Why I’m Angry – Billy Ray Johnson
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I mentioned this in yesterday’s post, but I wanted to make a point of mentioning it again. People ask why I’m angry. This is why I’m angry:
Colt, who had been a pitcher at Linden-Kildare High School, took a swing at Billy Ray, hitting him squarely in the face. He delivered a knockout punch. Billy Ray fell to the ground and stopped moving.
For nearly an hour the group debated what to do as Billy Ray lay a few feet away from them, unconscious. Wes thought they should call an ambulance, and both Dallas and Lacy offered to drive him to the hospital. But Corey overruled them and began barking orders. He did not want the police involved, he said, because his job was on the line. They were going to take Billy Ray to a back road and leave him there, he insisted, assuring the group that he would eventually wake up and walk home. At one point during the discussion, Wes grabbed Billy Ray and lifted him to his feet, trying to make him stand up on his own. When his legs would not support his weight, Wes let him go, and he fell backward, hitting his head on the ground. Finally they loaded him into the bed of Colt’s truck, and Corey led the way while the others followed. Rather than driving a mile north to the hospital, he headed in the opposite direction, toward Old Dump Road. Wes thought Billy Ray might still have some family out there, but they decided against leaving him near a house for fear that someone might see them.
As Corey drove, he asked Lacy, who was riding with him, if she would sit closer. He and Wes’ sister were having problems, he confided, and he had liked her for a long time.
“Why did this happen?” Lacy asked, changing the subject. “Why?”
“Because he’s a fucking nigger,” Corey said.
Because he’s a nigger.
As if that wasn’t enough:
The Associated Press picked up the story, and TV news trucks from Shreveport began rolling into town. The following week the Texarkana Gazette ran the first of four damning editorials. (“We were vilified,” one resident recalled.) Linden residents who braved the media did little to burnish the town’s image when they tried to downplay the crime, talking about the “good boys” involved who had been remiss only in letting things get “out of hand” and who deserved “a slap on the wrist.” Wilford Penny told the Chicago Tribune one month after stepping down as Linden’s mayor that the incident had been “an unfortunate and senseless thing” but that “the black boy was somewhere he shouldn’t have been.”
… And yet, after Corey, Wes, Colt, and Dallas were each arrested and charged that October with aggravated assault (Lacy, who cooperated with investigators, was not charged), they were seen, by some, to be victims as well. “These boys’ names are ruined for life,” Corey’s mother, Martha Howell, later told one reporter. “And [Billy Ray] is better off today than he’s ever been in his life. He roamed the streets, the family never knew where he was. Now in the nursing home he’s got someone to take care of him.”
Yes, thank you Barbara Bush, he’s so much better off now:
The trauma to [Billy Ray’s] head had resulted in permanent brain damage. There was little dignity in his condition; he drooled and soiled himself, and his speech was severely impaired. When he tried to talk, his lips and tongue would not cooperate, and to all but a few family members who grew accustomed to the way he grunted his words, he was unintelligible. He had difficulty swallowing food and walking unassisted, and he often sat in his hospital bed and cried in frustration. After a month, when he still could not feed or dress himself, he was transferred to a nursing home in nearby Texarkana, where he gradually learned to walk again and recovered control of his bodily functions.
Much better off.
The next person who comes to this blog saying that black people should “Get over it” and “Move on” will have twelve printed copies of this article shoved down their throats. This didn’t happen during Jim Crow, okay? This isn’t some cold case folks are finally reviving from the Civil Rights struggle. This is shit that happened three years ago. THREE GODDAMN YEARS.
You want to know why I’m angry? This is why I’m angry, damnit!