Sunday, May 5, 2013


It's colder in Flagstaff than I am used to, and my hotel room was absolutely freezing last night.  By the time I was wide awake enough to realize I had to get out of bed and fuss with the thermostat, I was wide awake.  Wide awake enough to cruise through my email and do some posting on Facebook while I waited for the temperature to rise a bit.  But not awake enough to have the presence of mind to write about the following pair of articles here.  

And this is the sort of thing that's important enough to record for posterity, rather than simply posting to my Facebook wall for a fleeting conversation.  

But post it to my Facebook wall I did, at something like 3:30 a.m..  And I suppose I'm glad because the ensuing conversation makes the post for me, saving me hours of writing.  I hope you read through the entire post below, and maybe share it with friends.

I was cruising through articles on Democracy Now's website when I spotted two articles side by side, both involving accidents and kids. However, the second article mentions that the kid is African American, while the first article doesn't mention race at all. Can you tell me why it was necessary to the story to point out this teen's race?

Brother, 5, Kills Infant Sister With Children’s Rifle

A two-year-old girl in Kentucky is dead after an accidental shooting by her five-year-old brother. The brother of Caroline Starks was playing with a .22 caliber single-shot Crickett rifle he had been given as a gift. The children’s mother was outside at the time and said she did not realize the gun still had a shell inside the chamber. The rifle is specifically made for and marketed to kids under the brand name of "My First Rifle." The website of its manufacturer, Pennsylvania-based Keystone Sporting Arms, shows photos of scores of children posing with the guns and says the weapon is meant to "instill safety in the minds of youth shooters."

Florida Teen Charged, Expelled for Science Experiment Mishap

A 16-year-old African-American Florida high school student has been arrested and expelled for a science experiment that went awry. Kiera Wilmot mixed together some household chemicals in a small water bottle, causing a reaction that produced some smoke. No one was wounded, and no damage occurred. But police led Wilmot away in handcuffs and charged her with "possession/ discharge of a weapon on school property and discharging a destructive device." The school district has since expelled her. She will now have to finish out her remaining high school years in a program for expelled students. Speaking to local news station WTSP, Wilmot’s principal criticized her punishment. Ron Pritchard: "She’s a good kid, and she made a bad choice and stuff. And like I say, I don’t think — she was not trying to be malicious, to harm anybody or destroy something in school or anything else." Although Wilmot is only 16, she will be tried as an adult.
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  • David L Kirchner What kind of dope would give a rifle to a 5 year old kid?
    5 hours ago via mobile · Like · 1
  • Penny Thieme Thank you Sandy this is interesting question and am curious to see how people respond. I don't think it adds anything to the story and think of this often when I see things like this. Though it is not excuse, it makes me aware of how prevalent racism and all our other phobias and isms are so embedded in our consciousness we don't even know its still there. Thank you for reminding us it is a choice and they don't have to be.
    4 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Raquel Gutierrez This is why I like you. You raise interesting questions that make people think deeper. My answer to you question is this the social construct we live in...and it does not have to be if enough people tale an active stand to change it. As your friend pointed out, like most things, it is a choice.
    4 hours ago via mobile · Unlike · 3
  • Penny Thieme Thanks Raquel Gutierrez it is a choice and we often forget that.
    3 hours ago · Unlike · 2
  • 2 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Tali Ramo The article I read a few days ago about the second story pointed out that the incident as a classic example of the school-to-prison pipeline, which means that pointing out Wilmot's race is important. That being said, this does not seem to be the angle of this article so it could just serve to criminalize young black Americans even more. Which is obviously problematic. Do you happen to know if the children in the first article are white? Another angle to think about is that race is only mentioned when the subject of the article is not white, because white is the norm and race isn't mentioned unless it's not about white people. Just a few thoughts 
    2 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Nicolae Sinu Well, duh, it is to let us know the black kid is guilty...the white kid is a hero that was defending his/her second amendment rights..
    2 hours ago · Unlike · 4
  • John S Martinson David- One of my son's former classmate's father gave the son a .45 automatic for his ninth birthday...lots of idiots in the world
    2 hours ago via mobile · Unlike · 1
  • Robyne Stevenson I think Tali got it. White is the presumed default. If the subject is other than white, it's assumed it must be pointed out. Add to that our passive aggressive approach to the value/worth of people of color and pointing out otherness in crime articles seems natural. In Community360 we teach this as part of oppression.
    about an hour ago via mobile · Unlike · 1
  • Sandy Price If this article was trying to make a point about how African American children are treated, then as Tali suggested, naming her race serves a purpose. However, as you can see above, this publication did not report it from that angle. It simply reported her race, and did not tie it to the story at all. One of the most telling things for me is something I didn't mention at all and nobody here noticed. "Democracy Now" is Amy Goodman's left wing publication. If you can find this sort of insensitivity to race in an Amy Goodman publication, then there is nothing for it but to recognize how pervasive racism is - that is, part of our very social construct - as Raquel pointed out. As sensitized as I am to the way race plays out in our society, even I might not have even noticed it if it hadn't serendipitously been printed immediately adjacent to the other article. To everyone who participated here, thank you. Unfortunately, this group is more or less "the choir." I hope others read through these comments.