different story, same ending

(featured photo credit: Lacy Atkins, The Chronicle) as part of my contribution to the project shine in peace (@shine_in_peace), i’ve been doing quite a bit of research on the violence in the streets of oakland.  last night, i happened to come across a photo essay in the san francisco chronicle detailing the death, funeral, and the aftermath of lamont deshawn price, who was murdered on thursday, february 16, 2012 on the 8100 block of birch street.  he was oakland’s 18th homicide during the year 2012.  the article detailing the shooting and lamont’s death was alarmingly short, featured no details outside of a basic lead for a story.  yet, the comments left by “liberal” san franciscans/bay areans tell a much different story.

“You reap what you sow…”

“I hope he wasn’t a rapper turning his life around.”

“Midnight basketball, that’s the ticket.”

“Did Lam ont have a criminal record?”

“im sure he was on his way to church too….”

as i took a look at the comments for the photo essay, which was released this march, the armchair quarterbacks took aim even more.  especially after discovering that lamont had a five week old daughter, was buried in a red baseball hat, his family and friends made t-shirts, and it was mentioned that he had a juvenile record.

“He was the son of the “reverend” and turned out to be a “gangsta” at the age of 17? Good parenting, like a boss. Also, dude, can’t you take your sunglasses off in the church? You say you’re a “reverend”, but hows about some respect? Also, what’s up with all these names? “Brijjanna? Tajjeunna” WTF?”

“The fact that he’s buried in an oversized red baseball cap says it all to me.”

“What a waste in a human–there was NO life there at all: crime, gang, pregnant, etc. Possibly the government is “giving” too much so some do not become self reliant?”

many noted that something needed to be done about “these” people regarding “their” problems. several readers also remarked on the fact that there was a bottle of grey goose at the sidewalk memorial site when the family commemorated the anniversary of lamont’s death this february.

Brijjanna Price, left, joins her father Ramon and friends as they light candles to mark the one year anniversary of the killing of her brother Lamont, Saturday February 16, 2013, in Oakland, Calif. Lamont Price, 17, was killed on 81 street and Birch in broad daylight. Photo: Lacy Atkins, The Chronicle

funeral and mourning practices aside, fast forward to today’s news.  audrie pott, a 15 year old girl from saratoga (read that: across the bridge from oakland, totally different environment), committed suicide last year, eight days after being assaulted by three 16 year old boys and having photos of the assault posted online.  audrey was reported as being passed out on a bed at a house party when the boys took advantage of her. very few readers commented on the circumstances which lead to the assault on audrie. condolences were widespread for the young woman and her family.

This undated photo provided by her family via attorney Robert Allard shows [Audrie] Pott. A Northern California sheriff’s office has arrested three 16-year-old boys on accusations that they sexually battered the 15-year-old girl who hanged herself eight days after the attack last fall. Family Photo Provided By Attorney Robert Allard. Source: San Francisco Chronicle

why even talk about the two situations together? apples and oranges?

on the surface these are two different stories. when you look deeply, they aren’t that different.  they both ended the exact same way.  two young people are dead for no reason, and the “world” seems to favor one story more than the other because of appearances.  really, these deaths are symptomatic of a larger societal issue.

as armchair quarterbacks, political pundits, and john and jane doe plead for schools and the “system” to stop bullying, especially when it leads to suicide, the same people are quick to say violence in inner cities like oakland and chicago is an issue for “those people” to fix themselves. i often wonder if the people making these comments consider how they have contributed to that violence. the contribution could be through their vote for those who effect policies negatively (and not properly researching candidates before they elect them), the fact that they turn a blind eye to a human issue, or the fact that they participate in suburban flight which eventually leads them back to the very cities they criticize once those places have been gentrified because then “everything is all better and my commute to work is shorter.”  “why did we move to the ‘burbs again? there are too many ______ people there now.”

has anyone considered that the violence taking place in cities like oakland or chicago may be suicide or even quite possibly the result of years of bullying or coercion? if you live in an inner city environment, with few options, there’s a high likelihood that it’s easier for you to be lead into the street life. this is especially the case if you don’t know anyone doing any better or haven’t been exposed to better.  furthermore, if there is a lack of legitimate economy in your environment (read that no real options for work outside of the drug game), where else are you going to go for opportunities?  you’d much rather have a life that eventually ends up incarcerating or killing you quickly.  At least you have a chance at something.

bullying (and the suicides that follow)  in the suburbs and youth violence in the inner cities are both granules in the same pharmaceutical capsule – violence.

only, the pharma company has got too many people to believe that the pill is two different things because it’s being packaged as two completely different products.  as the actors go frolicking through a field of wheat telling you about how awesome they feel and how the “miracle” drug has changed their life yet, 3/4 of the commercial is spent telling you about side effects.  the commercial for bulsophani is far more palatable because of the editing and the choice of music while oaklandia is just too raw and in your face and you’d rather forget about it.

the bottom line is this.  the same things are hitting everyone.  until they are both looked at as an overall human issues, the cycle and “these” and “those” labels continue.

shine in peace map of incidences of gun violence and homicide in the city of oakland, year 2013

Red: Homicide, Blue: Shooting with injury, Teal: Shooting with no resulting injury

View Shine in Peace: 2013 Oakland shootings in a larger map

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