By Barney Blakeney
I was sitting on the steps with some of the fellas a few days after the August 8 murder of a man on the Eastside’s Hanover Street. Subject of the day – “The Eastside will change!” People have been killed at that corner before, but this is different,” said Art. “This time it was a white boy!”
Art’s remark confused me. I couldn’t figure how the August 8 murder differed from any of the others over the years in that area. In my mind, any killing is a bad thing. In the news reporting business, you never assume anything. My friends get mad at me. They say I ask too many questions – questions whose answers should be obvious. But again, the rule is don’t try to figure out what someone means, ask what they mean. So I asked Art what he meant. He said the white boy’s death will bring change.
Art was right. The change already had begun. The neighborhood association planned a community meeting to discuss crime on the Eastside. Okay, that’s a good thing, I thought. Art was the only one talking, but I got the impression he was expressing sentiments felt by the others on the steps, some five or six people besides us. Sarcastically he added, “Now they want to talk about crime?”
I told Art that should come as no surprise. Another Black kid had killed a white boy June 18 in a different Eastside neighborhood on Harris Street. But if memory serves me correctly, Gayle and Stephen’s son was killed at Hanover and Columbus last year, mere feet from the August 8 murder. Like Haman, Gayle’s son who was Black was killed in front of his home. There was no candlelight vigil, no community meeting.
I don’t think the absence of a meeting or vigil is any indication of the community’s lack of concern for the death of scores of Black men and boys killed on the Eastside before those of the two white boys. Unfortunately, I think it has more to do with how Black people and white people respond to stuff. Black folks weep and wring their hands. White folks weep and change the game!
So why are we surprised when them white folks come out in droves to let us know they won’t tolerate the killing of white people on the crime-ridden Eastside? Black folks tolerate that crap. White folks will not! Yes the Eastside will change. The violent behavior, the street corner drug trafficking – all that will cease. It never should have begun.
I was telling Arthur, back in the day we did our lil’ badness. But we had to do it with respect. A guy could sell pot on the ‘Boulevard’, but when Miss Annie came out to sit on her porch, you had to move that down the street. And if someone walked up to cop a bag while she was there, you walked out of her sight to make the sale.
Over the past 30 years not only have we lost respect for Miss Annie, we’ve lost respect for each other. Nowadays one dope boy will rob and kill another dope boy who just might be his friend! I remember the North Charleston grandmother a few years ago saying the boy who killed her grandson often had dinner with them.
Don’t get me wrong, white folks do crazy stuff – who remembers the Menendez brothers? But while white folks are unscrupulously violent, they also create a certain level of comfort within their communities. Black folks keep waiting for someone to do that for us. I can’t figure why my people continuously expect someone else to educate their children. White folks ain’t teachin’ their own kids how to behave. Their kids are shootin’ up schools and shopping malls. Do you really expect they will teach our kids not to shoot up our neighborhoods?!
A couple of weeks ago I got in trouble for writing a story about academic performance at Burke High on the west side. Had a problem with that? Well here we go one mo’ gain. Watch what them white folks do with the peninsula’s elementary schools? For the past 30 years we let ‘em languish in an academic abyss. That too my friends, is about to change.
In all fairness, there always have been a few Black folks working their fingers to the bone to make positive change. But most of us sat on the steps and talked about the problem. And then there were those who knew better and took advantage. Art, he’s been in the game-changing business a long time even serving as neighborhood association president. And LaTonya Gamble, she’s been on the frontline her whole life. She hooked up the community meeting knowing the conversation finally may get some traction.
It’s common knowledge that Black communities historically have been underfunded and under-resourced. But that never stopped those who came before us. Our forebears realized that in America Black folks only could count on themselves – with a little help from our friends. Nobody’s gonna save us, but us. We’ll understand that better as we see more change come to our schools and communities.