Posts Tagged ‘senseless killings’

As many of you probably already know, a young lady named Jasmine Lynn was killed a couple days ago on Clark Atlanta’s campus. She was a Spelman Sophomore, all of 19 years old. Her twitter page is still up. There’s a picture of her doing what 19 year olds do, posing in front of a Ferrari at a gas station. She looks happy, a little awkward like people in those years do. But she looks like what she was: A young lady going to college, trying to make it in life.

And now, that life is over. I expressed my frustration with this kind of thing on Twitter yesterday. I attributed this kind of random and reckless violence to the underclass. Of course, my page blew up immediately with people arguing that I was being insulting and disrespectful. The DM’s however, were much more of a mixed bag. The fact is, as black people who are not generally likely to shoot someone, we have truly mixed feelings about how to deal with these issues when they come up, which they inevitably do.

Deborah Ann Brown was gunned down about 9:30 p.m. in the 2900 block of 14th Street NW, not far from the Dunkin’ Donuts where she worked.

The shooting happened just after the annual Columbia Heights Day wrapped up. According to sources, a group of males was sitting on the steps in front of the Greater Washington Urban League when a suspect on a bike rolled up and opened fire on the group, just as Brown was walking past.

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Last year, I worked for the summer as a Program Manager for DC’s Green Summer program, a pilot cross-functional program between the District Department of the Environment and the Summer Youth Employment Program. I managed 12 team leaders and maybe a hundred odd kids. They were good kids. A little rowdy, some misguided, but for the most part, like everyone else, they just wanted to live. We used to go out in to sites in the community to do cleanups or work, and invariably, if we were going to certain neighborhoods, some of the kids couldn’t come. It just wasn’t safe for them, because they had some beef or another. It’s hard to fathom living life that way. These were smart kids, with every bit of the potential as anyone else. But because of where they came from or who they knew, they were at legitimate risk of being hurt or killed.

Toward the end of the summer, one of my team leaders, Keith Hines, was shot and killed as he sat on his mother’s porch. Keith was a good guy. He’d had some issues before and done some time, but he was enrolled at UDC, he was working, and he was doing what people do: just trying to live. I doubt they’ve found the shooter.

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A few months ago, there was a bit of a hubbub because a Morehouse Student who shot another Morehouse student three times was graduating from the college. Not kicked out, not in jail, just graduating and moving on with life. The shooting victim, not so much.

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And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I rail against the underclass.

When I say underclass, I’m not talking about the working class. I’m not talking about people, who because they’re not doctors or lawyers, or weren’t invited to Jack and Jill should be shunned and derided. I’l tell you where I come from. My grandfather on my dad’s side: Bus Driver. My grandmother on my mom’s side: a Domestic. I have 40-odd first cousins, and I’m the only male to go to college. So trust me, I don’t have a problem with the working class. Pretty much my entire family is working class. They work with their hands, or they’re int he service or they work in the penitentiary system. But they work. And they raise their kids. And they progress.

What I’m talking about is a mentality that has been sold to us, and we’ve bought hook, line, and sinker, that we as black people, and especially black men, should be a certain way. And that way is violent, ignorant, and uncouth. I don’t know Joshua Brandon, but from the narrative that came from a couple sources, he drank the kool-aid. Despite the fact that he lived in a 400k townome and drove a Hummer, he at his core wanted to be a member of the underclass. He wanted the cool points and swagger of having a gun and taking no shit from anyone. And because I assume his folks had some clout, he was able to get away with shooting a classmate without so much as a ripple in his life.

Just like, in all reality, the guy who killed Keith, and the guy who killed Jasmine and the guy who killed Deborah Brown will. No one’s gonna testify. No one seent shit. No one’s willing to step up and say “no mas.” Because the underclass doesn’t snitch.

What BET and New Jack City and Menace II Society and everything else in the world have shown us is that it’s awesome to be a gangster. It’s accepted, respectable, and much preferable to being a “bitch nigga.” Regardless of the fact that shooting randomly while running away is bitch nigga shit. Or rolling up on a bike and opening fire is bitch nigga shit. Walking up someone’s porch while he’s unarmed and shooting him in the face is some bitch nigga shit too. Hopping out of a Hummer and pulling out your gun on someone unarmed, bitch nigga shit too. But in the narrative of the underclass, these are all acceptable and respected actions.

And that’s why I can’t accept the underclass mentality as something to be respected or pitied, or not be derided. I can’t get into the whole excuses thing. “Oh, they had it hard” or “You don’t know what was going on in their life.” I used to live in africa, people. You think you’ve seen hard here? Get the fuck outta here. I’ve seen hard. And no, not everyone over there is holding hands and singing kumbuyah. There are some terrible things that goes on in any impoverished condition, anywhere.

But here in America, it’s trickling up. People are CHOOSING to be this, not forced into it by circumstances beyond their control. And we HAVE to stop accepting it. We have to stop letting kids in PG county underperform the entire state of Maryland because even though their folks have money, they want to be” hard.” Cats at Morehouse having guns. Plies pretending he’s a goon even though he went to Miami University in Ohio. We have to stop accepting that those little ignorant children who hang out in Chinatown will steal the Jordans off some kid and push old ladies down in the street. Because if we don’t get it under control, there will be more Jasmine’s.

I don’t live in the neighborhood that most of these people live in. I don’t want to. One of my mom’s clients was killed not long ago at Sursum Corda. If you’re not familiar with Sursum Corda, it’s basically a death trap. It’s the Carter personified. It will be torn down. It will be gentrified. And the people that live there, the crime, and the poverty, and the dysfunction will be pushed out somewhere it can be ignored.

But that’s the thing, you’re not changing the dynamic, you’re just moving it away from where you are. And a lot of black people who are the working class or the lower middle class don’t have the option to just gentrify out the underclass that lives around and among them. They can’t cancel out that risk that their kid is going to get killed by a stray bullet or seduced into being the shooter. They’re stuck with it. And as long as those values persevere, that it’s OK to shoot people, that it’s not OK to demand legal justice for shooting someone, we’re fucked. So you may disagree with me about my nomenclature, or saying I’m being elitist. That’s fine. But I absolutely, thoroughly, and completely reject the underclass values that made Jasmine Lynn’s death possible. If you’re one of those people that are apologizing for or making excuses for that behavior, I reject you too.

Do I have a solution? On a macro scale, no. There are things each of us can do individually; volunteer, mentor a child, etc., but at the end of the day, until the mentality gets right, nothing changes. The mentality has to be killed. Not the Jasmine Lynns.