Last night, I did a group presentation in class about the Dudley Square neighborhood of Roxbury, MA. It is an area that has a history of arson, illegal dumping, and gangs, but that, thanks to a neighborhood community initiative and some determined citizens, has turned itself around entirely. I chose this neighborhood because my internship is located in Roxbury, and I wanted to learn more about the neighborhood.
The night before that, a man was shot in the head in Dorchester - the neighborhood right next to Roxbury. Many people at my internship knew this man, and had seen him just before he left my internship site last night. He died less than 30 minutes after they saw him.
This morning we had a staff de-brief at my internship, reminding teachers to be sure to take good care of themselves this weekend, so they will be able to best serve the children when they return to school on Monday. We gave them tips on how to talk with kids and parents, and we gave the teachers a chance to share their thoughts, fears, and feelings. I left the de-brief completely overwhelmed at how tragic this death was, and frustrated that the violence in this community is getting progressively worse.
Later, I spoke with a co-worker who lives in that community. She told me a story of how her husband once went to the corner store with his friend, and a man walked up to his friend and got angry with him for something he had done. When my co-worker's husband tried to intervene, the man told him to go away and that he didn't have a problem with him. As her husband began to walk away, the man shot his friend. Yes there were many witnesses and security cameras, and no the man did not care.
And then this woman told a story about going to her local police station, and the countless photos there on the bulletin boards of people to be on the lookout for - child molesters, murderers, etc. - and then visiting a police station in a more suburban town, where there was just one notice on the bulletin board - for a stolen bike. And she laughed, because what else is there to do but laugh when one can't afford to move (her words), and I was so very aware of the amazing privileges I've had in my life, and of the incredible unfairness of the world.
A few weeks ago, a woman with a promising future came up to Boston from NYC and got shot and killed at an after-party in Dorchester. The papers ran long articles on her - all of her accomplishments and the future she would not be able to realize because her life had been taken so prematurely. And yet this man's death got very little news coverage. No mention of the family left behind. No mention of the promise that his life might have had if he had lived longer than 24 short years.
How and when did it become ok for the media to determine whose lives are important and whose aren't? When did it become acceptable to mourn only the loss of white lives, and not black lives? Why do some people's lives get celebrated and their deaths highly publicized and investigated, while others have only their manner of death written about, with no mention of their accomplishments and few leads on their deaths? Why does it take the loss of a white life to increase media coverage of an epidemic that has been plaguing this community for ages?
I have so many questions, and no answers.
And then this afternoon, three more shootings - one young man got shot in the head while on a bus, one guy was shot in the leg less than an hour later, and then a fatal shooting - all within 4 hours of each other.
I feel sick to my stomach. I feel helpless to stop this violence in a community I knew nothing about before September, but which I now hold in a special place in my heart. I fear for these teachers, students, and parents who do not have the luxury of escaping this violence when they go home because their homes are where the violence is.
And so I pray for them tonight, and I pray for peace.