Breaking the silence at last

At last, a semblance of introspection and enlightenment apparently has come to a large number of black people in St. Petersburg after the senseless killing of 8-year-old Paris Whitehead-Hamilton.

I am pleased, and I am outraged at the same time.

I am pleased because many blacks now are calling for the abandonment of the old code of silence, "not snitching," involving black criminals and the police. For too long, the police have been seen as the enemy. Better to let a known criminal remain in the community and terrorize you and sell drugs to your kids than to identify him to the police.

For law-abiding residents, keeping silent is a manifestation of factors such as fear and weariness. Among thugs and wanna-be thugs, silence is a badge of honor, a symbol of street-cred manhood, even though manhood means maiming or killing over a silly verbal insult.

As I have said before, our code of silence shows all the signs of the abused person syndrome, which goes like this: Blacks have been cruel toward one another for so long that we have internalized the belief that such cruelty is normal. Those of us who have internalized the cruelty think nothing of treating other blacks the same way, thus perpetuating the cycle without an end in sight.

Why did it take the death of an innocent 8-year-old girl for new voices to join the heretofore faint voice of outrage against the code of silence and the absurd acts of violence that have turned whole neighborhoods into a no-man's-land?

Why did Paris, described as a sweet child by everyone who spoke of her in the press, have to take three rounds in her tiny back for us to see the light? I am pleased that we finally see the light. Tips from residents who broke the code of silence helped the police arrest several suspects in the killing.

But why did we not see the light with the killings of Cedric "C.J." Mills, Isaiah Brooks, Tedric Maynor, Felicia Hines, Vinson Phillips, Kurt Anthony Bryant, Amuel Murph, Alfonso Williams, Malayshia Gamble and others in St. Petersburg?

Is it because they were either teens or adults? Does it mean that we need to have more young children such as "Princess Paris" die before we care enough to be outraged?

I knew Amuel Murph from the post office at First Avenue N and 31st Street. He was a good family man. I want someone to come forward and tell the police who murdered him in front of his home.

Now, let me explain the source of my personal outrage. Throughout my adult life, I have written and spoken about the need to rid our black communities of crime by assisting the police. For doing so, I have been attacked by other blacks, physically in some instances. My life has been threatened more times than I can remember. I have been demonized and ostracized. Some business owners have barred me from their establishments. I drive from St. Petersburg to Clearwater for a haircut to avoid conflict.

Why? For believing and writing that we must repair the ills of our culture and improve our individual and collective behavior on many fronts, including education, if we are to survive and thrive.

Imagine my surprise when I read the newspaper or watch the nightly news and find many of my old detractors are now calling for an end to the destructive code of silence, using harsher language than I ever used publicly. Now, as I have suggested for years, they intend to take to the streets and go into schools, community centers, businesses, homes and churches to spread the new gospel of responsibility, especially helping the police.

I applaud these intentions. Will other young children have to die for this new movement to become permanent reality? Or will it fade away like so many other campaigns do once the pain wears off?

Breaking the silence at last 04/11/09 [Last modified: Saturday, April 11, 2009 4:31am]

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