I’ve been looking for a lot or a house to buy to replace the one we sold when I lost my job at the end of 2011. It’s not easy looking for a house with modest means, I’m sure I don’t have to tell anyone. And modest means I am looking in neighborhoods that I never thought of living before I lost my job. Part of this experience, I have welcomed as the neighborhoods are more diverse than where I had been living, which was on the bayou, where a lot of “nice” houses are and where you don’t see a lot of Black folks on their porches. I didn’t say none, I said not a lot.
The first lot I looked at and thought we were going to get was closer to Broad Street a commercial corridor of Black owned small businesses, which would have been a bridge to where I had been living and where I wanted to live now. The bank would not accept my cash offer, a subject of another discussion. The second lot was further away from our old house. I ended up not following through – not because of any reason other than the houses that were surrounding the lot were not as characteristic as most old New Orleans neighborhoods and I wanted a quality of street life for my young son to ride his bike and jump and play.
Yesterday, two men were shot dead and an eight year old boy shot and injured a block from the lot. One neighbor said he heard 15-20 shots around five o’clock in the afternoon. And we know two of them struck an eight year old boy. Those weren’t the only deaths in our city yesterday, there was also a man found lying in the streets dead later in the evening.
Five o’clock in the afternoon would be around the time my son would have been riding his bike on those streets. And I wonder to myself, about all the people who read the news in New Orleans and don’t think about how it concerns them. I know from listening to many people talk here in the city that a young man lying down on the ground dead usually means he is Black and someone Black shot him, which usually means, if you are white, that it doesn’t affect you.
I read an article in Al Jazeera about the two boys who committed the horrible crime in Boston, who instead of being viewed as criminally insane, were viewed as other because this seems to be more palatable for many in this country, many white people that is. If they had been just white the media would have found them errant, abnormal, not right – but instead they were dark skinned, Czechoslovakian, Chechnyans and therefore other, not like “us.”
We’ve had children dying on the streets of New Orleans this year, some under ten years old, most late teens to early twenties, but children nonetheless. I wonder if at this point in time, it might be better to change the question of New Orleans from what can we do about crime, to what crime can do about us? What does a young black man need, want, desire to live in New Orleans? Maybe if we find the answer to that question, we can answer the other one.