Boy, 14, is slain; 2d youth wounded
I read the news from coast to coast and around the world everyday. In every paper based in major cities, I constantly scan stories that have headlines that read something like, “Young man shot dead, 22 years old.”
I can’t tell you how many times I have quickly read these headlines and continued to scroll down the page. But when I see headlines related to the Iraq war, economy, international relations, etc., I click on these items automatically. Not that these topics are not important, but I find it troubling that I overlook the articles that would otherwise put a damper on my day.
But today while I was reading the Boston Globe, on of the smaller headlines read Boy, 14, is slain; 2d youth wounded. Instantly, I knew they were Black and I saw the faces of boys I know around that age and how precious life is. Questions abounded. Where they did go wrong? How did they get access to a gun? Were they in school? Are people afraid of snitching? I got mad at myself because I found myself addressing all the “structural factors” that made this accident possible. These boys’ parents just lost their children. Feel the pain of the families before you turn on the computer to google “structural, factors, contributing, young, Black, men.” The structural factors are always important but this knee-jerk reaction to analyze situations in these terms serves to distance ourselves from the pain that statistics cannot capture.
Even the articles we read don’t do it. The Boston Globe article starts off,
A 14-year-old boy was killed and another youth was wounded by gunfire last night in Roslindale, with Boston police scouring the neighborhood for suspects.
The unidentified teenager was rushed to Boston Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The second victim, an unidentified male, was taken to the pediatric unit of Boston Medical Center, where he was treated for injuries not believed to be life-threatening.
Now I know that news articles should not be woefully emotional but that is where you the reader have to dig deep, avoid instant structural analysis, make it personal, and read for understanding, not for fact overviews.
So last night, while I was at a party with people I graduated with from the University of Michigan, a young Black kid was killed. “But Brandon, you can’t save them all, live your life.” How about no? Instead, how about I refuse to be selective on what I consider to be Black History.
I know I am all over the place but this issue hits home to me in a visceral way. My childhood friend, Shade was gunned down by an off-duty cop after a failed robbery attempt. This happened when I was in high school and I spoke at his funeral and was one of the pallbearers. The story made the news and would you guess what happened when I googled the article? Error: Invalid story key. I know newspapers cannot afford to keep digital archives of every article but Shade’s story is not invalid and lives with me.
So I urge you to not just scan over the negative headlines but read them, learn their names before the cable news networks tell you what is really newsworthy. Anybody getting shot, (especially Black youth who just years before their being shot were probably riding bikes and playing basketball) is worth your attention. We are the only people that can validate our stories.