By Dr. E. Faye Williams, Esq.
(Trice Edney Wire) – Some “News” is never good and is without redeeming qualities. Any news of unnecessary violence is always bad, and I view violence that affects my community with a more critical, yet empathetic understanding.
Such was the news from Timberview HS in Arlington, Texas, the first week of October 2021. When the news first broke, it only spoke of a school shooting in which three students were injured. I immediately thanked God that there were no related deaths and prayed that none would follow. And, of course, like most African Americans hearing news from a diverse community like Arlington, I wondered if members of the Black community were involved.
On the morning following the shooting, I learned the name of the alleged shooter and saw the image of his face. The image I saw was that of eighteen-year-old Timothy George Simpkins, and like most Black, alleged criminals his images contained many stereotypical negatives.
Subjectively, if he is “simply” guilty as alleged, it would be extremely difficult to sympathize with his circumstance, but even the most typical African American circumstance is far more complex. Objectively, one can only speculate about his motivation and look to the explanations of his defense for a reason for his actions.
Contrary to his displayed images and the tone of news reporting, young Mr. Simpkins is reportedly a straight-A student with aspirations of becoming an engineer. His studiousness has earned him the nickname of the “Little Nerd” of his family. He is also described as an outgoing, well-liked and loving person who was excited about his upcoming graduation.
The question of what would incite a person so described to violence is compelling and easily explained by his family. According to them, school-life was unkind to Timothy. He had allegedly been threatened, beaten and harassed since the beginning of the school year. He had recently been accosted by a group of males outside of school, stripped of his clothing in front of onlookers, and robbed of money and personal effects.
Timothy’s mother asserts that school officials were notified of the problems her son encountered “And absolutely nothing was done to protect my (her) son.” She added, “I am certain that he was fearful for his safety and felt that he had no support from those in authority whose responsibility it was to protect him.” Timothy’s father was brutally murdered, heightening his fear for his safety. The youths responsible for his beatings and harassment had recently threatened to kill him. “So you see, my son was terrified and believed he would be murdered just like his father,” said his mother.
Although it is necessarily difficult to justify taking a life, given these explanations, it becomes easier to understand Timothy’s actions. Self-preservation is the strongest human motivation in all except those who are suicidal. When the only apparent option is self-defense, one can expect nothing less than total commitment.
Taking these explanations one step further, if true, one must wonder what it takes for a (young) Black man to receive the institutional protections offered to others. Is it reasonable to have knowledge of a volatile situation, ignore its potential, and feign surprise when it explodes? We must no longer tolerate this type of devaluation of Black life and society must assume responsibility commensurate with its benign neglect.
The media brought this story to national attention. Having done so, they are obligated to tell the complete the story. It is unacceptable to leave the unchecked imagery of craven, unmitigated violence for the prurient interest of racist voyeurs. To this point, I have heard little information of clarification, mitigation or extenuation. My community is owed this much.
(Dr. E. Faye Williams, International President of The Dick Gregory Society, and is a radio talk show host of “Wake Up and Stay Woke” on radio WPFW-FM 89.3