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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Friday, December 22, 2006

Another bummer

I know it's not very Christmas-like of me to present downers right about now, but Wednesday night another teenager down here was gunned down in a drive-by.

Sixteen-year-old Mike Barjon was killed hanging out with a friend about a block from his mom's home.

Big Daddy, you may want to stop reading here, 'cause you're gonna call me mean. But I was watching a TV report on the shooting last night and the Ken Doll said "this community wants it to stop," in reference to the neighborhood where the shooting took place.

Sorry, I gotta disagree. You know who wants these murders to stop? The families of the victims, and the old folks who bought homes in the neighborhood decades ago and have tried to maintain the place.

The community as a whole does not want these murders to stop. "The" community may not want the murders to happen, but "the" community is not doing anything to make them stop. I know this because someone - many folks, probably - knows who pulled the trigger on this latest killing. And you know what? They won't tell. They will not turn the shooter in.

And it will happen again. And people will stick their heads in the sand and they won't turn the shooter(s) in.

When I covered crime, it never ceased to amaze me that in the most war torn neighborhoods some people would protect violent criminals with the same ferocity that good parents protect their children.

I understand that some of that was about self-preservation: people so scared of the bad guys that they look out for the bad guys in the hopes the bad guys will spare them once the police leave the neighborhood.

But if collectively whole neighborhoods teamed up and turned the bad guys in, who are the bad guys gonna turn on? I say no one. If they know the neighborhood as a single entity isn't scared of them they're not gonna terrorize one person as payback. They'll move on - unfortunately, to another neighborhood where most of the residents are still scared.

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  • It's hard to mobilize large groups into taking action; I hope this loss propels them into taking the right step.

    See you at the roll call today.

    By Blogger The Dummy, at 11:28 AM  

  • I know it's difficult. But short of turning rough neighborhoods into police states the residents turning on the bad guys is the only solution I can see to stopping this stupid violent crime.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 11:55 AM  

  • Is it really violent criminal protection, or is it more a matter of sheer apathy? Some may not want to bother with driving to the police station to look at a line up, signing statements, etc, for what may seem to be too common an occurrence in the neighborhood.

    By Anonymous The Sarcasticynic, at 12:40 PM  

  • You've just accurately described the difference between the conservative view and the liberal view of the War On Terror.

    By Anonymous og, at 12:52 PM  

  • Og, the war on terror will get me off on a three-day rant. I told a buddy months ago that I was struck with how many parallels there were between what was happening in Iraq and what happens in crime-ridden 'hoods over here: people don't tell on the bad guys. So the out-numbered good guys are fighting an uphill battle. Not to sound like Commissioner Gordon, but wars on terror and/or violent crime can't be "properly" won without cooperation from the locals. And if the locals don't want to get out there with a gun and a badge (or body armor and fatigues), the least they can do is help the folks who are in badges or fatigues by exposing the bad guys.

    And Sarc, you make a good point too. It might not be fear. I guess I was being generous in keeping w/the holiday spirit. But you're right. When I was on the street reporting crime, in retrospect, apathy was what I saw more than anything. It was like "Oh well, so and so got shot. Must have been his time. Moving right along, now."

    And I'm not putting that on everyone who lived in a rough 'hood. I met dozens, even hundreds of people who personally lamented every violent crime in their area and who leaned on their neighbors to make things right. But for every person I met like that, I met two more who were either too scared to tell or didn't care.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 1:11 PM  

  • I remember in Baltimore, a family was killed because they tried to stand up against the drug dealers in the neighborhood. And people just cowered because they didn't want to be next.

    By Blogger Claudia, at 1:37 PM  

  • This is so disturbing and sad. But it's a mentality that must be somewhat generational, right? Have most of these families lived in the same neighborhood for some time?

    It's okay to be a bit pensieve at this time of year - and these types of nonsensical tragedies weight more heavily on the heart.

    By Blogger Tiggerlane, at 1:47 PM  

  • I don't hate you, playa, and you're not mean. The truth hurts.

    People who are more afraid of retaliation and social leprosy than having a law abiding community deserve what they get. If you don't mind having your sons and daughters be targets of random and specific gangland style violence, then stop sniotchin' stop biotchin' and keep putting money into a jar for your kids' funeral fund.

    As, I've stated before, this type of violence is the natural outgrowth of a lack of organization and control over the black market and street crime by the criminals themselves. Right now, every drug hustlin' thug makes less money because the streets are running thick with blood and cops. Customers don't want to score and resident refugees don't want to patronize local businesses that are the thug's natural front. Until the control of the streets is under one badass gangster, the jitterbugs will have free reign. A solid citizen can't do this because he actually cares about jail and death. Only the hardended career criminal a la Nicky Barnes can take back the streets because his exercise of muscle has teeth. This neighborhood hasn't been the same since the Boobie Boys all went to jail. Why? Because every wannabe thug can act with impunity. No street enforcer, harder than any cop or jail, will be there to cuff the young 'un on the back of the neck when he does wrong. The kid's dad or mom can't do it or else they would.

    To control the streets, you have to be colder and harder than the coldest and hardest street criminal. Civil society is born of death--the death of those who will not willingly comply with society's behavioral mores. What do you think the death penalty is there for? Hangings, stonings, crucifixion, drawing and quartering, pulling on the rack, sctcks, etc, are all forms of garnering compliance within civil society. Someone has to be the enforcer and make those who endanger our lives pay respect to the code of the streets (no women, no kids). Where is Vito Corleone when you need him most? Pappy Mason---North Miami Beach and Carol City is calling you, sun.

