The Very Bad Day of Robert Aaron Long

Image Courtesy of ABC News

So I suppose the first thing we need to define is the meaning of a ‘bad day’, right?

Like pretty much everyone reading this post, I have had a few bad days myself. Actually, quite a bit more than a few, if we’re being honest. But so far as I know, none of those bad days have resulted in anybody getting buried. I’m guessing it’s kinda like that for you, too. I mean, we all have our days, right? And anyone who has ever had a job has fantasized at one time or another about what they would like to have happen to their boss. You know, accidentally. You can’t lift prints from our imaginations, no matter how active and twisted they may be.

In the end though, for most of us, we move on. Life ain’t always fun, and it damned sure ain’t always fair. But that’s life.

Then you have (white) guys like Robert Aaron Long, Dylann Roof, Timothy McVeigh, etc. etc. etc…

You know, it’s kinda like their entire life was just one long bad day. Except that it was a bad day for someone else, right? Because I think when you decide it’s time to murder a bunch of people because your life is fucked up then you don’t really get to say that the bad day was yours. You can either have the murders or the bad day, guys, but you don’t get to have both. You can’t be the victim and the perpetrator. Just watch Law and Order. So choose.

Because, way I figure it, it was the victims — and their families, loved ones and friends — who had the bad day in all of these instances.

Which, of course, brings us to Captain Jay Baker, the Sheriff’s spokesman for Cherokee County in Georgia who set off this firestorm of outrage on Wednesday when, during a press conference, he thought he should explain to the gathered media that at least one of the reasons that should be taken under consideration for why Long decided he was within his rights to target mostly Asian females who worked at spas was because, “He was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.”

This is what he did.

Yeah…umm…

For some reason that’s the part of Baker’s response that kind of irks me, because it seems like “this is what he did” would be more appropriate if he was saying that Long decided to go get a smoothie, or take a long walk on the beach, or call his mother on the phone to get some sympathy for his bad day. If that’s what he had done after his bad day, then I could accept that “this is what he did.” But when “this is what he did” is used to describe his murder of eight people, targeting mostly Asian women? I’d say that fails to capture the true gravity of the situation. Like using the color gray to paint what you consider to be an accurate representation of a rainbow.

But what Baker’s response does highlight (for the umpteenth time in American history during those chapters where white people tend to get amnesia or go blind and can’t quite read the small print) is that non-white pain is largely invisible to white America. It just flat out does not exist.

Wisconsin’s Sen. Ron Johnson has already made it clear that even other white people who kill cops and storm the U.S. Capitol can’t be considered criminals because, simply by skin privilege, it has to be assumed they are patriots and love their country. So if he’s not worried — and others like him aren’t worried — about white people killing and beating up white cops as they overrun the Capitol in a failed attempt to hijack democracy, you can only imagine the infinite amount of sympathy he has for a white man who murdered Asian women because they were too sexy and made him think bad things. Especially if the poor child was having a bad day.

So this is the mountainous dilemma in our backyard; we can’t get around it, we can only climb it. Actually, to be honest, it’s white folks who need to climb it. Because as long as there exists this blanket get-out-of-jail-free card stamped and approved by Uncle Sam that allows any and all acts of racial hatred to be swept away by any means necessary, then all America is doing is pretending. Pretending to be democratic, pretending to be free, pretending to be damned near anything it is pretending to be.

Pretending to be America.

President Joe Biden has said that “This is not who we are.” Oh, but it is, Mr. President. And until you realize otherwise, we will continue to exist in this very, very bad day.

Longtime Detroit-based journalist, musician and writer. Co-founder of Detroit Stories Quarterly.

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