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.


BrenyB said...

This post made me cry. Your writing opens a window into the hearts of those that love the city and it's people and despise the people that act destructively. I feel sad, angry, frustrated, helpless, defiant, and powerless all at the same time.

Anonymous said...

You are the embodiment of the person the President was urging the graduates at Morehouse to become in his speech. If, in any way, it gives you encouragement, please know that you are the lind of man the President is talking about:


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