Michael Smith, 22 of Lansing, was shot to death last Thursday in a parking lot in East Lansing. The shooting remains under investigation.
Barron, also the chairman of the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority, wrote this on his Facebook wall Sunday at 9:44 p.m.:
“I dare the LSJ TO PUT THIS ON THE FRONT PAGE! As opposed to the cheery photos they did run....
“No wonder so many 20 somethings fall for the "Victim Narrative"... even the local paper seems amazed when horrible choices result in horrible consequences!
“I ask out loud again ... how many of you think it is within normal boundaries to have ‘"friends’ die in midnite drug related shootings?
“Its amazing to me i am criticized for pointing out the obvious.. THESE WERE NOT VICTIMS THEY WERE VOLUNTEERS… .”
Barron included a photo of a black man hitting a bong and gesturing obscenely. It is unclear if the image is of Smith. Barron’s post appears to be in response to a Lansing State Journal article Sunday about the victim, showing photos of Smith with his girlfriend and daughter.
The liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan reacted quickly.
“It’s extremely disappointing to see a prominent Lansing figure like Tim Barron using racist tropes to justify the death of a young man while a murderer is still at-large,” Sam Inglot, a communications specialist wrote in a press release. “Similar character assassinations were made during the investigations surrounding the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and only served to fuel racism and victim blaming. Barron’s post is an insult to the memory and family of Michael Smith and he needs to apologize immediately.”
Barron declined to share why he posted what he did.
He said his Facebook account “is something I do as a private person. It’s a place where people can say what they want to say."
He declined to comment when asked if he had a responsibility not only as a public figure as a radio show host but as the leader of a city agency.
He said he had been unaware that Progress Michigan had issued a statement.
“I’m the bad guy,” Barron said. “Hilarious.” After reading the statement he sent an email to City Pulse:
“I did not identify this man as being black or white anywhere in my post--and the photo came from the FB page of the other man in the car that survived.....it’s fascinating that Progress Michigan seems fixated on the race of the murdered man … not me ...I was simply giving my opinion on consequences. Interesting also that Progress Michigan omits the LSJ report that police say it WAS NOT A RANDOM SHOOTING. You are reporters. You DO know what that means, right?? You may print this if you wish.”
Solo Brooks, 38, manager of All Of the Above Hip Hop Academy in Lansing, said Barron’s comments don’t help the community open positive and constructive conversation. The academy teaches urban youth hip-hop arts — rapping, grafitti, bboying — as a community building tool.
“It puts up a wall, it doesn’t allow any room,” Brooks said. ”It’s a sad misunderstanding that has been tagged on urban youth, whether black or Hispanic, because you’re from the slums you’re deemed less than.”
Brooks said it’s unfortunate young black males are stereotyped.
“If there’s a chance to create open dialogue with someone who feels you’re a thug,” he said. “The opportunity would be great. But at the same time people have their views and their opinions and a narrow set on things. It’s the way it’s always been. It’s hard, it’s all perspective. You try to get the perspectives to clash to create some kind of harmony. But clash can be bad. I don’t know what kind of dialogue can be brought forth. We need to take action, create momentum to broaden people’s views such as what we’re doing with AOTA.”
“Race is an uncomfortable thing to talk about. It’s time to be uncomfortable.“