Violence is a disease. A virus that incubates within the cells of the populace, growing and festering till it explodes out in a cascade of infection that leaves a lasting mark like radiation poisoning in Hiroshima. Those infected by the experience of its touch are forever susceptible to succumbing to it and continuing its torrid march through the ranks of humanity.
Violence, in its most deadly form is not physical in nature. The bruise from the fist of a bully is but for a moment. The damage from substandard living conditions, a humanity denied, and a hope nigh extinguished are all acts of violence that leave an impression that lasts much longer. Yet all too often we turn a blind eye and deaf ear to those suffering pain from a source far more subversive in nature than its physical partner in crime.
I saw the violence in the bullet holes in my front door, the remnants of gang shootouts, holes my mother would attempt to distract me from as she took my brothers and I on the bus with her. I saw violence in the closed businesses, the way my white teachers told me I was destined to fail, schools without funding, and families packed into homes because they could not afford to live there on a single income. I saw and felt the violence; everywhere I turned as it seeped into the very marrow of my soul. As a child you internalize these images. Your thoughts are not to why these conditions are as such only that they are as so, never letting your mind drift to the invisible hand pulling the strings of this wicked puppet show.
Such violent conditions, do not spring up like weeds over night, they are created and crafted. It is the product of concentrated actions taken against a group of people with the aim of subjugating them. In turn, these people forced into an environment that is designed to harm them, react in a way that doubles down on the depravity.
This is the type of life people like Richard Sherman experienced during his formative years. One could not blame Sherman therefore, when he takes the myopic viewpoint that we should focus on “black on black” crime as the real problem in today’s inner cities. In the midst of a storm one yells with futility at the winds without thought to the changing weather patterns and rotations of the earth that caused them. Sherman did not stop there, he went on to make the claim that no one was claiming “black lives matter” when his friends were being killed by other people of color. Notwithstanding, such a comment ignores the years of work by inner city organizations such as the aptly named group, “Stop the Violence,” that had the goal of doing just that within African-American communities.
Athletes such as Richard Sherman have a platform to express their views on a variety of subject matter. Though they rarely take advantage of it to speak on social issues, such as Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali, the opportunity is there to take stand on topics close to heart. However, with such a sphere of influence comes a responsibility to represent, if you will, for the environment you came from. A responsibility that calls for one to seek the benefit and improved fortunes of those who experienced a similar violence. At the very least, not take such actions as what would bring harm to the cause of advancement for these same people. Sherman’s comments did the opposite of that, for they distracted from the work being done that has been shedding light and bringing awareness to the fight for African-Americans to be treated as humans. In addition, they effectively dismissed the work that has been done by people of color to address violence within the black community.
What Sherman did was in fact give voice to those who, whenever faced with the concept of #BlackLivesMatter, retort with the intellectually lazy, “All Lives Matter” or my personal favorite “what about black on black crime.” The reality is that those most likely to make statements like these are the ones who in reality care little for the ills that plague black people. All of a sudden the kid from Compton had a host of supporters who were the same ones who dragged his name through the mud and called him a thug after his boisterous challenge to Michael Crabtree at the end of the NFC Championship game. Funny how that works, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Sherman had just allowed the invisible hand to slink back into the shadows without a fight, standing in the way as those who would seek to pull its diseased form into the light for all to gaze upon its horrible visage.
Though I do not harshly judge the Stanford product for being unable to look past the vicious murder of a person he held dear, I do ask him to look outside himself. The violence was there long before you were playing at Dominguez High School, before you were playing on the same little league baseball team as Desean Jackson. The violence had been brewing within your community long before you took breath and before your close friend lost theirs. The violence is a product of forces that are not wrought by those who have the same swarthy skin as you but are the main victims of its aggression. The violence you experienced on that day was caused by the invisible hand of racialized structures. Racialized structures that inject the environment you call home with the disease of violence still infecting our community today. The same invisible hand you lent credence to through your denial of its existence.
Et tu brute?
The coming and goings of Jotham Kabuye can be monitored, stalked, and reported to the authorities by following him on IG and the Twitters: @JothamKitara