Posted on | February 3, 2016 | 3 Comments
Yesterday, I left work early to pick up my son.
Normally, I let him stay until 6 because he’s playing tennis and he loves it, but yesterday it was raining and I was a little scared and a lot sad because of news that had flashed up on my computer screen.
Just down the road from Mercer University, my law school alma mater, at a well-traveled convenience store, a young man… a basketball player at Mercer… was gunned down at four o’clock in the afternoon.
Four o’clock. In the afternoon.
Not in the wee hours of the morning.
Not somewhere he shouldn’t have been.
Just at a gas station down the road from his school.
And something about this tragedy, this particular horrendous and horrifying act, struck me deep in my soul, the way tragedies only hit those of us who are parents… Or those of us who love deeply, carefully, whole-soul-edly and yes, often carelessly about others. This was someone’s baby. This was someone’s pride and joy; a young man on the cusp of a business degree from a great university. And someone shot him in broad daylight. Right there, around the block from the school where he lived and studied and played basketball. In broad daylight.
I don’t know what it takes to make a person kill. I don’t understand the need to carry a gun and wave it around in a gas station parking lot. I don’t have the ability to empathize with a man or woman who needs to shoot to feel strong. But I know that there are too many lives lost because of those people… the people who are taught that being strong can only be achieved through making others fear you. There are people who are taught that the world is kill or be killed. There are children growing up in “homes” where they are shown through actions and words that he who shoots first lives longest.
And it is those broken and scarred people who robbed my little town, my little community, of a young man who could have done great things.
But what’s the answer? What is it we’re supposed to do as a town or city or state or nation, to work towards achieving a better balance… a better sense of self for these kids who are taught to kill? What is it we can do? Because I don’t believe that passing laws for gun control is the only answer. It has to start before the moment an individual who wants to kill is standing in line for a gun. It has to start at the moment a child learns that killing is somehow okay. It has to start in the dark corners of a toddler’s bedroom when he hears his father beating his mother within an inch of her life. It has to start on the street corner where a ten year old sees his beloved older brother lift the front of a t-shirt and slide a gun in the top of his pants. It has to start before the sixteen year old picks up his own gun and decides to teach his own lesson to a girl who broke his heart, or a guy who shamed him in gym.
And mostly, it has to start with taking responsibility.
Because I am responsible for the young man who shot Jibri Bryan. I am responsible for the community that raised him, that failed him, that taught him this was the answer to whatever problem he thought he was solving. I am responsible for letting that young man down.
We all are.
Because every time we turn a blind eye, every time we call a young black man a “thug,” every time we refer to “those people” when we talk about the community where most of these acts of violence originate… we are perpetuating the myth that this is how it has to be. That this is just what happens in areas of town we don’t visit, in places we’re afraid to go.
But this is not how it has to be.
Because this is not how I want my son to grow up, in a community that turns a blind eye to a portion of its population that is literally screaming for help.
I am responsible for the young man who shot Jibri Bryan because I am part of the community that created him. I am part of the world that says “you can’t be any better,” “you’re someone who won’t succeed,” and “you’re someone I won’t hire.”
And I’m tired of being a part of that community. It’s time we… all of us… make a change, internally, on how we view people, how we treat people, how we encourage people to become strong, happy, wonderful members of society.
It’s not about gun control.
It’s about so very much more.