The man who shot into a grandstand, injuring three people before the kickoff of a peewee football game in East Liberty on Saturday morning, had both a conscious and unconscious agenda.
The police believe the shooter targeted his 27-year-old victim because of some beef that spilled over from social media. Two women who also were shot in the grandstand at Pittsburgh Obama International Studies Academy that morning -- a 64-year-old and a 33-year-old -- are believed to have been collateral damage. The 64-year-old died Monday from her injuries.
The person who shot and killed 16-year-old Ne'Ondre Harbour probably had his reasons for firing into the house on North Aiken Avenue in Garfield Sunday night. The mortally injured teenager who staggered into the street gasping for his last breath as his lungs filled with blood had no inkling of who his killer was as he slipped away.
The two incidents are probably unrelated, even though the police don't have either shooter in custody to shed light on what motivated their attacks. Still, there is at least one assumption we can make about the unconscious agenda of the shooters: In these cases and thousands of others over the years, each squeeze of the trigger represents a hatred and contempt for black people as profound as any ever seen at a modern-day White Power music festival in Idaho.
A soul sickness has settled in among a minority of the city's black youth that is functionally indistinguishable from the attitudes of the Ku Klux Klan at the height of that movement's reign of terror. It is a hard thing for black people in Pittsburgh and elsewhere to acknowledge the painful reality unfolding on the streets of our cities -- that this incarnation of Night Riders has black faces.
The New Night Riders aren't consciously attempting to preserve white racial hegemony in America like the Klan did during Reconstruction and Jim Crow. The New Night Riders are largely ignorant of history, devoid of any knowledge of the dignity of the civil rights struggle and incapable of empathy. Their sense of personhood stems primarily from a reliance on guns and violence to settle petty disputes. They're dedicated to the maintenance of their undernourished egos at all costs.
One of the problems with living in a society that fetishizes self-esteem over every competing value is that a lot of people, especially those constituting the bulk of the New Night Riders, reject the notion of shame and collective embarrassment. They don't care how their actions make black people as a group look. Answering the perception of disrespect with a lethal fusillade is considered reasonable -- even normal if you have nothing else going for you.
If you have no hopes and dreams of your own, there's really nothing to stop you from killing the next person who accidentally steps on your $250 sneakers, smiles at the mother of your child or de-friends you on Facebook. If someone disses you on Twitter, why shouldn't you retaliate in broad daylight so that everyone knows you're not someone to be messed with? A "real man" handles the business of his fragile ego by shooting his nemesis and several innocent bystanders at a peewee league football game. That's manhood for you -- shoot and run.
The youngsters who gathered in the spirit of competition to play peewee football on a beautiful Saturday morning learned a hard lesson: There are black people who hate other black people so much that they're willing to urinate all over what should be one of the best memories of their young lives.
The man who shot into the grandstand on Saturday may not have been aiming directly at the peewee leaguers, but he had as little regard for them as he did for his intended victim. He hated black people enough to risk a game that hundreds of people looked forward to watching.
His actions led to the cancellation of a game that was designed to teach black boys the value of fair play, teamwork and pursuing worthwhile goals. It was an assault on the community in one of the few areas that hasn't been eroded by municipal cost-cutting.
Chances are that the shooters in both cases were exposed to Black History Month celebrations at school. They've heard of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Harriet Tubman. Chances are they've probably even heard about the local heroes who constituted part of the Tuskegee Airmen, but much of the lore of World War II involves history they've never truly internalized.
History, school, books are useless abstractions to these trigger-happy zombies. The only thing they truly understand is killing black people.
They are the New Night Riders. We should treat them accordingly.
Tony Norman: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1631. Twitter: @TonyNormanPG.