American History MMXX – Communal Violence

It’s possible for a house to be flooded to the ceiling and on fire at the same time.


On social media, I see a lot of white folks posting news articles and photos of little black kids who were killed over Fourth of July weekend. Either they or the commenters always say the same things.

It’s important, in these contentious times, when everyone is putting their energy into fortifying their rhetoric, beliefs, and political alignment, to not forget about each other’s humanity.

Do you really think that black people don’t care when we’re killed? Picture one of those little boys or girls who died for no reason. Do you think that their family doesn’t care? Or their friends? Do you think their classmates aren’t heartbroken? Their church members? Do you think when all of the parents in the community look at the faces of their own babies that they aren’t overwhelmed with heartache and anxiety?

Do you think that the people who are holding up and supporting the mourning families don’t care?

Can you imagine how devastating it must be to be protesting in the streets, risking health and safety, life and limb, for weeks on end to demand justice and accountability from your government, only to have your community’s children, the babies, slaughtered by a subset of the people you’re putting your wellbeing on the line for?

You think we don’t care?!

THE BEAM IN YOUR EYE

There was outrage when middle eastern terrorists attacked and killed US citizens. We beat the drums of war and nineteen years later, we’re still bombing people into ashes. How much blood and treasure have we spent, how many American lives, and how much human collateral damage has there been?

America was ready for a fight. Some wanted justice; some wanted vengeance. We were gonna take a pound of flesh out of somebody’s hide and we did what we do.

After the multitude of school, church, movie theater, and workplace shootings since September 11, 2001, with many innocents murdered in cold blood, we reflected to a degree, but then things went back to normal. It’s always too soon to talk about actionable solutions, and then after some imaginary interval of national mourning, it’s irrelevant and therefore, too late.

After the guy opened fire in Las Vegas from a hotel window and left hundreds of casualties — one man! a few minutes and hundreds of country music fans just two-steppin’ and having a good time were either killed or injured — it was all thoughts and prayers. Why did he do it, though? [shoulder shrug] That’s a shame, really. So sad. God bless America.
😢❤ 🙏
Moving on.

Only for the sake of argument and context for the next few paragraphs, I’m going to — just hang with me for a bit. I’m making a point.

White people don’t care about their communities. They certainly don’t give a rat’s ass about school children. Elementary school kids? Nope. Middle school? Uh uh. High school? Downright hostile to the kids who survived. Churches? Nah.

Sure, they’ll strap up in full battle rattle and march in the streets to get their hair done, or because they don’t want to wear a mask in a grocery store, or to spite science and medical professionals, or stick it to the libs, but they won’t budge an inch to stop their own children from killing each other or to save their lives.

What have white people done to actually stop mass shootings from happening again in their communities? Nothing. Not a damn thing. They don’t march, they don’t protest, they don’t legislate: in fact, they fight even harder for the status quo. They don’t care unless the perpetrator is a foreigner or a black or brown person. Otherwise, it doesn’t fit their narrative of being under siege.


Now… do I really believe that? Do I believe that white people are incapable of caring about kids, victims, and traumatized people? Of course not!

I’d have to be a grade A asshole to say something like that and mean it.

The truth of the matter is that there are a lot of factors involved when it comes to this endemic cultural violence in America. It’s also true that there are groups and organizations who actually are, one way or another, trying to reach these troubled young men before it’s too late.

It’s a very human response to random violence, subsequent trauma, and also the desensitization that follows. Right? It’s overwhelming.

Well, guess what. Black people are people, too. Black people are American, too. And we’ve all got problems.


BLACK APOLOGETICS

I’ve listened to numerous talk shows, talks, and read articles about “black on black” crime. It is immediately apparent that — and I’m going to be generalizing throughout this post because otherwise it will be 90% qualifying statements — black people don’t want to talk openly about this in a public forum, including, but not limited to, mainstream media.

Why? Because racists, for lack of a better word, and antagonists use it to deflect from important, valid issues. Hariot is a provocateur, but he has insights.

See, what you hear in public forums and mainstream media is defensiveness and/or what I call black apologetics.

a·pol·o·get·ics
/əˌpäləˈjediks/
noun
reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.

Definitions from Oxford Languages

We know there’s a problem of crisis proportions, but we’re not going to talk about it with you, because you don’t really give a crap. I’ve seen the comments on posts saying the following (and also saying “all lives matter”):

“Good. Let them kill each other off.”

And, “The only way to get rid of them is another civil war.”

So, really.

To be blunt, people put a lot of energy into reasoning, thinking, writing, discussing, debating, arguing, pontificating, and ruminating on how the eff to convince people that black people are human beings — the whole 5/5ths.

In a sense, I don’t care. I’m not interested in long jumping over the crux of the issue — dead black people, overwhelmingly at the hands of other black people — to wallow in social analysis.

Frustration is a palpable sensation, trying to navigate all of this. I’ve listened to a lot of black media outlets over the years and, to be honest, I’m always disappointed when they deflect on this issue because they’re not going to air dirty laundry in a hostile environment. I believe that, in the long run, it does hurt us.

I listened to multiple radio shows today, and the hosts and guests gave their heartfelt condolences regarding the children recently lost, and then spent the bulk of the time on the contemporary and historical context of the issue — everything from government complicity in the crack cocaine scourge to slavery and back again to how gangs used to be more disciplined back in the day.

I haven’t heard one show about communal violence where I wasn’t frustrated. I’ve heard very few conversations where black people with a platform would openly express their anger, frustration and disappointment with these atrocities.

I would like for black public figures and organizations to feel free to unapologetically and openly be willing to stand up for these kids, and women, and men without being defensive. But that would require vulnerability, which is hard to come by when people are in the comments expressing genocidal sentiments toward you.

Like just say, “Yes, this is messed up. We can’t have this anymore. It has to stop. We need more resources to be able to take this on. We need to stop these young brothers from settling their disputes with bullets (this isn’t Hamilton). And we need to be able to provide them with education, outlets, and opportunities to make a living and get ahead. They need to be able to see a future for themselves.

“We may ask for help. We will join forces with organizations in other cities. We need employers to step up and provide opportunities. We need affordable housing. We need a healthy quality of life in our communities. Our young people need to know their worth and that they are loved and cherished. They need to know that they matter. We will not fall for the trap of self destruction and self hate anymore.”

I think there are multiple fronts to this issue. First of all, America is a violent country. We practically worship guns and have trouble with any problem that can’t be solved with a projectile or incendiary device. The coronavirus pandemic has revealed how much we revere rugged individuality and how little we, as a society, think of community.

Some of the people saying All Lives Matter, and some of the same people saying “black people don’t care about their communities” are literally the same people who are actively defying efforts to prevent the spread of a virus and want to rush out into “normalcy”, while glibly accepting that, yes, hundreds of thousands of people will die, but it’s an acceptable involuntary sacrifice.

These are crazy times.

But let me get to what it’s all about. I’ve been talking around the issue myself.

SAY THEIR NAMES

Secoriea Turner, 8, Atlanta
Royta De’Marco Giles, 8, Hoover, Alabama
Davon McNeal, 11, Washington DC
Natalia Wallace, 7, Chicago
? Six-year-old killed in San Francisco

https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/06/us/children-killed-holiday-weekend/index.html

I really don’t know what to say. I’m tired. We’re all tired. Exhausted. Distraught. Disheartened. Frustrated. Hurt. We want justice for the victims of this stupid nonsense. We want these guys who have no value for human life to — I mean, wtf. My atavistic response is vengeance. Then my reason kicks in for justice, not vengeance. Not more bloodshed, but consequences, and healing and restitution for the victims and their families. Seriously. All I can think to say is:

Know justice
Know peace


Black Lives Matter, whether we’re talking the hashtag movement or the actual organization, is not beyond criticism. It is laser focused on police brutality. Defiantly so. I don’t know how it’s structured or how decisions are made. I just looked at the website and I take it they generally don’t go down the road of addressing communal violence, probably for the reasons discussed above. Also, in my opinion, they’re not great at sloganeering.

Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter movement, in my opinion, would be doing many communities a great service — with so much support, energy, and passion — to expand its mission to fight for the lives and quality of life of the boys and girls, men and women in underserved communities. This includes addressing the subset of black people who are so willing to kill each other. I don’t care if the numbers are statistically small in the grand scheme of things, and I don’t care how those numbers compare to others’ demographics.

If BLM decided to spin off an organization or hashtag to do it, that would be lovely.

I’m naive, though. There are a lot of organizations that exist already doing the work. They don’t have nearly the clout of BLM. They’re also not as controversial, and therefore don’t get media attention. And of course, these are passionate people co-navigating communities so we wouldn’t want organizations stepping on other organizations’ toes or drowning them out.

Destructive violence is not a problem easily solved. Whether you’re talking about unjust violence from law enforcement, communal violence (black on black crime, white on white crime, if you’re into that sort of thing), sexual harassment and violence against women, domestic violence, mass shootings, workplace shootings, school shootings, family annihilation, etc.

So do we try to get to high ground to escape the flood, or do we try to put out the fire? Exactly. It’s both/and, not either/or, and personally I wouldn’t judge you for dedicating your energy into one while someone else dedicates their energy to the other.

I fear things will get worse before they get better, but they will get better in time and with effort, focus, and determination.

Please remember, it’s not about you vs. us vs. them. It’s about all of us vs. injustice.

Stay safe out there, and make an effort to be patient and kind with each other.

6 comments

Add Yours
  1. wisdomseason

    Yes. Yes. Yes! I was struggling with how or whether to respond to comments on my post and even examining my own motives for posting. Now I know. With your permission, I would like to repost this every-blessed-where.

    Tangentially, years ago I was fortunate to part up late in a nearly week-long training by Drs. Michael Carerra and Julie Spahn at the New York Children’s Aid Society. The topic was adolescent sexuality and reduction of teen pregnancy, especially in at risk and underserved communities. My biggest takeaway was the Example of that organization’s approach in supporting the whole child and the whole family. It is one of the things that inspired me to continue to learn about how we can be better in community by raising each other up as parents and nurturing adults.

    Instead of tearing each other down, raising eyebrows and clucking about how trauma-informed, poor parents of any community, are faltering; maybe listen to them and be part of their village.

    Thank you for speaking up, Gary.

    • DarkWave

      Of course. Please do.

      Wow. That makes a lot of sense — the whole child and the whole family.

      Imagine what we could accomplish if we could all put aside our partisan division and focus on — well, anything.

  2. Heather

    Thank you, as always, for your words and insight.
    I would love to see a world where we build neighborhoods and communities again. Where we have villages to support kids and families and move away from violence.

    • DarkWave

      I think we’re capable of whatever we put our minds into. It would have to be an al hands on deck sort of thing, though.

      I choose to be optimistic.

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