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Yes, Aidan Ellison's murder was 'a race thing'

About 4 a.m. on Nov. 23, Aidan Ellison, a 19-year-old Black man, was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Stratford Inn in Ashland by a 47-year-old white man. The altercation between the two was over Ellison playing his music too loudly.

I read this in an online news article that allowed users to comment, and one of the first comments I read below was this: “It’s not a race thing! Why do people have to always make it about race?”

This comment struck me as being off for multiple reasons. First of all, it struck me emotionally: How can we not recognize the contextual racial factors here? There is literally a movement recognizing the sanctity of Black lives, an outcry from an entire community that says “we don’t feel safe and we deserve better.” How can a person not recognize this?

Then, I understood a bit more what this person may have been saying. “Well, you can’t prove the killer was a racist.”

That, for now, is true, I suppose. Unless more information comes out about how the killer was explicitly and outwardly participating in racist acts or words, I suppose we can’t prove that racism was the factor motivating the murder.

The fact is, though, that this doesn’t matter. It’s about race anyway. Here’s why:

According to CDC data, Black males 19 and younger are 14 times more likely than their white counterparts to be killed by gun violence — 14 times. And for black men ages 20-34, the rate goes up to 17 times more likely.

Aidan Ellison’s death falls into this existing problem, a problem drawn along racial lines, and therefore it is a race thing, no matter what the killer may or may not have felt in his mind and heart.

But here’s the thing — it’s only when we recognize the problem that we can start to fix it. For too long in this country we have tried to ignore the problem of racial disparity when it comes to exposure to violence. We’ve even seen people say that systemic racism does not exist. We’ve seen people ignore the outcries of the Black Lives Matter group, or try to paint them as terrorists.

Though I believe that we shouldn’t need proof to listen to and support our fellow citizens and community members, there is plenty of proof if one is willing to look and listen.

So let’s put the name-calling, finger-pointing and fear behind us.

Let’s work together to solve a proven problem.

And let me be clear: Problems are not political. We can disagree on potential solutions, but the problems must be recognized.

If you care for your country, if you care for your fellow citizens, this is your problem, too.

It is the problem of all of us. And it will take all of us to find a solution.

May Aidan Ellison rest in peace.

May he rest knowing that we will try to move forward and find solutions for the sake of all those who have suffered too much violence already, and all those that might in the future.

May we be willing to look at things, and ourselves, honestly this holiday season.

May we step out of our comfort zones for a brighter future for ourselves and for future generations.

And, as always, may we be guided by love.

Ethan Arlt of Ashland is is a 26-year-old freelance writer and game-maker.