Bridgeport – Before embarking on my trip to Europe for the holidays, I made my way to the barbershop. I sat there, talking to other patrons and also to the barbers. The two barbers in the shop recalled an incident a few days prior. A young man had been robbed at gunpoint while waiting for a bus, all for a smartphone. What shocked me about this story was how brazen the crime: this happened in broad daylight and the culprits were on bicycles. I asked, “What’s going on in Bridgeport?” I had been hearing more and more gun-related crimes. As a matter of fact, I listened to a news program one morning about U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s visit to the state and something called Project Longevity, a program to reduce gun violence in the state.
I got my haircut on December 13th.
The following day, on my way to the airport, I listened to the news of the horrific massacre in Newtown, CT. When I arrived in Germany, it dominated the news cycle. I found the same thing in Holland. It seemed like the world, at least Western media outlets, was spellbound by the events of a small, bedroom community. Never before had I seen such outrage and demand for gun reform. As horrible as the event in Newtown was, I wondered: where was the outcry for people in America’s inner cities, those accustomed to gun violence? Does no one care about blacks and Latinos?
According to the latest F.B.I. statistics on homicides in America, there were 94 gun-related murders in 2011 for the state of Connecticut. When one considers the total number of homicides resulting from firearms in the same year (8,583) the murder rate in the state may not seem like a high number. Consider this: Connecticut had more gun-related murders than Colorado, District of Columbia, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, and Oregon. And where did these crimes take place? Cities like Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport were hardest hit.
America comprises 5% of the world’s population, but it accounts for 50% of the guns on the planet. Here is another alarming figure: in 2011, the number of people in the U.S. who required a stay in a hospital because of gun wounds—30,759.
After returning stateside, I had lunch with some folks I know. I broached the subject of Newtown and my exasperation with people who misinterpret the 2nd amendment and the fairness of news coverage, especially gun violence in America.
One guy, a white male, said, “I don’t want to bring up race.” I told him to feel free and then proceeded to have a frank discussion. I became incensed over the fact that no one seems to care about what happens in communities where blacks and Latinos have to live in fear of violent crime. Another white male, a retired Oakland homicide detective, said, “People usually say, ‘It happens to them, not us.’ ” When will people in America realize that there is no them; there is only us.