March 14, 2016
By Jordan Malloy
Playing kickball on the street with the rest of the kids growing up in Wilkinsburg, gunshots were so common that if we heard them we’d pitch the ball like nothing happened and go on playing. The sound would pop off in the air like firecrackers in the summer, and most could tell the difference.
In the news we’d see stories about violence in Wilkinsburg basically as its own segment. All that is published are the random acts of violence. The vigils are held, and people go back to their assorted lives.
I was homeschooled when I lived in Wilkinsburg because that district was one of the worst in the state. Yet I still couldn’t be sheltered from the violence, the dead bodies found in my ally, the young man who attended Pitt being killed in his own car, the robberies that occurred if you stayed out when the street lights turned on.
These all seem like they are separate events that only link our communities by tragedy, but they are not. These are not departed and unrelated events.
When no one invests in our schools; when no one gives the people honest programs that will help us; when no one gives parents jobs with pay good enough so they don’t have to be at work 16 hours a day with no time to spend with their kids; when cops search and harass us for no reason, building animosity between those they are supposed to protect; when no one invests in our local small businesses, considering how difficult it is for those in such communities to get help from banks; when government programs for those who have finished their prison sentences leave them to be watched and controlled with no one wanting to hire them. The result is evident and tangible.
If we want the violence to stop, we need to stop looking at the product of the problem and look at the source. Look to our officials who I have yet to see speak to what happened Wednesday night. Speak to these officials who, instead of investing in the neighborhood’s schools and effective programs, gave a license for restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages.
Look to those who don’t pay parents enough and leave them with no time to raise their kids. Look to the police officers who treat the black community with disdain. And never forget to look in the mirror—these tragedies will not stop until we bring it upon ourselves to demand what our communities deserve and act on what we know is right. Time heals all wounds, but right now we need this pain. We can’t let the distance between us and this neighborhood mitigate how strongly we react and how long and hard we will fight to bring peace, justice, and progress to our communities.