Barry Saunders

Saunders: Leaders, public mum on Durham's street violence

bsaunders@newsobserver.comJuly 8, 2013 

Say, homes. Y’all do realize the war is 11,566 miles away, in Afghanistan, right?

Reading the recently released list of homicides in Durham so far this year, you can be forgiven for thinking that the real war is being waged on the city’s streets.

Durham has registered 14 homicides so far this year.

Thirteen of the victims were black men.

Thirteen of the suspects are black men.

One victim was a black woman killed in what police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said was a murder-suicide.

Raleigh, with a much bigger population, has had five homicides so far.

Let’s be real. A bunch of black dudes killing each other usually receives the same amount of air time as the perennial story of the cute squirrel on water skis.

But dang: In Durham so far this year, we’ve taken gold, silver, bronze and lead in the murder olympics. That deserves some special recognition.

Michael said, “Investigators at this time don’t believe that any of the cases this year have been random.”

Answer me this: What would happen if 13 white dudes had killed 13 black dudes this year in Durham? Or, if you’re feeling really subversive, ask yourself what would happen if 13 black dudes had killed 13 white dudes?

In the first case, you wouldn’t be able to swing a rifle without hitting a TV reporter or a civil rights leader denouncing the violence and demanding justice.

In the second case, you wouldn’t be able to swing a rifle – period: the cops would take ‘em all and would make the stop-and-frisk abuses going on in New York look like a Sunday stroll through the Chocolate Wonderfall dessert line at Golden Corral.

While the racist mutterings of a lard-laden, Southern fried maven prompted paroxysms of protest, responses to the slaughter of young black males is muted. Even the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who used to be our loudest voice against injustice, has been relatively silent. He has, however, responded alliteratively to Paula Deen’s plea for him to help calm the natives. “Deen,” he tweeted, should be “redeemed, not destroyed.”

Hmmm. You reckon he’s been so silent on black-on-black violence because he can’t think of a word to rhyme with “fratricide”?

You can’t lay this inattention at any one leader’s feet, though. We have scores of ministers in our community who are leaders, who reach thousands of people each week. Are any of them addressing the carnage on Durham’s streets?

Probably not. Think back: What did “Pastor” rail against Sunday – black men killing each other or kissing each other?

One of the greatest social commentators of any era, Curtis Mayfield, foretold this current deadly situation in his under-appreciated, prescient album and song “Back to the World” in 1973:

In these cities streets, everywhere.

You’ve got be careful where you move your feet,

How you part your hair.

Yeah, because if you part it on the left and find yourself in a right-part neighborhood, that could be all she wrote. We are now living the Mayfield songbook – beautiful music, ugly reality.

He asks in one song:

“We People who are darker than blue.

Are we gonna stand around this town and let what others say come true?

We’re good for nothing, they all figure.

A boyish grown-up shiftless jigger.

Now we can’t hardly stand for that

Or is that really where it’s at?”

Well, is it? Is it?

Saunders: 919-656-4365

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