By Barney Blakeney
I tell people I don’t bad days anymore. No matter how tough things get, there’s always more for which to be thankful. There’s always some good in the bad and when I compare the good against the bad, I always come out ahead.
I was coming out from under a particularly heavy rock Friday when I ran into a friend at the bus stop who was complaining he had to detour around Charleston police blockades after a downtown shooting that left an 11-year-old boy shot through the wrist. A gunman had fired several shots into a car occupied by the boy, his parents and three other siblings. Police determined the gunman was shooting at the father.
My friend remarked, “The police had everything blocked off as if someone had been killed!” He didn’t seem all that upset, just annoyed because he was inconvenienced by the detour.
His attitude ticked me off! I was thinking here’s some nut shooting into a car filled with a woman and kids and this guy is complaining because he was inconvenienced by the cops! What about the fact that a downtown street had become a shooting gallery at midday when a stray bullet could have caught any passerby? I bothered me that my friend demonstrated how we’ve become so complacent with gun violence that it bothers us more to be inconvenienced than to be victimized.
I wasn’t in the greatest of moods anyway, and sometimes when I’m like that, I lash out. I’m trying to get better with that, but my friend got both barrels. (See there, our society is so gun oriented, we even speak in gun metaphors). Anyway, I started going on about how we won’t see any reduction in gun violence until we wake up from the stupor of complacency.
I know a preacher who insists there’s no such thing as ‘black on black violence’. I’ve got a lot of respect for the brother, but I don’t want to hear that ying-yang rhetoric. Yeah white people kill white people too – they kill ‘em and they and their friends burn the bodies. But I ain’t talking about white people. I’m talking about Black people. The slaughter doesn’t occur in other ethnic communities as it does in Black communities. We’re too anxious to give ourselves a pass.
In the past few weeks there have been some horrendous acts of murder in our community. In North Charleston two young men have been murdered and left for dead – one on Bennettyard Road and one in the Dorchester Waylyn community. Three have been killed in the City of Charleston.
There were 11 homicides in the city of Charleston in 2016 and six in 2017. North Charleston was deadly – 32 homicides in 2016 and 35 last year. Twenty-eight of last year’s homicide victims were Black. North Charleston’s latest homicide victim was killed in the predominantly Black Dorchester Waylyn community, in an area where nine of the city’s homicide victims met their fates last year. In 2016, almost all the city’s 32 homicide victims were young Black males. Their average age was below 25.
I know a lot of people are working to stem the tide of violence and I commend them. But the reality is most of us are like my friend, gun violence is mostly an annoyance – until it comes knocking at your door! In the March 18 Dorchester Waylyn homicide residents say they heard gunshots at about 10 p.m. The victim’s body was discovered in the front yard of a home about two hours later when the homeowners came home.
Okay I know the drill – when you hear gunshots, especially at night, as long as bullets aren’t coming into your space – stay away from windows and doors, don’t go outside being nosey and mind your own business. Apparently the folks in the Waylyn follow protocol – the victim’s body wasn’t discovered until the people who lived at the house drove up on it as they were coming home.
I get it; the only people who run toward trouble are police and firemen. But how did we develop this warzone mentality in Black communities? And is that the mentality we need to have going forward? I think not.
It’s great that some people are working to address violence in the Black community. But when a husband and father is gunned down on a public highway after an apparent auto accident and four family members are bludgeoned by a loved one, clearly we need all hands on deck in multifaceted ways. One of the kids charged in the Bennettyard Road homicide is a relative of a close friend of mine. We’re not talking about strangers coming into our community committing crimes. These are our kids, people we know, kids we’ve raised!
There are some serious issues plaguing the Black community that include miseducation, unemployment, poverty and mental illness. No amount of gun control is gonna fix that. Some might say our community can’t be fixed. My partner Hamp once said trying to correct character flaws in 13-year-olds amounts to damage control, so what can we do with 22-year-old thugs? I don’t know, but Charleston County Assistant Sheriff Mitch Lucas said we certainly can’t arrest our way out of the problem.
Still, there ain’t no bad days! When Black community leaders and organizations come together collaboratively and stop operating in individual silos, maybe we can figure out strategies to address the issues that result in so much violence in our neighborhoods. Maybe when our churches stop preaching pie in the sky bye and bye and use some of the estimated $14 million congregations contribute to Black churches weekly to implement programs that serve our communities rather than the church and when sororities and fraternities conduct community service activities that reach people in their neighborhoods we can make a dent in the problem. Black folks must begin to see the violence in our as more than an inconvenient annoyance.