Alex and I put out a podcast asking the question if our neighborhood was violent and crime ridden on the same day Mae and I rode our bikes by a new memorial of another death in our neighborhood. There were balloons on a tree and candles below them which symbolizes that someone most likely was a victim of gun violence. There are many of these memorials up, including one in front of one of our rentals from someone who was killed about 9 years ago.
When I think of my neighborhood, I don’t think it is violent and crime ridden, it seems like a normal neighborhood to me. But when I hear of a person who has been shot and killed, I don’t think about it as a statistic, I think about the individual who lost their life. I think about their life choices that they were given and circumstances that led them to get into a situation where their life was taken. I have never been in or even come close to a situation where I have feared for my life so I try to have empathy and understand that because of my privilege, I have been exempt from these kinds of situations. It isn’t right or fair that more than 73% of murder victims in Milwaukee are black. It isn’t fair to the families, the moms who lost their sons, the kids who lost a parent, the brothers and sisters who are mourning a sibling. It makes me think of the saying “when one piece of the society isn’t working for some, it isn’t working for the whole society.”
I used to hide these deaths from my kids and I came to the conclusion that I think it is better for them to know about them (and they are a bit older now). We have known several people who have died on our block and several young men who died that were part of the community garden, We Got This. Death is a part of life and it is a scary one but seeing it around me and my family has given me some comfort that we can communicate freely about a lot of things, including death and other parts of life that are really hard.
I remember coming home from a run one day and there was police tape up on my street. I saw some kids playing outside and started talking with them. These girls were about 8 and 5 and they told me that there was someone who had been shot and killed behind their house and they were going to give the family their stuffed animals to make them feel better. The thing that struck me was that it wasn’t abnormal for them to have police all around their home for a shooting. I cried after talking with them because that isn’t the way kids should be growing up and in our neighborhood, it is part of everyday living here and that isn’t OK.
I have come to the realization that I am glad my family sees the realities of the world, that we don’t hide from the things that are uncomfortable and address really hard things, like people being shot. There are a lot of things that are unfair in the world, there are a lot of injustices going on right now in Milwaukee and though it is hard to bike by a new memorial, it gives me insight and perspective. I am thankful I see the fresh pain because it isn’t fair that only poor black people have to experience that. I am thankful that my kids have to grapple with death and see injustices because it gives us a reason to keep fighting for equality. I am thankful that we discuss shootings in Milwaukee because it isn’t right that so many black people die from gun violence.