Another child’s death evokes angst, grief, finger-pointing

Submitted photo Angela Williams speaks out at a press conference

News Analysis

Young folk’s despair leads to more senseless gun violence

Yet another young person was victimized by violence last week. Twelve-year-old London Michael Bean was felled by gun violence last Wednesday, Sept. 8. It was accompanied by the usual grief, handwringing, finger-pointing, victim blaming and community self-flagellation, but no real answers have come to the fore.

A witness to the shooting, Danny Braylock, told FOX 9 News that he was at the corner of Aldrich and 8th Avenue North in the Heritage Park neighborhood of North Minneapolis on the afternoon of September 8 with his granddaughter when they noticed two boys in an altercation. “Some dude came running from the side of the house and just shot the kid a couple of times,” said Braylock.

The witness said that when he and his granddaughter got in their vehicle to drive away, the shooter started firing at them. Two bullets struck the back passenger side door.

The victim’s grandmother said she had just taken him to the Fair days before. Other relatives described him as a fun, silly kid who could quickly turn a negative situation into a positive.

London Michael Bean, 12, was shot and killed on the North Side Wednesday
Submitted photo

Community response

“Most are in shock not knowing what to do to make the bloodshed stop,” is how WCCO Channel 4 News Anchor Reg Chapman described the gathering at the site of the shooting the following day, Sept. 9 of those who came to lament and denounce the killing of Bean.

Senator Bobby Jo Champion attended the gathering and called for “putting the neighbor back into the hood.” Champion remarked, “This problem requires all hands on deck in order for it to be solved. Think about that—all hands on deck.”

“We have to work with law enforcement to solve this problem,” said Al Flowers. “Most of our community knows this is true. We have to build police-community relationships.”

History shows that police have been unable or unwilling to stop violence in Black neighborhoods. Internecine violence has nearly become a fixture of urban Black America and has existed for as long as most can remember. However, in the last 50 years it has been exacerbated by the easy accessibility of guns and has been accelerated by battles over drug turf.

Newly appointed Minneapolis Police spokesperson Jarrett Parten commented to news media, “We have those who have no respect for the sanctity of life.” During his turn at the microphone on Thursday, Mayor Jacob Frey said, “Crime and violence is a result of deep-seated injustice. Enough is enough. This has to be the last one.”

However, when Star Tribune columnist Myron Medcalf addressed the broader community in a Sept. 11 column and tried to make sense of the killing by breaking down the social contributors, his perspective was greeted by many who disagreed vociferously.

While a few of the more than 700 reader comments (see sample below) could have been categorized as racist and downright absurd, others repeated old tropes: blaming the failure of the Black family, accusing Blacks of being unwilling to work, and blaming the community for not being willing or able to pull itself up by its own bootstraps. Many others revealed a mindset of cognitive dissonance.

 “Minnesota wasn’t established as a place for Black folks to thrive. The economic, medical and educational disparities have stretched across generations,” wrote Medcalf.

“That’s why the gun is not the first problem. It’s just the last and most pivotal problem. It starts at the beginning. Young people, of any background, become more reckless when they are offered few reasons to believe they have bright futures. The police brutality, the violence, the pandemic and the financial devastation bombarding the Twin Cities’ Black community right now have only encouraged that unfortunate outlook for some of the young Black men who’ve decided the gun is a necessary accessory,” wrote Medcalf.

“Too many Black kids in this place do not believe there is anything better behind Door No. 2. And if that’s not addressed, then the list [of those] shot this year will grow. There is a long line of young victims and, in many cases, young shooters.”

Medcalf ended his column with an even more profound remark: “But it’s not untethered violence. It is the seedling of despair, which has been inflamed by inequality.”

The broader community’s responses to Medcalf’s column:

 “In the end, the change needs to start with the community itself.  It’s not going to be handed to you no matter how hard to push, protest or blame someone else.” (Jcrew45)

“Sorry mr Medcalf the blame is on the parents and the culture they live in. Leave the rest of Minnesota out of your blame.” (dizkid)

“He says it is a Minnesota problem. Sorry, it is a Black problem mainly. The Black family is broken for a subset of the Black community. Black family needs to get a father involved and a lot of this violence will end.” (moron100)

“I’ve said many times that the key to this is ending the problem of black kids being raised without fathers. the welfare system penalizes marriage and has created most of these issues.” (Yolando Smith)

“It must be nice to always have someone else to blame for your problems rather than taking ownership and doing the work.” (skolmen)

The issue is “liberal society blaming the White man for all of the Black man’s problems. (gonejohnson)