Deja Vu: Little Black Boys & Guns

Deja Vu: Little Black Boys & Guns

Deja Vu – the impression that one has already witnessed or experienced a current situation, even though the exact circumstances of the prior encounter are unclear and/or were perhaps imagined.

Safe places seem to be increasingly rare.  When a little boy eating spaghetti is programmed to run towards a closet to escape gunfire and dies from a bullet to the head, there’s a problem.  In his house. At the table eating spaghetti. Bullets don’t belong in that story.  When a little boy sleeping on his grandmother’s couch dies from shots intentionally fired at the house, there’s a problem.  Grandma’s house.  On the couch. Asleep.  Bullets have no place in a situation like that.  Regardless of the ethnicity, class, education, or addresses of those boys, their deaths are despicable tragedies that go against all that is natural and good.

As true as that might be, it saddens me that the story seems far too familiar.  Young people dying as a result of the ignorance that camouflages itself as “the way it is” is nothing new.  In this sick, twisted game that is “the code of the streets,” young people are expendable.  They are pawns.  When they get bumped off, there is a very familiar response – news cameras roll up, mommas cry, RIP t-shirts are printed up, light poles are decorated like monuments, liquor is poured out, preachers and street preachers talk to the cameras, vigils are organized, and pledges of “change” float around because the pain and fear of the moment cause people to set aside the code.  Or so it appears for a few days.

I’m wrestling with some questions…maybe you can help me process one or two of them:
  • Which things can I be mad about? If I am pissed off at the coward who pulled the trigger, can I also be pissed off about the fact that guns are more accessible in North Minneapolis than fresh fruit & vegetables?
  • Is it taboo to talk about personal responsibility right now? How long should I wait before I start that conversation?
  • Why do I care so much about the fact that I’ve not seen or heard much about the father of either of these two boys?
  • Do the preachers and news trucks always show up and leave at the same time? Or just some of them?
  • What other sacrifices must I make in the hope of seeing a community transformed? Am I willing to pay the cost?
Maybe I just don’t get it.  I grew up on a dirt road in South Carolina. I ate spaghetti. I slept all over my grandma’s house – except on the good couch.  I never felt the slightest sense of danger.  My childhood was…a childhood.  Is wanting the same for someone else asking too much?



  1. thanks for this. I had one person say to me, sort of matter-of-fact: “there’s always a shooting.” there’s so many challenges, and one of them is not to be jaded by violence. You ask great questions at the end of this piece. How do we start to repair families so deeply damaged? How do we change the mindset of a generation? Somehow I think Christian people need to be at the forefront of such discussions and movements.

    God bless you!

    • Thanks so much for the comment!

      There’s definitely a cycle in Minneapolis and other comparable cities. Each “round” of violence seems to make it all seem a little more normal than the last, but there is nothing normal about children dying in this way. We have to keep driving that point home. This is not normal. Beyond that, there has to be a multi-layered response, and I agree that Christ followers should be a part of that movement. There is a lot of work to be done and, perhaps, one answer lies in our ability to build collaboratives across lines that were once uncrossable.

      Grace & Peace!

  2. So much of what you’re getting at has to do with protecting the sanctity of childhood. I think its hard to stay a child in today’s society, people are forced to grow up so fast. Innocence has become incredibly rare. Its not only increased violence but access to technology and over-sexualization in popular culture—kids aren’t allowed to be kids anymore, and people seem to think this is somehow progressive.

    • Thanks for the comment, Rae!

      I think about that all of the time – how fortunate I was to grow up how/when/where I did. We were super poor, but I was afforded a simple, normal childhood compared to many. Yes, sanctity of childhood is critical. When I think about this broadly, though, I think we’re talking about entire family systems that are, in some sense, lost. As a result, you have kids who inherit dysfunction from the people who should be responsible for them. Far too often childhood innocence is not lost, it is violently ripped away.

      On one hand, we need to get honest about addressing the cycle. It needs to be stopped. Period. On the other hand, we need establish creative ways to help young people survive, even, thrive in spite of being born into this sort of messed up situation. Hard? Yes! Possible? Absolutely!

      What do you think?

  3. Edrin. Great piece. Great questions. The violence touches us all. I so want to respond and reach out but I fear misunderstanding and racial tension since I am a white woman living in a predominantly African American neighborhood. Sometimes I wonder what qualifies as cultural and family differences and what is just counter cultural in response to oppression, poverty, and repression. I want to understand. I want to help and more than anything I want kids to feel safe in their own homes and yards.

    • Thanks for the comment, Amy!

      Can you say more? I think I understand the hesitation, but I don’t want to read anything into your comment. Can you explain what might be misunderstood if you reached out?

      Thanks again!

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