The night Baltimore burned, a man was shot in Riverside while he walked to work in his Eastside neighborhood. According to my friend Carl Dameron his son Allen, a hazardous materials engineer for a building materials manufacturer, was on his way to work at 2 am when he was shot and killed in what seemed to be an apparent gunfight. According to the police report, officers responded to a call of multiple gunshots fired and when they arrived they found an injured pedestrian and numerous cartridge casings scattered in the street. Later that night two other gunshot victims eventually showed-up at a local hospital, according to news reports.
The day after the shooting I received a note from an avid reader and close friend, another lifelong Eastside resident, who questioned the lack of outrage surrounding Allen’s slaying. “It is reprehensible that we continue to remain mute while anonymous killers continue to operate with impunity in our neighborhoods.” Generations whose only legacy has been one of bad intentions, he intimated.
We are outraged when law enforcement officers kill our citizens, we protest in the street, tear-up the city, and demand justice. So why does that outrage and anger lay dormant when law abiding, hard working citizens are gunned down on our streets? Where is justice for them? Where are the calls for structural and systemic change?
The unfortunate reality is that we have grown to accept violence in certain neighborhoods. In those communities crimes are not only accepted, they are expected. And we rarely pay attention to the soft murmurs until they become loud roars – like in the case of Baltimore. A study released recently by a team of Harvard faculty members found “compelling evidence that neighborhoods matter in a big way” and “a particular environment of a city really does seem to affect its residents.” Not that we need an academic study to prove that premise. It’s common sense. Yet we do little to stop the perpetrators of the violence.
I asked a contact at the police department if there had been any developments in Allen’s case, his reply, “unfortunately, no.”
Yesterday President Obama spoke publicly about the recent incidents in Baltimore as well as the fatal shooting of a New York City police officer who was killed by a suspect in the line of duty. He said that as a nation it is time we do some “soul searching” on the issues of racial and social justice. His comment resonated with me as I thought about the most recent act of Eastside violence and the lack of outrage surrounding what seems to be a gunfight on city streets. We all need to do some soul searching not simply on how to reform our justice system, but on improving the conditions we allow to fester in certain neighborhoods and in certain communities.