On Sunday, November 10, around 11 a.m. an 18-year-old young man from my Upstate South Carolina county seat was shot three times. Responding police officers found him lying on his back between two vacant houses not far from a popular city park. He died around 6 p.m. He was walking with a couple of friends and a family member. Another group comprised of four men according to a witness, approached the four. It was later established they were there for a pre-arranged meeting. They talked. Something went terribly wrong as 5 or 6 shots rang out. Another young black man dead well before his time and in the most offensive and uncivilized of circumstances. The shooter(s) fled in their car.
Tuesday, November 12, around 9:15 a.m. a 31-year-old black man was found dead in the same city. It’s a puzzling case. Witnesses saw shots fired from the back seat of a white LeSabre with tinted windows. The victim had been visiting his mother’s home. Officers were called to the home prior to the shooting as a result of a loud disturbance involving the victim, another man and guns. But it was a gun fired from a drive-by that ended with the man dead on the walkway in front of the home surrounded by family members. The dead man had recently been released from prison on drug charges. The distraught mother is “putting it in God’s hands.”
There’s a $2,000 reward in the latter case. The money notwithstanding, lots of people know the shooters identity, but are not coming forth out of fear or the stigma of being a ‘snitch’. Police are denying there’s any connection between the two deadly incidents. Maybe, maybe not. But the two fatal shootings, so close together, certainly got me to thinking about drugs, gangs, gang violence and retribution and the particular scourge on the black and Hispanic/Latino communities.
Yes, 31 is a slightly advanced age for gang-banger activity, but it’s not out of the question that a man in his 30s could be highly active in a gang. Again, I’m not saying that’s the case in this incident, but there’s certainly a drug component in the older victim’s background.
Using these tragic killings as our template, let’s take yet another look at gang and drug activity in this country. It’s still raging out of control in much of America. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency operates under the auspices of the Department of Justice and works in conjunction with other federal agencies including the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Under the heading of The National Gang Center, these federal entities and several others in Washington, keep track of gang activity. The agencies quantify it, maintain databases and do what they can to assist local authorities in getting a handle on what is truly the number one terrorist problem in the nation.
Slightly dated numbers point to a total of roughly 30,000 gangs in the U.S. with a membership measuring plus or minus 800,000 members. It might surprise you that, yes, there are more gang members, percentage-wise, in large cities, but small cities and suburbs don’t trail far behind. A rural environment is a much safer haven from gangs with a membership percentage at less than 3%. Find more statistics here.
Membership and violence is up of late, largely driven by economic conditions. Poor often equals desperate; for young people desperation often translates into gangs. That’s not a bleeding heart explanation, that’s a cold, hard fact. And racially, there are an inordinate number of black young men, young black women (an average of about 8% of gang membership) and certainly their families, suffering from gang desperation. It must also be recognized that everyone living in a gang-ridden hood is pretty miserable as well. It’s called line of fire, though most gangs try to protect their “homies.” Opposing gang bullets have no such altruism and the media is rife with accounts of toddlers, young children and innocent teenagers being killed by stray gang-war bullets.
Similar problems exist in the Hispanic and Latino communities. In fact, a higher percentage of the Hispanic/Latino youth population is involved in gang activity than blacks or whites in larger and smaller cities and the suburbs. This is a population with high unemployment numbers and language barriers that often feels alienated (no pun intended) and resented because of the relentless right-wing attacks on immigration reform and such idiotic comments as “self deportation.” White gang membership hovers between 10-15 percent.
There are some other disturbing statistics worthy of note: Of gang-related murders, a total of 92% of such homicides involve a gun (you go Wayne). The favorites in the gang neighborhood in which I once resided for a couple of years were the Glock 9mm that sounded like freight train wheels clacking down the track and for quick, heavy fast-fire, the super-cheap and super-deadly Uzi SMG. It sounded exactly like what it was, a machine gun. The introduction to the ear of the Uzi ammo pitch was when I knew death was the next stop. I’ve already told of the young Puerto Rican, killed not 20 feet from my Chicago, Milwaukee St-area front door early on an otherwise placid morning.
None of these just-expressed concerns seem to move Teapublicans at all. Red states shrug their shoulders at the annual gun deaths of over 10,000 or more young men by street violence. They’re mostly brown and black so why should God’s chosen lily-whites give a s**t?
State and federal far-right budget decisions are harbingers of months, years, maybe decades of the continuing class war that’s really not a war at all, but an aberration of democracy where ‘all men are created equal’ actually means almost no men beneath the top 2 percentile of the privileged economic class qualify for any level of equality. Red state legislatures rip every vestige of health care, education, jobs, decent wages, law enforcement and the very sustenance needed for survival, from the grasps of the permanent underclass, kept that way intentionally for cheap, dirty and back-breaking labor; their will to resist beaten down to little more than sighs into bottles of cheap wine. And then we send them to prison.
Back in April, my colleague Jason Easley wrote of John Boehner, praising the police response to the Boston Marathon terror bombings while at the same time leading the House in ripping law enforcement training and hiring budgets asunder.
As the year progressed, law enforcement and education budgets were front and center for every state legislative right-wing budget cleaver at the very time they were needed most. New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, the “moderate” Republican, once proposed cutting the state education budget by $820 billion. This anti-worker huckster is about as moderate as Grover Norquist.
So the next time you hear the cackle of an Uzi submachine gun outside your door, give your state House or Senate seat-holder a call. Thank him or her for your low wages, dangerous neighborhood and a generation of lost young people, then tell them you’re going to work 24/7 for their Democratic rival.
Raised rural & small town, then lived in N.Y., Chicago & LA. Widely traveled. Returned from world wandering to pursue media life of anchorman/reporter and major, medium and small market talk radio. Highly active in politics. Once worked as orderly & security in Mens Lock Ward for the Criminally Insane at a state institution. Much more rational population than current Teapublicans. Great concern for country run by and for the extreme wealthy. The inhumane current running through this country has no precedent in modern history.
Follow me on Twitter @demwriter