By now, everyone has heard of Vester Flanagan, a/k/a Bryce Williams, a former reporter for WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Virginia who shot and killed two of his former co-workers on air, citing as his reasons the months of racial discrimination and even sexual harassment he endured during his year-long tenure at the station.
Flanagan even went so far as to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), though his claims were dismissed, out of hand.
According to Flanagan, the Charleston massacre, coupled with his own experiences with racial discrimination are what sent him over the edge, and he did the only thing he felt there was left to do.
Look, I don’t know if there’s any truth to Flanagan’s claims that a racially hostile working environment, specifically, and a racially hostile country, in general are what set him off. James Baldwin did say, however, that to be Black in America was to be in a constant state of rage, and considering the fact that far too many law enforcement personnel are going back to the police force’s slave patrol roots – shooting unarmed Black men, Black women, and Black children left and right – Flanagan’s rage is understandable.
And whether or not some of us want to admit it, his rage is also justifiable.
But, that’s not what the narrative is, nor will that be what the global narrative on this issue becomes.
The global narrative on this issue will be about gun control – whether for or against. I’m almost willing to guarantee you that hardly anyone will mention the “one extrajudicial killing every 28 hours” statistic, nor will they mention the untold numbers of Black death at white hands, wearing blue shields (or not).
Instead, what will more than likely happen – in fact, it’s already happening – is that there will be an outpouring of sympathy for the victims, while Flanagan will be painted as a monster – a man with severe mental health issues, irrespective of whether or not it’s true. That his anger – his rage – as a Black man living in America will be swept under the rug, if for no other reason than had what he claimed actually been true, he wouldn’t have had a job at a TV station, in the first place.
Also, this one story – this one isolated incident in a sea of white people who kill Black people, with little-to-no provocation – will be used as continued justification for an officer’s use of excessive force, and staunch refusal to even attempt to see if he can de-escalate a situation, before it leads to violence.
In other words, in his attempt to right a wrong, Vester Flanagan just painted yet another bullseye on the backs of our People.
Now we have to sleep with both eyes open.