I grew up in a time when gun violence was not as pervasive as it is today. Quite honestly, I wonder if anyone in my neighborhood owned a firearm. If they did, we as children certainly didn’t know about it.
The only people I knew that had guns were the police. Growing up, even through high school, we didn’t have any encounters with the police. In fact, we didn’t get close to the police much less their guns. The father of one of my friends was a detective, but we never saw his weapon.
The top stories in the news were not about someone being shot or killed by gunfire. During the summer, we weren’t afraid to play outside. There weren’t people driving around shooting into crowds or coming up to someone and shooting them arbitrarily. We have come a long way, in a negative way, when it comes to gun violence.
As we all know, now there is a #BlackLivesMatter movement that has taken hold in this country. It has made America take stock of the number of Black men in particular losing their lives because of White police officers. Arguably, there aren’t a lot of states in the union where this scenario has not played out a time or two.
Yes, it’s hurtful to see White police officers use their weapons to kill or maim young men and women of color. The level of aggression and force is unacceptable. Some states such as South Carolina have prosecuted police officers for being trigger happy and insensitive.
These incidents happen too frequently so #BlackLivesMatter has taken city and state governments to task and rightfully so. More stringent laws need to be put in place so that the police don’t overuse their power and abuse their privilege of being law enforcement officials.
We as citizens must not become lethargic in our efforts to see justice done. We can no longer accept the “administration’s answer.” Take Baltimore, for example. What happened to Freddie Gray inside of that police van? When we last saw Freddie Gray before he stepped into that van, he was alive. Now he is not. I believe we need #BlackLivesMatter because it keeps us all vigilant. It serves as a type of moral checks and balances.
However, it is my hope that #BlackLivesMatter will broaden its focus and perspective. We only have to watch the news to see that we as Black people are killing other Black people at an alarming rate.
Recently in New Orleans, Louisiana former New Orleans Saints player, Will Smith, allegedly was killed by Cardell Hayes apparently over a fender bender. Hayes allegedly wounded Smith’s wife. All involved were Black. Will Smith was to be inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame in the fall. Hayes is in jail charged with second degree murder and his bail is set at one million dollars. New facts in the case are unfolding every day. Where is the outrage when we see brothers killing brothers?
In Washington, D.C., a young boy was tragically killed at a subway stop by another young person. The shooter thought that the teen looked at him the wrong way. Where is the vitriol when young black men kill each other?
Shootings and killings which I just described occur way too often among us. It seems at times that we wake up mad, go through the day mad and before you know it something bad happens. Instead of standing at the corner of hope and opportunity, some of us stand at the corner of despair and disappointment.
As we approach the end of the school year, we must make a pledge to do better and to value life. Our children are looking to us to be examples for them. In order to be an example, we must live and not let violence take up residence in our lives.
Changing our mindsets and keeping our priorities in order must be a choice that we make. Having money won’t change our mindsets, but choosing alternative ways to solve problems will. Making a conscious decision to participate in righteous living will put an end to our destructive lifestyles.
#BlackLivesMatter has an opportunity to lead the way in this effort. We must be proactive in our communities to stop the violence among us. Partnering with places of worship, city agencies and schools will be necessary in order to grow and sustain a new message.
Remember all of us have a part to play. It starts with us and where we live. Replace the frown with a smile, replace fault with forgiveness, and replace a quick temper with patience and tolerance.
The verdict is in and we can do it! Some many years ago now, the Godfather of Soul, James Brown sang, “Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud.” Stop the violence against each other today.