Monday, May 13, 2013

The Stages of Coping With Street Violence

We are in the early stages of the mental process from Sunday’s events. Unfortunately the people of New Orleans are veterans at the street violence routine. The rules have never been written but it always feels the same way.

The first thing you do when you hear news of a shooting like the one that happened Sunday is you start thinking of all the people you know who could be at the scene and in danger. That’s if it’s a public event like a second line. If it happens at a home you think about all the people you know around that neighborhood and hope it’s not an address you are familiar with.  My friend Deborah was hit in the gunfire and it could have been a lot worse personally as I had dropped my kids’ grandmother off at the start of the second line about an hour before the shooting started. She was fine because she was walking in front of the parade with the children’s group.The day could have been a lot worse than it was on a personal level.

After the personal concern for your friends and family is out the way the focus shifts to general concern for any victims. You hope there were no children and that no one was killed. It’s a strange feeling of relief when you find out no one has passed away. If someone does pass away you get a sinking feeling in your body and you say a prayer for them and their family. This phase lingers for awhile.

After the grief and concern comes the anger. Each episode becomes more and more frustrating because it doesn’t seem like it will never end. You wonder how the people who did it can sleep at night and who in the world is helping them hide what they did. You want to arrest anyone who had the slightest idea of what happened and you hope when they get arrested they are sleeping next to the evidence so that a jury will have no problem sending them to the worst possible prison with no chance of parole. If you are really emotional you might even make a comment or two about the death penalty.

The anger stage becomes complicated because embarrassment and shame sometimes gets mixed in with it. As a black male in New Orleans, there’s often a hint of shame because deep down I know the actions of the few reflect so negatively on the many.  I feel like I should be going out and doing something to atone for what happened even though I haven’t done anything. This makes the anger greater because now I’m madder these fools are making my life more complicated. The Internet has added fuel to this because comment sections are filled with general hate that strikes a nerve even though you are just as outraged as everyone else. On the YouTube clip I posted yesterday with Deborah’s interview there was a comment on the page that said “You can’t fix niggers so stop trying”. There was no way I couldn’t take that personal because I know there are people that can’t separate me from the shooter. What made it more depressing is that I wasn’t sure if the person making the comment was white or black.

The next stage is detachment. It is probably the stage that stops us from making progress towards fixing the problem. You hold on to the other emotions as long as you can until the moment comes where you tell yourself it isn’t fair to me that I am feeling this down when I haven’t done anything. Why am I this upset when these fools keep doing the same things over and over with no concern? It's not like it's my family out there doing these things. When you get to that point you purposely ignore the issues and start finding every reason to feel good about your life and community.  Before you know it weeks go by and it’s almost like nothing ever happened until the next time it does. Then we start the process all over again.

Get Well Soon My Friend

And all of the other victims too....

We have to do better New Orleans. 

I'll have more to say about this later.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sitting On My Porch Part Eighty Eight

Yesterday was a pretty good day. The weather is strangely cool for May in New Orleans. It was National Lemonade Day and the KIPP 4H stand just so happened to be a block from my uncle’s house.  I got walk down there and talk with him and my little cousins. I had a few cups of lemonade. I met a few groups of Jazzfest Hippies. It was all good. I lit the grill in the evening and had a few beers. It was a pretty good Saturday.

I found time to stop at the polls and vote on the Crescent City Connection tolls. It looks like we won’t be paying that dollar anymore. I have to be honest and say that although I voted no to the toll, I have no idea what’s going to change by not having the money coming in. The toll was one of those issues where the eye test didn’t match the information.  I think the average person feels like the money is going somewhere that doesn’t affect them. We may be proven wrong for voting no in the long run but right now it felt like the right thing to do. 

NBA player Jason Collins came out last week revealing to the world that he is gay. This is a big deal because the major sports in this country are seen as being the ultimate sign of masculinity. If society is going to change the climate that allows people to be themselves sports is a good place to start. The biggest shocker in the story to me wasn’t that he was gay but that he managed to hide it from his twin brother Jarron. Either Jarron was in denial or the feeling you need to hide who you are is so great that it keeps you from hiding it from the person you are closest to in the world.  That has to be a horrible way to live.

Neither of my brothers is gay but if they were I would want them to be out and be free of the burden of trying to act like they were not. That goes for my sisters and daughters too.  I feel like its much worst to have people live a lie and ruin other people’s lives by getting married and having kids with someone of the opposite sex than it would be for someone to be out.  In my opinion I think I would rather have two gay dads than a gay dad that faked who he really was. My dad is my hero and the things I took from him are what keep me grounded. I do a lot of things and take part in a lot of things that he probably wouldn’t but at the core we are the same person. I couldn’t imagine if I found out that he was living a lie all that time. I would question everything about myself.  It would send me into a tailspin. We need to let people be who they are. 

Four years ago Danny Platt cut his son’s throat to keep from paying child support. I wrote a blog talking about how much I wanted to kick his ass. On Thursday he finally pled guilty in order to avoid execution. I just want to say that I still hate him and I hope someone kicks his ass every day in prison. That’s a sad excuse for a man.

If you are headed out to the Jazz and Heritage Festival today I hope you enjoy the food, the culture, the mud, the cool breeze and the great Frankie Beverly