Scenes from the aftermath in Oakland:
stories of victims, survivors and healers.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Reaction to a homicide in Paterson NJ, and what it says about us

The killing of a 15-year-old athletic prodigy in New Jersey has inspired a city to try to calm a long-running and deadly feud. Good for them.

Too Late for a Basketball Prodigy, Paterson Seeks a Truce

But here is the problem I had hoped to address on the Almanac: that only certain kinds of homicides get much attention or spur a community or city to action. Many times I have written that unless a victim is very young or very old or white, their killing, and their family, get little notice or aid. The problem is that most of our killings in Oakland and other cities in America are not of very old or white people or very young children; most of our victims are men of color between the ages of 17 and 34, and they do not gather or sustain much interest in the media, the city at large, or among our leaders. 

Oakland homicides of all ages.
In Oakland on Tuesday a 17-year-old was killed in apparent gun fight. He just misses the age cut-off to become a cause. But does his family suffer as much as any other? Do his schoolmates suffer? Are they as traumatized as any other children might be? 

It is absolutely right that this killing of a promising young man in Paterson should lead to change. I hope it does. But if we felt a fraction of this passion for the other homicides, he might still be alive today. 

Why do you think we don't? Seriously. I'd like to know.

See also: Ignore this
The city-wide and nationwide pattern continues, the one wherein killings that lie outside the usual demographics, or killings of better-known men within the demographics, stir our passion and hold our attention and sometimes lead to community action. While the majority of killings end as mere news items.

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