On a cold, gray January morning in the year 1988, an 18-year-old high school student pointed a .357 revolver at another student and pulled the trigger. The bullet blew through the windshield of the victim's vehicle and embedded itself three inches deep into her skull.
She died a few hours later in a Monroe hospital bed.
That girl was my sister, and I was nine years old when she was taken from me. Due to the age difference, we were at different schools. The intercom buzzed in my classroom some time around lunch, and the teacher was asked to send me to the office to check out for the day.
I didn't know why I was checking out, and I didn't care. I was excited. No more school. That's when I saw my father, the tears in his eyes, and a faraway look, a vacant stare that told me (even at such a young age) that something was wrong.
He walked me outside; his gray sedan was parked in front of the school; my grim-faced uncle was standing at the passenger door. The other man didn't look me in the eye. Dad gripped my shoulder, bent low and told me what happened to my sister.
"Someone brought a gun to Lori's school today, bub," it came out in a slow croak. "He shot her, and she's gone."
The ramifications of that day are still being felt more than a quarter century later. What came next was a series of events that would have brought outrage in today's digital world.
The man who killed my sister was back in class less than a week after he killed a girl on school grounds. Nothing came of his crime. No punishment, no conviction, no jail time. It was chalked up to a tragic accident, and perhaps it was. That's what he said anyway.
What I know is the boy's father was a local business owner, and from what I've been told, he was friendly with the district attorney and the presiding judge. My family was from out of town, had only been residents for about five years or so. And soon after my sister's death, we moved on, back to a place where our last name was known. I know now that goes a long way in the world. I also know that many of the problems with the laws and systems of this land have nothing to do with whether your skin color is white or black but rather how much green you have in your back pocket.
I've never looked into the matter further, never tried to find out what happened to the man who forever altered the course of my life. Don't care to know. Don't need to know. I bring it up now in light of the Trayvon Martin killing and the George Zimmerman acquittal. A great many are falling over themselves to make a racial issue out of tragedy.
Injustice has been part of humanity for as long as there has been humanity.
My sister was a pretty, 16-year-old white teenager. Trayvon Martin was a tall, handsome 17-year-old black teenager.
Both were killed and both of their killers were set free.
But from the beginning, the narrative in Trayvon's death was solely based on race. Here it was said a black child was killed by a white man. This isn't even true, but was a manufactured tool that has only sparked misguided outrage and acts of more needless violence. The Associated Press began calling Zimmerman "white" because his father was white. However, his mother is Hispanic. The media by and large followed the narrative, never wanting to change it probably because a white person killing a black person draws more ratings and sells more newspapers.
By the rationale the mainstream media used to paint this case, President Obama shouldn't be thought of as America's first black president. After all, his mother was a white woman from Kansas. Sounds ridiculous, unthinkable and insulting, right?
The race baiting in Trayvon's death was inconsequential to the facts, but moreover it was intentional, negligent and dangerous.
There's more to the world, more to its people, than racism, even though some like to say different.
I want to quote something from an article by Press-Herald columnist Walter Williams, who is a black man:
"Each year, roughly 7,000 black people are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Using the 94 percent figure means that 262,621 were murdered by other blacks. Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation's population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it's 22 times that of whites. Coupled with being most of the nation's homicide victims, blacks are most of the victims of violent personal crimes, such as assault and robbery.
"A much larger issue is how might we interpret the deafening silence about the day-to-day murder in black communities compared with the national uproar over the killing of Trayvon Martin. Such a response by politicians, civil rights organizations and the mainstream news media could easily be interpreted as 'blacks killing other blacks is of little concern, but it's unacceptable for a white to kill a black person.'"
I know it's nearly impossible to change someone's mind once an opinion is held. It's called confirmation bias when people only seek out information that supports their beliefs. I'm not immune. But I ask you, those crying racism and threatening violence, what about all the other murders? Why are they any less tragic? Why are they not met with protests, threats and sweeping ire from the Twitterverse?
A demagogue is a political leader who appeals to the emotions and prejudices of citizens in order to gain power and promote political motives. Racial demagoguery is extremely dangerous, especially in today's American political and societal climates. Anyone who engages in it should be ashamed of themselves.
I'm not saying Trayvon's slaying wasn't racially motivated. I'm not saying it was. I don't know because I wasn't in Florida on that street on that night. And neither were you, nor were any of the countless people trying to make this matter only about race. What's clear is that Zimmerman was warned to not follow Trayvon but he did and a tragedy resulted that could easily have been avoided.
But what's also clear, no matter how much some try to say otherwise, is that injustice isn't reserved only for one group of people in this nation. Injustice can be doled out to everyone regardless of race, creed, color, situation, circumstance or environment.
And my family knows from first hand experience that is true.
Josh Beavers is the publisher of the Minden Press-Herald.