-Your Sib, Liv
Robbie Patton and George Korchev’s media representation as a simple dichotomy only fuels the problem, not the discussion.
Let me start by introducing where I come from… outside of just being a member of BLM-CU.I am a graduate student from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. I am also someone who is trying to step out of my homebody ways to socialize with friends at local hangout spots, in attempt to be less paranoid of the night life. I am also a local who has spent most of my childhood and young adult years in Champaign-Urbana, and witnessed most of its changes, development along with neglect in particular areas, and share in both good and ugly. When it comes to small towns, people like to claim they are “safe” places with a “trouble never really happens here” mentality. This discounts the experiences of those from different races, socio-economic classes, religions, etc. backgrounds outside of their own. This is a common example of oversimplifying a narrative that “townies” like me and others have experienced. Especially when factors such as race, gender, and class dynamics are not acknowledge.
On midnight, September 25th, 22 year-old George Korchev, a university student who had a stellar path ahead of him in the field of Medicine, life was tragically cut short by stray bullets on Green St. Three other people were injured within the fire. It was later revealed that 18 year-old Robbie Patton who was recently released from a prison boot camp (The Illinois Impact Incarceration Program) was the offender. Korchev was a young white man and university student with a bright future ahead of him whereas Patton was young black man trapped by the issues that perpetuate a familiar violence amongst fellow young black boys and men who was supposedly trying to avenge a friend through fatal means. Although for many, the narrative only stops at “young aspiring, white” and “young criminal, black”. Where is BlackLivesMatter now?
How Oversimplified Narratives Do Us All a Disservice, Especially those Systemically Oppressed
Like how any human being should feel right now, I mourn the loss of Korchev. I hope that something so unfortunate would never happen to someone regardless of who they are. However, the sensationalist narrative surrounding Korchev and Patton is disturbing to say the least. It goes without saying that Patton is not going to get let off the hook for the crime he committed, and rightfully so. The News-Gazette and other media outlets are continuing to report the crime, details and all as they should be doing. Justice is going to be served. Will it bring George Korchev’s back to life? Sadly never, but justice WILL be had. Korchev’s life matters and should always matter. Where people fall short is when we conflate this CRIME , not “black on white” crime, (this somewhat goes with “black on black” crime since black intraracial violence if often not talked about in context with its roots within the affects of oppressive institutions.) into an issue specifically rooted within racial systemic violence and oppression. Please, don’t confuse a bystander being hit by a stray bullet to the same violence as people whose job (with a systemic racial history and bias) is to protect and serve the community are disproportionately doing harm to specific groups of people within that community on a routine basis who often get let off (state sanctioned violence). People like Patton do their time, and positive future outcomes and opportunities are usually few and dismal.
There is also a key detail that many people writing off Patton as some sort of sub-human are missing is that he surrendered himself to authorities. We also get the sense of Patton’s humanity being brought further down in the News-Gazette’s misleading headline.
[Seriously, News-Gazette? Reading the article, it was obviously more than just a “spilled drink”.]
Although as many of us wish this had not ever happened, Patton knows that he committed a wrong and isn’t sweeping it under the rug. It calls for a focus on what efforts can be done that goes beyond disciplinary centers, jails, and prisons when studies show that outcomes only worsen when released? It asks what gaps can be filled when parents and mentors just aren’t enough? It questions what actions are necessary to diminish the lives being taken by stray bullets? How can people, especially men, release their emotions in a manner that doesn’t cause harm and death towards others?
Where Do We Go From Here?
If we want to have a productive narrative, energies would be better spent focusing on how crime like this continues to happen. Such as discussing the ingrained gun culture in our country. Despite having gun laws, for whom do these laws really serve and protect. There is also the fact the police officers are more likely to be killed in states with more gun ownership. There is also the narrative of toxic masculinity, since often times those who commit these crimes are usually men and it keeps getting younger. Last but not least, how do we create long-term solutions to keep someone like Robbie Patton from happening or to help those already in his position to end the cycle of violence? I’ve witnessed this violence time and time again, growing up rural, even with a middle-class privilege under my foot, and my visits in nearby small towns and cities. Often where black youth inhabit, (yes, even here in Champaign) schools are underfunded and overcrowded with jail-like practices, and resources whether they are for health, recreational, or therapeutic are inaccessible. Kids are often normalized in a society where masculinity is framed as “who’s tougher than who” and “I’ll show you” attitude. Add blackness on top of this framing of masculinity, toughness becomes a catch-22 survival and coping mechanism in a world already built against you.
In conclusion, may all of our hearts be with the Korchev family and friends. It’s a shame to see another young life stolen and another young life confined in the violent cycle. We must always continue to discuss, think, and learn about these complex narratives, along with how we contribute to them. Let us not forget about what we can do and change for BOTH the dead and the living.