(TriceEdneyWire.com; edited for Amsterdam News style)—The recent death of a New York homeless person, Jordan Neely, is not merely a reflection of two individuals caught in a Shakespearian tragedy—one, the victim, Mr. Neely and the other, Daniel Penny, the perpetrator of the crime. Rather, this incident is a microcosmic reflection of many white Americans’ view of Black lives. 

The “Black Lives Matter” slogan was prompted by the realization that George Floyd’s horrific death by a white police officer was a stark representation of many Americans’ subconscious lack of value for the life of a Black American.

The solution to this subliminal reality will not be defined by the conviction of the perpetrator, Daniel Penny. His 15-minute strangle hold suffocation of Neely was a clear and concise example that revealed the death of Neely was never even considered in the mind of Penny, or few, if any of the white observers on the scene.

This incident reinforces the long-held belief (since slavery) that a Black person’s life is immaterial or three-fifths, at best, the value of white lives. 

As a Marine, I was trained to execute what was called a naked stranglehold on an opponent. We were also fully advised that beyond 2 and a half to 3 minutes, a successfully sustained stranglehold would result in the death of the individual being strangled.

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Marine Corps training is complete, thorough, and explicit. There are no exceptions or excuses for not understanding the consequences of behavior. In the Marine Corps, the consequences of a mistake are punishment that is brutal and severe. I distinctly recall the practice of mass punishment by drill instructors—that is, if one Marine in a platoon made a mistake, the entire platoon was punished. This ensured the unlikelihood of any Marine forgetting their training.

It therefore goes without saying that, if Penny learned the naked stranglehold in the Marine Corps, he also learned the consequences would be death if maintained longer than 2 and half to 3 minutes. 

While the experience of viewing a homeless Black person acting strangely can be traumatic for most white Americans, it is no reason to suspend common sense behavior. Penny suspended the use of his knowledge that his hold on Neely would kill him. He was taught this fact emphatically and as effectively as he was taught to execute a naked stranglehold. 

It is possible, but highly implausible, that Penny did not realize that Neely could very well die. But Penny is unable to plead ignorance—ignorance of the law is no excuse. However, he could plead a subliminal lack of value and respect for the life of a Black person. Therefore, he felt no compunction to release Neely after 3 or 4 minutes. 

While I loathe any references to the hypothetical, I would venture to say that had Neely been a blonde-headed white homeless person, Penny most certainly would have thought about releasing him before he expired. Penny fully realized that there are consequences to the death of a white man. 

The larger implication here is that Daniel Penny is the culprit of Jordan Neely’s death. But the real killer is yet at large: a racist and subliminal mentality. 

Chuck Richardson is a decorated Marine veteran with two Purple Hearts and a Vietnamese cross for gallantry.

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