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We’re in trouble when a $4 sandwich matters more than a Black life

We know something has gone terribly wrong in our world when a $4 sandwich is worth more than a black life.

On April 23, 2009 scientists observed a gamma ray burst for 10 seconds which is “the most distant object of any kind and also the oldest known object in the universe.”

But let’s get to the important stuff. On that same day there was a near riot at Minnesota’s one Popeye’s Chicken franchise. The company had advertised an 8-piece meal for $4.99, but the local store was not honoring the deal. Cars backed up in the drive-thru, customers became angry inside the restaurant, and the police were called to stop a melee.

The great chicken riot of Minneapolis made the news.

See here:

A local reporter talking about the hubbub said “I haven’t seen people this passionate about something in a very long time.”

I made fun of this incident for years. Mostly because it conflicted with a truism I hear in community meetings all the time about how we aren’t showing up for school meetings or city planning meetings or policy debates because we’re busy working two jobs.

Yet, Popeye’s.

Marketing folks seem to generate a ton of passion in our communities when a dollar is involved. In this case chicken skirmishes have become such a mainstay that it’s created a genre of YouTube videos.

Enough to have videos titled “The Best of Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich Fights.”

The “best of,” really?

For a while I’ve thought these fights were funny. Seriously funny. Like Friday or Next Friday funny. Like Pootie Tang or Booty Call or Madea funny.

Lowbrow, but funny. I grew up on Popeye’s chicken. Loved it as a fat kid in New Orleans does. It took a long time (and some health concerns) to figure out it ain’t food as much as suicide.

Today, what was funny has turned serious. It popped up in my feed that a 28-year-old (the same age as my oldest son) was stabbed to death over a damn Popeye’s chicken sandwich.

Stabbed. To. Death.

Stories like this always make me think about how a person gets to the point in their life where they explode with anger over something trivial and then commit an act that irreversibly ruins their life and the lives of others.

What happened when that person was a teenager, a middle-schooler, or a baby?

There must be a story there. A traumatic one.

I can only imagine.

My guess is that when a child receives endless messages telling him he has little value, he comes to believe it. When he is told that his mind is immaterial, he either responds with anger because he knows it isn’t true (and that it is massive injustice to say it is), or he absorbs the critique and lives it out.

When he’s told he can’t read, he doesn’t. When he’s told he isn’t beautiful, he hates beauty. When he’s told injustice is equity and crooked is straight, as our society so often does to the people it wants to gaslight into a life of subservience, he becomes a violent truth that pays us back for our mannered delusions.

Our children know when the world has pushed them into an unjust corner. They are smart even when the tests they take in school doubt it.

Even as those of us in education activism harp on the idea that our kids aren’t learning, the truth is they are learning every day, but they are learning from our absenteeism and negligence and dedication to mass-consumerism rather than our values and love.

It doesn’t let us of the hook. Chicken fights, social absurdities, and moral laxity are explainable by our history and social conditions, and by our lack of access to the precursors to healthy development (such as home resources, healthcare, and education), but we are not the revolutionaries we think we are if we aren’t calling out and defeating the self-destructive behaviors endemic to our communities.

Every child is born with unsurpassable worth afforded to them by a mighty God. We fall short of our faith if we allow friends, families, or the broader society to rob our kids of that worth.

If they’re ever in a Popeye’s Chicken injuring others over a heart-attack, hypertension, and diabetes inducing sandwich, the trail of their tears leads back to us.

How are the children?


ACT NOW: What does this blog post mean? I could just be me making sense of the needless suffering in our world. It may not be profound. Yet, if forced to think of an action to take that would make this post more than a meaningless buffet of words, I’d ask you to…

commit to a course of action today that changes our culture of neglect of children. Affirm every child you come into contact with by telling them “you are so amazing, I know you are going to do great things in life” – or something like that.

Or, donate to groups who prepare and inform new leaders or educators in communities that need both (here, here, here, here).

Or, as always, pray (here).

Citizen Stewart

Pursuing the power of self-sovereignty and personalized learning to create secure citizens and abundant communities. #TheOppositeOfSchool #AllPowerToThePupil

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