I’m Tired of This

It’s 1:59 AM. There are police cars outside of my apartment again. Their blue and red light is splashing in from beneath the blinds as my girlfriend sleeps in the room. I don’t know if she heard the six gunshots forty minutes earlier. She sleeps with earplugs to block out my monstrous snoring, so perhaps she she blocked out the gunfire as well. Or maybe she’s become accustomed to the periodic gunshots that ring out in our neighborhood- not every week, not even every month, but often enough that the fire cracker-like pop comes as a shock, but never as a surprise.

How does a neighborhood get to this point? It wasn’t always like this, and presumably it won’t always be this way; this too shall pass, as the saying goes. But my question is about today.

Redlining did this. Blockbusting did this. Racially restrictive covenants did this. White flight did this. Local zoning laws did this. Four hundred years of social, cultural and governmental policy designed to deny African Americans and other people of color full economic and political equality did this. I live in the poorest zip code in the city because of these reasons.

A person did this. His stupid choice did this. His lack of respect for his community did this. His casual disregard for life did this. I get it; systems of oppression put that man in a desperate position that made violence an outcome. Systems of oppression don’t acquire guns. They don’t load bullets. They don’t pull triggers. Someone did those things. A person fired a gun in a neighborhood where children sleep. People made a hundred, a thousand, a million decisions. Those individual choices had consequences. I live in a dangerous neighborhood because of those decisions.

Which came first- the chicken of racial injustice, or the egg of poor personal choices? I really don’t fucking care right now. I’m tired of seeing poor people of color herded into the worst part of the city, and then shooting at each other. I look out my window every day and see men who can’t find work, but who use that time to street harrass women walking by. I see our communinity suffering because of the things done to it, and because of the things we do to each other. It’s both, so I don’t want to hear about the evils of systemic oppression vs. the necessity of personal responsibility. Just help me figure out how to stop this shit.

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