Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Twofer: Racist Rant and Consequences of Leaving Kid Alone In Car

Two posts I saw the other day are still stuck in my head.  They also help illuminate the Bergdahl Rohrschach post I did the other day that suggested that many news events are like Rohrschach tests:  what people see in the event - particularly when details are scarce - reflects more about the commenter than about the event.

Here are two more events.

1.    From Salon.

 The day I left my son in the car

I made a split-second decision to run into the store. I had no idea it would consume the next years of my life

Author Kim Brooks recounts in great detail how a series of events  resulted in her running into the store to get one item while her four year old son waited in the car with an iPad.  She cracked the windows, it was 50˚F (10˚C) outside, and she put on the car alarm.  Unbeknownst (that is a strange word, isn't it?) to her, a stranger videotaped her and the kid and her return and called the police to report her.  Kim left before the cops arrived and flew home to another city, but when her husband picked her up at the airport he told her to call her mom, whom she'd been visiting and whose car she was in.

It's a long, long, long piece, but pretty gripping.  It raised a lot of issues, but to me (my Rohrschach) it was about common sense, child danger and independence, and about people judging others.  What I really wanted to know about and what wasn't covered, was the person who reported her.  What was that person's back story?  What caused that person to do what she did?  As one of the commenters at Salon wrote - a true good Samaritan would have stayed by the car and made sure the kid was ok.  Is this a person who is fixated on rules to the extent that she can't discriminate between child neglect and a quick and reasonable dash into the store?  Does she have her own tales of childhood neglect and abuse that justify this in her mind?  We only hear what happened from the view of the writer.  Perhaps there was more incriminating behavior she left out.  The whole Salon piece is here.

A gripping read for anyone, particularly a parent in today's overprotected world. (I write that as someone who walked about a mile to school alone starting in first grade.)  This also reminds me of a story of a close friend who was charged with shoplifting at Whole Foods and spent a year and a big chunk of money to get it dismissed.  This should have never happened; there were some cross-cultural miscues, but common sense did not prevail until the judge finally tossed it.  That's a story I haven't written about here.  Maybe one day I will.  It seems security guards at Whole Foods have done this more than once, for example here

2.  Black guy video tapes racist rant from his car.

I don't even feel like putting up the video, but here's the link.  It already has 9 million hits and 35,000 comments.  I bet someone could do a doctoral thesis just on the comments.  Two people see each other out of context of their whole lives.  I'm more interested in what was going on in her head. 

In a follow up on USA Today, she says she's working with her doctor and was changing medications and she apologized, though it seemed more something she was doing as therapy or on advice of an attorney than from her heart.  The guy who posted the video wrote:
"This happened to me last Friday May 30th 2014.  I'm more upset that it was done in front of her children.  They will have hate and have no idea where it came from."
I think the number of hits and comments speaks to how unusual it is to actually capture something like this on camera.   I think the man handled things pretty calmly, all things considered.  The woman was way out of normal range of behavior and I'd be inclined, at this point, to accept her explanation that she was off her meds.  Is this more about racism or more about mental health?  When someone is in her condition and really out of control, I suspect they use whatever they think will push the other person's buttons.  But I'd like to think that even if my brain's normal constraints stopped working, I wouldn't throw 'nigger' at anyone.  But those of us who are products of US culture have that word stashed away in our brains.  Who's to say it wouldn't slip out of any of our lips in a time of stress and mental unbalance?  We only know when we're tested.

Only the people who know her well know whether this was exceptional behavior. 

Lots to think about. 

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