To be an ideological liberal is to appreciate the progress marginalized groups make toward acceptance and normalization: #MeToo has allowed for a more robust understanding of the necessity of women’s agency; the LGBTQ+ community has made quantum leaps legally and socially since the beginning of the century.
To be a Black liberal, however, is to remain frustrated at watching the needle on gun violence in Black communities not move in a meaningfully positive direction. If anything, things are only getting worse.
Amari Pollard, 19, allegedly killed Shawn Jackson, 18, and his stepfather Renzo Smith, 36, shortly after Jackson walked the stage to collect his diploma. Several others were injured at an event synonymous with success and promise – the elders in attendance were forced to witness this young man slain just as his life began.
The Richmond shooting came right on the heels of a bloody weekend in Chicago, where 46 people were shot and nine killed. In my adoptive city, it’s the perennial worst joke ever: As soon as winter gives way to spring and everyone comes back outside, so do the guns.
Newly elected Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, who took the pain of inheriting a city that routinely makes national headlines for gun violence, promised the following Monday to the new class of Chicago Police Department graduates that he would “have your back.”
In April, a mass shooting at a Sweet 16 party in Dadeville, Ala., left four dead and 32 injured. Three of the dead are Black men and women who never made it to age 20; two of the suspects are Black teenagers who will be tried as adults.
Stories like these tend to leave the news cycle just as soon as they arrive, in large part because the country is becoming collectively numb to gun violence in general: At press time, we are set to break a record for mass shootings in one calendar year.
But it’s also because we’ve all become used to gun violence in the Black community as a tragic aspect of American existence. Folks falsely accept it as an irreparable blight on our society – much like we collectively ignore human rights atrocities in Black countries but dedicate our front pages and leading newscast stories to the Ukraine War.
People are more invested in the Blame Game instead of ameliorating the problems: Folks blame parents, parents blame social media, and right-wing racists shout “Black-on-Black violence” and are quietly thrilled with the idea of us wiping one another out.
The enlightened recognize that systemic racism begets the physical environments that, in turn, beget the violence. They also contextualize violence in the Black community with the overall gun violence spike that came with the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in a nearly 30 percent rise in overall homicides from 2019 to 2020, the highest jump recorded in modern history.
Any rise in the gun violence epidemic tends to disproportionately impact us worse than others: The homicide rate was almost 10 times higher among young Black men in 2021 than it was for the overall firearm death rate in the country.
It’s disheartening to know with relative certainty that none of the 2024 presidential candidates will even bother addressing Black gun violence with any substance during their campaigns. Republicans in particular seem more focused on the culture wars and how folks expressing their chosen genders in dress will apparently be the catalyst to bring down humanity.
I mean, they sure don’t seem to have interest in having fewer guns out in the world.
So, what’s the answer for Black gun violence, if not wholesale hopelessness?
I’m fairly certain it’s not “flood the street with more police.” In Chicago and many major U.S. cities, failing schools, poor infrastructure, food deserts and overall blight serve as the seeds for violence; adding more police and doing little to fix these issues is putting the chicken before the egg – it’s like placing a Band-Aid over a newly-severed foot.
I suppose I’m too cynical to believe there’s salvation on the horizon from the government when it comes to Black youth and gun violence. Or maybe I just pay attention to the world around me.
I do believe that it’s up to us on the ground level to do what we can to mitigate the violence that claims our children. As an educator and casual childless observer, I have just a few suggestions I think might help.
Contextualize the media they consume: As a lifelong hip-hop fan, I’ve only recently come to embrace the medium’s role in negatively influencing our young people and how impressionable they are when it comes to consuming music, film and television.
There’s no reasonable way to completely shield them from it, so I think it’s imperative for parents and caretakers to sit children down at a young age and explain that there’s nothing cool about, say, living out the lyrics they hear in Drill rap.
Monitor their devices: Perhaps the biggest contrast from when we were kids is that childhood (and young adulthood) beefs start via social media – authorities need only look at Twitter to predict potential gang violence. Make it a point to monitor your child on social media, if not prevent them from being on it altogether.
Sign them up for after-school/summer activities: Having productive things for your kid to do after school, during weekends and during summer break has been undefeated since the dawn of kids and school. It builds community, channels energy toward positive behavior and, perhaps, makes youth feel less inclined to gather for foolishness.
Don’t allow your kids to kick it with everyone: Does this need further explanation?
Dustin J. Seibert is a native Detroiter living in Chicago. He loves his own mama slightly more than he loves music and exercises every day only so his French fry intake doesn’t catch up to him. Find him at wafflecolored.com.
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