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Friday, December 3, 2021

What more can we do to quell violence in Indy?

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“And a little child shall lead them.”

A 13 year old was recently shot dead while trying to intervene in an altercation on the city’s east side. Harry Taliefer, who had been a student at Decatur Middle School, showed compassion, conviction and courage on the night of July 12. He was at a home in which several people began arguing. Showing maturity beyond his years, young Harry tried to be a peacemaker. But at least one other person had a different goal. Indeed, it was the opposite goal. As a direct result, young Harry is dead. A mother, experiencing excruciating sorrow, asks “why.” Family, friends and our community grieve over a devastating loss. Again. 

Few things make me feel more impotent than the unnecessary — and preventable — violent death of a young person. I donate much of my time, my talent and my treasure to the cause of trying to help my community to be better. And, no, I am not attempting to make this horrific event about me. But, one would have to have a truly defective heart not to react with despair and disgust to the needless shooting death of Harry Taliefer, as well as to the thousands of other young victims in our nation. 

Even as we grapple with a spate of police shootings of unarmed African-Americans around the country, we are struggling to make sense of the chaos in too many of our predominately Black communities. The late, great Tupac put it this way, “And they say it’s the white man I should fear. But it’s my own kind doin’ all the killin’ here.”  The plain, unabridged truth is that ‘Pac’s sentiment is as accurate today as it was some 20 years ago when he wrote the song “Only God Can Judge Me,” from which these lyrics are taken. “Naptown” is becoming “Nightmare-town” right before our eyes.

Thanks to social media, we often witness such violence in real-time. We seek “causes,” such as by reading reports about “what’s working” in other communities.  We also try to balance our distrust of law enforcement with our understanding that we need them to work with us. Not content to pontificate while sitting on our couches or in barbershops, we hold rallies and marches. We deliver impassioned speeches and sermons. We volunteer with nonprofits and faith-based organizations. We write checks. And we pray. God knows, we pray. 

The question is, what MORE can we do — individually and collectively — to address this violence in a more effective way? Is there a need for even more oversight from fathers? (As I referenced in another column, African-American men, married and single, are more likely to be involved with our children than are men of other races.) Dammit, I’m fresh out of fresh ideas! I am both ashamed and saddened by that fact …

All I know to do is to continue work with other people who are dedicated to helping our young people find alternatives to the violence that stems from hopelessness, poverty, emotional trauma and unhealthy environments. In that way, we can all help young Harry Taliefer to achieve in his tragic death what he could not achieve in his short life. 

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