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Thursday, October 27, 2016

“The first kick I took was when I hit the ground.” — Bruce Springsteen, “Born in the USA.”

So now, Jonah has received a lesson in How Things Are. He is 19 months old.

Sitting on his mother’s lap on a recent Delta Air Lines flight on approach to Atlanta, he was doing what babies tend to do on airplanes, particularly airplanes that are changing altitude. He was crying his little head off.

Shut that “n—-r baby” up.

Those were the alleged words of the alleged man in the next seat just before he allegedly slapped the baby with an open palm, leaving a scratch below his right eye. The alleged man, 60-year-old Joe Rickey Hundley of Hayden, ID, denies this sequence of events and pleaded not guilty last week to a charge of simple assault. But at least one witness corroborates the story, as told by Jonah’s mother, 33-year-old Jessica Bennett. She and her husband are white. Their adopted son is African-American.

Hundley’s attorney, Marcia Shein, promises her client is no racist. In so doing, she embraces the cognitive dissonance that so often afflicts Americans when they are confronted with the ponderous idiocy of tribal hatred. Michael Richards, you will recall, said the same thing after a “comedy” routine in which he hurled the N-word at a heckler and suggested the man should be lynched. Mel Gibson swore he wasn’t an anti-Semite shortly after he cursed the Jews and accused them of starting all the world’s wars.

Shein also says she has received hate mail for defending Hundley. Which is troubling, but not unexpected. Shein’s client is among the more reviled men in the country just now. The aerospace company for which he was an executive has denounced and dumped him. The Internet rings with condemnation of him. Someone called him a monster. More than one person spoke of wringing Hundley’s neck had it been their child.

Small wonder. There is something visceral and immediate in what he is said to have done. Who hits a baby? Who looks at a baby and sees an object of loathing?

Still, all that notwithstanding, something about the response to this act of violence feels faintly facile and self-deluding. After all, Hundley’s alleged animus toward black people, if not his expression thereof, is as American as monster trucks, woven through the fabric of our law, economics, health care, education, news media and culture. We tend to forget that not every slap is physical — nor is every injury they inflict. There is violence and there is violence — emotional, verbal, intellectual, monetary.

We are rightfully outraged that someone would call a baby by a racial slur and then strike him.

But it is a matter of statistical fact that Jonah, from the moment he was born, stood an excellent chance of being struck in other ways. Of being failed by his school. Of being steered into the criminal injustice system as if prison was his natural habitat. Of being denied housing. Of being denied health care. Of being denied loans. Of being denied work. Of being denied his very individuality. There is also an excellent chance — indeed, a virtual certainty — most of us will respond to this with a collective shrug, assuming we see it at all; such things tend to become socio-cultural wallpaper when they are not happening to you.

It’s easier to get worked up about violence that is visceral and immediate, particularly when it is directed against a child. We will be a better country, though, when we are willing to expend some of that outrage upon the violence we commit against African-American children every day, systemic blows that are at once more subtle, more pervasive and more damaging.

Because the truth of How Things Are is that, over the course of his life, Jonah is likely to be struck many times in many different ways.

This was just the first.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via email at [email protected].)

Photo: Kootenai County Sheriff

  • kmorgana

    This is NOT a lesson in “how things are”! This is an outrage! Things should NOT be this way, and we should not shrug this off as “part of the whole grand scheme of things”. What happened was abnormal. We should never, ever, allow incidences such as this to become just another incident. This incident happened because we, as a nation, have forgotten God. You may mock me all you want, but once we exempt ourselves from any fear of a God, we become anarchists. Things were different before. We struggled for rights we already had, and were tricked into believing that we were in shackles by the “establishment”. Little did we know, it WAS the “establishment” all along with the mantra: “live and let live, hey, its your thang, do whatcha wanna do” which is Satanism: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”. Do whatever you want! We weren’t’ fighting any “establishment”. We ARE the establishment.

    Now, let’s cut the crap. It’s NOT cool to let people do whatever they want. This man hit a child, a small, tiny baby. We need to start following the rules instead of blindly following some false idea that everything is cool if it’s our thang.

  • Some of those among us are outdoing what happened in South Africa in the Apartheid era. Incredibly, but perhaps not surprisingly, these are the same people that rally against public education, social programs, and demand the right to carry concealed weapons. A man that takes his hatred and insecurities on a baby should not be treated as a member of the human race. He is a rabid animal and should be treated accordingly.

