55ddf1d556040.imageWhen Vester Lee Flanagan II AKA Bryce Williams carried out a premeditated execution of former colleagues on live television I was distraught by both the wrongful murder and his presence of mind required to film and distribute their deaths on social media. It was cold-blooded. I felt sick. I felt disheartened. I felt captivated.

Then, I felt frustrated because I also felt other things. I remember one day during a high school history class where we were discussing slavery that a fellow White student asked why Black people allowed themselves to be victims rather than fight for their freedom. I was largely incredulous at the ignorance of the question, but mostly perplexed at the nature of the inquiry. Did this person understand what it would actually mean for Black people to forcibly vindicate their victimhood in a country of systemic racism? Did they comprehend the scale of death and rape and dehumanization suffered by Blacks that inform epithets like “monkey” or “nigger?” Did they not realize that Black people have been fighting for generations, that every slave uprising was violently suppressed and that Black appeals to justice were met with a noose?

This came to bear on how I digested the fatal Bryce Williams altercation. The obvious criminality acknowledged, there is another dimension to this tragedy: the interpretations of justice.

Bryce Williams actions weren’t careless or spontaneous, but a carefully calculated response accompanied by a manifesto and outlined by his emotional state. Bryce was angry. Righteously angry. His actions were bigger than himself. This one was for the team. It was for the Black churchgoers murdered by Dylan Roof. It was for the marginalized. It was a nod to other dejected mass murderers that wouldn’t fade quietly into the night in the face of their oppressors. In his own words the bullets Bryce Williams fired carried the initials of victims. It was retribution.

His righteousness is up for debate but what is not debatable is that there is a certain allure to “justice” that can make it a comfortable bedfellow of both revenge and schadenfreude. Bryce Williams was Black. He was also gay. His marginalization is not hard to imagine, even if his personality had been pitch perfect. He likely had good reason to be angry. He stands, by association, against the backdrop of the Black legacy and it is a legacy hardly vindicated.

By his own deduction, however accurate or inaccurate, Bryce Williams was someone who had suffered ongoing wrong, aired his racial grievances, appealed to higher authority, had been mocked for his sensitivity and as a last resort took justice into his own hands.

In many ways it is the pitiable underdog script fit for the big screen if not for the devastating permanence of reality. As a cinema action hero Bryce appeals to a certain bravado we glamorize in our favorite vigilantes who find the scales of justice warped by those tasked with protecting them. The “good guys” aren’t really good at all, but compromised caretakers of the people who know how to hide their treachery and keep face for the camera. Their comeuppance requires a violently courageous messiah. Enter Bryce Williams.

In reality two reporters are dead and Williams’ equalizing vendetta for Black justice has been sidelined as a case study of mental illness and gun possession. Dutifully, this is where it belongs. Black heritage has cultivated a tendency to celebrate Black uprise against discrimination but as we continue to fight as a people it is important to maintain clarity of what justice really entails.

Image Credits: Twitter/WDBJ7-TV

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  • Me

    I wish this article was longer. This whole situation could be a case study for a sociology course, psychology course, criminal justice course, gun debate, healthcare debate, african studies course, american history course, and SO MANY other think tanks in our society.

    Honestly, as much as I condemn what he did, I can’t believe all the “innocence” the MSM is trying to paint the victims with. They didn’t deserve to die, but Bryce didn’t deserve to live in torment either. To be absolutely clear, killing them was the WRONG thing to do, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t understand how he could’ve gotten to that point. Folks act like bullying stops after high school, but a lot of the same taunting that happens among kids happens among adults. And isht gets real when it’s not just the “cool kids” picking on you, but coworkers & bosses who now have real power to damage your real livelihood. We put justice in the hands of courts to try and prevent these types of vigilante avengers, but we need to hold adults accountable for the role they play in creating the monster.

    MSM will talk forever & a day about Middle Eastern terrorists without nary a word about how the U.S. incited the terrible relationship we have with that part of the world. We treat immigrants like pariahs without a single nod to the role those same immigrants play in the capitalist economy that profits off their backs when they come into this country and when we deport them. Whenever we talk about race relations, it’s always us vs them.

    You can only push folks so far before they snap back, and we forget too easily that when some people snap back, it’s done in a permanent way. So unless you can predict the future, adults need to learn to quit pushing buttons like there are no consequences. Stop treating each other like we’re disposable b/c that just makes it easier for someone to dispose of you when the time comes.

    • [email protected]

      Excellent Commentary.

    • Me

      Thanks Truth

    • [email protected]

      You’re Welcome Sister

      Also, Sister Tiffanie Drayton has written an eloquent, excellent article.

      The views in the article are what I believe in and what tons of black people believe in too. This work should be read by a wide spectrum of people. Bryce Williams’ actions never came out in a vacuum as you have stated. As we have seen, some are exploiting the deaths of the reporters as a means for them to ignore legitimate black grievances and legitimate black anger at oppression. Bryce Williams was a hurting man. His manifesto certainly outlined the views that he claimed that he was not only discriminated against, but he suffered sexual harassment. There is no doubt in my mind that he was a victim of racism since no black American is immune from racism or macroaggressions directly or indirectly. Media occupations and other jobs have individuals who were abused mentally not only by employees, but by bosses. Justice entails many things. One thing that justice is not part of is the murder of innocent human life. It is wrong to murder innocent human life. Yet, there is no justification for Bryce to experience torment from others either.

      Also, we have analyze why he did these things and in that sense, we can establish policies to make workplaces better and to combat racism, discrimination, and any form of bigotry in our world. We all wished that Bryce never experienced the taunts, the disrespect, and the bigotry that he has experienced in his life. We wished that he would have never murdered 2 reporters. He suffered throughout his entire life since his actions wasn’t part of a spontaneous action that was planned in a short period of time. He took his time to map out the deeds that he did. Like the old saying goes, hurt people will hurt people. We want lives to be saved and hurt people to receive the help that they need. We want black justice. Black justice is not just a national goal, but an international goal (in other words, we all want all black people to be free and have liberation).

    • ronnieTX


    • RaiseTheBar

      “You can only push folks so far before they snap back,”


    • Chazz A

      Great post!

  • Mary Burrell

    I hate the out come of this was this tragedy, but who knows what was said or done to this man to drive him to this tragedy. I know how certain white people can be in the work place. I don’t feel they were just innocent either. I don’t condone or advocate violence but I can relate to being on the receiving end of the racist bullying.

  • Mary Burrell

    And the media will construct the narrative that they want to tell. I wish the brother could have gotten some help for his anger issues.