Do you feel that? That's the rising tide of violence in Bakersfield's black community. My community. Growing up on Cheatham Avenue and Cottonwood Road in southeast Bakersfield, I was always in close proximity to Lakeview Avenue, now known as Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The Lakeview area was a hotbed of testosterone, illegal activity and violent behavior. But this current swell of violence seems different. Why has there been an escalation of murder among the black youth of our community? And who should shoulder the blame for the minimal progress we've seen in apprehending suspects?
"Accept personal responsibility" is my modus operandi, so I would be remiss if I didn't start this conversation by first picking up a mirror and squarely placing it in the hands of the congregation that I know and love -- the black community of Bakersfield.
As descendants of kings and queens, it's impossible to encapsulate the prestigious and illustrious history of black Americans. Our lineage extends from the forests of the African continent to the streets of Bakersfield. Harriet Tubman. Frederick Douglass. Rosa Parks. Martin Luther King Jr. We have been incarcerated, beaten and bloodied to get where we are today. And for that, we should all be thankful. But with that being said, we have an "internal problem" that begs our immediate attention. Comparisons have been made ad nauseam between this generation and the ones before it, but there's a lingering old adage that is as prominent now as it was when I was young boy on Cheatham Avenue: "Snitches get stitches." It's a phrase that invokes fear in the hearts of those that have considered turning in perpetrators in their respective neighborhoods.
I believe that black children cannot focus on learning while negative influences fester around them. I call it "you can't best the bling." I believe that in our more underprivileged territories, no matter how many times we discipline our children, all too often the attraction of something more exciting (negative, violent, lucrative or otherwise) supersedes the best of our parenting. With hip-hop culture, gangsta flicks, and M-rated video games as omnipresent as ever, the issues in our community have been exacerbated as those genres become more mainstream.
The phrase "snitches get stitches" is a by-product of someone's hip-hop fantasy becoming our reality. Remember 18-year-old Bianca Janae Jackson? The stellar student who was gunned down in a CSU Bakersfield parking lot in October 2010? The last official reports had a "black Cadillac Escalade with tinted windows and large rims circling the parking lot" and almost 200 people on the scene. You want to know how many people notified the authorities with information about Bianca's tragic death? Zero. Why? Because "you can't best the bling" and "snitches get stitches." The black community seems to want it both ways. We're critical of the Bakersfield Police Department for not doing its job efficiently, but when we lose one of our own, we don't do ours.
There is widespread distrust of the BPD in Bakersfield's black community. I've been told firsthand accounts of racial profiling and/or police brutality. Our jaded suspicions peaked when those seconds of videotape disappeared from David Lee "Deacon" Turner's eastside Fastrip beating in July 2011. We have issue with placing our trust in a force with a tendency toward xenophobia anytime blacks are involved. I understand that collaborative synergy with BPD is essential in order for blacks to maximize our efforts and achieve our goals. You see, we don't want BPD's tolerance. We want BPD's ordinance. One that states when complaints are made about officers that are overzealous in their authority, those concerns are taken up seriously within the department's internal affairs office. And when our community produces information that leads to the arrest of a lawbreaker, we ask for anonymity and discretion.
Let's come together and talk. With all hands on deck, perhaps we'll finally see light at the end of the tunnel, as opposed to the light from a police officer's flashlight shining in our faces.
Danny Morrison, born and raised in Bakersfield, is a local radio personality and a sales representative in the building industry. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words. The Californian reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.