Mixon had violated the terms of his parole and feared going back to
prison, his family said. Three weeks before he died Mixon had skipped out on a visit with his
parole officer who he said had stood him up on prior appointments. But his agenda was still fuzzy. "This is a
strange one," Oakland police Capt. Steve Tull told the San Francisco Chronicle
at the time. "We don't know what his motivation is." Tull said Mixon,
who had a record of prior convictions, would have gotten another six
months in jail for violating his parole.
The services were publicly listed and I went there to cover it for Colorlines, but it was a painful event to witness, notable to me for the total absence of any of the open expressions of loss or mourning I expected. Except for Mixon's veil-draped casket at the front of the cramped, sunlit hall, it was actually hard to immediately tell that it was a funeral. At the back doors cousins greeted friends and family members warmly. It seemed like a family reunion for the Mixons. His widow Amara sat in the front row, stoic and tired looking, accompanied by other members of the Mixon family. There were few tears; the tissue boxes were passed around to quiet a congested, sneezing mourner. A set of multi-denominational leaders all took turns speaking and acknowledged in solemn terms Mixon's awful crimes but never tried to make sense of what happened. In the absence of any explanation for how five men lost their lives in the span of a few hours, there was a lot of God.
Losing a son to a police officer's bullet is not new for many in
Oakland. At the services there was singing and there were solemn words
pleading for God's mercy. But there was also a sense of resignation and
In the days following the shooting, the public reaction was unified in its condemnation of Mixon. With just a handful of biographical details to complete their portraits, people decided who Mixon
was. He was a cop killer, a monster. Unhinged at the very least,
everyone agreed. Though not to his family he wasn't.
Of course there are very different racial dynamics at play; Mixon was an undereducated poor black man with a criminal record. Loughner, a 22-year-old white man living in an Arizona desert town, may have been immersed in the politics of white nationalist groups.
We want a narrative so badly. All I've got right now is that we should watch our language closely, be mindful and respectful. The public officials and commentators who need to remember that most may not. But I think we already know the lessons Loughner's shooting can offer.
We already know political discourse in this country has reached a
crazed, ear-splitting pitch.
I was taken with K_Commenter's words in TNC's morning post on Loughner:
I like to hope, deep in the hidden, optimist corners of my soul, that
facing this reality will at least make people think about what they say.
It's one thing to employ rhetoric: even when violent or explicit, at a
certain point words all just become so much white noise, and it's easy
to say things that fit in with the world around you without actually
thinking deeply of the real meaning.
But the real meaning of a lot of that rhetoric is
horrific. I like to hope that confronting that reality in this way
will at least, at the tiny least, result in some people stopping to
think about what they say. Like a supervillain who suddenly realizes,
on drowning half the world, that this wasn't at all what he wanted.
People seem to have settled on the idea that Loughner was mentally
unstable. As proof we've got the incoherent YouTube ramblings, his expulsion
from Pima Community College for disruptive behavior and suspicious
video. People will keep searching for the strain of political extremism that will explain Loughner's shootings. It
all may be a futile search for a neat explanation for what may be ultimately a totally
unexplainable act of violence.