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US or Them. A Response to the Mother's Day shooting
On May 12, 2013, there was a shooting at a second line parade in New Orleans. I won’t go into the details. They have been recounted again and again and will continue to unfold. The real question is: did this happen to US or THEM? Was the perpetrator one of US or one of THEM? Be careful how you answer that. It is easy to look at the alleged gunman and the crowd of unwitting victims and see THEM. I am not black. That’s not my neighborhood. I don’t second line. That makes it so much easier to ask yourself, with an exasperated shake of your head, why are THEY always shooting themselves up? It’s not you, so all you have to do is stay away from the infected area/event/group and you’ll be fine.
Unfortunately, no matter how much you may want to hold on to the safety of New Orleans street violence being someone else’s problem, it simply isn’t true. This is your problem. You are one of us. And the only way to heal our city’s gaping wounds is through real prevention work. The deep stuff. I’m not talking about midnight basketball or other programs designed to keep THOSE kids “off the streets.” There’s nothing wrong with those programs, and the people who run them often have a deep and abiding love for the communities they serve. But those programs only work for a moment in time. What we need is real and lasting change – the kind that, once rooted, will diminish the culture of violence forever.
How? Simple. Make sure all children have what they need. All children need what most middle and upper income families take for granted. Children need stable and loving relationships. Children need safe environments in which they can explore and learn. Children need families who have enough money to provide for them and give them opportunities to see things beyond their neighborhood boundaries. We provide for OURS and feel sorry for THEM. We are writing our own death warrants. Until we begin providing for the needs of ALL children as earnestly as we provide for the needs of our own, the cycle of violence and poverty will continue to feed itself, and will manifest itself in horrific events like the Mother’s Day shooting. To turn the tide we must begin to address these problems collectively and systematically for the next several generations to counterbalance the hundreds of years of systemic degradation and purposeful impoverishment that got us here in the first place.
“Generations? Wait, you mean we can’t fix this in an election cycle?” No. Sadly, we can’t. But the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Our first step must be to come together and develop a concrete and cohesive plan to:
1. Invest in families so that people can provide for their children without resorting to illegal actions or being subjected to sub-human conditions.
2. Ensure that every child’s educational opportunities are as good as YOUR child’s.
3. Strengthen support systems for children that span from cradle to career.
4. Make sure there are good jobs available for them when school is done.
Sound out of reach? It is for now. But if we don’t begin it always will be.
The Power of Intention