By Linda Edwards
December 21, 2006
A comment on an article in The New York Times of Sunday, Dec. 17th, 2006.
The Times reported on Sunday, that there was a massive protest down Fifth Avenue in New York, to protest the killing of Sean Bell, the young man murdered on the morning of his wedding, by a gang of New York’s Finest, the city police. A total of fifty shots were fired by the police at a car with three unarmed young African Americans in it, one being the groom-to-be on his way home from his Bachelor Party. He died on the spot. According to The Times, the protest, a silent one, was organized in the heart of the shopping district to bring maximum attention to this grave situation. It was organized to say that human lives, even the lives of African American young men in New York, who seem on their way to becoming an endangered species, had value, and people should be concerned about this.
This protest, of an inconvenient death, inconvenienced some young shoppers, who were of Sean Bell’s age.
Two quotes: “We can’t even cross the street to get our lunch.”, Cherrie Ostigui of Odenton, MD. Mr. Bell will never eat lunch again, ever.
“A weird time to be doing this…It’s an inconvenience to people like me.”, 22 year old Steve Diomopolous. Mr. Bell died at the inconvenient age of 23. It could have been Steve, except that Steve must be pretty sure that he would not die as a result of any police officers shooting fifty rounds at the car he is driving. Steve is conveniently white. The right color to be if you hope never to be shot by police.
How dare the Rev. Al Sharpton and his protesters interrupt the shopping of genteel people in New York’s fashionable district on a big day before Christmas? They did not make noise, said The Times, which opined that the Rev. Al Sharpton could be noisy. They walked with placards, silently, grimly, and inconvenienced Mr. Diomopolous, whose Greek name indicates that his people came here long after Mr. Bell’s shackled ancestors arrived, an inconvenience to them, no doubt, to be chained in the bottom of ships and deprived of their sense of humanity, and inconveniently put to work to build the very New York City that Steve shops in.
And they also built the country that Mr. Diomopolous lives in, and is inconvenienced in, by a protest about the killing of an African American man.
How much more crass and callous can we get as a people?
If such a person was shot by the Chinese government, there would have been howls of protest in America about the rights of Chinese youth to go home quietly after a party and not be shot to death by men in a gang who did not identify themselves as policemen. If this had happened to the Burmese woman under house arrest there for years, all sorts of denunciations would have been pronounced at the UN about the Burmese government’s disrespect for human rights. Woe to a country where this could have happened to some white American teens, even if they were being drunk and disorderly at the time. We would have been ready to send in the troops, but this life, this death happened in New York, the biggest city in the “freest democracy in the world” and the protest is dubbed inconvenient by a callow young man for whom the right to shop is guaranteed by the “pursuit of happiness” bit in the Constitution, which did not guarantee Mr. Bell the right to get home alive, and go to his bride the afternoon of the day he died.
I have heard and read many crass things in this country of my adoption in the thirty-plus years I lived here, but this takes the cake.
Has caring become ethnic? The young man who was African American saw it as a just protest; what clouded the vision of the girl Cherrie and Steve? The fact that it was not one of their own? What a sorry place we have become! How many would have had to die for Cherrie to forget her lunch? What would it have taken for Steve not to see this as inconvenient? The death of three little white girls maybe? I hope to God not.
America may have lost its heart. Certainly the portrait painted by these two young people is a pitiful one. We need to go looking for our sense of caring this Christmas Season. People’s lives are worth more than the baubles acquired by a Marylander on a trip to New York, on an inconvenient day. Certainly a life is worth more than a lunch.