Let's Talk About Memphis, And Why Tucker Carlson Is Invited To Keep Its Name Out Of His Mouth
1. Let's Finish Liza's Run
Friday morning, at 4:20 a.m., potentially thousands of women from across the Memphis, Tennessee, area are going to gather in the dark to run a little over eight miles, from the historic Central Gardens neighborhood in midtown Memphis, down Central Avenue, past the fairgrounds, past the Liberty Bowl, through the historic Chickasaw Gardens, Buntyn and Joffre neighborhoods, and finally to the University of Memphis, before turning around and going back to where they started.
They'll be "finishing Liza's run," which if you've been paying attention to the national or international news this week, you might deduce is related to the devastating murder of 34-year-old Eliza "Liza" Fletcher, who was out on a pre-dawn run when, as she ran across the U of M campus toward her church, Second Presbyterian, she was violently abducted and sometime after murdered in what at this point seems like a completely random act of evil. (The investigation is ongoing.)
They're going to finish the run Liza didn't get to finish.
Various media organizations have focused on different things about the case, the perpetrator, and the victim. She was a pre-kindergarten teacher at a well-regarded private girls' school. She comes from Old Money. She was a working mom who ran when she ran because, as millions of working parents know, especially moms who so often shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden, sometimes the only time you can do anything for yourself is very early in the morning or very late at night.
Besides, she was a marathon runner for whom an eight-mile run was no big thing, and people should be able to run whenever the hell they want to and be safe doing so. That's the message of so many right now, whether they are runners, women, women who are runners, or any other concerned citizens telling judgmental people to zip their lips in comments sections.
And so tomorrow morning, all those women will run, silently, through the mean streets of what many people think of as one of the very scariest cities in the United States, and many more will line their path with candles, with bottles of water, with signs that say we've got you. Some women who are not runners will gather to do other things. We've heard about 4 a.m. yoga, for example, not far from the location where Eliza Fletcher was abducted. There's a group meeting at the church for a vigil and a walk.
That's how Memphis people are. Somebody who didn't know Eliza Fletcher, but who is a member of the gigantic running community in Memphis who has friends who had run with Eliza Fletcher, decided she needed to do something, and thus Let's Finish Liza's Run was born. As of this writing, over 5,000 have replied to the Facebook event. Satellite events are now happening all over the country.
Fuck you, we're doing this.
If you didn't know already, or if you couldn't tell from the way we're typing about this, Memphis is this writer's home and has been for many years, and if I may be permitted the indignity of falling into the first person, I love it, like so many others do. It's a gritty place that's struggled and fought and endured tragedy after tragedy, and it has heart and some of the most wonderful people on earth. Memphis struggles with severe poverty, and lack of educational opportunity, and addiction, and the stains of history.
And indeed, it has a serious violent crime problem — the nation's highest murder rate! — but as in most large cities with violent crime problems, there is usually an inverse relationship between the amount of crime and the amount of economic privilege a person has. There are exceptions, obviously. But put more simply, a lot of the people who hoot and holler and sneer about high crime rates or opine on "Black-on-Black crime" are often people who are highly unlikely to personally become victims of that crime.
More importantly, they're often the people who are the least engaged in, you know, addressing any of the root causes of that crime rate.
2. About Last Night
Last night in Memphis. Screengrab via ABC News 24
Last night, September 7, I was at Macy's buying shoes when I started getting texts about how there was an active shooter rampaging through the city, seemingly driving to places at random and opening fire from whatever stolen vehicle he was currently in. The guy had Facebook Live-d himself entering an AutoZone store and opening fire.
Social media was lighting up with people asking if it was safe to drive home, and with reports of confirmed and unconfirmed shootings that might or might not have been related to the spree.
He's in an Infiniti. He's in a gray SUV now. He's at Poplar and Auburndale. He just shot somebody on Jackson. People were terrified.
The Memphis Police Department was telling people to please stay home or shelter in place. Businesses closed. Driving the short distance between Macy's and my house, on the very same Central Avenue where Eliza Fletcher was running days before, I passed the University of Memphis as I got a text about a possible shooting on the campus, and then a video taken by a neighbor of what the sirens sounded like at my house. I saw a video from another friend of the fucking SWAT team staging in front of their house on a swanky street in Midtown.
