I remember when/I remember, I remember when I lost my mind/There was something so special about that place/Even your emotions had an echo and so much space.
— Cee-Lo Green
Used to be when public shootings, domestic terrorism and school massacres saturated the news the assumption was the perpetrators and masterminds were white men.
Modern history bore this out: Ted “the Unabomber” Kaczynski, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building by Timothy McVeigh, the school shootings at Columbine High School by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, James Eagan Holmes’ Aurora, Colo., movie theatre massacre and Adam Peter Lanza’s Sandy Hook Elementary School slayings.
The carnage is breathtaking.
Between 1978 and 1995, Kaczynski killed three people with letter bombs; in April 1995, McVeigh and his cohorts murdered 168 people with their truck bomb; Harris and Klebold shot and killed 15 people — including themselves — in April 1999; Holmes shot dead a dozen innocents and 70 were injured in July 2012 in that dark theatre and Lanza and his mother numbered among 28 dead — mostly young children — at Sandy Hook.
In August 1992, Randy Weaver and his band of militia-cum-white supremacists in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, were fired upon by a gaggle of federal agencies, leaving three dead. In February the following year in Waco, Texas, the same federal agencies fired on David Koresh and his cult of Branch Davidians, leaving 86 dead.
McVeigh cited the government’s siege on Waco as the inspiration for bombing the Murrah Federal Building.
Generalizing to make a point, barring slave revolts, domestic violence and deadly gun play during drug deals gone wrong, blacks, historically, haven’t been much for mass public shooting sprees or for violently acting out in public to instigate what can only be called “death by cop.”
Blacks kill one another in misdirected rage and for deeply personal — if not for stupid — reasons like unpaid debts, you-stole-my-woman jealousy, gang initiations and, my personal favorite, you-looked-at-me-wrong-in-the-club.
But we suffer from just as much mental illness as any other population and, unscientifically, we go untreated in higher numbers.
I know this from the intense psychic pain wrought on my own family that’s untreated and, like a scourge, has been left to trample through generations, from my large and widespread group of black friends among whom there’s open talk about bouts of depression and mental illness — but that’s all it is, merely talk.
And I know blacks are crazy from watching us in everyday life for 48 years, and some of us are surely getting by unmedicated and without therapy.
It’s because blacks don’t place much credence in the validity of mental illness and/or mental defect.
We do not trust talk therapy; it is a white, European invention. (It is.) We do not trust strangers; what could they possibly do with our deepest secrets and troubles besides betray us? (To whom, exactly?) We do not trust pills that could change our thought patterns and blunt the edges of our deep-seated anger, hostility and confusion. (They do and they will.)
Yet, we drink, smoke, ingest crack, heroin and cocaine and the synthetic chemicals deep-fried in every fast food meal we eat like our lives depend on it, and it still takes us years to realize that funny feeling we feel is the beginning of hypertension, heart disease, sickle cell and diabetes.
And we’re still walking around crazy on top of harboring within our bodies life-threatening physical maladies that will end up costing us tens of thousands of dollars in medical visits and medication by the time we die; that is, if we choose to catch and treat those illnesses.
And still, we do not believe in the healing powers of therapy, so we don’t go.
But we should. If any American population still bears the scars of its troubled and violent beginnings on this soil, it’s black folks; yet, we do the least work to traditionally heal ourselves and instead self-medicate with educations, cars, luxury items and God.
God is carrying enough baggage and sometimes S/He wants us to work it out for ourselves.
And “working it out” doesn’t mean leaving mental illness untreated and then killing innocent strangers in public spaces. In this way, black and white people, we are twinned.
John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo shot and killed 10 people in October 2002 as “the D.C. sniper.” The pair was initially believed to be a lone white gunman with military experience. Muhammad allegedly had a sexually deviant relationship with his “adopted son” Boyd, whom he’d groomed to be his murderous sidekick.
In February, former cop Christopher Dorner killed four people, including three L.A. cops, before killing himself. Dorner was previously trying to uncover wrongdoings in the police department and he’d lost at least one significant police-review panel hearing. The aggravation drove him into a murderous rage.
On Sept. 16, Aaron Alexis, who’d been arrested multiple times in other states for firing his weapon publicly and who’d begun to hear voices, defied all federal security clearance restrictions despite a long history of mental illness and random gunplay and killed 12 people inside the Washington Navy Yard.
Miriam Carey, with her infant in the car seat and suffering what her mother said was post-partum depression, stormed the nation’s Capitol and led D.C. cops on a short chase before they shot her dead.
All these folks were black and suffering some mental break, perhaps just like their white counterparts. However, there was a time not long ago when, among black folks, we’d let the news of such devastating and shocking public deaths roll off us and chalk it up to “crazy white men” because we just knew nothing like that could be done by a black person.
There were, we thought, “white crimes” and “black crimes.”
Liquor store hold-up?
Bodies in the basement?
Now, we’re just about equal.
Ain’t that crazy?
CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: firstname.lastname@example.org