Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Walking in Memphis: Violence in the 901

"Some days are diamonds. Some days are rocks. 
Some doors are open. Some roads are blocked."

Tom Petty

It's 2013. Three young adults were just involved in the shooting responsible for killing David Santucci, a friend beloved to many of us.  We mourned as individuals. We mourned as a friend-group. We mourned as a city. While it certainly wasn't the first or only murder in Memphis, TN that year, it garnered a lot of attention for its that-could-have-been-any-of-us nature. We talked about being kind. We talked about not turning our backs on the city because we knew David wouldn't want us to do that. We stayed positive.

It's 2016. Recent events have taken place that put Downtown Memphis back in the spotlight with the label dangerous. This occurs right after Service Master announced they were moving their headquarters downtown. The positive reasons for living or working downtown are still present, but they are muted while the city mourns our unnecessary violence and discusses in earnest what we are going to do about improving it. 

I understand the fear. Like many of you, it is very easy to place myself on Beale Street or at Westy's and think "I could have been there that night." I could have. I could have been were David was when he was shot. The issues run so much deeper and are way more nuanced than they are often depicted. But it's time they are discussed, because they are the roots. Don't talk to me about a solution for the violence until you're ready to discuss the root causes.

What is the gang and drug culture in downtown Memphis and how did it get there? I don't know many young boys and girls who wrote that down as their dream career in Kindergarten. Are we perpetuating a culture that drives individuals to careers of violence or desperation because there are no other viable options? Well then, that's a discussion about education and poverty and how the two are related

How many of Memphis' citizens suffer from some sort of untreated mental illness? Your big headliner murderers tend to wear the label "disturbed." Each time, we bring up mental illness and sweep it under the rug because people interpret a discussion about a serious topic is an excuse for why a murder happened. I'm not talking about mental illness as means to exonerate people. I'm talking about mental illness that very clearly affects the ability for someone to appreciate the gravity of what they've decided to do. If we don't discuss the topic with some solution for how to spot and treat potentially dangerous individuals, those headlines will perpetuate. 

How do all of these people have such easy access to weapons? I think we know that the black market for both weapons and drugs is so accessible and nearly too big to fail. It is silly to dismiss the gun control conversation because you're afraid that your own right to own a gun will be taken away. Face it, a conversation needs to be had, one way or another, on eliminating access to weapons or doing a better job of educating on their danger.

Why are we afraid to talk about race in this city in a meaningful way? It's sensitive. I get that. It should be, because for decades, one race of humans treated another race of humans like, well, not humans. Have you ever been systematically and privately held back from fundamental societal privileges, access to the best education and a meaningful shot at the job market? It should be no surprise to you that in most cities, poverty can fall along racial lines. There is a discussion to be had there. But don't forget that it doesn't fall exclusively along racial lines. Lack of education breeds poverty. Poverty breeds poverty. And, unfortunately, poverty breeds a lack of education. Sounds futile, right? Well, it is futile if you keep running from discussions on education and poverty. 

 Why do we talk about some incidents under a microscope while crime and murders are happening in certain neighborhoods weekly? Those lives matter  - both the people who have found themselves resorting to violence as a means of control and those who become their victims. Those lives matter. I don't care what they look like. Whoever they are. They matter. Don't leave them out of the conversation on poverty, education and access to weapons

I love Memphis. My parents have lived downtown for eleven years. I've worked downtown for three. I went to law school downtown. I lived downtown for five years. Downtown is just a word to describe a region. Ours just happens to be both a place where people work and reside and a destination spot on weekends. Because it is a destination spot on weekends, there are more people and the odds for violence increase. It's still a good city. Grizzlies. AutoZone. Service Master. Bass Pro. Loflin Yard. Baseball. Beale Street. A city's reputation can only become as tarnished as you let it. I am not suggesting that anyone go anywhere in which he or she feels unsafe. I'm just asking for a meaningful discussion of root causes of violence in this city. If you pretend like there isn't a common theme of poverty, drug/gang, or mental illness, then you're just sleeping on the job. Until you solve those deeper issues, we shouldn't act surprised when the violence doesn't go away.

No comments:

Post a Comment

09 10 11 12
Blogging tips