With no such thing as a criminal mind, people need to start taking responsibility for the way they react to heated situations.
Most people would be annoyed if they lost some money. Maybe they’d even be a little upset.
But rarely would someone consider pulling out a gun over $10.
Nineteen-year-old Sebree Johnson was shot in Crescentville, Pa., an area of Northeast Philadelphia, April 9 after two men misplaced their $10 in a grocery store. The men blamed it on a 17-year-old, and an argument ensued. Johnson and another man got involved, leading to multiple shootings and Johnson’s death, according to the Daily News.
As citizens, wherever we are, we should feel safe in our communities if we have not done anything wrong. If we haven’t burnt down a building or joined a gang, it’s only fair to conclude trouble won’t follow us and we won’t be shot. But now, it seems as if we need to be worried about our safety even when surrounded by ordinary people in everyday situations.
Criminals can be waiting next to you in the checkout line to buy bread and eggs in the grocery store. Given the right circumstances, you could be a criminal.
Criminal minds are no different than anyone else’s, said Donald Hantula, an associate psychology professor and the director of the decision-making laboratory in the department.
“One thing I do know is that there is no such thing as the criminal mind,” Hantula said. “In fact, [the] mind itself is something we made up to make explanations of these sorts of behaviors easier to invent.”
It’s possible that the shooting was committed in a moment of rage, when the criminal wasn’t thinking clearly. But really, anyone could get angry. When society assumes that a criminal’s decision-making skills are less developed than those of the average angry passerby on Broad Street, society separates itself into two categories – the “normal” people who wouldn’t commit a crime and those who would.
Yah-Ya Shabazz was previously incarcerated at Grateford, but he now works with the Lifers Public Safety Initiative to stem crime and violence. But Shabazz said there is “such a thing called a criminal mindset.”
“Most robberies are planned, and a lot of the murders in our city are planned,” Shabazz said. “Their excuse is that they have been disrespected.”
But we’ve all been disrespected. It’s all about how we react.
After posting a thread on Craigslist about the $10 murder, one person pointed out that reactions are circumstantial.
“I can think of several classes of people I think deserved to be killed,” the poster said. “As for a measly $10 … if it’s your last $10, is it measly?”
Maybe some people on the streets of Philadelphia really think others deserve to die. And maybe some will justify their actions with shocking reasoning and truly believe they are being completely logical.
Another Craigslist poster from Boston acknowledged the obvious: Modern-day living “is getting very violent and will probably get much worse.”
Violent video games and movies desensitize our culture and make us more susceptible to irrationality.
But just like everyone else, criminals need to start taking responsibility for their actions by letting the little things go, or getting angry might cost you much more than $10.
Cary Carr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.