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Monday, September 19, 2016

Logical Fallacies: "No Angel" and Ty're King

Tyre King.
Ty're King
This post is part of an ongoing series on common logical fallacies used in conversations about race. 

Ty're King was just 13 when he was killed this past week here in Columbus, OH. While his family and community mourn, there is an all-too-familiar debate emerging as to whether his death was justified, whether his behavior meant he deserved to die.

It's nothing new. After each of the many, many killings we've witnessed in recent years, there inevitably follows a storm of public indictment, explaining how each victim was the cause of their own death. How if they had simply worn different clothing, or turned down their music, or obeyed more quickly, they would have had nothing to worry about.

And as if it weren't bad enough to lose a life, that life is then scrutinized and appraised, as if trying to diminish the value of the loss. Shortly after being killed, Michael Brown was famously called "no angel" by the New York Times (compare it to the other instances of the term in their paper, as well as to how officer Darren Wilson was characterized one column over).  In a world where a destructive 32-year-old white athlete is deemed "just a kid," it matters who we label as "no angel."

In addition, when we succumb to the "no angel" fallacy, we imply that if the victim is anything less than perfect, they were somehow deserving of their death. It's respectability politics at its most deadly. As Colorlines notes,
"this is why we must be clear about the danger of the perfect victim frame. In cases like the Brown killing, this structure serves to legitimize the sometimes-lethal police brutality of people of color. Think about all of our imperfect victims: Oscar Grant did time in state prison. Trayvon Martin was suspended from school and occasionally smoked weed. Remarley Graham also smoked weed. Jordan Davis played loud hip-hop. Renisha McBride was allegedly intoxicated. Eric Garner was accused of selling unlicensed cigarettes. See how this works?"
But if indeed "all lives matter," then it must also be true for those of us who make mistakes, those of us who are in fact "no angel."

After all, isn't this what the Gospel teaches us? That each one of us, "no matter who we are or what we have done", is worthy of love and is a child of God? That indeed, "we all are 'no angels' and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).  Anything else leads to a works righteousness understanding of salvation in which only well-behaved white children are worth mourning. Everyone else is "no angel" and deserve what they get. But the reality is, we are all "no angels." 

Let's be clear, when a family is in mourning it is only natural to want to remember your child in the most positive light possible. It is entirely reasonable to insist that the media be respectful of your son's memory. Of course they will always remember him as their perfect little angel. But he shouldn't have to be one to be alive.

Ty're King was 13 years old. That’s a boy. How many ill-conceived and impulsive things do we know 13 year old boys to have done? They learn their lessons as they grow up...but only if they live.

What is more, his the third high-profile case in Ohio of a young person being shot while carrying a fake gun. Perhaps these type of air guns should not be allowed (see note in the comments section below), but this is in an open carry state, where we’re legally allowed to carry real guns without getting killed.

And even if he were part of a robbery, it needs to go to trial. And even if he is convicted, we do not kill people for robbery. And even if the police felt threatened, we have seen time and again that actual shooters can be apprehended without killing them (see: Dylann RoofJames Holmes, and all these white people who pointed guns at police officers and did not get killed).
There are many ways to de-escalate, disarm, and disable, as with the white attackers mentioned above, all of whom lived to stand trial. If the police were following protocols, those protocols need to be fixed. If they were acting based on their training, the training needs to change. They are the professionals employed by the state, so yes, we hold them to a higher standard.

He was 13 years old. He was not "no angel," in fact he was the Imago Dei. Any one of the above points should have been enough to keep alive that day.

Selling cigarettes is not a capital offense, bootlegging CDs is not a capital offense, a traffic violation is not a capital offense, resisting arrest is not a capital offense, carrying a gun is not a capital offense...not even actually firing a weapon is itself punishable by death.

And if the narrative given by police is indeed true, it means Ty're King was killed over a $10 robbery. Ten dollars is the value of a life...well of some lives. Of "no angels."

We worship a God that sees the inherent worth in each one of us. A God that wants for none to perish. Indeed, "while we were still 'no angels', Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

Jesus is the only one to have lived a perfect life, and yet we still put him to death.
What hope can there be for the rest of us "no angels"?

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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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