On September 18, 2018, Ray Mason’s unclothed body was found in the Huron River, near Frog Island Park in Ypsilanti. When his aunt, Pat Glover, identified his body, she saw there were injuries to his face and head. It’s believed Mason was beaten, robbed, stripped, and thrown into the river.
“Ray came all the way from North Carolina ten years ago, brought me back here after my husband’s death. He’s always been a quiet, quiet man … I don’t know what I’m going to do now with Ray gone. I know the Lord’s going to give me strength in some way. But each step I make I’ll think my little buddy is gone.” According to Mason’s obituary, he leaves behind six children.
“Ray was a good man who cared for people and always made people happy,” said Glover. “He had many friends and would always help someone in need. I don’t know why this happened to him.”
Five years and a few months before Ray Mason was murdered, Ypsilanti resident Joseph Starr, his alleged murderer, was in the news for racially harrassing his black neighbors on a street about two miles from where Mason’s body was found. According to a story run by MLive, “When police arrived and knocked on the suspects’ door, no one answered. Officers left, but were then called back to the same houses two hours later after receiving reports Keaton and Starr were outside singing songs about killing black people …”
And yet MLive draws no connection between Starr’s killing of Mason and his earlier history of racial terrorism.
A police chief of Dayton, Ohio told the BBC yesterday, in response to a question about motivation’s for Connor Betts’ August 3 mass shooting, “It’s hard to imagine there was much discrimination in the shooting”—yet if we read the list of names of those killed, in which the BBC has included the race of each victim, we see that six of the nine were black.
Why do white Americans so desperately want to rule out racial hatred and bias as reasons for the deaths of so many black Americans? Does it have something to do with the fact that to do so would also be to admit that white male vigilante terrorism is not so dissimilar from the project of the United States since its inception, or that it resembles what law enforcement agents do daily across the country: take the lives (and land, property, liberty) of non-white inhabitants, very often with total impunity?
Or does it have more to do with the fact that because an overwhelming majority of white Americans are pathologically—albeit sometimes unconsciously—anti-black, for them to genuinely reckon with the racial animus that drives many mass shootings in the United States would also put them in touch with their own complicated, ugly, multifaceted feelings and lifelong reaction formations regarding racialized “others”?
Or, in the case of white men, does it have something to do with the fact that most of us were raised in proximity (or direct subordination) to male toxicity, and we recognize some of our interior seething in the profiles of the white men who go off (“‘He was such a nice and normal boy,’ said his neighbor . . .”); and, because we can recognize aspects of our own pain in their outbursts, we have to immediately cut ourselves off from paying any closer attention to what we feel and why we feel it?
Maybe it’s all these things, combined.
MLive didn’t link their recent story on racist murderer Joseph Starr to their 2013 story about him singing songs of black death to his black neighbors because MLive knows it doesn’t want to deal with the topic of “racism,” which itself is because a majority of its readers—like cops in Dayton and lieutenant governors in Texas—can’t tolerate hearing or reading anything to do with the topic.
So here’s to Ray Anthony Mason (August 18, 1960–September 18, 2018), who’d be turning 59 in just over a month, and who “enjoyed fishing, dancing, art, landscaping, and being with his family. He loved people and was known for his great sense of humor.”
And in honor of Ray, here’s a tenderhearted challenge to any white resident in Ypsilanti who’s committed in whatever daily way to anti-racist practice—in this bastion of white moderates who hang the American flag off their porches, enjoy craft beer, and cultivate indifference—: let’s get busy.