My heart goes out the family of this young girl. Sadly, this story is one of the countless others taking place all over the country. Soon her short life will become part of the landscape of the numerous Black lives lost to the senseless violence that has become routine in many segregated, predominantly Black communities. Her story like so many others will get little attention before fading away. What is certain is that there will be many more Sandra Parks. In her award-winning essay, parks only 13 years old wrote about the crime in her neighborhood only to be shot dead in her room. Parks wrote:
“Little children are victims of senseless gun violence,” she wrote. ” … I sit back, and I have to escape from what I see and hear every day. When I do; I come to the same conclusion … we are in a state of chaos.”
If Parks’ essay wasn’t a plea for closer examination and adequate address of the existing violence through a macro level lens to understand the root cause of the problem and come up with a viable, sustainable solution, what will it take? Extensive research has identified several contributing factors to high crime neighborhoods including but not limited to the fact that these incidents occur disparately in predominantly segregated Black neighborhoods lacking the necessary resources to address community needs. The high poverty rate is a result of unemployment, underemployment and shattered family structures in which one or both parents may be incarcerated, on drugs and have succumbed to other hardships.
The version of the story that America would have us believe is that hopelessness, lack of ambition, laziness, and criminal behavior to name a few are inherent qualities of Black people and that the victims choose the oppressive conditions in which they live. But that’s just the story used to deflect responsibility from those responsible for creating the problem. The fact is enduring systemic structures around racism has segregated and trapped many in the harsh conditions that do not provide the resources for many to escape. This same system is responsible for the mass incarceration and senseless killings of countless Black men that leaves many Black women without husbands and children without fathers. Racism is a factor as to why upward of 68 percent of households are headed by Black women many of whom work multiple jobs and still do not make a livable income – leaving their children to raised by the streets.
In Notes of a Native Son (1995) James Baldwin wrote, “I don’t think the negro problem can be discussed coherently without bearing in mind its context; its context being the history, traditions, customs, the moral assumptions and preoccupations of the country; in short, the general social fabric. Appearances to the contrary, no one in America escapes its effects, and everyone in America bears some responsibility for it.”
It cannot be said often enough that if we are to address the issues that exist in the Black communities adequately, we must first understand the formulation of the problems from a macro-level perspective. And to do so, our systemic structures must be scrutinized and ultimately dismantled. Ms. Parks life and death is a symptom of a more significant problem. As a society, we must identify the elephant in the room – and demand accountability.
Williams, Walter (2014) Black female head of households number is 68 percent
Baldwin, James (1995) Notes of a Native Son