Today's Midmorning conversation with Father Gregory Boyle, the founder of a jobs program for Los Angeles gang members, was already interesting before Michelle called. But then she brought us from Los Angeles to North Minneapolis with her story.
"I live in North Minneapolis and there's lots of murders around here, but I actually witnessed one," she said. "It was a 14-year-old boy and he was in a gang and he was shot right off his bike. In a pool of blood, laying there dead. And I have tried to share this experience with my friends who don't live in North Minneapolis and even my family, and they brush it off and say, 'oh, it's North Minneapolis. He was a gang member.' He was 14 and he's dead. On my street. I saw it. And it's so interesting how it's utterly horrifying and no one can offer me any compassion, or see him as subhuman."
"It's a common thing, " Fr. Boyle responded. "As long as there's a them, we're in trouble as a society. The measure of our compassion lies not in our service of those on the margins, but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with folks who are on the margins... He was some mother's kid. That had to count for something."
Michelle clearly does feel a kinship with people on the margin. She moved to North Minneapolis from Highland Park -- naively she said -- 12 years ago and she seemed to question whether North Minneapolis feels a kinship with "folks who are on the margins."
She said she "wasn't trying to save North Minneapolis, just trying to make the invisible visible to our daily lives. Our neighbors really are trying to make North Minneapolis better and are trying to make it more livable and (they're) saying, 'we can't highlight these murders. We have to highlight the good things about our neighborhood. So, really, could you just move on, Michelle?'"
She said it needs to be just as alarming "when there's a murder on my street as it is in Highland, where if there was a murder, it was the talk of the town for three years."
Fr. Boyle knows something about dead kids few people care about. California cut funding to his program -- he says it has plenty of money to save the Hollywood sign and some famous alligator, but not for gang kids -- and he had to lay off more than 300 people.
One of the young men who lost his job went to see him on Sunday. "And he said, 'I want to thank you for everything thing you've ever done for me, Father. I especially want to thank you for the layoff, because it woke me up, and I start to see how valuable life is." He said the youngster just enrolled at a public college to study psychology because he wants to be a counselor. "But he said, 'I wouldn't have come to that if you hadn't saved me,' and he thanked me."
Last night, he was shot in the head outside of his home.
His name is Omar.
"'oh, it's North Minneapolis. He was a gang member."
I have lived there. These people are not trying to marginalize the victim or create an "other". They are trying to help themselves feel safe. They are telling themselves why it won't happen to them. That is an understandable reaction.
The media has so much to do with this. Earlier this spring some college kids were getting mugged and it made the local papers and TV stations. People, mostly Latinos, are mugged in my neighborhood ALL THE TIME and they are never mentioned.
We had a man shot 5 times, mostly in the head, last fall. It closed down Nicollet Ave for hours. He didn't die, so it never made the paper. If he would have been a white suburban guy it would have. Or a college student.
Because of these, we all learn that crime is terrible when it is against white people or college students, because that's when it makes the papers. When it is against minorities and poor people, it doesn't make the paper, so it isn't important.
I was moved by the interview with Father Boyle this morning.....
All children are miracles and deserve to feel the love of another...love essential to grow, to have a moral compass and to survive.
As a society and as individuals we have not kept that contract with our children. Children are not just our future, they deserve to be the focus of our society today.
I agree with the young girl and Father Boyle. It is sad that we have come to such hostiity and abuse.
Having lived in Los Angels; witnessed a similar gang shooting in Pico Rivera, it is quite disturbing. However, we must stop blaming the innocent citizens for not caring and go after the parents of the gang-bangers. They either don't care, are in denial of their child's activities, or do not speak English and their children lie to them in Spanish.
I ask this of you Father Boyle, "When do we put a stop to this ignorance, hostility, and lawlessness towards those of us who obey the laws of the land?"