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Spikes And Waiting For Something To Happen To Another Black Child
7/16/2014 4:33:06 PM

By Barney Blakeney

The killing has been off the chain lately. Well, that’s misspoken. The killing has been off the chain for some time, recently it seems to be spiking. Ain’t that a trip? We’ve coined a phrase for rises in homicides - they’re ‘spiking’. To me, that implies we’re so comfortable with the number of murders, any time the number increases rapidly or excessively, we say it spikes. What happened to the thought that even one murder is too much?

Like a lot of people, I’m becoming desensitized to the killing. There have been a couple of days recently when there were multiple homicides in a matter of a few hours - two in one day or something like that. And then the other day, shortly after the Fourth of July holiday weekend, I heard about the number of homicides committed in Chicago, Ill. - some 80 shootings resulting in 16 deaths. They kill 300-500 in Chicago every year. I understand three were killed locally over the July Fourth holiday weekend. That’s a lot of kids, mostly Black kids, getting killed.

I write homicide stories frequently, but it still bothers me to see the numbers. I always think of this journalism principle about writing stories - it says something like 1,000 deaths is a statistic, one death is a tragedy. I guess the idea is to personalize stories.

That struck home for me last week with the information that one of the kids killed over the holiday shooting spike was the grandson of local Black community advocate, Elder James Johnson. For years Johnson has been on the scene in the aftermath of local homicides advocating for better gun control and alternatives to crime and violence. That his grandson would be a victim is perhaps ironic.

But it was a quote in the daily newspaper from the mother of another homicide victim that capsulizes my perspective on the number of murders in our communities. During a rally held by a new group of parents of homicide victims, one mother said it took something to happen to her child for her to say the killing has to stop.

Every time I write a homicide story, I think of the tragedy each of those mothers feel. I come from a hard place and deal with some hard people. I once heard a mother say she expected that her son one day would be killed. She was aware of his lifestyle, the stuff he does and the people he associates with, so she accepts that his murder likely is eventual. Although emotionally she has prepared herself, I know that if her son’s death comes, that mothers’ tragedy will be as painful as that of any other mother. I’m perplexed that I don’t see her and other mothers all over this community doing more to prevent the tragedies. “It took something to happen to my child”. Why do mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, our community wait until something happens to my child? At the rate of carnage we’re experiencing, my child will be next.

I keep a police file in my desk. It’s got all kinds of police information and statistics in it. I was looking through it to get stuff for this column. I’m disorganized so I had to go through all of it to get the homicide stuff. When I looked, I have enough homicide stuff to start a separate file. My last request of local law enforcement was for homicide stuff, so that data was on top. That was June 20. According to the Charleston County Coroner, there had been 20 homicides in the county at that time - 15 were males, 15 were Black and 11 were Black males.

The misperception may be that this homicide thing is a Black thing and especially a Black male thing. Again, that’s a misperception. There’s the mother of a white male who only was trying to sell his truck and became a tragedy. There’s the mother of a young nursing student who attended a neighborhood party in Berkeley County who is dealing with the tragedy of her daughter’s murder. And this morning I heard of a young woman whose three children and fiancé are experiencing the tragedy of her murder after a home invasion robbery attempt.

“It took something to happen to my child”. All those victims are someone’s child. All the victims to come will be someone’s child. It’s unfortunate that most of us don’t act until it’s my child. Maybe it that most of us don’t know what actions to take.

Folks, this ain’t rocket science. The spikes we experience in murders are much like the spikes in weather - they occur because conditions are right. We have to change the conditions that contribute to spikes in murder - conditions like those that exist in education, economics, health and stuff I haven’t thought of but some you may.

I think it’s important that we not wit until something happens to my child, that we remember that the spike could affect any of us and will affect all of us. If we get busy doing something, anything now, maybe in a few years we won’t be talking about spikes and things happening to my child.

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