A kid is dying in the Bronx.
He was in a miserably poor and dangerous neighborhood. He shot at a cop, and the cop shot back. Now that’s the whole story, if you can understand it.
I know his name from the news articles, but I’m not going to use it, because if I said his real name somebody reading this would say, “Oh, another Black kid,” and stop reading.
I know the cop’s name from those same articles, which included a lot more information about the cop than the kid. The cop is going to be OK, luckily will heal up from his wounds, and in fact was struck by rounds fired by another cop, not the kid. That pretty much ended the media’s interest in much of a follow up story. “Cop Shooter Who Missed” is weak copy compared to “Cop Killer,” and somebody reading would say, well, that’s that. Mouse click and what was the score of the game? Sports is easier, every game has a winner.
The media did take time to write about what they said were the circumstances of the shooting: street party, some fights got out of control, maybe something to do with gangs. They quoted a resident, who “spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety,” and said that these kinds of things happen all the time in the neighborhood.
Kid shot at a cop, and I make no effort here to justify that. Can’t and shouldn’t be done. But questioning isn’t justification, so I’m going to do that instead. If you thought about stopping reading this at “kid shot at a cop,” here’s where you likely will stop reading.
But I want to know why there are square mile after square mile of miserably poor and dangerous neighborhoods in my city. They’re only a 15 minute subway ride away from where some of the richest people on earth – the Koch Brothers, a bunch of investment bankers whose names aren’t familiar – live. Among all that wealth, in 2016, why do we have such places? I looked for them in Tokyo and Ottawa, and while there are always rich and poor, there weren’t square mile after square mile. I did see something like them outside Nairobi and Delhi.
I want to know why that part of the Bronx has charity-run drug clinics and liquor stores and payday loan storefronts and pawn shops and a few fast food places selling only carbs and fat as fuel as its only real commerce.
I want to know why the only government offices in the neighborhood are a police station and an armed forces recruiting center.
I want to know how a kid barely old enough to legally vote can illegally have a handgun.
I want to know why a kid his age has a rap sheet that includes an assault on a cop in March 2015, a resisting arrest bust in September 2014 and another arrest in 2012 for another assault. The resisting charge has to do with him screaming “F*ck you, cops, I hate you all” but the news reports said nothing about the underlying event that brought the kid and the cops to that.
The kid’s most recent bust came the day before he was shot, after he was arrested for skipping on a $2.75 subway fare. He was held overnight for that, released only a few hours before the party shooting, after a judge simply set him free. I want to know the thinking behind an arrest and 24 hour police detention for a subway fare.
I want to know where the kid went to school. I want to know what happens in his home, what his parents say to him.
I want to know why a kid would shoot at a cop, knowing the only two possible outcomes would be his own death or 20-to-life upstate.
I want to know why we quickly ascribe these crimes to an individual without simultaneously asking why they happen so constantly and consistently across our society and not really any others.
I want to know, amid the other daily news about celebrities and ISIS under every bed, why this all isn’t really news.
We used say America was a place where anyone could grow up to be president. I’m not naive enough to believe that was ever really true, but I want to know if anyone thinks this kid ever had a chance to even grow up.
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