You wouldn’t think scoring a buzzer-beater in a community league basketball game would cost you your life but I woke one morning to find that that’s exactly what it costed one young man in Philadelphia. A lone gunman ambushed three teens, 14, 15 and 16 years old, after a game. The 14 year-old was shot in the arm, the 15 year-old in the face and the 16 year-old in the leg. The 15 year-old later died in the hospital. The others were last listed in critical condition and there have been no arrests.
Nationally, we know these names; not so they roll off our tongues readily and easily but by eventual recognition as the pain sown by their untimely, unwarranted and unjust killing by police forces our minds to jump to their recognition. These are the deaths vetted and poured over by pundits and the totality of the citizenry.
But there is another snowballing population of black men and black teens whose names aren’t etched yet in the American consciousness. No one remembers them save for loved ones. Their deaths are just as prevalent as those occurring at the hands of law enforcement yet they go virtually unprotested. They are the victims of gang violence or of that mostly, ignored demographic, black-on-black crime.
I listened and watched over the July 4th holiday as the world turned in on itself; two killings by police in two separate cities in a little over 24 hours. These were met with the usual outcry of brutality but a current of reciprocity was being forged; a wave that produced the murder of Dallas officers by a lone black gunman. Now going forward, the debate is deepening, moving towards an understanding of the underlying causes of an environment that allows the lives of young black men to be ended so readily. But the world is still turning and still much isn’t being said about these forgotten men.
Is it because how they died isn’t as dramatic as a police shooting? Or is it that most times, especially in the case of a robbery or something equally nefarious, there is no streaming video or anything to post on Instagram of Facebook? Many times, these less than iconic deaths occur at the end of a trivial matter or happenstance occurrence; something that should not cause a person to be killed. Take your pick, there’re many instances in cities across America; young men are getting killed in front of funeral homes, at family barbecues, riding their bicycles, doing the ordinary things that you and I routinely do day to day.
Watching the protests over the weekend, I listened to one black pundit describe his fantasy; that BLM would address black-on-black crime as readily and heartily as they address police brutality. He followed it up by saying that he wouldn’t bring it up today because it would detract from what they were talking about and that was the police.
My question to him, to BLM, to all African-Americans is why should it be a fantasy? If nothing else, it’s a component of self-improvement that can only assist us as we find our way out of this fog. Besides which, All Lives Matter; if we truly believe that and are to move forward with it then we must protest those lives taken by our own and we must do so with the same tenacity, more so even, that we protest those lost to the cop’s bullet. One is easier to do than the other but both are equally necessary.