Over the past week, two sickening tragedies occurred. The first one is the killing of six month old Jonylah Watkins. The Huffington Post reports that:
The 6-month-old infant girl shot five times on Chicago's South Side Monday died in the hospital Tuesday morning.
Jonylah Watkins was rushed to Comer Children's Hospital Monday afternoon in serious-to-critical condition after being shot in the 6500 block of South Maryland Avenue in the city's Woodlawn neighborhood around 12:48 p.m. Her father, Jonathan Watkins, had been changing her diaper in the front passenger seat of a Chevy Venture minivan when a gunman approached them and opened fire. He fled in a waiting van.
Jonylah had sustained wounds in her lung, liver, leg, shoulder and bowel or intestine, according to DNAinfo Chicago, and had undergone at least five hours of surgery.
The second story is the police killing of Kimani Gray. The Huffington Post reports that:
Carol Gray, her head wrapped in a black scarf and her tearful eyes concealed by sunglasses, held up a photograph of her 16-year-old son, who was shot and killed by police.Inner city violence and police brutality are twin evils that plague our communities. They are symbiotic and seemingly permanent. No matter who is in the White House, the state house, or the city hall, those evils continue to exist. Under Democrats and Republicans, those problems continue to exist. After all the prayer vigils, marches, rallies, speeches, punditry and even rebellions, inner city violence and police brutality continue to exist. Since the 1980s, we have been talking about stopping the violence. Since forever, we have been fighting to end police brutality.
The picture revealed a grinning boy wearing a blue cap and gown, his arms wrapped around his mother. It was taken the day he graduated from middle school.
"He was slaughtered," Gray told a room filled with reporters. "And I want to know why."
Gray held a sorrowful press conference on Thursday to talk about her son, Kimani Gray, the kid nicknamed Kiki, who died on Saturday night after being shot seven times by two police officers. Police say the plainclothes officers opened fire after Gray pointed a gun at them.
A .38-caliber revolver purchased in Florida was recovered from the scene.
Gray was killed in front of his best friend's house as he left a Sweet 16 birthday party, said his grieving mother, who doesn't believe he could have pointed a gun at police.
"Today was very hard," she said, and paused for a long moment before she was able to finish the sentence. "I had to choose the color of the casket that I wanted."
The teenager's death has provoked outrage in East Flatbush, the working-class area of Brooklyn where he lived and died, a place that is among the city's most dangerous neighborhoods. Long-simmering resentment against the police officers who patrol these streets has erupted into violence in recent days, with 46 people arrested in the most recent protest on Wednesday night.
Every day, from Baltimore to Chicago to Los Angeles, we hear about the shooting and killing of another black youth by another black youth. It is so routine and regular that we become emotionally numb to it. We expect it like we expect the sun to raise. When these young brothers and sisters die, there are no national photo ops. When these young brothers and sisters die, there are no national calls for gun control. Our communities are an afterthought.
The victims are usually killed by their own "brothers and sisters". Although they are not killed by white racist skinheads and KKK members, they are killed by institutionalized racism, unemployment, poverty, inferior education, ignorance and benign neglect combined with the influx of guns and narcotics. As long as those problems remain unabated, inner city violence will persist.
Only a couple of months after the death of Hadiya Pendleton, Chicago gang violence has taken another precious life. At the tender age of 6 months, Jonylah Warkins' life was snuffed out by gangsters. Not even the babies are safe in this cold violent world. In the movies, even the gangsters have a code. They do not kill children. In real life, they don't give a damn.
Such senseless violence perpetuates the stereotype that black men are inherently violent and dangerous. Unlike white people, we are not judged as individuals. We are judged and punished as a collective. After Newtown, Columbine, Aurora, Oklahoma City and all the other massacres committed by white males, police did not start profiling white men.
However, racial profiling is an immutable part of the black experience. African Americans are viewed as thugs, gangsters, killers and drug dealers. Sadly, that perception is fueled by media. Every day on the news, we are bombarded with images of black men as criminal suspects. We see black men being put in shackles like slaves. We hear about black male suspects killing innocent children like Hadiya Pendleton and Jonylah Watkins. All of those things make the public in general and the police in particular fear the black man. Such perceptions breed police misconduct and brutality. They give the police a license to stop, frisk, humiliate and kill black people. As long as those conditions exist, the cycle of violence will never stop. We continue to read about the Kimani Grays, Sean Bells, Amadou Diallos, Rodney Kings and Oscar Grants.