Bryant Lee was 18. He was preparing graduate high school, and was a star quarterback at McKinley high school. Lee was killed on May 13th. Jesse Chase was 64, a former star quarterback at Capitol high school. He was killed on September 1st. This year so far in Baton Rouge, 64 people have been murdered and we still have 4 months left in the year. The numbers tell us, that with 4 months left, we are on track to have nearly 100 murders in the capital city before the close of the year. This is a tragedy. Lee and Chase weren’t close in age. There connection on paper is simple. Two black men, killed for no justifiable reason. This happens far too often in the black community and I’ve got to ask why?
I grew up in north Baton Rouge most of my life. Went to Banks elementary, Glen Oaks middle, and a host of other schools because I was a bad kid growing up. I know both what it is like to live in the hood, and what it is like for my parents to move out of the hood. So I don’t ask the question from a place of ignorance of the complexities of growing up in not so great circumstances. I don’t ask the question not having lost someone close to me to gun violence or known someone who killed someone for no just cause. I know both sides of the coin. I understand that most people aren’t in the street life because they just woke up and wanted to bang or sell dope. Something in life happened, and some how that individual got to a place where they no longer saw the value of the next person’s life.
I understand how poverty plays a role in the violence we see in our communities. Even as some would like to paint a picture that they too grew up poor and didn’t make those choices. As if some how that makes them a better person. I understand that America in her deeply flawed view of crime created the prison pipeline by creating the war on drugs in the 70’s and 80’s. Followed by the decade of being tough on crime in the 90’s, which pilled black men and women into America’s prisons and broke up the black family. I understand that ghetto’s weren’t created by the people who live in them, but by systems and structures that gave one group of poor people a hand up, while boxing others out. I get it. I know that this mess isn’t as simple as someone woke up this morning with killing on their mind. I know that the conditions America created, has caused a breeding ground for hopelessness. Yet, with that understanding can I say that it is still not acceptable that we kill each other?
If I am to be an man of integrity and honesty. I cannot publicly call for the killers of Alton B. Sterling to be jailed for their actions and not be equally outraged about the murders happening by people who look like me. Is there a difference, yes and no. There is no difference in the fact that murder is wrong no matter who does it. However, there is a difference in how black men and women are handled when committing murder. When caught we are jailed, hence prisons being over populated with black bodies. Why am I saying all this? I want you to understand that I get the issues. I understand the vastness of what it is to be black in America. What it is to have to battle with the internal and external conflicts of this society. I know what it feels like to attend the funeral of a man who was killed by police and feeling like justice will never come, and I understand what it feels like to bury a young black teen who was snatched away. Knowing that his mother is crying at night wondering will the cops catch the killer of their baby.
The external enemy is the easy target. It is easy for us to attack the system that created this mess. Yet we must also confront the enemy within.
Often people think we as black people aren’t talking about the killings in our communities. I know this is the furthest thing from the truth, because we don’t have to wait often for the news report to break to find out. Often we live in this communities, we are related to some of these people. These are our high school friends our church members loved ones. We attend these funerals. So it isn’t just a news story, it’s our reality. Even when you no longer live in the hood, most of us are still connected in some way to the hood. Even if it is just because we attend social events or work with people who still reside in the bloodiest blocks of our city. We are the hands that wipe tears, the arms that hug, and shoulders these families cry on.
I’m writing this letter, because I know that more police on the block won’t stop the killing. It may pause it, but it won’t stop it. I know that a Sunday morning sermon won’t stop it. I know that a lecture won’t stop it. I know that outrage and prayer vigils won’t stop it. I’m asking you, those who are still in that life — still trying to make sense of the world, what does it take? What can we do to help? How can we change this, because I’m filled with emotion right now because I’m tired of reading news reports about my people dying. So before I come back with some solutions for what I believe it will take to help us end this vicious cycle, I want to hear from you. We want to hear from you.
When I say we, I mean those of us in the black community who want to see real change, we want to hear what can we do? If anyone pretends they have all the answers, they are simply fooling themselves. The issues are too complex and it is going to take serious commitment, but I know that no one is born wanting to kill someone. How do we stop it, because enough is enough. Another dead black body, from domestic violence, drug killings, street beef, or any other act that takes away a life, is not acceptable. One murder is one too many, and we have to not allow ourselves to become desensitized to the pain of murder. What can we do to stop the killing?
You can email me if you’ve got more to say than a social media post can articulate. You can comment in the story. You can tag me on social media. I just want to know, #HowDoWeStopIt