    • 101strac

      Mr Vila, I am compelled once again to respond to one of your postings. Let me preface my comments by first saying, by and large, I have been in agreement with your prior opinions, offered on any number of topics. However, I do take exception to being lumped in with that group of haters you describe who are seemingly against anything decent and right. I have been licensed to carry a concealed firearm for more than Twenty years, and I do carry it each and every day, in a holster on my belt. Contrary to the beliefs of the anti-gun nuts(I use that insulting terminology because every posting I’ve ever read from that group, refers to people who own guns, or who are licensed to carry concealed hand-guns as gun nuts. So, alls fair, I say.) I am not lacking intelligence, common sense or good will toward all. I’m a Democrat, left of center I guess. I mention this because, the belief out there seems to be that Democrats are out to disarm the population. There are people out there who own weapons, who have no business owning weapons. Let’s not blame the weapons for that. Let’s blame the States that allow it to happen. I’m for any law that keeps weapons away from the criminals, and the mentally ill. Hey, here’s a unique idea. How about if we prosecute to the full extent of the law, those people who are found in possession of an illegal weapon, or who use that weapon in the commission of a crime. I say lock them up and throw away the key. How about if we just enforce the existing laws dealing with firearms, and make new law where they don’t exist. I felt the need to vent Dominick, have a good day.

      • I think most of us agree that the overwhelming majority of gun owners are responsible citizens who for a variety of reasons have a need to own and carry a weapon. That is why the gun control reform proposed by President Obama does not deny them the right to own a handgun or a rifle to protect themselves, use it for target practice, hunting or because of circumstances associated with their work or the environment that prevails in their neighborhood.
        The topic was the despicable behavior of a man who, for reasons known only to him, took it out on a baby to express his frustrations. I apologize for not being more clear on the issue of concealed weapons, although I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I feel very unconfortable when I see people sitting next to me at a restaurant, or shopping for groceries, proudly displaying a loaded handgun. Most of them are, again, responsible citizens, but since there is no way for most of us to ascertain that fact, our instinctive reaction is to move as far away as possible from them. Is that the kind of society most people would like to live in? Why should we live in fear because a tiny minority feels compelled to carry a lethal weapon to assuage their fears?

        • 101strac

          Mr. Vila, I’d like to repeat a previous posting of mine, made about a year ago. ” I have been licensed to carry a concealed hand-gun for more than Twenty years. Except for a few close friends, and a few neighbors, the people I come into contact with on a daily basis are not aware that I am armed. This weapon is not a toy, so I do not play with it. Nor do I flaunt it. I do however, take comfort in the fact that this weapon, in its holster, is attached to my belt. Of course I hope that I will never find myself in a situation, that would have me bring that weapon out to defend myself. But I want the option to defend myself should a threat against my life, or physical well being occur. In a country of three Hundred Million, there will always be horrible accounts in the Media of shootings and other atrocities, but don’t be so naive as to call for the siezure of all privately owned hand-guns. If you get your way, you will live to regret it.” I agree with you on this point. If I’m in a restaurant, or Super-Market, and I am able to see someones so called concealed weapon, I look at that person as a show-off, someone who is trying to impress those around him. Those people are the exception, not the rule. You have looked at the faces of these most recent mass murderers. There is insanity there, and yet , they were allowed access to weapons in their state. why is that?
          I know I can never change your opinion on the individual right to gun ownership, nor could you ever change mine. But I hope you can concede that most of us who carry firearms can be trusted, and even relied on in a bad situation

  • ObozoMustGo

    The first and most significant danger to black Americans is the abortionists scalple and scissors. The womb is the most dangerous place for unborn black Americans. Jonah was lucky to survive that with a mother that loved him enough to give him up rather thank murder him. No doubt the knucklehead on the plane should get what punishment he deserves, but the truth about abortion is is the truth.

    Have a nice day!

    “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” ― George Orwell

    • jnap

      God forbid that you and your ilk should have any voice in what a women does with the contents of her womb. It is her decision and hers alone since it is a part of her body. You are a good example, with your constant barrage of nonsense, as to why someone like you should be ridiculed every time they post an opinion.
      A baby was slapped because it was crying and it should make no difference whether that baby was black, white, red, brown or some other color because it has no bearing. The fact is a cruel and inhuman person slapped a baby for doing what a baby does; cry when it is in discomfort.
      Obozo, go find a hole somewhere and bury yourself.

  • Pamby50

    As I read this article, it took me back to when our family was starting out. He is black & I am white and our children our mixed. I remember being told an apartment that was available was not for us. I remember when my son was 8 & called the “n” word for the first time by a white child. They wanted to put our kids in a social group because of their mixed heritage. By the time they reached high school, if you hung out with white kids, you weren’t bothered. If they hung out with black kids they went to the office. They learned young that they will always be treated diffrently because of their skin color. There are people who will say that now that we have the first african-american president, racism has magically disappeared. Unfortunately it is alive and well.

  • jnap

    Bravo Leonard Pitts, you always say it in a manner that everyone can understand. How is it possible that in the 21st century such racism is still alive and well. When we all people realize that they had nothing to do with the race or sex into which they were born? When will everyone realize that what we do to others we do to ourselves? This man is a barbarian and should pay a high price for his complete and total stupidity and ignorance.