Just like everyone else in this city, I’m tired of all this killing. It’s been going on way, way too long (“Incident No. 1113,” 3/5). For the past 20 years, almost every night, every day, a young black man has been found lying in the street, dead, like some animal, usually with a bullet hole in his head. The next day, his whole life and death may be described in one small paragraph buried in the Washington Post. Some of these victims are never identified, and many of these murders are never solved.
It’s a tragedy that this kind of violence has crept into our schools, in our nation’s capital, the most important city in the world. After James Richardson got shot at Ballou Senior High School, parents gathered, screaming, yelling, blaming. Who’s going to take blame for 20 years of senseless killing? Me, I mostly blame the parents.
Hear me out.
Many of our young black women today choose to be single parents. Many have three, four, or five babies by three, four, or five different men. Many are unmarried, unemployed, and uneducated. Many of our troubled youth come from homes like this. Yet these women constantly talk about the poverty they’re in and how can they get out. What they need to do is get off their backs and take responsibility for their actions: stop getting pregnant with babies they don’t want and cannot take care of.
Do I sound cruel, perhaps racist? No, it’s cruel to have all these children with no means of support. I’m a middle-aged black woman who became a single mother at 33, with a good, government job. I have one son, who’s a scholar. He was just inducted into the National Honor Society, and at age 13, he took the SATs and scored 1060, the national average score for a college-bound senior. He’s now 16 and has his mind set on Harvard, Yale, or the Air Force Academy.
How did I do it, a single mother raising a young black male, alone, in the murder capital of the world? With plenty of love, guidance, patience, and understanding. I don’t drive or own a car, but we went everywhere together. Every week, I’d check out the Post Weekend section to see what was free, at the Smithsonian, the Old Post Office, the Kennedy Center. No matter how tired I was, I read to him every night. I put him first. I put him before getting my nails and hair done. I put him before getting high and partying. I put him before any man that happened into my life. My mother once told me that children don’t ask to be born.
As far as I’m concerned, this is a wonderful city to raise children, with everything at your fingertips. The best and brightest come here from all over the world to compete. Yet we have some of the worst schools in the nation, one of the highest crime rates. Black folks, we seem to head every negative list there is: new HIV cases, unemployment, babies having babies, high-school dropouts…. Why, in such a great city as Washington, D.C.! Alas, the choices one makes!
Why do I write this letter? Will someone read it and get angry? Or will someone read it and realize that the truth hurts but it will also set you free? We have to somehow break this vicious cycle of babies having babies, poverty, and crime. We have to teach our young people, especially our young black girls, that their bodies are their temples and to treat them as such, not to lie down with any young man who compliments them on their big butts or pretty smiles. It takes so much more to be a parent and raise a baby.
Thanks for listening. I leave you in peace and may God bless us all.