Randy Ross, 23, is a local rapper in a lot of trouble after posting a controversial rap video on YouTube last month. The song called “School Shooter” featured controversial lyrics including threatening to shoot someone during lunch and featured the Greece resident rapping in front of the suburb’s Greece Arcadia High School.
Police visited him at his place of work and ultimately arrested him, charging him with making a “terroristic threat.” Undeterred, Ross posted to his social media, encouraging his friends and fans to continue streaming the video. It’s still up on YouTube. His video was posted just days after the Parkland, Florida shooting where 17 were murdered by Nikolas Cruz. It was discovered that Cruz posted to YouTube that he’d be a professional school shooter and he also had a violent history. According to legal experts, this has caused authorities to crack down nationwide, but after reading about the case of Ross we still have five questions:
- What ever happened to, not only the First Amendment, but freedom of expression? In a long interview with Ross, D&C columnist David Andreatta explores the gray line between fighting terrorism and ensuring Constitutional rights aren’t violated. Ross, under the First Amendment, has the right to speech however, there are various forms of speech not protected, including hate speech and language that incites violence. But he’s not talking, right? He’s rapping and some even argue he’s not inciting violence. Just rapping about it. That’s where it gets tricky– music is further protected as a form of creative expression which gives musicians more freedom. Shouldn’t then, in the court of law, Ross be protected by this? That brings us to our second question.
- Did you know New York State law doesn’t require that someone who makes a terroristic threat have the capacity or intent to do so? It’s pretty weird but New York has a sweeping definition of what’s a terroristic threat and honestly, to be charged, you don’t even have to actually want to do it, but if you seem “credible enough,” you can be arrested. Ross physically rapping about being a school shooter in front of his school was enough for authorities even if he didn’t actually plan to shoot up the school and was just being a musician.
- Why it does seem like the blowback is always on black and brown kids? If you’re paying attention, you can’t help but notice that a black kid and a Latina (21-year-old East High School student) have been the first to see the blowback of Cruz’s horrible decision. The changes for most students include the potential to arm teachers and security in their schools. But security and metal detectors have been in minority schools for years. Yet according to CNN, 64% of mass shootings are committed by white men. And let’s be honest here, these numbers are skewed because mass shootings can include violence in communities that result in more than a few dead (think the Boys & Girls Club shooting) but aren’t only counting school shootings.
- Is this the best use of our terror investigation resources? If you think about it, Ross was an easy find. Reported, yes, but also the song literally is called “School Shooter.” And in the case of the East High School student, she allegedly posted straight to the school’s Facebook page. These examples fell into authorities’ laps and, according to statistics, are likely not even the ones most likely to pose a threat. While suburban students get workshops about mental health and community discussions about suicide, young adults in the city are being arrested. That doesn’t mean that black and brown students can’t be terrorists, of course, but that they are less likely and it’d be great to see equal treatment across districts.
- Is this overreach? A few days ago we posted to our Instagram account asking what people thought of Ross’ case. There is no right answer because we have no way of knowing if Ross ultimately would’ve shot someone. We’ve heard interesting responses ranging from “if they hadn’t arrested him and he killed someone, we’d be upset” to “his rights are being violated.” Where does the right to freedom of speech fit in the new age of America? Where mass shootings happen often and terrorism threats come from our lands and abroad? We’d love to hear what you think. Watch it below: