“Crack is wack!” Not sure if that enlightening epiphany by the illustrious Whitney Houston was meant to have an exclamation point or just a period at the end. Whatever the intention, that moment of clarity that crack cocaine had lost its cool effect…no longer an accepted method of normative social interaction; it made your teeth look twisted, lose your teeth, and look like the evil-er twin of Skeletor from Thundercats, echoed what the ‘hood already recognized as the end of the crack era.
Contrary to unpopular belief, it wasn’t Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” slogans, or Bush #1 and Clinton part 1 and their lock up the drug dealers and drug users for double digit years that initiated the decline of crack’s popularity. Analogously, the media telling us that we can solely legislate our way out of this pandemic of gun violence. But we have to think deeper and beyond that.
How can we get to a place where we can say, reminiscent of Whitney, “gun violence is wack,” instead of thinking that we can simply “say no” to gun violence through gun legislation.
Don’t misunderstand me, I agree that limiting access to weapons helps, and is necessary. However, popular media would have you believe that gun control legislation is the panacea to our killing and wounding problem, and that the NRA are the only folks out there that are benefitting from the wanton usage of guns and munitions. Joe Scarborough, from MSNBC’s Morning Joe, would have you think that the only cowards in this country in this gun violence debate are the US Senators that voted against the recent proposed gun legislation. Come on, people (in the words of the ever controversial Bill Cosby, we know better than that.
We have a killing culture in this society that is exacerbated and normalized in inner cities by generational poverty, generational marginalization, generational racism, generational discrimination, and general fuckedupness (excuse the neologism) that adds up to normalized trauma.
Here’s the math:
+ generational marginalization
+ generational fuckedupness
Allow me to work out my math. So imagine we had a family somewhere in Ghetto, USA. Let’s focus on the son. At four-years old he hears gun shots outside of his window; he gets scared and cries. At five, six, seven, eight, nine… (you get the point) he hears the same cacophony of gun shots on a regular basis, most notably on New Year’s Eve. His mother is barely lower middle class, and his father is undereducated with a prison record, so they can’t afford to move to a better place…the ghetto and all of its abnormalities is home sweet home. By prepubescence, this boy has heard gun shots almost daily; he has heard from the media, the streets, and school (where his teachers are under-resourced) that violence is the way to handle problems, especially if you are a male. So when this boy reaches about 16-years old he has been conditioned to believe that having a gun to:
- Ensure masculinity;
- Secure protection;
- Celebrate a new year;
- Attain peer social acceptance; and to
- Hide insecurities is normal.
In essence, a culture of violence, particularly gun violence, is normalized by the conditions of which this boy has been exposed to from early childhood. The conditions are inclusive of societal ills that are accentuated in urban spaces that are neglected, under-resourced, and oversaturated with law-enforcement. Being in a fucked up state is normalized. So what do we do?
One approach is propagating that what seems normal really isn’t normal. Another method is engaging those most deeply affected by the normalized violence—those that shoot and have been shot. Working with them to understand that their behavior is not cool and not the only way to live. Working with them to figure out what they would like to do with their lives and then helping them reach those goals. Included in this measure is creating safe spaces within these plagued communities with activities, conversations, and events. Lastly, and most importantly, educating the masses within these communities that gun violence is not normal and unacceptable with inspiring messaging, with the clear intention of not criminalizing anyone.
This approach to addressing gun violence that can be done on a community level is being done in many places throughout the country courtesy of the Cure Violence model founded in Chicago and replicated in many places throughout the US. Right here in Brooklyn, Save Our Streets (S.O.S.) Crown Heights is working every day to get people to believe and proclaim that gun violence is wack.
Beyond highlighting any one organization, we need to be conscience of what legislation has done for us in the past. When we just said no to drugs in the late 80’s to early 90’s our incarceration numbers jumped out of the window and black and brown people were disproportionately subjected to draconian Rockefeller drug laws. So before we get on the gun control bandwagon, let’s make sure we are fully informed and not moved by episodic initiatives that are siloed and not considerate of its long term impact on marginalized communities.
Kudos to those working to limit accessibility guns and munitions. In that same vein, do the harder job of working with the people within these plagued communities to change the mindset that gun violence is not normal.