Questlove Has Sympathy for the Devil

up-1questloveBefore you read the following, please take a minute to read what Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson wrote in the City Paper after Sabina O’Donnell’s killer was found.

I am trying really hard to give Questlove the benefit of the doubt. I know that I have tried to write something sometimes and then realized that the words I wrote didn’t match up with the thought I was trying to convey. That is what I think/hope happened here. Otherwise, his post is complete bullshit.

He starts his plea for forgiveness with “I too at one point was an 18 year old black kid from Philadelphia.” And? So what? There is nothing, NOTHING, that Ahmir shares with this kid besides his skin color and a common socioeconomic background when he was 18, and trying to find a common thread is ridiculous. But he seems to think that those circumstances make he and Donte kindred spirits.

Questlove¬†writes: just as all the women in that neighborhood internalized sabina’s murder as “that could have been me or any of us!!!” i internalized donte.” This is perhaps the stupidest segment of the whole thing. Should I internalize Jeffrey Dahmer? After all, we are both white guys from middle class backgrounds. We were both once 18. And while Questlove wants to learn what conditions drove this boy to this ugly act, I could really give a damn as to what drove Jeffrey Dahmer to eat people. “He is a f***ing monster” is a good enough answer to me. There are plenty of remarkable mysteries in our world that our more deserving of our attention than trying to figure out why a sociopath acts like a sociopath.

Questlove seems to attribute poverty and growing up in a dangerous community as the major contributors to why this kid turned out to be a monster. Yes, poverty is a major contributer to many problems in our city and our world. But 99.9% of people who we consider “poor” do not rape and strangle people. To lump them all in as being somehow related to this kid because they share a race or a economic background or even a history of abuse is patently unfair to the tens of thousands of people in this city who overcome racism, poverty, abuse, etc. and lead productive lives…and is in fact unfair to those who are not productive but are still certainly NOT RAPISTS AND MURDERERS.

To try to relate with a person who makes a mistake is a sign of empathy and is a wonderful quality. This was not a mistake. This was a series of sadistic, EVIL decisions made by an adult male. After he brutally raped and murdered a helpless young girl, he tried to break into her house and steal a few of her things while he was at it. He was remorseless and ruthless. This is not someone to try to understand. This is not a baby. This is the very definition of a f***ing monster. They exist, they have always existed, and they will always exist. Try to figure them out if you’d like to waste your time doing so, but do not empathise with them. They do not deserve it. Donte Johnson only deserves one thing, and that is to spend the rest of his worthless life in prison.

12 thoughts on “Questlove Has Sympathy for the Devil

  1. Wow. Each supportive comment of Questlove is stupider than the prior one. From an analogy of Sabina to Rian Thall, who was shot in a drug deal gone bad, to an attack on gentrification (although Johnson was not “gentrified” out of his home and it had nothing at all to do with the attack) to the general accusation on how we all failed him (as the Rolling Stones sang, we all killed the Kennedys), I am just sick of how people try to explain the unexplainable. Donte Johnson has no excuses—this was as horrific a crime as I have ever heard, with no mitigating factors whatsoever. Whether he is executed or serves a life sentence, he should never walk another day as a free man on the streets.

    And a comment must be made to women and the people who love them—DO NOT let a woman walk or ride a bike home alone at 3 in the morning. Sabina supposedly was with a group of people that night. Someone must have been able to accompany her to her house. I cannot imagine allowing her to bike home alone in that neighborhood at that hour—whether she was a friend or I was just hanging out and heard she was leaving to go home. Let's have some common sense—this is a crime of opportunity and if she weren't alone, it never would have happened. Street smarts, people.

    1. PalestraJon: I completely disagree with your last paragraph. You're working in the old binary that women are essentially weaker, and that women should live in fear. And, as we all should know by now, the vast vast vast majority of incidents of sexual and gender-based violence are committed by acquaintances and friends – people that the victim knows. So treating someone like a child by saying who she must walk home with in fact may lead to violence against her.

      Another point is that sexual violence of the stranger type, which you are referring to here, happens as much to men walking alone as women – it's just not publicized in this country because we don't know how to discuss it. But the evidence is there – which means that we should not let anyone walk home alone at 3 in the morning, by your logic – not men, not women, not you, not me. Lots and lots of sleepovers, I guess.

