Friday, July 13, 2007

The Silence Is Killing Us

TRENTON, July 8 — A woman who was standing 10 feet away when a stray bullet from a gang fight struck 7-year-old Tajahnique Lee in the face told the police she had been too distracted by her young son to see who fired the shots.

A man who was also in the courtyard when that .45-caliber round blew Tajahnique off her bicycle told detectives he had been engrossed in conversation with neighbors and ducked too quickly to notice what had happened.

Indeed, at least 20 people were within sight of the gunfight among well-known members of the Sex Money Murder subset of the Bloods gang 15 months ago, but the case remains unsolved because not a single one will testify or even describe what they saw to investigators. The witnesses include Vera Lee, Tajahnique’s grandmother, who declined to be interviewed for this article. People who have spoken to her about the shooting said she would not talk to the police for fear she would “have to move out of the country.”[1]

I read this story and what it said about the state of my people and my community really hurt my heart. It would be one thing if this was an isolated incident, but it isn’t. This same thing goes on all over in city and towns across America. We have all of these murders and violence being perpetrated against our communities by these thugs and no one says anything. We have a police force that is unwilling and/or unable to stop the violence and our children keep on dying. We have a government that is either indifferent or is impotent to the problem and our children keep on dying. Our communities are becoming war zones right in our midst and we remain silent to the suffering. Our fear is now stronger than our faith. We have been convinced that there is no hope and a community with no hope has no life.

How long will we as a community continue to allow any type of behavior to go on in our neighborhoods? Any and every type of person and predator feeding on our children are allowed access to our community. How many more children have to die before we say enough to these young thugs? They rely on fear to perpetrate their crimes, they rely on good people to turn their backs and pretend they don’t see. This occurs in our neighborhoods because we allow it; do you think this type of thing could happen in the suburbs? No, because those people would rise up in arms and demand the police to protect them and they would not harbor criminals, because its cousin RayRay or baby’s daddys brother. This madness has to stop!

I know you are afraid, but anyone who has not found something worth dying for is not worth living. Aren’t our children worth dying for? If we stand united against these bullies and thugs we will win, the problem is no one wants to stand. It is time that we began to act like men and start standing for what is right. Protecting our homes and our loved ones is right and worth dying for. I guarantee if we begin to stand as one against this senseless violence and these cowards, we will prevail. Nobody wants to die and I enjoy life as much as the next man, but what we have is no longer lives worth living. We can’t even walk down our streets, our kids can’t even play in front of the house anymore, and our elderly are being held hostage in their homes.

Such silence has spread over the last decade in cities across the country, as the proliferation of gangs like the Crips, Bloods and Latin Kings has made witnesses an endangered and elusive component of countless criminal investigations. Criminologists say gang culture has made fair game of brutally punishing anyone who helps the police. What results is a self-perpetuating cycle of intimidation and helplessness: residents refuse to risk their lives by helping a police force that cannot protect them; the authorities say they are powerless to lock up gang members without witnesses willing to testify.

In the area of the Wilson-Haverstick Houses, where Tajahnique’s neighbors routinely encounter gang members in coin laundries and convenience stores, on street corners, at bus stops and occasionally in church, many people say that silence is a survival tactic.

“You just keep to yourself,” said Shaunte Bellamy, who raised her children in the project, explaining that she concerns herself only with what happens inside her own apartment. “If it didn’t happen in 3C, it didn’t happen to me.”[2]

You now have a rapper’s campaign entitled, “Stop Snitchin”, promoting this silence. There was and still is a time when the police unfairly target Black men, but this is not that time. This is about Black men unfairly targeting and holding our communities hostage. This is not about racial profiling, or hip-hop, or any of those other things that have a legitimate concern for our people, this is about thuggish, common criminal activity. Let’s not be fooled, as long as we harbor and protect criminals we will have this type of violence. I am so tired of Black folks complaining about crime and no one willing to do anything about it. If you witness a crime and do not report it, you have lost your right to complain about crime and police.

Shhhhhhhh….Can you hear the silence? It is deafening and it is killing us.


[2] Ibid

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