Details are still coming in, but if text messages from colleagues are to be believed, and they usually are, at least 2 and perhaps 3 of our former students have been shot and killed this weekend. We may know some things about the where and be able to guess a bit about the why, but none of that matters and all of it does.
I’m not sure why I keep writing about this. I know that I want to make sure those who read it recognize that the stories they read are about people, about individuals, like the young man with the goofy smile, or the freshman who was taller than me. They were people who have families, friends, and stories. And we, all of us, we failed them.
Because they are both individuals and they are part of a pattern. They are young black men whose bodies have been destroyed by violence. And for the next week or so, the funeral industry will go into action. There will be t-shirts and balloons, vigils and funerals. There will be editorials and opportunism. And we’ve let this all become normal somehow, in part because they are black and in part because we don’t know what the fuck to do. And even if we did have some grand idea, I sincerely doubt that the political will exists to do it. We’ve made a decision as a society that some lives matter more than others, and it sickens me.
And we’d like to see a change in behavior among their peers. We’d like to think that this will shock some into life changes, and it may. More likely, though, it will cement further the belief that so many of my students that this is their life and that there is little they can do to escape it so why bother trying?
And there are plenty of places people want to put the blame – parents, the decline of communities, social media, the police, the president, whatever. And then there are those who want to study the situation, do research, write articles, give presentations, etc.. Our work has to run along parallel tracks. Yes, we need to teach conflict resolution skills, and stop evictions, and make it so the school board is elected, not appointed and so on. All of that takes time.
The notion of creativity also strikes me at times like this. We see these huge issues, like hosting a convention or a parade, and we pull together the time, energy and funds to accomplish incredible things. People cooperate and solve challenges in amazing ways. But when black bodies are invaded by bullets, suddenly we’re at a complete loss.
I’d remove the “perhaps.”
“Perhaps…the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.