper, TX and Detroit, MI.
Albert Einstein has often been quoted regarding for defining the term “insanity.” He states, insanity is “the result of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
In essence, we must question and constantly evaluate our own actions and whether they match up with how we, as a multi-racial society, expect to interact with each other.
So, what is it going to take for all of us to….Just Get Along?
Perhaps rather than being “insanity” as the answer of the reasoning behind repeating the same behavior, may be there is another reason: FEAR. Fear is a normal human emotion. We must want to accept it along with the other emotions that are within the makeup of the entity of humanity.
However, it is up to all of us as individuals or as members of the larger group (society, community and family) to decide whether we will continue to “live in fear” of each other or have the willingness to “live with fear” and in doing so have the willingness to openly communicate across the table of human interaction the differences which not only separates us and also works at keeping us apart.
We will either learn to work together or work apart.
“To err is human” is a common expression yet we should not believe there is always room for error. In some cases there is no room for error. None.”
Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life
Until the next crossroads…..The journey continues….