Was Race a Factor?


Have you all seen the video from the pool party in McKinney, Texas this weekend?   I wasn’t online yesterday so I missed the initial reports.  If you haven’t heard about it yet, here’s a quick summary as far as I understand it…

The Rundown of Events

  • Some teenagers were at a community pool celebrating a birthday party
  • Neighbors called the police citing multiple juveniles in the area who did not live in the neighborhood and refused to leave
  • Cops showed up.
  • The cops were unsuccessful in breaking up the party — there may or may not have been fighting among the teenagers
  • 9 additional units were called in
  • The rest is in the video below.  Remember, these are high school kids.

The Video












I saw an interview with a former McKinney police officer this morning and the news anchor asked him if he thought race was a factor.  He responded by saying that yes, the video seemed to indicate that it was.

Was Race a Factor?

Why do we keep asking that question?   We hear it after every incident involving White cops and Black victims and I’m starting to think that we are all really daft.   It’s not the right question.

No.  Race wasn’t a “factor.”  It’s a fact.

We don’t “factor” race into things.   We don’t “factor” it in because it’s already there.  It’s a given.  It’s part of our culture.

Culture as a Tree

When I was at the beach a few weeks ago I saw a tree that had been felled.  It was up on the shore and at first glance it looked like any other piece of driftwood.  But when I walked to the other side of it I discovered that a section of it’s root system was still sort of in tact and the roots that were left were tangled around a large rock.


Let’s think of that tree as our culture.  Culture is the knowledge, values and beliefs shared by members of a particular society and it is nurtured and perpetuated by the traditions, language, literature, art, music, and systems of said society.

In this case, instead of driving its roots deeper into the soil where vitality and health would be found, this tree had wrapped its roots around something that could not nourish it.  By the time it washed up on the shore, that rock had become an inextricable part of the tree and the likely cause of its demise.

Race, like the rock in that tree, has become an inextricable part of our culture and our story in the U.S.   We’ve wrapped our roots around it and most of us don’t even seem to know that the rock is there.

So we keep scratching our heads and saying,

“Huh, that’s WEIRD.  How on earth did our tree turn out this way?  Why isn’t it thriving the way that it should?

We grab at individual blossoms and declare, “Aha!  I’ve found the source!” when in fact the entire system is deficient and damaged.

Ask better questions

We can’t keep asking questions like, “Gee whiz, is that cop, like, a racist or what?”  We can’t just pluck the pesky buds and hope for the best.  When there is a bound or faulty root system, drastic measures have to be taken if there is any hope of saving the tree.  So we need to ask instead what stories we are telling ourselves.  What is feeding our culture?  What traditions, what literature, what art, what music?

Those are the questions we should be asking.  Those are the questions that will help us to start loosing what is bound.  And those are the questions that will enable us to see the established systems that allowed us to wrap our roots around a rock in the first place.


Other posts on Race

White Privilege Awareness Series
Misplaced Imagining
Fury in #Ferguson
Can I Get An Amen… from the Awkward White Lady?
A Song Of Lament
The (Not So) Subtle Racism of the Gilmore Girls