MEDITATION ON VIOLENCE, Part 2

THE bullet crashed her chest, escaping through her back. It was so sudden and swift, Reagan Grimes didn’t fully realized she was shot. How does a 7-year-old child actually know and understand that kind of violence?


Her mother had been inside a relative’s home at Parkside Apartments on Jay St. NE. She heard the gunshot that May day and rushed outside to see the blood gushing from her child, who moments earlier had declared she had made a new friend.


“She’s like a fun loving, little prissy girl,” her grandmother told a reporter. “She likes to have fun. She likes makeup, tea parties. She’s really a girly girl.”


When the ambulance took Reagan away, the siren piercing the air, it was hard to know whether she would survive. The attack had been as random as a leaf falling from a tree and settling on her as she rode her scooter.


Is there something about scooters this May?


Nearly three weeks later, in the Shaw neighborhood, another part of the nation’s capital, a woman and her 5-year-old son were shot. The violence occurred during a dispute over where a scooter had been parked.

Miles away, in New York City’s Times Square, a 4-year-old girl and two women, unrelated to her or each other, were shot. Hearing of the child’s injury, NYPD Officer Alyssa Vogel ran to the site, provided assistance, and then scooped the girl into her arms before running to an ambulance.


Shooting incidents in New York are up 83% in 2021. In DC. homicides are 35% higher this year than they were this time in 2020.


The media, politicians and some residents became enraged after learning of the shootings. The response proved mostly temporary, as always. They went back to business as usual.


Americans this month remembered how Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, with a cavalier air and seeming pleasure, dug his knee into George Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, making it impossible to breathe. It was a cold-bloodied day-time murder, caught by a young girl, whose video helped in Chauvin’s conviction.


Seeing that film, I recalled southern lynchings where a black person dangled from a tree as white people looked on with quiet satisfaction. Chauvin had that same look on his face.


Each time a Black person is killed at the hands of police, there is an uproar. There should be. After all, we expect them to protect citizens, not murder them.


What about killings in our communities, however?


Some people have suggested that the coronavirus pandemic has unleashed a madness, accounting for the increase in gun violence and domestic violence. There is some truth to that assertion. CNN recently reported that 63 of 66 of the largest police jurisdictions saw increases in “at least one category –homicides, rape, robbery or aggravated assaults.”


The US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), recently reported “the amount of adults with recent symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder increased from 36.4 to 41.5%, while the percentage of individuals reporting unmet mental health care needs increased from 9.2 to 11.7% between August 2020 and February 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”


We know, too, that young black kids have been visiting emergency rooms in record numbers. Many of them attempted to harm themselves, entertaining suicide ideations. There can be little doubt that more than a few have been engaged in various scenarios similar to “suicide by cop”—except, say some experts, with whom I have spoken, it’s become suicide by relative, by friend, by neighbor, by perfect stranger.


Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Black on Black or Brown on Brown crimes disturbed the peace and safety of communities across the country, especially in urban centers. It prompted the U.S. Surgeon General and later the CDC to declare urban violence a public health emergency. How does an emergency last for more than 40 years?


The trauma experienced by people who lived through that era mostly went unresolved. While it may live noisily in their subconscious, they have adapted to the violence, seemingly anesthetized, sometimes overly forgiving.


Several years ago, a nephew, desperate for money to buy drugs, stabbed his wife to death in front of their young son. When my mother told me about it, she was trying to collect funds to send to him in prison. She also wondered if I could help get him out.


I did not become a donor. I argued strongly against her campaign, asserting that he needed time in jail to reflect on the fact that he had taken the life of the woman who had given birth to his child.


The family thought me cold, unforgiving. I was neither. I worried, however, that if he were released too soon, another person could end up dead.


The case of Darrell Moore proves that I am not fantasizing. According to the Washington Post, Moore was 16 in 1994 when he and a group of friends broke into a home of an alleged drug dealer.


Moore was carrying a knife, which he used to cut through pillows and other materials, hoping to find a cache of drugs and money. He and his friends didn’t find what they were looking for. That didn’t stop them from taking the lives of three people. He had urged his friends to “cut up these women.” A year later, in 1995, Moore was sentenced to 66 years to life in prison.


The story didn’t end there, however.


Twenty-six years later, he was freed from prison—a benefit of DC’s “Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act”, approved by the DC Council in 2016 and signed into law by Mayor Muriel Bowser.


After only nine months of being free on the streets, Moore shot Julius Haynes six times, killing the 37-year-old during an argument. The 2021 murder occurred within blocks of the 1994 crime, according to Post reporters.


There has been no painted street for Reagan Grimes in solidarity with her, after being shot for no reason. There has been no protest rally around the murder of Julius Hayes. No one has raised holy hell about any the 74 people killed thus far in 2021 in the nation’s capital or thousands of other Black and Brown people slain in their own communities.


After the death of murder of George Floyd, citizens organized in their cities and town, demanding changes in policing. Their efforts have been mostly successful.


According to published reports, San Francisco has moved to divest at least $120 million from the police department’s budget over the next two years. New York, Los Angles, Chicago, Seattle and Baltimore also have reduced police funding—although there is a battle in Baltimore to restore some of that money.


The National Conference of State Legislatures reported that places like Colorado, Iowa, New York, Connecticut and Washington, DC, among others, have begun the process of reform. Denver and Oakland, Ca. have removed police from schools. DC is poised to follow suit.


Despite the scrimmage in Baltimore, there is little evidence of any slowing in the movement defund-reimagine-policing effort. Reviewing how institutions respond to citizens—the people they were created to serve and the people whose money is helping to keep them alive—is a good thing. I don’t begrudge the movement.


Who stands for Reagan, however, or the young boy shot on the sidewalk in front of the place he calls home? Who will stand for the thousands of Black and Brown people being killed around this country, without any police involvement? Who will demand a change in public policy to help protect them?


I ask myself these questions nearly every day. I wonder whether the media will help galvanize citizens, the way they did after Floyd’s murder, the way they are doing after each encounter between Black and Brown people and the police.


I do not want to become numb to the bodies falling around me. I worry, however, that soon I will adopt that same posture as so many have. I do not want to give up hope. I want to believe something can be done to stop the violence that seems to have become as ordinary as riding a scooter.

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