The most naive man in the world, apparently, is Manny Fernandez, of the New York Times, who visits in a Long Island prison with Jeffrey Conroy, the local teenager just convicted of fatally stabbing a Hispanic man during a “beaner hopping” spree with his friends.
Mr. Fernandez is stunned, stunned I say, by the revelation that a convicted killer could have more than one side to his personality: He’s boyish, he loves his family, he used to help out around the neighborhood and was involved in youth sports! (He’s a lacrosse player, natch.)
Fernandez is also astounded by the seeming paradox of prejudice persisting unexamined in the mind of someone who knows several nonwhites. The story opens with an anecdote about that time that Conroy felt bad for a migrant worker, and contains many comically po-faced details: He “counted several Hispanics among his closest friends, including the girl he had been dating off and on for years, Pamela Suarez, who is Bolivian.”
And I love this:
Mr. Conroy’s life was typical of what it’s like growing up in the predominantly white middle-class towns and villages of eastern Long Island, but his experiences also had shades of diversity. He listened to Jay-Z, Nas and other black hip-hop artists. His half-sister from his father’s previous marriage is part Puerto Rican. One of his best friends is Turkish.
“I’m nothing like what the papers said about me,” Mr. Conroy said. “I’m not a white supremacist or anything like that. I’m not this serious racist kid everyone thinks I am.”
No, of course not, how could be.
Ok, look. Typical raised-right teens with asshole streaks (which describes most popular adolescent males, really) will assert their status by seeming more unafraid than their peer group of transgressing boundaries. If you’re looking for an outlet for bravado, racial and ethnic taboos are always good ones, especially if (and this is an assumption on my part) you were taught to be-respectful-or-risk-a-whupping and not to consider wider contexts. (Or maybe a blindness to context is a universal aspect of adolescence?) Anyway, this is how getting a swastika tattooed on your leg “as a joke” happens, I guess.
I probably shouldn’t have to explain any of this to a reporter, who theoretically knows at least something of the world. Or maybe Fernandez thinks he’s cautiously demonstrating the concept of moral nuance to a feebleminded readership? By being over backward to demonstrate what a nice boy this is, that not everybody who’s killed someone bears the mark of the beast? Jesus.