Washington, especially Washington in the age of Trump, is rarely short on outrage.
And while the entire region has been in various degrees of apoplexy all summer over lying white guys in suits, three little girls couldn’t buy ice cream, play in their friend’s backyard or visit Grandma without getting shot.
But no. This isn’t being shared on Facebook or making The Washington Post’s “Most Read” list.
In fact, lots of people have no idea that a 6-year-old took a bullet to the leg in front of her grandma’s house in Southeast Washington. The bullet is still in there, and she had to miss the second day of school Tuesday to take care of the wound.
From the back porch of her grandma’s bungalow, I could see the word “MAKIYAH.” It’s a chain-link-fence tribute — crumpled paper stuffed into the holes — to the 10-year-old killed not far from this besieged neighborhood a month ago.
“A 10-year-old girl lost her life here today. All the hopes and dreams that her family had for her is gone,” said Chanel Dickerson, assistant chief of patrol services south, after Makiyah Wilson was caught in a crossfire while she was going to the ice cream truck. “And we have to be outraged. And we have to work with the police.”
Dickerson is outraged.
She also visited a crime scene in Southeast on the Fourth of July, when an 11-year-old girl playing in her friend’s backyard was hit in the mouth. There were fireworks going off everywhere, but at the hospital, doctors said that what pierced her face was clearly one of the 37 bullets fired into the alley by someone who then took off.
“This cannot continue!” D.C. Council member Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) tweeted this week, the day after a gunman pulled up in his Lexus and fired a rifle at a car outside the home on 56th Street SE, hitting that 6-year-old girl and injuring her mom and 11-year-old sister with either shrapnel or broken glass.
The commenters on Post reporter Peter Hermann’s moving story about the shooting — he chronicled the girl’s grandmother cleaning blood off the front steps with bleach — were filled with outrage.
But not the kind I’m looking for.
Many were furious that activists from Black Lives Matter weren’t protesting in the streets about children getting shot: “BLM this is where you guys need to step up and make a stink. In fact you should make more of a stink then [sic] when a cop shots [sic] someone. Since it happens all the time.”
Let’s get this straight. Black Lives Matter is an activist group formed to fight police brutality and unjustified police shootings. When the government — the law — executes people during traffic stops, that is vigilantism, it is wrong, and that is what the movement was founded to address.
So please, let’s just stop with that.
The kind of neighborhood violence that we’re seeing here?
That has more complicated solutions.
The first to say it was a 76-year-old neighbor of the 6-year-old shot this week.
“They all need to speak up. To stand up,” she said, putting her hand up to stop the conversation briefly as a silver car with tinted windows drove past us. “Hold on. I just have to watch who’s coming and going.”
Her point is that her own community has to change from within. “If you stand for it, for this violence? You support it.”
She works in a hospital and continues to be confounded by the self-destructive behavior that brings patients her way. “Personal responsibility,” she said. “That’s what’s missing.”
Dickerson said she is crushed every time she goes to one of these crime scenes.
“On the scene of Makiyah’s murder, I cannot describe how I felt, thinking about myself at the age,” Dickerson said. “And when I heard she was going to get ice cream?”
What gets her is the secondary trauma, that these kids grow up thinking that violence is normal.
“First and foremost, we must present a united front against a small group of bad actors committing these senseless, violent acts,” she said.
“I’ve asked myself this question: ‘How do you change the minds of people who have been conditioned for years who believe this is all they deserve?’ ”she asked. “I want people to stand up and say ‘Not in my neighborhood.’ ”
But it takes more than residents identifying a neighborhood thug.
“The community has to speak up, yes,” said Ebbon A. Allen, chairman of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 7E, which includes the 6-year-old’s neighborhood. “People have to not be afraid to speak up about senseless crimes. We need to take the village concept that these are all of our children.”
And the health of the entire village — whether it’s drugs, schools, guns or jobs — is what helps stop crime.
It’s no coincidence that poor neighborhoods are plagued with high crime rates. They also suffer from low-performing schools, high unemployment and substandard housing. In the booming capital, the neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River feel ever more separate and unequal.
In Ward 7, the median family income has slipped from $34,562 to $31,273, a nearly 10 percent drop, since 2010 — while in affluent Ward 2 in Northwest Washington, it jumped nearly 65 percent, from $114,752 to $189,324.
That is painful to contemplate. And so is this: If that 6-year-old had been shot in an affluent part of the city, there’d be plenty of outrage.
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