What on earth is happening? Nothing like this had ever happened before. And I want you to remember that. The events of this week have been horrendous, and everyone is drained and exhausted, and part of that is because what in the hell is happening this week?
In the end, the perpetrator, a 19-year-old man named Ezekiel Kelly who clearly planned to continue his spree until the cops stopped him, killed four and injured three others.
Kelly was eventually cornered and apprehended (alive, surprisingly!) in a remote area in the Whitehaven section of Memphis.
The man charged with first-degree murder and a host of other charges in the Eliza Fletcher murder, 38-year-old Cleotha Abston, was also arrested and charged quickly after DNA evidence left behind at the scene matched with DNA in CODIS and surveillance footage led police on the search that led them to the suspect and, two days later, Fletcher's body.
And there are a lot of people talking about how both of these men were repeat offenders.
3. Oh Christ, Here Comes Tucker Carlson
Did you know the two men who committed these heinous crimes are Black? Rightwing media types are probably going to make great use of their graphics departments to make sure you know the charged men are Black, but just in case you hadn't heard, they are Black.
The worst people in America are about to start using Memphis, the devastating murder of Eliza Fletcher, and now the events of last night, September 7, as a cudgel in their white supremacist campaign against whatever it is Fox News wants racist white people to be scared of today, as they add Memphis to Their List.
Which list? We'll explain! Among those of us on Twitter who for professional reasons closely monitor the rightwing media, it's become a refrain that people who don't spend time in those fever swamps don't really grasp how much Fox News viewers actually believe cities like Minneapolis and Portland were literally razed to the ground by Black people and/or Antifa during the summer 2020 racial justice protests. We're not kidding.
They say it all the damn time.
\u201c"Not the city you live in. And none of the cities you've been to recently. The cities you're planning to visit or where you know people? They're perfectly fine. But rest assured and trust me when I say cities were destroyed and antifa and BLM destroyed them"\u201d— Andrew Lawrence (@Andrew Lawrence) 1662509543
They literally believe this, because Fox News told them it happened. When people who live in these places say, "no, we're fine," they don't believe them, similar to how brainwashed Russians don't believe their Ukrainian relatives when they say Vladimir Putin is genociding the shit out of them for no reason and that they are calling from Poland right now because they had to leave Ukraine.
Of course, these things haven't happened to places Fox News viewers aren't scared of. Largely white cities that aren't Portland or "West coast"? They are fine.
Cities they're scared of visiting? Cities with a lot of Black people? Those are the ones.
Know what city has a lot of Black people?
Look at a local Memphis news comments section and count how many white people who don't live in Memphis are there, explaining that it is a 24/7 warzone, that nobody wants to live there, that it is a burned-out shell of its former self, that it is dirty, that you couldn't pay them to live there, that they wouldn't enter the city without bringing their own personal arsenal, did they mention you couldn't pay them to live there?
Then look at what Tucker Carlson had to say two nights ago about the Eliza Fletcher murder. It was vile, even for him, and as a Memphian it was offensive, even though we were absolutely expecting Tucker to be vile about it, as tragedies like this are what white supremacists live for.
Tucker waxed poetic about the thriving Memphis of 100 years ago, when Jim Crow laws were incidentally in full force.
He claimed that Memphis as of one year ago "had become a husk and a highly threatening one," which is news to anybody who lives here, considering the luxury condos and hotels going up all over Downtown and Midtown and the rising property values and the conversations at bars about how the authenticity is going away because oh shit, they're saying the Nashville people and the Austin people and the Brooklyn people are starting to move here. (Welcome, Nashville/Austin/Brooklyn people! Glad to have you!)
Tucker talked about how "Eliza Fletcher decided to make a life" in Memphis, despite all the bad things about Memphis he read on the internet. He said he understood people's surprise that she would live IN the city, and not even in a suburb. "That seems weird to people," he said, talking about his viewers.
