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Ernest Hooper: Black suspects stir disappointment, resolve

It happened again Saturday.

Authorities in Chapel Hill, N.C., revealed the photo of a "person of interest'' in the murder of popular University of North Carolina student Eve Carson, and it struck me like it didn't strike most.

The grainy image displayed a young man in his 20s using Carson's ATM card. He wore a retro Houston Astros ball cap and displayed a nonchalant look. And he was black.

And I was crestfallen.

The same disappointment followed moments later when pictures flashed of the black suspect in the recent murder of an Auburn University student.

Don't get me wrong. I wasn't hoping these suspects would be white. But when it turns out a horrific crime has been or may have been committed by a black person, I'm wounded.

Why is that? The true victims are the beautiful and beloved students who held tremendous promise, not a columnist far removed from the situation.

The alleged perpetrators have little in common with me beyond race.

Yet these crimes resonate in ways I wish they didn't. On a certain level, I find it difficult to justify these thoughts.

I want, someday, to look and see just a criminal. I want, someday, not to feel embarrassed.

That day hasn't come — yet.

Any time it's a black face, I know the crime erodes the strides made by so many who came before me. Any time it's a black face, I know it fuels the bigotry we have yet to escape — even though we may be on the verge of having a black presidential nominee.

I know it's one more reason for that lady to clutch her purse tight when I get on the elevator.

More important, I know it's one more reason for that guy to cross to the other side of the street when he sees my 15-year-old son coming the other way, and one more reason for the store clerk to follow my 14-year-old son's every move when he goes to buy a new pair of jeans.

I don't think I stand alone in these feelings, and I don't think blacks have exclusive domain over this compulsion.

On the day of the Virginia Tech shootings last year, a Korean-American called Sean Hannity's radio show and said he wanted everyone to know that the murderous rampage, apparently committed by a Korean, was not reflective of all Korean-Americans.

He was apologetic, even though he clearly had nothing to do with the shootings. Hannity reacted incredulously, saying no one had suggested a link between the murder and all Koreans. He couldn't understand why this man called to make that statement.

But to me, his point needed no further explanation.

Every minority seeks freedom in this country without the specter of being associated with the despicable acts committed by people who look like them. But as my friend Delano Stewart always says, you can't extricate yourself from the problems of your people.

The challenge is to look beyond how unfair conclusions may impact us. As a black man, I need to explore ways to help retool the morality of young men who have lost their way — or there will be another Eve Carson who died too young and another black teen looking too smug.

If I want to live in a world where stereotyping doesn't impact my life and the lives of my kids, I can't just wish it so.

I have to take steps, big and small, to help make it so.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper: Black suspects stir disappointment, resolve 03/12/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:36am]
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