By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN
The killing of two Good Samaritans and wounding of a third for defending two young women being verbally abused by a racist white man on a train on May 26 and the still unfolding aftermath are putting into sharp relief the state of affairs of the nation today.
Ricky John Best, 53, of Happy Valley, Oregon, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, of Portland, died of stab wounds. Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, also of Portland, survived the knife attack.
The alleged attacker, Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, faces several murder and other serious charges.
To make matters worse, a homeless man identified as George Tschaggeny removed Best’s ring off his finger as he lay dead and also stole his backpack, police said.
And, on Sunday, several groups of white supremacists staged a rally in Portland, further inflaming tensions.
The teenagers being verbally abused were an African American, Destinee Magnum, 16, and her 17-year-old unidentified Muslim friend who was wearing a hijab, the traditional Muslim head covering.
Destinee told television station KPTV that Christian shouted to her and her friend to get out of America and “go back to Saudi Arabia,” that “we basically weren’t anything and that we should kill ourselves.” The man’s ranting frightened them and they moved to a different part of the train and the three victims stood up for them.
“They lost their lives because of me and my friend and the way we looked,” Destinee said. “I just want to say thank you to them and their family and I appreciate them because without them we probably would be dead right now.”
Then there was the rally. With much of the nation shocked and grieving, the organizers of the “Trump Free Speech Rally” took a different view. They evidently felt that Christian had the right to spew his hatred at the two girls without the interference of the three men.
This warped thinking is made worse by the fact that President Donald Trump, whose name was used for the rally, did not disavow it. He took more than two days to use his official Twitter account to say his prayers were with the victims. He did not comment on the racism and anti-Muslim diatribe that led to the stabbings.
Trump should have visited Portland and met with Fletcher, the survivor, or invite him to the White House. That is what would be expected of the president, who is the leader of all of America and not just those who agree with him.
But others have firmly denounced the attack. “These two men died as heroes as a result of a horrific act of racist violence,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said. “Their actions were brave and selfless and should serve as an example, an inspiration, to us all.”
Fletcher himself called attention to “a white savior complex” which put the emphasis on him and the other two men, instead of the racism and Islamophobia experienced by people like Destinee and her Muslim friend.
“I got stabbed in the neck on my way to work, randomly, by a stranger I don’t know, for trying to just be a nice person,” Fletcher told USA Today on May 30. “We need to remember that this is about those little girls.” He asked people to imagine themselves being those girls. “This man is screaming at you. His face is a pile of knives. His body is a gun. Everything about him is cocked, loaded and ready to kill you.”
Fletcher met Destinee and her family on May 31 and the teen’s mother, Dyjuana Hudson, said in a Facebook post afterwards that he saved her daughter’s life. She described him as “one of the genuine hearted people you will ever meet.”
Media reports said 8-year-old Coco Douglas took a sign and rocks painted in rainbow colors to a memorial to Best and Meche. Her stepmother, Angel Sauls, said the attack hit the family hard because she is an African American and Coco and her father are white.
“I am scared that this is going to make people afraid to stand up for other people. … I’m just really sorry that their acts of kindness were repaid in such a horrible way,” she said, according to a HuffPost report.
But the sacrifice by Best and Meche, far from scaring off people, should be a rallying cry for taking a stand. The country needs more and more people willing to confront the racists and bigots and take back America to the days of civility and unity in diversity.