White People Behaving Badly, Part 1

I watched and listened yesterday to Trevor Noah’s June 21 reaction to the release of the new Philando Castile video, the one where the too-anxious-for-words Minnesota cop pumped four slugs into Castile, killing him in front of his girlfriend and daughter. This isn’t a plea for or an urging to watch that video, though I am interested in how citizens are reacting to seeing it. Later in that evening’s show, singer/songwriter Jason Isbell appeared and, as a white person, I felt somewhat soothed.

Not soothed enough, however, to forget what happened earlier and to consider some of the other news I had read that day.

News about white people.

Acting badly.

Check them out, former Alabamians Michael Trosclair and Shari Treba, and read their story. Or if you don’t want to, let me offer a couple of bits from their story:

Former Alabama Pastor and His Wife Arrested for Public Intoxication, Smoking with Their Baby at a Bar

“Police reported that Treba’s ‘breath and person’ reeked of alcohol, and witnesses stated she repeatedly offered sex to patrons who would get her another beer. She also allegedly left her child in a stroller chained outside the bar to go inside and buy more drinks. At the time of arrest, her BAC was registered at 0.193.”

“Trosclair’s LinkedIn profile shows that he was the former senior pastor at a Theodore Church and is currently the regional vice president of Primerica in Mobile…’Mr. Trosclair was too intoxicated to understand the situation his own child was in when the mother, Ms. Tremba, starts to breastfeed the child,’ another detective wrote.”

Apparently, the parents were booked in Indianapolis but later released. The child is with Protective Services.

Now I believe we can all agree that these two white people behaved very badly. I don’t advocate it, but I wonder whether the police at any time feared for their lives or, after seeing what these people were putting their child through — scars last forever, and who knows what road this child will take later in life — they contemplated discharging their weapons. Still, as bad as the story was — and thanks again to Yellowhammer News, a site I don’t often love because it’s based in Alabama and its biases don’t align with mine, for reporting it — what kills me are the letters and commentary from “readers” that follow it.

The letters seem to focus on why and how this couple lapsed so far from Christianity, and then they de-evolve into a debate about whether or not Christians should apologize for other Christians when they, you know, behave this badly. They also wonder: can people who are “called” to the ministry be “uncalled?”

I don’t know about you, but right now, I am not worried about anyone apologizing for anyone else, or whose soul is being bargained for or saved. I’m thinking about the mentality of anyone who takes a baby to a bar; who barters sex for liquor while the baby is there or chained outside. About a father who is too drunk to know what the hell else is going on. About a baby who surely didn’t deserve to be born to these two.

About why this story was so under-reported. Should it be on the national news? How do we feel about these people, and does their skin color matter to us?

Maybe I’m still thinking too hard about my home state, Alabama, and of “S-Town,” and believing that John B saw too much from/of his own kind. Maybe I’m remembering the church of my youth in Bessemer, a wholesome, loving place except when a Black family came to service one Sunday morning in 1970 or 71. I don’t know whether they were “called” or “uncalled,” but I do know that they never came back and that many in the congregation threatened the assistant pastor who welcomed them in.

I’ve written about the racial issues of this time in that church in my essay collection, Don’t Date Baptists and Other Warnings from My Alabama Mother, and I am writing other stories about these times and will publish in weeks to come.

I won’t always write about white people behaving badly, either. But periodically, there will be more, because, you know, they do.

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