Thursday, January 17, 2008

Looking back on the Amadou Cisse tragedy

A reader wrote to ask me, essentially, if I thought there were any lessons to be learned from the murder of Amadou Cisse, if one were to investigate the crime.

I told him that I think there are several potentially revealing angles to look at. First let me say that I don't think it would be interesting or insightful to look at any failure on the side of the university or police. I don't think parallels with other school shootings apply here.

Most interesting, I think, would be to focus both on Eric Walker and Amadou. The tragedy isn't really just about Amadou, but about Eric and Amadou, as well as Warren and Williams, the accomplices. Both Amadou and Eric came from turbulent backgrounds --Amadou's father was killed in battle in Gambia, and Eric's father was gunned down when Eric was three. Both families are certainly devestated. I don't think Eric was expecting to come across the likes of Amadou-- another fighter, who wasn't willing to give in easily, contributing to the deadly result. So the meeting of these two people, so different yet alike in some ways, presents a potentially insightful line of inquiry.

A secondary theme, one that is potentially well investigated in other contexts, is the clash between the university population and the neighborhood. I think Walker said something to the effect that he was going to Hyde Park to commit a crime because people up there have money. From my own experience, I used to think that the crimes around here had a really strong racial component--black on white or black on asian. However, this makes it seem as though class may be playing a role anyway.

There are some other aspects also about clashes between the cultures--on Walker's side, the "gangster" mentality, failures of the education system and parenting -- these are discussed here.
The University side, to some degree, perhaps can represent some isolationism from the surrounding community, despite the best of intentions an efforts.

Despite the time that has passed, every few days it seems someone leaves a message here remembering Amadou. We have heard very little from the community of the perpetrators, a piece of the conversation that I think is sorely missed.

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