Over time, I have slowly come to understand racism. I wasn't raised that way. I was raised completely opposite, and was fortunate to have been born in Southern California. I spent most of my life believing that racism was a thing of the past, and that sexism was also a thing of the past.
With about 80% of the homeless families in Los Angeles being headed by single mothers of color, it's pretty hard to escape the fact that both types of discrimination are very real. I was driving around South Los Angeles a few days ago and said to my friend, "Look, let's not eat here. Let's go somewhere else." My friend insisted it was not dangerous, and it didn't "look bad."
"You're wrong," I said. "Most of the families here are great people, but they're afraid. The gang violence has changed some, but it's still out of control. These mothers won't let their kids play outside at all, and it's for good reason."
So, for no good reason at all, in an act of senseless violence, Jamiel Shaw II was shot and killed by gangsters, only 3 houses away from home. Jamiel was an outstanding high school athlete, headed for either Stanford or Rutgers. His father, Jamiel Shaw, Sr., was on the news this morning and it broke my heart. First of all, I know what it is like to lose a child for no good reason, all in an instant. And Mr. Shaw's grief and dignity broke my heart. He asked for people who knew anything about the crime to contact the authorities, and said, "We don't have guns to fight the gangsters. What are we supposed to do?"
I am posting this here for at least a few people to read it, because of the following facts. Jamiel's mother Anita is a Sergeant in the U.S. Army fighting in Iraq. Jamiel's father had every hope for his son. Jamiel himself did everything right, and was gunned down while on the phone with his girlfriend only three blocks from his house. He was an inspirational role model to others, and was the Southern League's MVP last year -- looking forward to attending a top university, then moving on a to a successful, happy life.
And gangsters ended all that. A car pulled up full of gangsters, and they asked Jamiel where he was from -- code words for what gang was he in. Jamiel wasn't in a gang. He attended church every Sunday. He was a popular, successful high school athlete. So when Jamiel did not answer the gang members, they shot him.
There should be outrage everywhere. This will never be covered on the national news. It probably won't even make "Court TV." It's possible the killers will never be apprehended (although not likely - LAPD gang enforcement and the DA have gotten a lot stronger). Even if the killers are caught and sent to prison, it won't bring Jamiel back. Nothing will bring Jamiel back.
This is all that I can do to let Jamiel and his family and the community know that I care. If everyone raises their voices, one by one, to stop the abuse, it can happen. It's a dream -- but it's the same old dream. No more violence, genuine equality, genuine respect for others. Jamiel and his family are people of value and worth. They deserve to have their story told widely, and for there to be national outrage at this young man cut down just as his bright future was beginning. It won't happen. But at least I can do one small part. As a mother who has lost a son, this is the least that I can do, to say, at least in this way, "I understand."
An update on March 12: A reported gang member was arrested for the killing. He was only 19 years old himself. With the numerous people mourning Jamiel at his funeral, plus the involvement of authorities, I am sure that Jamiel will not be forgotten, and that his death will have some meaning. Maybe in some way, it will prevent future killings. I think everyone who knows about this will hope and pray for that.