    Until that someone emerges, the streets will run red.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 2:11 PM  

  • dude why can't i ever post on your blog.

    this is so depressing.

    you know what we should do? go Thunderdome style and start killing off everyone. make a giant cage match and throw convicts in there. let them kill each other.

    I shall be the Tina Turner-esque ruler. :p

    By Blogger Yasamin, at 3:37 PM  

  • Yas, you be Tina. I'll be pre-looney Gibson.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 3:46 PM  

  • james, for some reason I'm having trouble commenting on your blog.

    did i just get banned from ANOTHER blog? That'd be the third one this month!

    By Blogger Matt, at 4:26 PM  

  • Is it that they fear the criminals or they are refusing to even give anonymous tips?

    Because if it's the latter, shame on them!

    By Blogger Matt, at 5:25 PM  

  • In my experience, Matt, it's both.

    And no, you haven't been banned. You're the second person to say today they couldn't comment on my blog.

    I'll ask the trolls at Blogger if there's something wrong.

    They should give me an answer by February.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 6:09 PM  

  • For some reason, the Blogger is kicking back messages from your site (and probably others) saying that the email was undelivered by Google.

    $3.5 billion valuation, eh?

    By Blogger Matt, at 7:58 PM  

  • This is awful no matter what time of year it is. It's too bad you don't see more crime-afflicted neighborhoods ganging up on criminals. We actually have a small group of citizens in a local s-hole who have taken it upon themselves to rid their corner of the world of prostitutes, drug dealers, and gang bangers. One couple's home was fire bombed (fortunately, they are fine and in the process of remodeling the burned portion of the house) and recently a sheriff's deputy who resided in the neighborhood was shot to death as he slept in his bedroom.

    Despite these instances, the core group has kept at it, and predictably, crime is decreasing. Yeah, the violent acts perpetrated against neighborhood activists testify to the fact that these misanthropes aren't leaving without a fight. But in the end, they are leaving.

    I hope that this community is capable of taking similar action.

    (Anybody ever see the movie "Zooman"? It's a film that deals with this subject.)

    By Blogger QofD, at 8:33 PM  

  • James, your plea is similar to that of your December 3rd blog entry "Quit Backin' Up," in that you seek folks to step up and do the right thing in the name of humanity. But as the "riff raff" get more bold, I think the rest of us get more non-confrontational. Expecting behavioral changes after showing righteous indignation over apparent injustices is about as quaint as H.R. Clinton expecting to get a village to raise its children.

    By Anonymous The Sarcasticynic, at 9:54 PM  

  • So Sarc, does this mean because riff raff have gotten bolder that we should bite our tongues now?

    'Cause by your description calling on folks to do the right thing is "quaint?"

    And unless I'm twisting your context I take quaint to at least partly mean outdated.

    If I'm correct, then it's a shame that calling on folks to do the right thing is an outdated concept.

    I can't speak for H.R. Clinton. I'm certainly no fan, but if you're in a good, caring community, that village concept ain't such a bad idea.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 11:57 PM  

  • Sounds like this one comes down to RESPONSIBILITY too.

    We are all responsible for our community. So if we don't like how it's going then we have to do something about it.

    Either way we all get to take the consequences. Those who protest/tell may get landed on. Those with heads in the sand will get their butts kicked! & still the 'innocents' get shot.

    As someone said about something else, "It's not doing more than the average that keeps the average falling."

    By Anonymous bronchitikat, at 6:10 AM  

  • Don't get me wrong, James, I am a big fan of doing the right thing. I'm just saying that these days it is becoming harder and harder to step up to the plate. In my day, if my mother tried to shake some sense into me, she'd've been berated (loudly) by a "village" of bystanders for her behavior in public.

    Today, ones mother will turn around and lash out at the well-meaning intervener and tell them to mind their own business, or worse. As the passive-aggressive gap widens, people are going to be less likely to want to subject themselves to the very behavior against others that they found offensive.

    It's not the "calling" that's quaint, it's the expectation of the same results observed in the past that I find unrealistic today.

    By all means, please continue to goad folks to stand up and fight injustice. All I'm saying is that you are going to find it harder and harder to recruit volunteers for your cause as time goes on.

    But maybe I am too cynical.

    By Anonymous The Sarcasticynic, at 6:24 AM  

  • I agree, and it's hard work well worth the effort.

    This is really sad.

    About the "war on terror" analogy - my mom said something after 9/11 that really stuck with me. She grew up in Arkansas in the 40's and 50's - not a great place for a black person. She didn't seem as upset as others were about the attack, and I asked her why. She responded "I lived in the Jim Crow south. I saw bodies all the time, brutality you wouldn't believe. THAT was terrorism."

    Too bad we're doing it to ourselves, now...

    By Blogger bc, at 11:12 AM  

  • lmao james! we shall rule the desert!!! ;P

    james, please tell matt that its not him. that it is in fact blogger hating on us innocent commenters.

    damn you blogger.

    by the way... my neighbor is the epitome of stereotype.hes the big angry black man.

    lol why god why?

    By Blogger Yasamin, at 2:32 PM  

  • This is a sad reality in any big city. And unfortunately, it seems that no matter how many good citizens and legal figures stand out against the violence, guns are still getting into the wrong hands, drugs are still flowing freely and kids are still getting caught in the middle. All we can really do is take care of our own, show them the moral high road, and hope it sticks. It is a sad state... =(

    By Blogger Balou, at 9:27 AM  

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