Eaters of the Dead

PK NOTE: Opiate of America: College Football in Black and White is available now for the Kindle. Pick up a copy. Also, if you can (stressing anonymity), consider leaving a review at the Amazon page for Escape from Detroit: The Collapse of America’s Black Metropolis. With a planned series of books that look at the failures of America’s cities, it’s important to keep getting reviews (Amazon is the biggest driver of books now). I don’t stress this enough, but thanks so much to all readers of SBPDL.


The following story could be plucked from the nightly newscast or metropolitan paper of a growing number of major (and increasingly minor) American cities, but you shouldn’t be surprised that Birmingham – the unofficial hometown of A&E The First 48 – provides yet another lesson in why patterns of residential segregation remain so prominent throughout the nation [More than 100 people gather for vigil for slain Birmingham teen, Birmingham News, by Jeremy Gray, 9-24-2012]:

 They held candles over their heads, shared memories and shrieked in grief over the death of Devondae Jones, the 18-year-old man gunned down Sept. 19.  

About 100 of Jones’ friends and family members gathered for a vigil tonight in the Bush Middle School parking lot, a short distance from where Jones was shot. 

Jones had trouble in his young life, including spending years in foster care, but stayed positive, his grandmother Ora Ranking said. Ranking said Jones had only come into her life a few years earlier. 

The family doesn’t have the money for a funeral and desperately wants to know who killed Jones and why. 

“No one knows. If they do know, they ain’t talking,” Ranking said. Jones’ stepfather, Calvin Jones, said the young man was respectful. 

“He gave me the chance to be a father,” he said. “He didn’t do anything bad enough for someone to take him from us.” As young men spoke of Jones, one hinted at wanting retaliation. 

“We lost one and we ain’ t going to be satisfied until we get one,” he said. Wanda Erskine, an anti-violence activist, denounced the comment. Her son, George Powell, was shot to death in 2006. That case was never solved. 

“We are here for peace, not more violence,” Erskine said. “Something has got to change. Our babies are going to the cemetery way too soon.”

The quotes from this story have littered the papers throughout the nation; similar vigils have been held where incredulous news reporters ask the same questions of why violence plagues these monolithic communities, a reminder of The Detroit Corollary to Robert Putnam’s theory of homogeneity, diversity and social capital/trust; and the exact same reticence by the community at-large to refrain from snitching on the people who make their community unsafe, because of a deep-seated loyalty to protecting ones-own.

Birmingham? Gary? Atlanta? Memphis? Newark? Philadelphia? Camden? Kansas City? St. Louis? Washington D.C.? Baltimore? Chicago? Dallas? New Orleans? Houston?

Shed the attribution to the Birmingham News and this story could effortlessly appear in the papers of the aforementioned cities, a naked admission of why Negro Fatigue is growing rapidly in America.

Though it should be stated that with a name like “Devondae” only three possible outcomes for his life path were: highly-sought after recruit for basketball or football; jail; or dead before 25.

An article that appeared in the Birmingham News back in 2007 reads like a peek into the life of your average resident of 2012 Chicago. The southside of Chicago, which has been described as a war zone.

Well… worse than a war zone. Here’s that article [Life in West End-Bullets mark epicenter of city’s violent crime, by Carol Robinson, 8-5-2007]:

The playground for Stevin Gardner’s chil- dren lies between a burgundy Chrysler and a red Toyota, a patch of ragged asphalt about 15 to 20 feet square. It holds a bright yellow toy car, a Fisher Price seesaw and a plastic slide that slopes down to a backed-up sewer grate that spawns mosquitoes and flies. 

But that’s not the worst part. That comes when gunfire interrupts child’s play. “They know to run,” Gardner said of his kids, ages 9 and 5. 

“They know to stay close to the wall because, around here, you’re run- ning for your life.” Like many at his apartment complex in the 1200 block of Tuscaloosa Avenue in Birmingham’s West End, Gardner said the echo of gunshots and the threat of violence are commonplace. 

“It’s war, baby. It’s Iraq. It’s Beirut,” Gard- ner said. “There ain’t no fear; that’s life.” Gardner’s mother, 59-year-old Deborah Gard- ner, perhaps says it best: “You just get used to it, like living next to train tracks.” 

Though violence is down in Birmingham, it’s far from gone. Despite across-the-board decreases in crime last year, the city remained among the roughest cities in America — ranked fourth in the nation in murders, and 22nd in vio- lent crimes, according to the FBI. 

So far this year, 48 people have been mur- dered. Through May, 548 people were assaulted; 96 women reported being raped; and at least 9,362 others were victimized through robberies and thefts. And those are just the actual victims. The fall- out from crime stretches beyond those named on police incident reports, coroner’s logs and stat sheets.

West End is virtually an all-Black hamlet in Birmingham, about as close to being an anti-Shire as possible (with apologies to Tolkien). Each vigil held in Birmingham; each vigil held in Chicago; each vigil held across America where the Black community bemoans the “senseless violence” plaguing their communities, while members of that community remain silent on who the culprit is out of respect to the “no snitching” policy governing life there; every member of the Black community who demands “change” to ward off the Black dysfunction violence that represents the sole reason white flight happens; all of this is just another reminder of why Negro Fatigue spreads.

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