Who was Sean Schellenger? Who is Michael J. White?
One is dead, allegedly killed by the other.
Schellenger, white, dead at 37. White, African American, charged at 21.
One a Point Breeze developer. The other an Overbrook student and delivery man who rode a red bicycle.
Schellenger was a graduate of Coatesville High School. White was a graduate of South Philly's Academy at Palumbo.
Schellenger had been a Penn State quarterback. White had been an anthropology and sociology major at Morgan State University in Baltimore who had taken a year off to earn tuition money, according to family spokesman Greg Thompson.
Schellenger had arrests for burglary, criminal trespass, and battery. White had arrests for marijuana possession, theft, and possession of an instrument of crime.
Two men from different worlds. They met only once, and only one survived. These are the facts we can be sure of.
But assumptions outweigh facts from the men's defenders and detractors. I see two teams suiting up, choosing sides, mostly on their own side of the racial river that divides the City of Brotherly Love.
The lack of unchallenged facts has not slowed the debate, especially on social media, where reason goes to die. Schellenger becomes a vampire sucking the blood out of black neighborhoods. White is ridiculed for love of poetry. It's heat without light. The victim and the accused are reduced to cartoon symbols.
The crime was electrifying in its randomness, happening in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood. The area of 17th and Chancellor is the polar opposite of Second and West Ontario, which has one of the city's highest homicide rates. Homicide is supposed to happen there, not in Center City, we think, however wrongly.
A couple of my friends who knew Schellenger reached out for me to be an avenging angel against Larry Krasner, the criminal-defense-attorney-turned-DA who took first-degree murder charges off the table.
As a law-and-order guy — yes, I am the one at this paper — I am no big Krasner fan, But I am a big fan of justice. That means charging the right guy with the right crime. In a lengthy interview last month on Solomon Jones' radio show Krasner said he had video that — in his mind — could eliminate a charge of first-degree murder. With that off the table, there could be no automatic life sentence and there could be bail before trial.
The DA's Office declined my request to see the video and explained there was no surveillance video of the moment of the stabbing. Krasner referred to cellphone video.
Many in the public were outraged when Krasner dropped the first-degree charge, allowing White to be free on bail. The cellphone video will not be played before the trial, says DA spokesman Ben Waxman.
That's when you'll see the tape. That's when you will hear the witnesses and, yes, some will be contradictory. I'm willing to bet you will learn something that reverses something you now believe to be true.
I am not telling you to not be judgmental. I wouldn't tell you that because I get paid to be judgmental.
But judgments must stand on a platform of fact.
Judgments must not be made on the basis of race, or gender, or age, or the thickness of a wallet. Or the thickness of a skull.