Tune in to any account of the Dallas shooting and the questions regarding why Micah Xavier Johnson took up a semi-automatic weapon to open fire on police keep flying.
Why did he do it? How did he get the weapon? What is his background? What happens to a person to make the decision to go out and shoot as many white people, preferably police officers, as possible?
I write fiction – thrillers mostly – and one of the things I do is try to get into the mind of my villain. If I were to write Micah Johnson, his character would have come to the conclusion that killing was the only way by a thought process that went something like this:
I joined the military and went to Afghanistan. I served my country. But on the streets of America, my life is worth nothing. Just like the lives of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were worth nothing. Just like the 136 black people killed by police just this year were worth nothing.
Why is it that Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old kid, goes out for some gummy bears and gets shot by a crazy white guy, and the crazy white guy goes free? But a black person gets stopped for a traffic violation and winds up dead?
F*ck those white people! F*ck the white cops! I’m gonna go out there and let them know what it feels like to get killed just for the sake of killing. How does it FEEL motherf*cker? How does it feel?
Is it a mystery that he was attracted to racist black groups? Is it a mystery that there ARE racist black groups? After all, hate is generally met with hate. We see it every day in social media. We see it every day on our streets.
There is no doubt that Johnson was disturbed. He was sent home from his tour of duty in Afghanistan, and it was recommended that he receive a “less than honorable” discharge due to a sexual harassment charge against him. His military lawyer, Bradford Glendening, stated that the recommendation was “highly unusual” and noted that generally counseling is ordered before such a drastic step is taken. “In his case, it was apparently so egregious, it was not just the act itself,” Glendening said.
The victim in the harassment case said she wanted Johnson to get mental health counseling, but that didn’t happen. In fact, due to a screw-up, Johnson received an honorable discharge.
So now you’ve got a young black man with psychological problems. He is seeing videos on an almost daily basis of black people being killed by white police. He’s hearing racist garbage spewing from Donald Trump, a man who is running for president of the United States. He’s got military training and a veritable arsenal of weapons because in the United States of America, if you’ve got the money, you can buy explosives, tactical gear and weapons usually reserved for the theater of war.
Micah Xavier Johnson is the personification of everything that is wrong in this country. He is the product of a society that has looked away from racism; a society that has decided a moment of silence is all that’s needed in the wake of yet another mass killing; a society that refuses to address the problems of mental health, and a society where the so-called “right” to own assault rifles trumps the lives of our citizens.
We will never know exactly what went on in the mind of Micah Xavier Johnson. But we can be assured that, unless we come to terms with the problems of racism, guns, a justice system that does not dispense justice, and the absence of political action to provide remedies, this will be just another in a long string of tragic events that never had to happen.
Somewhere along the way, we lost the promise of Micah Xavier Johnson. At 25 years of age, he is dead; blown to bits by a robot after being the architect of an unspeakable act. He is an American tragedy; and, due to our continued complaisance in the face of gross inequality and our inaction on the issue of guns, we bear the blame.
Ann Werner is the author of thrillers and other things.
Visit her at Ann Werner on the Web