Two weeks ago, I was on the Greyhound Bus website trying to find a ticket to come home to celebrate your birthday. I ended up catching a car ride home that weekend — we had a great time together and I later caught a car ride back.
Exactly one week after the date I almost booked a bus to come visit you, my chemistry lecture was interrupted by news of yet another shooting. This time, it occurred at the Greyhound station two miles from VCU. I took a deep breath, dismissed the CNN notification on the lock screen of my phone and sat through the rest of that lecture. I walked home afterward, did some homework, watched an episode of “Chopped,” made pasta for dinner and went to bed.
Unfortunately, almost everyone in this country is affected just the way I was by that mass shooting; which is to say, not at all. My life did not change in any significant way. I took a minute to be scared, to be sad. Then I took a minute to forget about it. I went along with my life just as I would any other day.
This is the nature of gun violence in America. It is so common, so simple, so easy to comprehend that we are immune to it.
I myself am immune to it — except when I think of you. I think of how small your body is in this great world, and how big your life is in mine. I think of every teacher you’ve ever had who’s thought of putting her body between you and a bullet in her classroom. I want to think that it could never happen to you, but that’s what everyone says before it happens to them. I wish I could take peace in knowing the people around you would never turn to such violence, but I can’t. That’s not how life seems to work. There is no race, class or home that is exempt from this violence. To hide this fact from you, the media constantly associate gun violence with black-on-black crime.
The media wants you to believe that crime within the black community is the fault of black people, and this is not true. You must never forget that this is not true.
Black people end up in poor communities because they were displaced from their own communities by rent and property value increases, gentrification, “white flight” and cultural changes. They have to move because they can’t afford to live there anymore, and they don’t feel at home in their houses. They don’t choose to live in a place where this lack of resources creates violence, but this is what happens.
This displacement is at the base of gun violence inflicted by black people within their communities. The media fails to mention that this is why gun violence exists. They fail to let blame fall where it should, because the truth is not that easy. The truth does not help make you, the poster child of America’s “diverse” suburbia, see black bodies as violent ones.
When the Second Amendment was written, there was no U.S. Military or organized police service; the people had no way to protect themselves besides owning firearms. The founders made sure that right to protection was not taken from them.
We do not live in that America today. The wars on our streets are much different.
The wars on our streets are waged by children. 17 and 18 year-old-boys in south-side Chicago and downtown Boston who know that the only way to get food in their stomach and make it home at night is to carry a gun. What they can’t think about, if they want to survive, is whose child they’re killing. Their moms worries just like ours.
Sis, the reason I write this is to tell you I feel betrayed by the people who allow this violence to continue. I feel betrayed because to me, the solution doesn’t seem as difficult as they make it out to be. I feel betrayed because our country is riddled with negligence for the lives of those who are victims of gun violence, and even your innocence is not protection enough from that violence. I write to you because I worry that this disease will cripple you. I worry for every big sister, for they all have to live in the shadow of this fear.
Sriteja Yedhara, Contributing Columnist