      The best thing you can do: talk to other men about sexism and sexual violence and gender. Think about times you've heard someone else call someone a bitch, and what you would do to intervene. But don't try to tell women what they are allowed to do. Golda Meir said it best, when the Israeli parliament, in response to a slew of rapes, wanted to install a curfew for women: it's the men who are committing the sexual assaults; they should be the ones who have to follow a curfew.

      1. Ds, with all due respect, you are insane. This was a small girl, about 5 feet in heels. This guy was not armed and was looking for easy pickings. If someone was with her (and note I didn't say a man, but that is preferable just due to size), this crime would not have happened. And don't give me that crap about sexual violence against men—men are NEVER raped in a mugging.

        I have daughters, so I am very mindful of your point that I don't tell them what they can and cannot do. But there is a thing about street smarts, and it is clear you don't have them. A woman alone is crazy to be biking in a borderline safe neighborhood like side streets off of 4th and Girard at 3 in the morning. Your attitude is fine as a general principle, but you have to have common sense. I was not critical of Sabina's behavior in staying out until 3, but as a father, I want my daughter to call me at 3 in the morning if she has to get home—I will get out of bed and drive down and pick her up. Unfortunately, her cavalier attitude towards her own safety cost her her life. Again, this would not have happened if someone had accompanied her home, and a punk like this guy who killed her would not have attacked a man. It's unfortunate to have to live with some restrictions on your freedom, but it is better to ask someone to go with you or stay the night rather than be dead.

        I just hope you weren't in that house and let her go home alone.

      2. Great ideas for a graduate school seminar room, suicidal practical reasoning.

        Unfortunately, the world in which this young woman was brutalized and murdered is the same one in which we all live. You can recite gender relations theory until you're blue in the face but if you're interested in advocating for these kinds of atrocities not happening in the future, the responsible thing to do is to remind the world that sociopaths are out there and they don't change their habits because you wrote a nice paper that's cutely bound by Campus Copy.

        In no way would I try and pin the blame on the victim for crimes like this. There are defective people out there looking to do unspeakable things to others and the best way to protect yourself is to use some common sense about not putting yourself in a situation to be victimized. Your ridiculous theorizing has about as much practical value as lecturing a soldier in a firefight about how war is wrong.

  2. I agree that he should spend the rest of his life in prison. I think Questlove (oh, sorry, Qlove?) would agree, too. I don't think his purpose in saying the murderer is a BABY is because he wants some leniency for him, but rather as a lamentation like “what the hell is happening to us?!?” and/or “there but for the grace of God go I”. But I suppose it's this latter point on which the issue hinges. It's the old nature (was he born a monster?) vs. nurture (or did his environment turn him into one?) argument. I'm not sure we can get to the bottom of that here, but I think we can all (or most of us, anyhow) agree on what his future should be: Lock him up. Throw away the key. Add some Ivory soap and a shiv.

  3. When I read Questlove's article (if you can really call it that), it struck me less as a discussion about this particular kid and this particular crime and more as a discussion about the general sadness that an 18 year old kid is capable of this horror. I felt like he was remembering back to how little he knew of this world as an 18 years old and how as we get older we realize how immature and just dumb we really were at that age and anguishing over the fact that this young monster was capable of the horrific acts he committed. I don't think he was playing down the seriousness of the crime or really empathizing with Donte. I think he was generally commenting on the secondary offense included in this crime, and that offense is to our general sense of society: that this heinous act was committed by such a young person, who although is technically an adult and fully capable of making decisions and taking responsibility for those decisions, is still an 18 year old ignorant “know-it-all”. He should absolutely be punished to the fullest extent of the law. And his existences makes me feel less safe in this world. But despite the fear and anger the crime elicits, it is also disheartening to know that a kid,a boy, is capable of such terrible and unprovoked attacks.
    In other words, I'm not mad at Questlove.
    My 2 cents.

