When Emmett Till was murdered in 1955, his mother allowed his casket to remain open and photographs taken to show what racism in America can do to a child.
Over 50 years later, the city of Chicago has its own horrific “racism” murder. This time it was due to black children and their black-on-black hatred of one another. That hatred is forever memorialized via the cellphone video of Derrion Albert’s murder.
Mamie Till Mobley kept the image vivid and the horror of Emmett’s murder alive. The same cannot be said for Derrion Albert to the same degree. Derrion’s murder in 2009 at the hands of five teenagers has not become the cause célèbre that it should. Nor has it become a rallying point against black-on-black teen violence.
This past week, the final individual charged in the murder was sentenced. In total, five people have been tried and convicted. Four of them were barely into adulthood when the massive fight took place. Yet their names and prison sentences are barely mentioned. Those individuals include an unnamed 14-year-old, who is in juvenile detention until he turns 21; Eric Carson, who at age 17 got 26 years; while Silvonus Shannon, 20, Eugene Riley, 20, and Lapoleon Colbert, 20, all got 32 years.
It didn’t matter to the judge that some of those young men didn’t have a criminal record. Their decision to make Derrion the receptacle for their blows and kicks was like playing a video game. Except it wasn’t a game and a real person lost his life. Try as they might, the judge wasn’t buying into their cowardly behavior of striking when the person was already down on the ground.
Derrion’s murder is significant not only because it was caught on tape; it is also a metaphor for violence in the black community. Violence that is accentuated by hatred for each other, for no apparent reason. Violence that, when watching the video, made me shudder at the voices of those who taped the murder. Voices that call on the videotaper to “get closer.” Voices that express glee when Derrion falls to the ground. Voices that not once paused in the recording to even mention calling the police. Voices that called out, “Put that nigger to sleep,” with the same hatred and vileness as those who killed Emmet Till.
If I had my way, every CPS student would see the tape of Derrion’s murder, beginning in sixth grade. And their parents should watch it too. Derrion’s murder should be a study in mob violence and the split-second decisions that a person can make. That split-second decision was all it took for Eric, Silvonus, Eugene and Lapoleon to get caught up in the mob action and go from being young men with the world at their feet to being inmates with X’s on their backs.
Their decision is one that our young people need to observe and study. The consequences for stomping on a person’s head and whacking someone over the head with a board are real. Those four young men weren’t playing a video game. It was a real human who received the blows they threw. It was a real human who lost his life.
They, in turn, are real humans who will pay a significant price.