Constructing a Profile

Have you seen these two faces before?

If not, don’t feel bad. I suspect that the Powers That Be didn’t really want you to see them.

I missed this story when it came out earlier in the summer of 2013. I imagine a lot of you did as well. If you were paying attention to a young non-white person in the news, it wasn’t Temar Boggs or his friend Chris Garcia. It was probably Trayvon Martin.

The Temar Boggs story was a simple tale, really. A line item about a brave and determined boy’s response to a very scary and violating event within his community. You can read all about it and see the brief video interview with Mr. Boggs here.

A child was taken by a stranger who lured her into a vehicle with sweets. No one could find her. The neighborhood around her house, the site of her disappearance, was swarming with cops and firefighters, but the kidnapper had already by-passed them. He had the girl in a moving vehicle and he was taking her, presumably, to Crime Scene B. [Edit to add, after further research into the story: the reality of what happened to the child is actually much sadder. At least they nailed the guy and gave him a long sentence, though.]

Temar’s answer to the problem was simple, human and humane. He followed his instincts, got on his bike, and began sweeping the neighborhood searching for the child. He had already combed the nearby woods on foot. He knew the terrain, but he was also following his intuition on a deeper level. His gut told him that he could find the child if he followed his empathy.

He tracked down a “suspicious” car, and saw the child in the passenger seat. He had found the kidnapper. And his solution to the problem was mature, calm, focused, active, and determined…but also non-violent and non-aggressive.

No one got hurt. Temar Boggs just wouldn’t let the car and the child inside it out his sight. He wouldn’t stop pedaling. Wouldn’t stop following. And ultimately his tenacity persuaded the kidnapper to pull over and let the child go. Whereupon the little girl ran to Temar Boggs, and he picked her up and held her safe until he could take her back to her family. There was no machismo, no focus on the perpetrator, no wasted energy or effort chasing the creep further. Temar Boggs was focused on the child and he had her back. He put her on his shoulders and rode away. When he felt it was prudent, he got off the bike and had his friend Chris Garcia walk the bikes back to the girl’s home while he carried her in his arms.

I would argue that the simple non-violence and the calm focus on simply preserving life and safety for the kid…is a major reason why you probably didn’t hear much about this incident. This is one of many reasons that no one was much interested in the story. Americans do not generally enjoy being reminded that sensible non-violence can EVER be the right answer to even the scariest problem.

There’s also the fact that no corporation or public institution could profit from this story. Temar Boggs didn’t draw his SECOND AMENDMENT GUARANTEED SHOOTING IRON (with camera lingering on the brand for product placement purposes) and threaten this kidnapper with harm or revenge if he harmed the little girl. Temar Boggs didn’t physically assault the kidnapper with his CORN-FED AMERICAN FISTS or ram him with his LARGE AMERICAN VEHICLE (with camera lingering on the imposing grill for product placement purposes).

The story also doesn’t serve as an advertisement for the power of the State or its designated armed authorities. Temar Boggs didn’t hold off the kidnapper until the BRAVE AND NOBLE GUN BEARERS could ride in to the rescue and arrest the kidnapper, take back the child, save the day, and underscore their monopoly on violence, and their mandate to create public safety and security.

But I would argue that there was a third, even more critical reason that this story wasn’t widely reported, discussed, and re-blogged endlessly. And it was simply this: THESE KIDS DON’T FIT THE PROFILE.

Unlike Trayvon Martin, who occupied so much of the public’s attention during those summer months…Temar Boggs and Chris Garcia weren’t involved in lethal violence. They were not the victims, nor did they create a victim. They didn’t fit either of the competing profiles of Young Black or Hispanic American Males that were being debated in 2013–neither “Thug, Jr.”, the Scary Perpetrator jacket that gets hung clumsily on the shoulders of non-white youth,  nor “Lynched, Jr.”, the Sacrificial Victim jacket of an innocent, unarmed, non-threatening non-white male targeted for suspicion, violence and murder by the local Authorities–whoever and whatever they are.

Reporting on theses young men and their actions could not have forwarded ANY negative or victimizing agenda, in other words. Temar Boggs and Chris Garcia are not useful to illustrate any of the ways that an African-American or Hispanic teenage boys are constructed, in the eyes of their fellow citizens. And I think it says a  hell of a lot about our society (none of it good), that the country spent millions of hours talking about Trayvon Martin, in every medium in which that conversation could be hosted, and only a few seconds taking notice of Temar Boggs and Chris Garcia. And the two cases were never contrasted for the sake of irony and national self-reflection…even though the trial of George Zimmerman and the rescue of Jocelyn Rojas took place in the the same summer.

I would like to conclude this post with a few questions.

If the media and the general population were more interested in kids like Temar Boggs and Chris Garcia…wouldn’t we be less likely to see another lynching death of a racially profiled teenager like Trayvon Martin?

I’m not saying that Trayvon Martin’s death was not important, or not worthy of discussion…but is it at least POSSIBLE that the public obsession with the IMAGE of women and minorities as victims is doing  more harm than good?

Does it do some damage to young people, like say the kids who will look in the mirror every day and see that they look more like Trayvon Martin than Justin Bieber, to see people like themselves represented in the media ONLY in the light of a debate about whether they deserve to be shot on sight for Wearing a Hoodie in Public?

Should we open up the issues that both these cases raise about American communities, and about who “belongs” in a neighborhood? About how Americans identify “suspicious cars” and “suspicious people”? And what Americans feel empowered to do TO and ABOUT people who “don’t belong”?

  Just askin’.

About Arinn

Author, Game Developer, Anthropologist, Feminist, reformed Supervillainess.
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