To blame the monthly First Friday event for what occurred afterward July 6, at 11:30 p.m. on the corner of Ninth and Broad streets, is the most irresponsible thing that I can think of in a society that is as intelligent and progressive as the one on Earth and in a country that we call the United States of America.
The problem is much deeper than the event.
The problem is one that hits us square in the face, every day in this country. The senseless lawlessness that presents itself in the form of out-of-control teenage and young-adult behavior is an American epidemic that fosters itself throughout our country from major cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia to small towns in our very own beloved Georgia, such as Wrens, Albany and, yes, Augusta.
The state of affairs as it pertains to violence and in particular that which involves guns, intimidation, robbery and murder are all well-documented. We know that it has taken a foothold among African-American children, teenagers and young adults, and the neighborhoods in which they live. We realize that the conditions are not getting any better, but even worse.
FOR EXAMPLE, there have been more killings in this country the past 10 years of African-American males between ages 18 and 30 because of gun violence than the number of soldiers killed in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The murder rate of this demographic of our society is beyond comprehension, and the statistics appalling.
Yet, we still go about addressing the problem as if to put a Band-Aid on a poisonous rattlesnake bite. We do virtually nothing.
Don’t get me wrong: As well-intended as marches, rallies, prayer vigils and the like are meant to be, they do very little but satisfy our emotional craving for being able to say that we are doing something about the problem. But the issue just continues to pick up steam.
Friday’s shooting of six people was just a shot over the bow, if you will. It could have been a lot worse. We could have had a number of people killed or maimed for life. But some of those injured will carry some emotional scars for the rest of their lives. The question now is: What are we going to do about it?
I didn’t say “what is the black community going to do about it?” I said “we” – a collective community of all Augustans.
I’ve been around long enough to know that if those were six white children wounded, there would be a public outcry to figure out what needs to be done – and, no, I didn’t play the race card. I’m just calling it the way I see it, and more importantly how our society processes these occurrences when it comes to black-on-black crime, like it’s some type of expectation.
IT IS TIME FOR open and honest discussion. This issue needs to be put on the front burner of this nation, this state and this community.
It should be a major priority, and something more than a reaction every time the issue raises its ugly head. I don’t need America outraged just when Trayvon Martin is gunned down outside of Orlando. I need America outraged every time a young person is killed unnecessarily in this country because of an outlaw mentality of great gravity and extreme measure being permeated in this country daily.
So, coach, what would you do?
First, I would ask that our state legislators take this as an issue of priority to Atlanta during the next session. I also would ask them to start the process of placing on the ballot, as a referendum, a 1-cent sales tax that would provide the sheriff with enough resources to adequately address the problem.
THE TAX COULD provide enough resources to fund law enforcement and parks and recreation at a level to combat this situation at its very core.
Second, I would ask that we as a society start holding all of us accountable for the raising of our children. Heck, let’s give some tax incentives or breaks for families who do raise their kids to be productive members of society.
Third, mandatory sentencing for carrying, concealing, discharging, firing or brandishing a firearm with criminal intent.
Fourth, enforce the current curfew laws. If parents are not available for pick up, the violators spend a night or two in jail, and the parents are fined for not picking them up.
Five, let’s stop making excuses for bad behavior; stop making this about race; stop placing the blame on others; and let us all take a look in the mirror.
THE RECENT SITUATION gives us an opportunity, as it should, to tackle the problem head-on. If it didn’t happen downtown, it was sure to happen at the mall or the movie theater or maybe on some street corner.
The bottom line is that it was going to happen, and the sad part about it is, if we don’t take this opportunity to address it, it surely will happen again, and we might not be so lucky to just walk away with no life-threatening injuries. I sure hope that it doesn’t claim my life or someone that I love.
How do you devour an enormous monster? You take one bite at a time.
Who is willing to take the first bite?
(The writer is an Augusta activist.)