  4. DS: are you saying that had she gotten a ride home with a good male friend, she would have had the same chance of being raped and killed as she did by riding her bike near Girard at 3 in the morning by herself? I would really like to hear more of your theory. I feel like you have a point to make, but I'm not sure it fits the parameters of this particular case. I hate to agree with PJ on much of anything (and unlike him, I don't think you are insane) but I really have to side with him on this. A predator like Donte Johnson is looking to hurt someone weak. He is not looking for a fair fight. There is no denying the simple mathematics that, had Sabina had someone with her (male or female), the odds of her being attacked would have shrunk DRAMATICALLY.

    And if you think that men should not protect women in any way, shape or form, then let me ask you this: when a guy drops you off at your house after a date, would you rather he take off immediately and leave you in the dark to get in the house? I mean, by staying with his car lights on until you get in the door, he is working the old binary that women are weaker and need a man there to protect them.

  5. Anyone that looks/listens to Questlove/Amhir for an opinnion about anything, is closer to a fool than they know.

  6. Why is that? He has in the past sounded like an extremely reasonable and thoughtful guy. I'm catching an “all rappers are morons” vibe from that statement, which I think is pretty unfair.

    1. Maybe I'm reading this wrongly, but it seems to me that Amhir is feeling more empathy with the perpetrator, than the victim of a horrific crime; because, at least in part, the killer was black. That doesn't sound like “an exremely resonable and thoughtful guy”. Twenty percent of America still believes Glen Beck is “an extremely reasonable and thoughtful guy”. I don't know if all rappers are morons, yet some are. I don't know too many examples of their genius. When I find some, I'll still consider it a low percentage. I never thought of Amhir as a rapper, more as a pop-hip-hop drummer for the local band Roots. I gave them the Philly benifit of the doubt, until I listened to their stuff. I was pretty disappointed. My statement wasn't as specific about rappers as you percieved it to be, JGT. I wouldn't want to hear Shane Victorino's opinnion about this, either, although I usually love the way he plays centerfield.

  7. jgt:

    i actually don't think ?L is 100% crazy. i think part of what he's trying to say is that he feels a certain sadness about society failing both parties. obviously, something horrible happened to sabina – being brutally murdered is a sign that not everything is peachy keen in our society. but i think his point is that something horrible systematically happens to young black men too. yeah, ?L never hurt nobody but…he's claiming that he's the exception rather than the rule (the whole 21/24 of my peers are dead or locked up).

    as vile as the crime was – and the kid himself may be – it's hard to believe that 21/24 of any demographic are just bad people. it can't just be that 90% of young black men are more like Donte than they are ?L. maybe, just maybe, it's not entirely just 'he's a monster' – maybe it's partially a societal failing too. and maybe that's what QL was getting at…

    (my reading clearly depends on a different perception of statistics/numbers than yours. i'm taking ?L at his word & he could have an inaccurate understanding of the macro environment. even if that's true, you gotta figure his social experiences coming up informed what he wrote…)

    ps. i gotta stop reading the comments around here – i thought i was on philly.com for a minute.

  8. The day the comments section of this blog turns into something that even remotely resembles philly.com will be the day I stop operating a blog, and I mean that sincerely. That was a bit of a cheap shot, lks, as I don't see any comment above that even remotely resembles the 3rd grade level white supremacy that dominates the philly.com website.

    As for the topic at hand, I will make this point: There is a difference between a societal failing and a sociopath. Drug dealers, bank robbers, and gangsters you can argue are as much of a societal problem as they are a failing of themselves. In fact, when it comes to things like that I will argue all day and all night from a liberal perspective. However, this was not a drug deal. This was not a mistake made in the heat of the moment. This was a sadistic killer who not only raped this girl, but strangled her and then tried to break into her apartment. You want to talk to me about how the ills of society create a problem and, 98% of the time, I am all ears. In this instance I am not. This is a sexual pervert/psychopathic killer. I don't care about his race, I don't care about his class, I don't care about his upbringing. You can bring up all the excuses you want to for the way he was raised, but you can do the same thing for Joran van der Sloot. At the end of the day, they are both just awful human beings, and the worst thing that they ever did to the world was to be born. You can try to explain that away all you want to, but at the end of the day it is quite simple: the world will be a better place on the days that both of them die. I will be impressed if you find a way to make me think otherwise.

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