Black people kill black people, browns kill browns, and no one steps up to help the cops
July 18, 2010
It was all very familiar.
Henry Brown standing on a Hartford street corner, bullhorn in hand, surrounded by a smattering of supporters, decrying the latest victim of the city's pervasive violence. This time it was a cop, who was shot and wounded July 10.
But then J. Stan McCauley, public access personality and Urkelesque mayoral candidate, stepped up, grabbed the bullhorn and dropped a refreshing moment of honesty.
"Can I be frank?" he told the small crowd that at times included more police officers than residents. "Black on black crime. Latino on black crime. Black on Latino crime. Ain't a whole lot of white folks coming up here into North Hartford shooting one another. Ain't a whole lot of white folks coming up into North Hartford shooting black folks. Black folks are out shooting one another."
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"The truth can not hide from you and you can not hide from the truth."
As I looked around, startled by his words, I wondered if anyone was hearing him.
I hoped that they were. Because as painful as it may be to admit, McCauley was right.
And that wasn't the only thing he said.
Gesturing to an empty lot nearby, McCauley said, "I would imagine if you came over and there was a cross burning in this lot one night you might be upset."
"But you know what, the Klan never has to come here and burn a cross because we're doing the job for them."
Some people may have become immune to powerful language like that, but not me. It may not be a new observation — certainly it's been said in and about other troubled cities. In rare moments of honesty, it's even been said about Hartford.
But too often, maybe because we fear blaming the victim or being accused of racism, we point the finger outside of Hartford for its troubles.
We scream about too few police officers, detached public officials, a state government that doesn't care.
Poor, pitiful us.
And while those are valid issues, the bottom line is that even if the streets were lined with cops tomorrow and public officials suddenly made the city a priority, it's some of the very people who live in Hartford's neighborhoods who are destroying them.
It explains why no matter how much better things seem to get, they never quite get good enough. And more than that, it explains why so few people who live outside of Hartford's borders care.
News flash people: They don't have to.
It's not their kids or their police officers being shot or killed. It's not their neighborhoods littered with trash and memorials to the latest victims of violence. They aren't eating their own.
Fear of retribution and skepticism of cops — those are the reasons, one man at the rally said, more people don't step up. Why too many close their eyes and mouths to the chaos. Why they wait to be saved, not realizing that no one will save them except themselves.
Fear is certainly a reason. But it's also become a convenient excuse that, frankly, everyone should be really tired of.
I can understand one person being afraid to step up. But if everyone steps up, what's there to be afraid of? Power in numbers, right?
And sure, the relationship between cops and the community is a fragile one. There is skepticism there — on both sides. But there has to come a point where everyone takes a leap of faith and believes that they all want the same thing. And — gasp — start working toward the same goal together.
Whatever complaints people may have about city cops, and I'll admit I have my share, the truth is that they are the ones charged with protecting neighborhoods many others have completely written off.
And when the very people there to protect the community are being shot at, we've got bigger problems than we think.
It's time we stop searching for the phantom enemy and realize, finally, that the enemy lies within.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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