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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Too many are dying

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Black Indianapolis has to rediscover a culture of life.

Last year we lost 158 Black people to criminal homicides in this city. Three times in the last five years we have lost more than 100 Black males.

In 2016 we lost 103.
In 2017 we lost 86.
In 2018 we lost 103.
In 2019 we lost 95.

In 2020, we lost 137 Black males and 21 Black women to criminal homicides. We haven’t even mentioned COVID-19.

Our death culture is intimately related to the desire to experience the fun of life in some instances. It’s the house parties with no masks. The gatherings in parking lots. The kickbacks happening around the city.

A death culture seeks instant gratification in part because you don’t know how long you’re going to live anyway. Systemic racism has reduced too many in our communities to survival mode. And in this state respect is everything. Life is cheap. And there is so much pain the self-medication is seemingly necessary.

But this isn’t who we really are — it is a condition too many find themselves in.
The day I wrote this five people were killed in this city. I’m concerned that all the homicides were criminal and they all were Black victims. And truth be told, I am also horrified that it’s a Black hand pulling the trigger in most, if not all, of these shootings.

But what is most terrifying is that collectively our community knows who is doing the killing and is either too scared or for other reasons have chosen not to speak out.
Police currently do not have a suspect for around 102 of the Black criminal homicides from last year.

This can’t be life.

What I’m hearing …

Senate Bill 168 is an ill-conceived, wrong-headed effort to rile us up. Two former Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) officers who are now in the Senate — one based in Noblesville — got together and decided a state panel would be a better way to get the community involved in policing. There would be a five-person board with four seats appointed by non-Marion County officials with the mayor of Indianapolis serving in the fifth seat.

The great irony being the community fought for the current system which includes both a citizen-led use-of-force board and a citizen-led General Orders Board.
I’d spend more time on this mess of a bill, but I’m betting the governor wants no part of running IMPD. But we will have to wait and see what happens.

House Bill 1006 advanced out of committee and could be a positive development for police and community relations. It has received support from both police unions as well as civil rights organizations for the right reasons. Key provisions include language that calls for a decertification process for officers who commit misdemeanors or other misconduct, requires the transmission of personnel information for officers moving to different jurisdictions, defines and limits chokeholds and establishes a penalty for police officers who turn off their body camera to conceal a crime.

Rep. Greg Steuerwald and our own IBLC Chairwoman Rep. Robin Shackleford led this effort with Rep. Wendy McNamara and Rep. Stephen Bartels. We will need to see what happens to this bill. It could be a rare big win for all parties involved.
Are our local hospitals white power institutions?

There is an emerging recognition in our community regarding the lack of diversity in the leadership of our hospital systems. The Health and Hospital Corporation ran a botched process failing not only even the Black candidates that dared to apply in the process but even the person who ultimately received the nod, new CEO Paul Babcock.
That fiasco where board members openly acknowledged not even knowing, let alone interviewing, all of the candidates raised the issue of what diversity looks like on local hospital boards as well as executive leadership in hospital systems.

At a moment when there is great distrust in hospital systems both due to their alacrity and initial lack of focus even in obtaining and reporting COVID-19 data by race — when they knew co-morbidities by race created a lethal combination for many dealing with the virus; but also concerns about systems sending Black people home to die and the other stories of mistreatment at all of our hospital systems — the paucity of Black executives seems even more striking.

It is point-blank infuriating.

How is it that systems meant to serve the nearly majority-minority in Indianapolis and Marion County lack diversity in key leadership positions specifically on the boards, C-suite and other senior management leadership positions?
Why is that OK? How did it happen? That there is a lack of diversity in senior leadership at local hospital systems is a problem that needs to be addressed yesterday.

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

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