Today, a familiar scene is playing out in New Jersey’s largest city. This morning teary eyed family and friends will gather in a church in Newark and bid farewell to 29 year old Dawn Reddick. The Charlottesville Virginia school teacher was visiting her hometown when she was struck down by gunfire while standing outside a restaurant, the latest victim of the epidemic of gun violence that is ravaging the Black community. Like so many victims before her, Dawn represents the future that might have been were it not for the depravity of individuals who have no respect for life and use our community for their immoral and illegal behavior.
If you want to know where to find our future, visit a local cemetery or correctional facility. Reading the obituary pages of newspapers across the country is like reading a universal death notice for the Black community. When Dawn and other bright lights like her are taken away, it is a loss that extends beyond their immediate families. We are all impacted. The tears shed by her family today should well in all of our eyes. How many Dawns must we see silenced in caskets before we decide that the “streets” cannot win? How many of our family and friends must be lowered in graves before we decide that this evil must be purged from our community? Are we going to sit idly by and see our children become prisoners in their own neighborhood, unable to play outside for a parent’s fear that their child will cross the path of a bullet? When is enough, enough? It stops when we stop it.
This madness is not restricted to our cities. Suburban and rural outposts are just as susceptible. We can’t run from this because it always finds a way to creep into our community. We are only fooling ourselves if we think we can ignore it simply because it has not happened in our neighborhood. It’s Newark or Baltimore today, and your city or town tomorrow. Looking away and putting blinders on is simply aiding and abetting the enemy.
It is not a simple matter of law enforcement. While putting more police on the streets can hopefully temper the behavior of criminals, policing alone will not restore respect and self-worth to individuals who have turned on their own community. It’s time we made it clear that we have enemies among us. They are the drug dealers and gang members who so devalue our lives that they are willing to kill over “turf” they do not own and leave holes in the hearts of families to stuff their pockets with cash. We have to make it clear that we despise them, deplore them as much as our parents and grandparents hated the Ku Klux Klan. They wear colored bandanas and not white hoods, and their weapon of choice is a gun, not rope but they are just as despicable and morally abhorrent as the Klan. The 21st century anti-lynching campaign must target gangs.
It is time for common sense to prevail. For too long we have protected sons, grandchildren, cousins and siblings who we know are no good, do not have good intentions, and are committing criminal acts. Evil is living among us. We have to stop accepting “blood gifts,” hush money and material possessions from those who we know are accumulating treasures stained with the blood of our people. There should be no sanctuary for murderers, no hiding place for people who would kill our children without blinking. The same disregard that they show toward us, we have to return ten-fold. They should not be allowed to live with us, their faces should be plastered on billboards, their names should carry the stigma of pariah, and we should make it clear that the police have an open invitation to remove them from our presence by any means necessary. Send them to a Super Max prison facility and put them under so deep that they won’t remember what the sun looks like or send them to face the ultimate judgment. It’s that simple.