MAXWELL:  Innocent victims of a misguided mob
5/23/2004 – Printed in the PERSPECTIVE section of The St Petersburg Times Newspaper
As I sat down to write this column about the recent violence in Midtown, I wanted to show restraint in my manner of expression. After two failed drafts, I realized that I am too outraged to dress up idiocy, stupidity, self-destruction, brutality and wanton criminality.
Let me start with what bothers me most about the violence. As a black man living and working in St. Petersburg, I am angry that a mob of young blacks attacked the SUV in which Dr. Elinor Miranda, her husband, Dr. Frank Marsalisi, their three children and a family friend were driving on the night of May 12.
En route home after dinner, they were stopped at the traffic light at 34th Street S and 18th Avenue, when a concrete block shattered the windshield, terrifying everyone inside the vehicle. Then the other windows were broken. The members of the group (Dr. Miranda and her son were slightly injured) were innocent victims of yet another example of mob violence in south St. Petersburg.
The biggest irony of the attack is that Dr. Miranda, a pediatrician, is a true friend of African-Americans. She lives and practices in a neighborhood just south of violence-prone Midtown. Even more, she routinely donates diapers and formula to low-income families, and she often treats indigent black patients without charge.
And this is the kind of woman the mob wanted to hurt or kill?
After having her vehicle attacked, after being injured and after having the words “white bitch” screamed in her face during the attack, here is part of what Miranda told the St. Petersburg Times: “I have to say that my patients have been so gracious. A lot of families came by the office. I have received numerous cards and I have had families call me and apologize for other people’s behavior….This is a very, very small minority because I know the bulk of the Afro-American community does not act that way. They’ve been very warm and embracing.”
I admire Dr. Miranda for her generosity and her humanity. She is one of those rare people able to avoid painting all blacks as brutes because of the behavior of a tiny minority.
Although I have not met Dr. Miranda, I apologize for the attack. I apologize for the misguided young people who saw Dr. Miranda and her family and friend as nothing more than objects to hurt. I apologize for all foolish adults, black and white, who make excuses for such criminal behavior, who rationalize assaulting innocent strangers on a public street.
And now, I must say the following: Living in St. Petersburg during the past 10 years has made me ashamed of being African-American.
Never have I been around so many irrational, immature, irresponsible, do-nothing black adults _ clergy and secular _ who pawn themselves off as “leaders.” NAACP president Darryl Rouson is an exception.
Never have I seen such a high percentage of black parents who fail to parent adequately, who seem incapable of creating a culture of learning in their homes, who, quite frankly, let their children roam the streets and cut the fool in school.
Never have I seen so many blacks who refuse to invest in their own community, who will not pool their resources for the greater good, who blame their problems on white people who live in communities many miles away.
Never have I seen such a high percentage of blacks who tolerate the presence of active criminals in their neighborhoods, who remain silent about black-on-black crime.
Never have I been in a town where a small, fringe group of malcontents has been given the power to distort reality to such a degree, to turn the city into something that it is not.
As a black man who was reared by sober, industrious and selfless adults who cared about the future of the children in their lives, I am ashamed of what we have done to ourselves. Despite the fact that racism, unofficial and institutional, still limits opportunities for blacks, we continue to squander opportunities by failing to “do for self,” as the late Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam was fond of saying.
When we burn our own communities and abandon our children’s futures, we are not doing for self. We are, in fact, self-destructing.