CKL's HotSheet
What Non-Aardvarks are Pondering

By Curtis C. Chen

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March 1, 2000

Who is this guy? (Part 2)

First of all, I'd like to paraphrase something I said back in October:

I'm not playing lawyer here. I don't have full knowledge of the case. I don't know if [this person] is, in fact, guilty. I don't want to talk about that.

... My point is, [this man] is just a guy. He has no more inherent importance or credibility than you or I. ... Persecution does not automatically bestow any great wisdom or understanding upon the persecuted. But he is still human. I'm sure [he] has many stories to tell. But there's only one story that anybody seems to want to tell.

Everybody tells me what he is.

Nobody tells me who he is.

And that's the real tragedy.

Now, I'd like you to read the following words about someone who recently passed away.

He was the good son, the child who always smiled, who never hurt anyone. "He began reading the Koran by himself," [his mother] recalls proudly. And always said his prayers, bowing toward Mecca the prescribed five times a day. Perhaps made shy by a youthful stutter, Amadou nevertheless chose to emulate the adventurous example of his father Saikou, a man who had risen from street vendor in West Africa and dodged coups d'etat and other political turmoil to become a businessman with interests in Guinea, Togo, Liberia, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore. Amadou had seen those troubles and been to those places, but he wanted to make his mark in America. He loved America, said an uncle, more than the Americans did. Diallo was so eager to live in the U.S. that he applied for the status of political refugee under false pretenses and, once in New York City, took a job as a street vendor selling videotapes, socks, gloves.

... In the fictional life he created to persuade immigration officers to let him stay in America, Amadou Diallo claimed he was a refugee from "ethnic cleansing" in the West African nation of Mauritania, that soldiers had tortured his uncle to death, that they had murdered his parents. Now, his parents, alive, have come back to seek justice for their dead son.

Sound familiar? Those words came from Time Magazine's cover story this week (March 6, 2000). It gives a good account of the controversy surrounding this incident, but more importantly, it devotes a paragraph to telling us-- albeit briefly and with clear bias-- who Amadou Diallo was.

I don't care which side of this debate you land on. I don't care whether you march with Al Sharpton, or lock your suburban doors and windows every night at eight o'clock. I would just like you to do one thing. It's simple, but it's important. I haven't made this particular exhortation in a while, so I'll say it more than once:



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