My daughter Nyla posted a message on her Facebook page. It read, “I can’t wait to go to Maine for
College. I have got to get out of
Killwaukee.” I was struck and saddened by her use of a “K” in Milwaukee,
but I really couldn’t argue with her or admonish her in any way. Lately, when the news comes on, it can
reflect a dark inner city story, where someone’s life was snuffed out.
Before May 2013, I had not known anyone personally who had
been killed (by a person with a gun) at least not someone near and dear to me. May and June 2013 changed that for me. I can no longer boast that gun violence has
missed me, rendering me unaffected by what seems to be nightly killings,
especially of young black men.
The stories seem to be told rather matter-of-factly as of
late also; almost like we expect an overnight shooting and the news is just a
confirmation. We expect the kind of
“Self-Destruction” the rap group KRS 1 spoke of in the early '90s; they say if
you are not taught to value your life, you cannot value the life of another
human. Black-on-black crime was on the
We expect the police to act in “self-defense” and take the
lives of young suspects, who might happen to be black, unarmed and/or out of
breath. And all that is left unfortunately is a grieving family, a makeshift
shrine at the location of their death.
It gets dirty, damaged and eventually taken down and then what?
I think about being shot increasingly more often now. I fear the agony of my flesh being violently
pierced by a lead (steel, silver, or whatever is in them these days) murderer. I fear struggling to breathe and having that
breathing interrupted by a gaping whole in my body, that fills with blood and
bubbles as I try to communicate. Do
Perhaps if you live in Oconomowoc, Brookfield, or Mequon,
you rarely think of it. But I think of
it often, because these days you don’t have to be doing anything wrong, to take
a bullet in the chest and die. You don’t
have to be in a gang, or a drug dealer, or thugged out criminal to be shot by a
lifeless person with a gun.
You can be a little girl playing in your yard and be gunned
down. You can be visiting a friend and
be seared by a hot bullet. You can be
walking in a public park with your girlfriend and her little brother, and be
shot. You can be verbally defending a
friend, and be shot – at 9 a.m. in the morning in a neighborhood where you live,
play and love. Often these neighborhoods
don’t love you reciprocally.
I wish harm on no one, but I do wonder if young men in
Mequon started shooting each other, if we would just sit by idly and watch the
news unravel it all for us. If in
Pewaukee, there was a shooting a night; what would be done? I’ll bet something would be done. I am by no means calling for something to be
done. That is a call “I” alone cannot
make. I am merely examining, out loud,
the marked difference between local cities and the lives valued therein.
In May and In June, two people I knew and cared for were
shot down like nobodies. Both in the
daytime. Both unarmed. Both black.
Both under the age of 30. One was
killed in an area that used to house Elephants, Giraffes and other “wild
The other was killed in an area, affectionately I’m sure, deemed
the “Zoo.” Most agree, the definition of
a Zoo, is a collection of wild animals, a menagerie. Burleigh Street is not a zoo. Human beings, who work, care for their
children, pay taxes, strive to get ahead, get married, and graduate live on
This blog post is not about gun control, because the people with
guns who need to be controlled don’t buy them legally and after a background
I’ve come to terms with this…We care about certain people in
this city. We don’t care about
others. I joke that I’d like to take
flight and move out to the safety of the suburbs, but I am afraid if I did,
those around me there would just take flight farther away, because to many of
them, because of my face…my race… I look like crime.
Really, I’d just like to see us wake up and wise up with
regard to the precious nature of a human life, whether it is a police officer
in fear of his own life or a "brotha" trying to save his own life, the
use of guns in the equation is just too easy and too final.
Perhaps a return to days of drill teams at the roller skating arena, the “Palace” and
dance groups where young black men competed for credibility (Pink Lace, Mack
Funk, Treble Funk – oh where are they now).
Or maybe the days of Grease, where we raced for pink slips. Or maybe even a time where one could be challenged
(and could opt out of the challenge) to a duel (illegal in Wisconsin since the '70s).
Like in Freddy Krueger’s movies, I am afraid to go to sleep
these days. I am afraid because I am
fairly sure that someone will die, at the hands of a creep with a gun, while I
It doesn’t matter to me if I know them or not. It hurts and it is scary, not just for me but
my daughter too – who has seen too much killing in the Mil.