Two Stories Caught My Eye Last Week

Since working with Team OAP, I have become more in tune with racial disparities and issues here in Minnesota. I have been following two high-profile local news stories in the Star Tribune lately. Neither deals with race on the surface, but there is definitely a racial undertone to both stories. 

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The first story involves these two angelic teen cousins: Haile Kifer and Nick Brady. On Thanksgiving Day 2012 they broke into Byron Smith’s house in Little Falls for the purpose of burglarizing him. Mr. Smith exercised his Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, in order to protect himself and his property, and shot both teens to death. The teens had burglarized other homes in the area and were “known” to law enforcement officials. Mr. Smith, an elderly retiree living alone, had had his home burglarized in the past and was afraid for his life when he heard his home being broken into. He is currently on trial for first-degree murder. Can anybody honestly say that Mr. Smith would be on trial today if these teens had been two thugs from the “hood” up from Minneapolis for a Thanksgiving Day crime spree? I don’t think so. The incident wouldn’t have received as much scrutiny and the story wouldn’t have made front-page news; it would have merited a single paragraph on the last page and that would have been the end of it.

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The second story involves this boy, 12-year-old Abdullahi Charif, who drowned in a St. Louis Park Middle School swimming pool, during a class swimming lesson in February. There was no lifeguard on duty, only the (unnamed) gym teacher supervising 28 students. Abdullahi’s body was not discovered until 15 minutes after the other students had left the pool and were in the locker room. The veteran gym teacher has not been charged with a crime, as the drowning was deemed an “accident.” What, the teacher was accidentally not practicing established water safety protocols? Or he accidentally didn’t do a head count of kids as they were leaving the pool? One can only imagine a different outcome for Abdullahi if the gym teacher had been “accidentally” doing his job, instead of whatever else he was doing at the time. Can anybody honestly say that the Hennepin County Attorney would have declined to file charges against the teacher, if the child had been Caucasian? No, the parents would have sued the school district, the teacher would have been fired (instead of put on paid administrative leave) and the pool would have been closed until additional safety measures had been installed. None of which happened.  

2 thoughts on “Two Stories Caught My Eye Last Week

  1. I am going to have to call foul on your first story Lorna. Mr. Smith isn’t on trial because he shot intruders who happened to come from middle class or privileged families. He is on trial because of the suspicious circumstances around the altercation. I am confident that if the intruders had been minorities with wrap sheets a mile long Mr. Smith would still be on trial.

    As for the second story your points are well reasoned. Though I would say class is at issue here more than minority status. Not all Caucasian children come from families wealthy enough to hire a lawyer or have political leverage to persuade a D.A. to pursue an investigation.

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