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Killing Me Softly
Killwaukee? Sad, but True.

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 rise then.

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 you? 

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 animals.” 

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 Burleigh Street. 

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 check. 

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 slumber. 

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.





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