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Thursday, April 15, 2021

I’m just sayin’: Experiencing trauma in our community

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Black Indianapolis is experiencing a heightened level of trauma given all of the violence that has occurred both recently and over time — we have to take care of each other.

The news cycle does not conform with our pain.

We’ve had 31 Black people killed in the first 60 days of the year. All of the deaths are tragic and maybe some hit home more than others.

The steady flow of tragic news in the paper, across our televisions and even on social media has not created space for our community to process the scope and scale of what just happened within the last two months even as we continue to wrestle with the implications of the last several years.

We are dying — and not just by guns. Death is seeking to choke off our spirit as a community. 

The impact of a homicide falls through our community gripping not only the immediate family, but friends, neighbors, teammates, mentors, mentees and even acquaintances. Death is a potent reminder of our interconnectivity.

Too often within the broader civic discourse there have been claims that there isn’t enough outrage in our community. I’ve always challenged that insensitive and misguided assessment.

Black tears too often fall on deaf ears.

There are some who demand some type of vocal response that goes beyond the prayer vigils, the wailing at funerals and the memorials that dot our communities. They demand action — as if we don’t.

But at this point anyone who says they have an answer to what is happening in Indianapolis should be viewed with a healthy level of skepticism.

We might speculate on the symptoms of the violence. We might observe different patterns over time and seek to draw conclusions. What we are experiencing in this city is not normal.

But part of the collective frustration is that no one really has an answer to this problem — even though I do not doubt the zeal in trying to find one.

If we are honest with ourselves not having an answer at a time like this is scary in and of itself.   

I think there are processes we should consider putting in place to help us improve our capacity to take on the issue of violence in our community, but I don’t pretend to have an answer.

This fear of not having an answer has created a trauma within our community — and it probably scares city leaders too. 

White people carrying guns are rationale and responsible citizen’s availing themselves of their Second Amendment rights. Those communities are “safer.” They get conventions.

Black people carrying guns is a cause for enhanced legal scrutiny — an invitation for federal intervention and oversight. 

While I have plenty more to say about the city and federal government response for now it is important to recognize people are carrying guns because they are scared — that in and of itself is a kind of trauma.

As we continue to watch the news and the senseless violence happening in the Black community it feels like the calvary is not coming.    

While I can speak to a calvary that is amassing with the development of a Black agenda, the emergence of the African American Legacy Fund of Indianapolis and other initiatives and advocacy happening in our community—I wouldn’t blame anyone for not being inspired to hope.

And in many ways James Weldon Johnson was prophetic when he added the phrase “hope unborn had died” to the Black National Anthem. Naming the situation — its architecture that speaks to the calamity of feeling like one has lost an entire generation — also means that we have been in hopeless circumstances before.

I get there may be no comfort in knowing that we have been in situations like this before as a collective family of Black people in America — but our very existence now — our ability to recall hopelessness means this too shall pass.

In a hopeless situation sometimes all that is left is to lay claim to what we are willing to stand for.

I’m still standing for my community.

While I don’t have the answer on how to stop the violence, I know that if my community is in trauma, then at a minimum, I have a responsibility to check on my people.

So, check on your people.

I’m told that the trauma that we are experiencing right now hits hardest after the funeral and the news cycle has moved on.

I think we need to engage in conversations that helps us think through what trauma looks like in our community.

We have to talk to each other at a minimum so we know what’s going on.

Conversation may be our community’s best defense against this violence sweeping our city.

In standing more and harder for each other we need to consider our last words to each other—in our everyday interactions.

We have to wear so many masks in our community just to get through life. We can easily miss the hurt people are experiencing.  

Recognize we are hurt and that we are not OK right now. And that’s OK. 

Marshawn Wolley is a lecturer, commentator, business owner and civic entrepreneur. Contact him at marshawnwolley@gmail.com.

Marshawn, Wolley

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