“You Kill Where You Live”, Our Elephant in the Room
“The elephant in the room” and/or the 500 pound gorilla are phrases used to describe a problem that everyone knows exist but no one wants to acknowledge; the human tendency to ignore problems we simply don’t want to deal with. http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/104243/what-does-the-pink-elephant-in-the-room-mean.
In Chicago 43 people were shot over the holiday weekend, 12 of which died. One of the deceased was a 4 year old girl Jacele Johnson, shot as she and her 17 year old cousin sat in a motionless vehicle. In a classic drive by shooting, a car pulled up next to them and opened fire, striking innocent Jacele in the head. Many of the other 42 victims suffered kill shots to the chest, back, face and head. http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2015/05/26/12-killed-43-wounded-in-memorial-day-weekend-shootings/.
In Baltimore, home of the Baltimore Mom and recent civil disturbances following the police killing of Freddie Gray the holiday weekend saw 29 shootings, 9 of which resulted in death. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/05/26/2-shot-dead-in-bloody-memorial-day-weekend-in-baltimore-capping-off-deadliest/. May of 2015 has been the deadliest month in the last 15 years for the City of Baltimore with approximately 38 homicides. www.cnn.com/2015/05/26/us/baltimore-deadliest-month-violence-since-1999/index.
One of the most tragic slayings involves the death of Jennifer Jeffrey and her 7 year old son Kester, both of whom were shot in the head. All total, in a single weekend, Chicago and Baltimore experienced the intentional shootings of 72 people, 21 of whom died. Far too many of the victims and assailants were black.
It would be one thing if these senseless killings were the exception? Regrettably, they are not. They occur with alarming frequency, every single day in virtually every city in America. Even more regrettable is our reaction to the problem of black on black violence and criminality.
In Baltimore, New York, Ferguson, South Carolina and other communities where police outrages have occurred we demand justice, we insist on accountability. Yet, the Chicago and Baltimore slayings have sparked no similar community indignation; no like anger. The phrase “black lives matters” has yet to be uttered. When it comes to the abuse of blacks by other blacks or where it concerns the blatant criminal conduct of some African Americans, our general response is the deafening sound of silence.
This is our elephant in the room. And this disgrace; the 500 pound gorilla of black on black crime, violence and dishonor is neither obscure nor benign.
This neon pink pachyderm is loud, boisterous and all too obvious, flashing its presence with the luminosity of a Times Square marquee. It soils our homes and damages our families, fractures our communities and limits our options. It squeezes us into corners from which there is little escape. Worse, it herds us into the waiting arms of the very institution of which we so often complain, i.e., the criminal justice system.
The Baltimore gendarmes have responded to the Freddie Gray imbroglio with a work slowdown. Police are booking less than half of the number of people they pulled off the streets last year. West Baltimore residents, read African Americans have noticed the slow down and complained of a lack of police protection.
We make no apologies for the manipulations of law enforcement. Its obligation to serve and protect exist regardless of political considerations. Nonetheless, to hear us complain that the very institution we rightfully distrust is not doing enough to protect us from us is more than peculiar. Even more distressing is the hurtful spectacle of family killing family.
Yet, as obviously destructive as the elephant is, we continue to ignore it, Rather than remove it from our presence we offer a blizzard of reasons to explain or excuse it’s injurious behavior, its cruel presence. And we tolerate from us that which we would never bear for others.
A good friend once explained if not justified black on black abuse by noting that most whites are killed by other whites. He therefore reasoned that black fratricide is understandable because “you kill where you live.” Wow!
Still others have warned that we are too focused on black issues; that we are better served by broadening our perspective. Perhaps both camps are right?
But even if true, we can no more accept the reality of “you kill where you live” than we can the certainty of police abuse. Nor can we ignore an issue that must be addressed.
The Baltimore situation proves that while we might not like it, we need fair and honest law enforcement. Sans the police, we would be at the mercy of indigenous criminals who would not hesitate to victimize and exploit the black community.
We will not move forward until and unless we first take responsibility for who we are and what we do. The hypocrisy of demanding respect from others but not from within does us irreparable harm. No one is to blame for us killing us but us. Confronting the elephant in the room is therefore something which is long overdue.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum