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You Gotta Die Someday

June 7, 2012

My blood boiled today. I’m teaching how to write a mystery story in my composition class. We’re discussing vocabulary like red herring, evidence, and witness. And as we got to witness, my kids gave me a chilling glimpse into the issues that plague New Orleans, amplified in the wake of a string of murders that include a 5-year-old girl who was the unintended victim of gunfire, and a 33-year-old mother of 3 who took a stray bullet while driving blocks away. The two men, the intended targets, one an uncle of the little girl who was killed, have been uncooperative. One of the killers, an 18-year-old, has surrendered. The other is still at large.

What’s a witness?

A rat!

A snitch!

What? No, guys, a witness is not the same as a rat. A witness is someone who sees something.

And a rat is someone who gets killed for snitchin’!

You don’t think you can witness a crime without being a victim yourself?

Whatchu think retaliation is. They gon retaliate. And you gon get yours.

So if you saw a murder, you wouldn’t say a word?

And get killed? Naw, man. You don’t say nothin’!

What if it was your family member?

No man, whatchu think they gon do when dey find out you snitched? Come say thank you?

You’re telling me that the 5-year-old baby girl who died when the gunmen were after her uncle should just die? That her uncle– he knows who the killers were — who isn’t saying a word, is in the right for not telling who shot him? That the little girl should die without justice for her killer?

You gotta die someday.

I couldn’t recover. I remembered the statistic in an article I read, that police believe a majority of the violent crimes in New Orleans go unreported. I remembered my student whose mom’s boyfriend was gunned down around the corner from her house, and no one ever said a word. And our student’s older brother was gunned down on his doorstep in broad daylight, shot 14 times about a week ago. Nothing. Murders are like rainstorms in the summer here: an everyday occurrence– the sun might be shining across the street, but you’re drenched.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. didier morvan permalink
    June 7, 2012 7:51 am

    A world in devastation and how they cope, miles removed from my old childhood.

  2. June 7, 2012 7:58 am

    so disturbing, sunny. i’m so sorry.

  3. June 7, 2012 8:41 am

    It’s such a complex problem – the cycle that is the crime of murder in this city. These kids doing the shooting clearly have no value for life whatsoever and those who refuse to come forward do so out of fear for their own lives, which is understandable. But in order to take a stand against the violence, someone must go first and be an example for those who would come after. It’s just hard to ask someone to do that when there is a deep-seated distrust of authority.

    Ultimately, you are doing what you can to solve these issues by providing these kids with the opportunity to get an education. I truly believe that nothing will change unless and until these kids who otherwise would turn to guns, turn instead to a book.

  4. June 7, 2012 10:09 am

    I worked with the 10yr old who’s birthday party that was. The family was so sweet and so strong, but you could tell they were terrified. I have a hard time imagining what I would do in their situation. They want justice but they also don’t want to lose more of their family and friends to gun violence.

  5. Rodney permalink
    June 7, 2012 10:18 am

    I saw a grown man walking down Oak St. just yesterday wearing a “STOP SNITCHING” shirt. It was infuriating.

    • June 7, 2012 10:31 am

      Someone has spray-painted that same phrase on stop signs throughout my neighborhood – the Irish Channel. Wouldn’t surprise me to learn that it’s a misguided attempt at a “movement.”

  6. Nello permalink
    June 7, 2012 12:21 pm

    I’m a student from San Francisco. In my sociology class we discussed the same topic. The majority of the class said that they would refuse to be a witness of any crime for fear of retaliation and just “not wanting to get involved.” I disrupted class by yelling at them, saying it was people like them who empowered criminals, good guys didn’t come up with the word “snitch” only bad guys did who wanted to keep you from doing it, but I don’t think my yelling did a bit of good. Was just me losing my temper. Man I was furious though. I’m studying to be a criminal prosecution lawyer. What kind of people am I trying to make the world safe for? A bunch of cowards who won’t even try to help?

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