And then Tucker lied about what "Biden voters" were saying about the murder. (Memphis is an insanely blue city surrounded by a lake of fiery red, so if he wasn't lying, you'd expect a lot of Memphians were saying these things!)
"Why are we paying so much attention to the kidnapping of an attractive, privileged White woman? That's racist." Others seem to blame Fletcher for the atrocity committed against her. "Why was she jogging at that hour, anyway? In Memphis? Come on."
Bull fucking shit. Tucker's producers might have seen those comments on social media, but they aren't in any way the predominant narrative. For those with brains large enough to understand the concept, pointing out that the national media wouldn't give a damn about this murder if it happened to a Black woman isn't the same thing as saying we shouldn't pay attention to this.
And we DARE you to shame a woman on social media this week for what time she decides to go for a run. Really seriously we dare you. In fact, the only people we've seen those comments from are certain white Boomer types, the kinds of people who say things like "well, nothing good ever happens after midnight!" In other words, Republicans.
Are you seeing yet why we really would like Tucker to keep Memphis's name out of his mouth, even though we know he won't?
Tucker listed off cities his viewers would understand as Black cities, like Memphis and Baltimore and Detroit, saying they "were destroyed forever by the rioting that accompanied our last progressive social revolution more than 50 years ago."
Oh, and then he decided to lie about trans kids, because in his Klan-hood-shaped brain, that's connected to this for some reason, and said the whole country is going to become Memphis "if we don't put a stop to this insanity right now with as much force as is required."
Wonder what that means to a guy like Tucker Carlson.
We can't wait to hear what he has to say about last night's murder rampage in our beloved city.
4. 'Memphis Is Tired.'
Local news reporter Joyce Peterson
As Fox News was cumming itself to death last night, feasting on fresh images of mayhem coming out of the scary city with the Black people, one of Memphis's best reporters, Joyce Peterson, was reporting live, not long before the police announced they had captured the spree-killer.
And she instantly became a viral meme among Memphians who love our city and who are grieving and exhausted when, her voice breaking, she said, "Memphis is tired." She talked about the events of the night. She talked about Eliza Fletcher. She talked about Autura Eason-Williams, a Memphis pastor who was recently murdered during a carjacking in her own driveway. She released the emotions that have been in the back of so many of our throats, right there on TV.
\u201c"Memphis is tired right now." \ud83d\udc94\n\nReporting the news is tough sometimes. But it's worth it if we can help keep the Mid-South safe. Thank you for your strength @MemphoNewsLady\u201d— Action News 5 (@Action News 5) 1662609063
Memphis is tired.
Memphis has a lot of problems — this city struggles with so, so very much — and it also is an incredibly special place, a real place with real people and real culture and a real "fuck around and find out" spirit. (For a taste of that, learn about the incredibly unique relationship Memphians have with our NBA team the Memphis Grizzlies in this Slate piece that reads like a love letter to the city.)
And to be sure, this is bringing out the worst in some people. We absolutely have seen some comments on the internet from Memphians who are treating all of this like it's a scene from their favorite documentary Birth Of A Nation. And it's abhorrent.
But it's also bringing out the best. Let's Finish Liza's Run is what Memphis is really like. The people currently saying they don't know where to start and they don't know how to fix it, but dammit they want to fix it, and let's start somewhere, that's what Memphis is really like. The sense that the city of Memphis is in this together, that's what Memphis is like.
Literally any Memphian will tell you this is the biggest small town in the world, and it's true. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who went to school with somebody. I didn't know Eliza Fletcher, but I'm one degree from a number of people who considered her dear.
Liza's run will go right by my neighborhood, just like her run last Friday morning did. And I'll be holding a candle for them, as I'm sure so will many other neighbors.
Memphis's problems will be solved by Memphians. Black Memphians, white Memphians, Democratic Memphians, and yes, Republican Memphians. And we will fight tooth and nail over how the best way to do that is. But it's our fight.
We don't need Tucker Carlson's fucking mouth using our city for his ethno-nationalist crusade.
But we do want to clarify, for any of Tucker's viewers, that no matter what he says, Memphis still exists. it has not been burned to the ground.
It is here. It will be here. We will be here.
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