Your 22 year-old son goes out skateboarding one night. He doesn’t return home, you search frantically for him and finally locate his car, with his unconscious body slumped inside. His face is bruised and bloody.
You rush him to the emergency room where they’re not sure they can save him because he’s developed a huge blood clot due to massive head trauma. The talented doctors at Ryder Trauma Center and Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida do the miraculous thing that surgeons do and they save his life.
Meanwhile, a report goes out regarding this attack: Rene Betancourt, while being admitted to the hospital (for a brain injury), tells officials he was beaten up by 3 or 4 Black men who also stole his wallet. The city is horrified and starts looking for these marauding black guys who beat up a skateboarder for $20.
As the crime is investigated, however, a videotape of the attack is tracked down. Betancourt is seen skateboarding the downward slope of a parking garage.
He’s also seen flying into a concrete wall, face first, than slamming his head into the concrete floor. (See video at CBS4—surveillance video starts at :40.)
He lies still for nearly five minutes, unconscious, until he gets himself up and another video shows him walking, dazed, into an elevator. Skip ahead to his parents finding him unconscious in his car.
Post-surgery, Betancourt doesn’t remember the incident and is just grateful to be alive, stitches arcing across his head.
This is a pretty remarkable story, not just in Betancourt’s accident and the Orwellian omnipresent surveillance cameras, but also what questions it raises about race. I wish we had more details about how Betancourt’s “3 Black Men” story came about… Was it suggested by somebody? Did he come up with it on his own? Was he trying to save himself embarrassment by saying he was attacked? Or was he simply just too concussed to remember and confusing images from the news or media and coming up with a false memory? Even before the surveillance video surfaced, Rene Betancourt says on camera to CBS4 that he has no memory of the event: “It’s just a blank.”
Personally, I don’t blame Betancourt… But I think it speaks to our relationship with race regardless. First, everyone believes that 3 or 4 Black guys would beat up a skateboarding 22 year old in a garage for $20. Second, if Betancourt’s brain pieced together bits of media to create a probable solution, it isn’t surprising that his answer to the problem is “Black criminals”—our media thrusts upon us the idea of the thug Black man (or the evil Eastern European mobster, our evil-white-guy du jour).
What do you think of the odd red herring in the case of Rene Betancourt? What strikes you most about it?
Is it representative of modern society, or just an odd one-off case of a guy who got awfully lucky to be found before he died of his head injury?