Derrion Albert, Chicago-based 16-year old who attended Bible Class every week, was beaten to death on September 24. A bystander's video captured the truly horrific ordeal. Four alleged attackers are now being charged as adults. And we have some questions.
First, here's what happened: Albert was leaving his high school last Thursday when two rival gangs — one called "The Ville" for their neighborhood — approached the area, all macho and shit. Two guys from the nameless gang attacked Albert with a wooden railroad plank, called a tie, and then, for some reason, five guys from the rival gang got in on the action. One man, 19-year-old Silvanus Shannon, admitted that he stomped — fucking stomped — on this poor kid's head. It's all very disturbing. (I watched it, for this post, and really wish I hadn't. There's an audible crack of Albert's skull. Here's a link, although I don't recommend it.)
This being the 21st century, a bystander video taped the whole thing and then gave it to Albert's family, the police and a local Fox channel. Because that's what you do with sensational video, you give it to the media, which will have a field day with the brutal details. It all sounds so familiar, but perhaps this case will be a bit different.
Yes, videotaped beatings have become common place. Just earlier this month there was that video of a white teen getting beaten on the school bus by teens some described as a bunch of black racists. (And Obama wants kids to spend more time in school? As if.) Albert's case differs, though, because this is a death, not some talking point.
This is a video of someone losing their life. Poof. It's gone. And there are dozens of people cheering on the action. If you don't believe in Kitty Genovese — girl stabbed on the street, disputed newspaper stories say no one helped, social scientists had a field day — maybe you should now. People are watching the attack and then we're watching them watch.
But could it be that people should watch this? Should this become standard viewing so that everyday folk understand man's appallingly violent underbelly? Or maybe we've all become too aware and can no longer be bothered to feel the weight of that unsettling realization. Would it be naive to hope that's not the case?
As for the camerawoman herself: we're torn between finding her a bit culpable (at one point she says "get closer") and being thankful her morbid, but very human, fascination with violence and technological prowess got the (alleged) attackers on tape. That's some 21st century justice right there.