On April 2nd, 54-year-old Steven Utash struck a 10-year-old boy as the child stepped into a busy road. Horrified, Utash stopped the car and got out to check on the child. As he did, a dozen observers surrounded him and dragged him away from the boy, beating him nearly to death. The group would have beat him to death had a nearby nurse not intervened to stop the crowd. The incident itself isn’t what made headlines. It was race. Utash, white. Boy, African-American. Crowd, African-American. Nurse, African-American. That’s why it made news.

In an incident that harkens back to the L.A. Riots of the early 90s, civil rights groups are inflamed by the incident, noting the implied double-standard. Since it was a white man as the victim, the story has a different context. Had he been African-American, the outcry would choke media outlets. The long-term implications of this incident as far as race relations and the future of Detroit have been speculated (to death) in thousands of articles.

For me, I wonder about Utash himself. He could easily have simply driven away. Or, when he saw the crowd of people watching, decided to stay in his truck and drive away. He would have been well within his rights since the angered mob presented a threat to his life. But he did none of that.

Whether it was his fault or the boy’s isn’t essential. He was trying to be a decent person by checking on a wounded child, rather than worry about his liability or personal safety first. For that, a group nearly beat him to death. Five people were arrested in connection to the beating, all of them facing charges of assault with intent to murder and assault with intent to do great bodily harm. They wanted to kill the man.

Even as this blog is being written, Utash remains in a coma, attended to by doctors, family and friends. He only woke once in nearly two weeks and asked a single question: “Is the boy dead?”
Decent human being.

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