September 13, 2013

FREY: Time to stop playing the race card


---- — I cried when I read the story a few weeks ago.

A pit of disgust formed in my stomach.

And then I got mad.

His name was Delbert “Shorty” Burton. He was 88 years old. He enjoyed playing pool and working on cars. He was robbed of his wallet and brutally beaten by two male teenagers on Aug. 22 while sitting in his car outside an Eagles Lodge in Spokane, Wash.

Burton died the next day.

Did I mention Burton was a World War II veteran, a man who joined the Army, was sent to the Pacific Theater, fought in the Battle of Okinawa, and got shot in the leg?

The week before, in another senseless act of violence, Christopher Lane, 22, who moved to America from Australia to attend East Central University on a baseball scholarship, was killed by a bullet that entered his back. He was jogging along a tree-lined road in Duncan, Okla. Three teenagers were responsible.

With absolutely no apparent motive, police in Duncan described the act as a “thrill killing,” adding that the teenagers were bored and wanted to “break the monotony of an Oklahoma summer.”

What exactly does that mean? How do young people in the prime of their lives find themselves so bored that killing for thrills becomes a pasttime? Why is it necessary to beat an 88-year-old man to death?

And where was the outcry?

We heard and saw the outcry after Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman.

Was that because Martin was African-American?

Could the deaths of two Caucasian males at the hands of five teenagers of a darker color also not be seen or interpreted as hate crimes, racially motivated?

Where were the rallies of justice for Burton and Lane?

Oddly enough, President Obama (who is continually identified by the media as African-American, but is technically biracial or mulatto), took a week to respond to either of these tragedies. The president did, however, have much to say the day after the verdict was handed down in the George Zimmerman trial.

The ongoing problem here is that the media consistently feels the need to identify a person’s race when tragedy strikes.

The definition of race is a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock or a class of people united by community of interests, habits, or characteristics.

No where in the dictionary I have on my desk does the definition of race include categorizing a class of people by their color.

American stage and screen actor Humphrey Bogart said, “There are no superior races. There are only people who for a time happen to be luckier or better situated than other people. There are no inferior races. There are only people who’ve had bad luck or poor education. Examine a man’s brain. It tells you nothing about his race. Test his blood. It tells you nothing about his race.”

Skin color, Humphrey continues, means nothing other than “certain people have a little more of a chemical melanin in their skins, and that makes them look more or less like Joe Louis; and others have a little more of a chemical called carotene in their skins, and that makes them look a little more or less like me.”

The crimes against Burton and Lane were reprehensible, blood curdling and down right offensive. And it matters not if the suspects were African-American, caucasian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, French, German, or any other tribe of people.

To all those in the media, today would be a good day to stop playing the race card.

Alvia Lewis Frey is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at