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Walking a path into lyric Hell
The circumstances surrounding Baron Braswell's death, before and after the fact, deserve a close look

RICHARD AMRHINE
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Date published: 2/19/2006

By RICHARD AMRHINE

THE STABBING DEATH of Baron J. Braswell II last month has people debating everything from The Free Lance-Star's decision to print the names of the juveniles charged in connection with the incident, to whether a song like "Knuck If You Buck" incites violent behavior.

That is as it should be. When a tragic event happens, everything that led up to it and took place after it deserves scrutiny.

From my subjective view as someone who works in the newsroom here, publishing the names of those arrested after the slaying was the right thing to do and an easy call. They may be juveniles, but these kids were caught up in a very grown-up situation that resulted in a deadly crime. As members of a high-school football team, they are public figures whose actions off the field gain public notoriety whether we name them or not.

And that's the second point. When the names are published, the rumor mill is halted. In the days immediately after the incident, we were bombarded with anecdotal information about who was purportedly involved. Many students who were merely questioned by police found their names bandied about as being directly implicated. That caused unnecessary anger and sadness among family and friends--not to mention the individuals themselves.

We are obviously keeping a close eye on the case to see how it unfolds from here on. If anyone charged is cleared, the newspaper will carry that information too.

Analyzing what spawned the events of Friday night, Jan. 20-- well, that's a lot more difficult. Part of me tends to believe that I, as a middle-aged white male, am in no position to really know, understand, or certainly judge what is going with high-school-age kids these days, much less black high-school-age kids attending a hip-hop party. Maybe I'll gain a little insight when my young kids reach high school.

On top of that, a career in journalism can't help but make someone like me an advocate of free speech. Without fail, whenever I hear or witness something that to me has no redeeming value, I remind myself of the quotation: "I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

That quote, according to an Internet encyclopedia, is attributed to the French writer and philosopher Voltaire, but is more likely a summation of his views.


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