There are no two sides to the story of Payton Gendron.

Gendron was filled with despicable views on the world; our world gave him the easy capacity to become a mass killer; and he chose to murder people he hated without ever having met them. Absolutely detestable.

The story remains, complex, however--because it is repeated in so many ways every day.

A 15-year-old black young man put a gun to an adult white man's neck (my brother) in broad daylight, saw the man give up all his possessions, saw his accomplice robber (a 16-year-old robbing the man's latino co-worker) leave for the getaway vehicle (just as happened commonly when the gang members robbed the latino construction workers on Friday, payday), and chose to pull the trigger on his .40-caliber pistol, ripping open a massive hole in the man's neck a mere three feet away, killing him as the blood rushed out.

I no longer feel anger towards that young man for killing my brother-- though I admit I did for some time. I recognize that he suffered real indignities:

Racism. Absolutely the young man grew up in a town with a history of racism. But also with enormous transformation over previous three decades.

Poverty. Absolutely the young man was not wealthy. His mom worked a few jobs to keep the house that was not impressive but was OK. My Dad lived just a few blocks away. The neighborhood was nicer than others Dad had lived in. That weekend his family had enough resources to fly him to Boston to see his uncle.

Lack of opportunity. Absolutely the young man was not well-positioned for adulthood. He had given up on school, and his FB page declared he went to "Trap or Die" university.

This young man's life looked bleak for him, and he saw no way out. Something that day prompted him to pull that trigger.

I suspect that whatever despair or anger that young man felt about his life was similar to the emotion that Payton Gendron felt.

That young man turned to gang life. My brother--a white man who did construction work--must have represented something that he felt trapped by or excluded from: a respectable job, a decent wage, a rung on a social ladder,... And he hated those things enough to kill.

Payton Gendron fell back on conspiracy theories and deeply-seated ideas of discrimination: "They are trying to breed us out...They have all the privileges now...We were the ones who built this country..." And he hated those things enough to kill.

To me, Payton Gendron's choice was far worse than that of the young man who killed my brother.

That young man chose to rob people for his daily sustenance. And in a moment of absolute power, he chose to wield that power absolutely.

Payton Gendron chose to graduate high school and work a simple job only on the condition that in a blaze of glory he would live out his secret dream of absolute power and hatred.

My thoughts go out to all the families of the people killed by Payton Gundren and by that other young man.

And I pray that we can see the complexity that our world has created that leads to so many horrible choices by so many.

Be well



A better world is a lifetime project. One person, one team, one organization, one company, one state at a time. Book: American Butterfly on Amazon.

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J. Andrew Shelley

J. Andrew Shelley

A better world is a lifetime project. One person, one team, one organization, one company, one state at a time. Book: American Butterfly on Amazon.

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