A car alarm was going off in the parking lot at work yesterday. No one flinched. Reminds me of the fire alarm we had last month; every one just kind of milled around for a few seconds before donning their coats and casually walking out into the cold morning sun to their designated rendezvous spots. Even the piercing screech of the kitchen smoke detector at home causes little concern, unless it decides to check in with us at 2:30 in the morning. We’ve all become a little too conditioned to the loud, abrupt clarion calls that inject themselves into our daily existence, the majority of them caused by nothing more than the small crumb of an English muffin wedged into the heating coils of an over-active, aging toaster. Experience makes us complacent. Well, if not complacent, at least a little jaded. And ready to search for something other than what the shrillness of the call demands us to do.
Maybe it’s time we afford the same level of suspicion to the common-place cry of racism that now pierces our day-to-day national conversations, forcing us to get out of bed at 2:30 every morning to make sure we’re not the evil, pointy-hat wearing demons that those with motives other than improving race relations would like to paint us as. Paint being the operative word here.
Young Isaac Phillips knows a little about the paint of hate. No broad bush this time; the dreaded “N-word” that was spray-painted along the bottom of his Lunenburg Massachusetts home. Isaac’s mother is white, his father black. Someone in town wanted him to know that his presence on the high school football team wasn’t welcome. The comment, referring to the school team’s nickname said “Knights don’t need N*****S.” Someone in town was racist. Maybe the whole dammed town. Maybe someone on the team. Maybe the whole team.
Apparently Isaac had been targeted by bullies before. Someone put water in his cleats before dropping them in the dumpster. Not sure if that’s any more racist than the “Ben-Gay” we used to put in the freshman’s sneakers when we were in high school, but hey, we weren’t very enlightened back then. We’re a hell of a lot more enlightened now and obviously, the smoke detector of racist hate was screaming loud and clear. Isaac’s mother was upset that no one responded to it with the episode of his cleats. And now this?
Superintendent Loxi Calmes cancelled the remainder football season out of safety concerns. Not sure what her concerns were. She assured everyone that it wasn’t a punishment. Although if you take her at her word, you kind of need to ask; she fears for the safety of whom from whom? From the racist town of Lunenburg? Is the rest of the team dangerous? A kid had his cleats soaked, some hateful moron spray paints the foundation of his house and everyone in town needs to keep their doors locked and be off the streets by six. Just to be safe from their fellow townsfolk? Somewhere, the racism detector is screaming loudly and Loxi wasn’t going to assume it was a burnt crumb; the whole dammed place was up in flames. It was the fire of the “N” word.
Isaac’s mother, Andrea Brazier was sure it was racism, plain and simple. She even notes that the team was given a chance to come forward at a team meeting with either information or an admission of guilt; no one did. There, that seals it. Racists don’t admit to their crime; that’s what the smoke detector is for. “Obviously they aren’t going to come forward in a group setting like that,” she said. “I don’t think postponing the game is enough, to be honest. I don’t know what should happen, but it’s clear this isn’t the first time.
Unfortunately, it might end up being a crumb after all. Police cleared the team just this week, too late for the remaining seniors to end their school career on a positive note. Some of these kids may well be jerks that like to bully underclassman. No one in the FBI or the local police determined they were racist. They weren’t punished though, don’t forget. Smeared maybe; punished? Nah, not at all.
Isaacs’s mother and father have stopped communicating with police. Seems she actually stopped communicating with police when, after giving them conflicting stories, they asked her to meet with them to file a written statement about the incident. She failed to show. She asked them to drop the matter. Funny, when cops finally decided to take a look in the home, they found two burnt cans of spray paint in the fire pit in the family back yard. They confiscated two more. When asked about his possible involvement in the crime, Isaac’s father Anthony replied, “That just shows you how racist this town is.” Police are looking at samples of Brazier’s handwriting.
So a kid gets bullied. Kids have a way of doing that. And it sucks. But there’s no smoke alarm for that, not one that comes with the decibel level of the Racism charge. Nope, that klaxon calls us all to immediate action, regardless of the nature of the call, facts be dammed. It’s an alarm that’s pulled by the lazy, the dishonest and the hustlers. Soon, we’ll all get tired of answering its call; tired of “not being punished at all” for the false alarms, sick of its irritating sound and one day, we’ll afford it the same indifference we do to the battered Ford honking incessantly in the parking lot of the local supermarket.
The sad part is that somewhere, someone is truly suffering the pain of real racism. As is Andrea Brazier’s son, Isaac. If true, the hate she decided to spray across the town of Lunenburg is a stain he’ll never be able to wash away. Courtesy of his own mother.