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OPINION | By Mikeal Vaughn
I might dream in Japanese, but my heart is all North Tulsa. And today my heart is heavy. Today I’m praying for my community.
Last night, two people were murdered, gunned down at a community softball game.
I don’t personally know Chantel Mack or Michael Daniels, may they rest in peace. But this is Tulsa, and few people are more than a degree or two of separation away.
From the news, I know that Chantel was a young mother of two – two children will never get to develop a relationship with their mother due to a senseless act of violence.
I’ve heard Michael referred to as an “irreplaceable and priceless friend.” My heart goes out to their them and their families.
In our social media age – naturally – people took to Facebook to express their heartbreak and dismay. Our community has its challenges, for sure, but the senselessness of this shooting, at a church-sponsored Stop the Violence softball game no less is shocking, to say the least. The grief is palpable.
In their grief, some people have rightfully demanded a stop to the violence in our community. At this time, no one has come forward with information about who was responsible for the shooting or why. Even though, of course, the proverbial streets are talking. Some of the social media posts have all rightfully demanded that someone come forward with information regarding the shooter or shooters. I want to reiterate that demand now. If you have information that will bring the murderer(s) of Chantel and Michael to justice, please give that information to the authorities!
Aside from my most sincere wish for an end to the violence, and for justice for the victims and their families, I feel the need to address my community. I’ve seen too many social media posts in the past 24 hours criticizing the community in a way that goes beyond the need for peace and unity. On this, we can all agree. But statements that we can’t claim that Black lives matter or demand an end to police brutality against people of color in our community are not only wildly off base but reek of the very worst of respectability politics. Crimes in the community do not justify police abuses.
I’m intentional about saying crimes the community because “Black on Black crime” is a dangerous myth invented and wielded for racist political means to turn criminals in communities of color into super-predators requiring the harshest sentences, the least amount of rehabilitation, and most ultimate of punishments.
I draw a direct line from this myth of innate criminality in communities of color to the fear that has time and again resulted in the death of unarmed Black men or women (and the not guilty verdicts that almost always come later). Simply put, the regurgitation of this myth and respectability politics from which it spawns is a trash move. If I can insert my demand here, it would be this:
CUT THAT SH*T OUT!
I’m not letting anyone off the hook here though. Again, the community has its problems, structural and foundational problems, but there are many good doing the work to address them. Could we be doing more? Absolutely! But it’s work that we all have to do together as a community. Starting with turning over any information regarding who would do this, not hiding murderers, not subscribing to some bullshit idea of “no snitching.” If you go back and rewatch those gangster movies that this concept “was appropriated from,” you’d see it was a defense mechanism to keep corrupt police officers out while the community itself netted out its extrajudicial justice. The Godfather made sure that no crimes were committed against people and the morals of the community; none of these so-called thugs has that kind of juice. Not a one! If they did, they’d be partners – flawed partners for sure but partners nonetheless – in the growth and development of the community instead of the parasites that they are.
Bringing my issue back into focus here, North Tulsans and communities of color elsewhere have more than enough bandwidth to address both crimes in the community as well as police brutality. We can (and do! and must!) proclaim “Black Lives Matter” AND “stop the violence.” Unfortunately, we don’t have the privilege to do one and not the other, especially when the history of Greenwood reminds us that we don’t need to be seen as criminals to have our lives and communities destroyed.
So to the Facebook users that said we need to “stop acting like animals” because “White people are looking and laughing at us” and “this is why we don’t have anything in our community”: Maaaaaaaaaaan, wake the fuck up! That’s the nicest thing I’ll say!
Rest in peace, Chantel Mack! Rest in peace, Michael Daniels!