Edinboro killing opens doors for overt racism

By Jideobi Ezeonu
Voices Editor/Spectator

Edinboro has a gloomy feel to it as of lately.

According to reports out of GoErie.com, On Nov. 17, Trey D. Gunter, a 21-year-old fourth  year communications major from Pittsburgh allegedly killed Tobiah J. Johnson, a former Edinboro student who he was acquainted with. Reportedly, Gunter and Johnson got into a confrontation over a stolen handgun. According to Edinboro Police Chief Jeff Craft, drugs could have also played a part in this skirmish between the two young males, although the police would not elaborate on the topic, according to GoErie.

The event took place in the waning hours of Monday, in a parking lot behind the apartment complex located at 123 Water Street. A witness, who chose to not be identified, stated that a vehicle suddenly came up the street and while Johnson was looking at the vehicle, a male came up to him and struck him in the head. This unknown person has still not been located.

Gunter allegedly came out of the vehicle and assaulted Johnson with the butt of a handgun. He then allegedly proceeded to shoot Johnson in the lower back. The police pronounced Johnson dead on the scene.

Those within the university were in shock, but the institution did a stellar job handling the situation. They protected the students by putting everyone on lockdown, offered counseling assistance and tried to keep everyone calm following the event.

Gunter was taken into custody on Tuesday morning following a traffic stop.

Reactions within the university were of fear and confusion. Many students, whether through e-mails or social media, pleaded for canceled classes the day after the event. Other people were trying to place blame on something or someone, because it is part of human nature to do so. Even though the reasoning may be incorrect, assigning fault gives some a sense of closure.

Guess what the topic of choice was those blame-placing people?

Here are a couple of Facebook comments reacting to the events.

“I know I’m going to get blasted here, but I’m just so fed up. Every time I hear about a burglary, stabbing, or a shooting, it’s a young black male. It’s very frustrating to see that that demographic is the cause of these issues at least 90 percent of the time. I grew up with nothing in bad neighborhoods, but I didn’t grow up to be a criminal or disrespectful to others. Is it because they feel entitled because they are a ‘minority?’ That’s not an excuse, I’m sorry”

“Find a big oak tree and some rope!”

I’m sure you can catch my drift from here.

Race always seems to be an issue when situations like these happen. It was unfortunate that the alleged suspect happened to be of African-American descent, but the fact of the matter is that by making statements like these, people who are “closet racists” have the opportunity to be “overt racists” without any repercussions.

For years, biologists have been saying that all humans are genetically similar and the color of one’s skin means absolutely nothing in regards to behavior. Sociologists have said that race is simply a social construct. Social psychologists have found that when given the same opportunities, blacks and whites perform exactly the same.

But why do we feel this desire to put minorities down regardless? The roots of prejudice stem from humans automatic response to seeing people from different races. Subconsciously, we break people down into groups based on the color of their skin. The thing with this grouping mentality is that eventually, one group of people will see themselves superior as the rest.

Have you ever wondered why people who are not white are referred to minorities?

The year of 2012 marked the first time in history that white births were lower than the births of “minorities”. However, even with the inevitable takeover of other racial groups by 2050, there is a firm belief that people of nonwhite races will still be referred to as “minorities.”

It is not a racial thing anymore.

It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

People who are non-whites are told that they are not good enough all the time. They get tagged with negative stereotypes that are rather inaccurate. After repeatedly hearing those hurtful statements or noticing people’s reactions to their presence, they begin to internalize that mentality. They begin to accept the fact that “well, if all these people are saying these things about me, they must be true.”

In a school that is predominantly white like Edinboro, some people feel like they can get away with the racist things they say. Posts on Yik Yak call blacks “monkeys” and “animals,” and somehow get a high quantity of “upvotes” – essentially a stamp of approval for statements made.

For Pennsylvanians who live below Pittsburgh, this area is perceived as “Pennsyltucky” due to its societal and overall appearance similarities to Kentucky. According to a Harvard University study, Kentucky is the fifth most racist state in America. Pennsylvania is third.

To make matters worse, the website Floating Sheep mapped out where racist tweets come from and once again, the upper part of Pennsylvania is very overt with their racism on Twitter.

In the big scheme of things, this event that took place is very unfortunate. Many lives were destroyed. Many people were emotionally scarred. But this should not be turned into a racial issue, especially with the preconceived notions people have of “minorities.”

We need to accept the fact that we need to educate our people better and teach them that one race isn’t better than the other, but everyone has an equal opportunity of achieving anything they want or performing illegal actions. We are making strides to get to that point, but we are nowhere near where we need to be.

It all begins with college students all over the country. We are young. We have the power of technology in our hands. We have knowledge everywhere. Isn’t it time that we change this outdated mentality towards other races to something that is more conducive with what we have experienced over the past few years, both historically and personally?

Jideobi Ezeonu is voices editor for The Spectator. He can be reached by voices.spectator@gmail.com