Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Death By Accident

In her recent book Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing, Megan Smolenyak-Smolenyak writes about a young African-American man in Texas who was killed during the Civil Rights movement. He was shot in the head three times and his death was determined to be accidental.

Ms. Smolenyak writes of being shocked at these conclusions. “How could firing several rounds into a local hangout be accidental?” she asks.

All of this reminds me of a story during my graduate studies in Georgia. I was attending class with a fellow student, a justice of the Georgia courts. At the time there were multiple news reports about a young man who had been shot several times and his death ruled a suicide. At the beginning of class one evening I wondered, aloud, how could anyone be shot several times and still be ruled a suicide. The justice, my colleague, simply commented, “You obviously haven’t lived in the South very long.”

In addition to racism, these stories indicate significant regionalism. Police in the South are, to this day, more inclined to draw a mental line between two points and come up with the most straight forward conclusion. If someone is shot and there are no witnesses, it must be suicide. Any incongruities that might hinder this conclusion are best ignored. And life goes on.

I guess I have lived in the South long enough because a man shot through a window, several times, ruled an accident in really not shocking, nor surprising.

I suppose I am way too cynical.

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