Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jamar is Dead

Thank you for being here. I don't know where else to go with this.

Nineteen year old Jamar Taylor is dead. He died last night of a single gunshot to his head. Don't bother looking for it in the paper, it isn't there. Today, I was called to the Livonia Skills Center (job training center for handicapped students), where he attended, to assist in the crisis intervention. Almost immediately, I found that I was the one who wound up working with a group of 8 young adults who were his closest friends. These were students from Inkster, Westland, Livonia, and other northwest suburbs, all with some form of handicapping condition, and the finest human beings I have met in a long time. I have never felt more effective as a psychologist than I did today, as we explored the aspects of grief, self-soothing, finding support and comfort, remebering Jamar, and addressing the issues of regrieving their many life losses (of which there were very very many). I discovered that these were people who had lives I could never imagine, and I thought I had seen it all. Only half of them were living with their families of origin and had someone they lived with from whom they could seek comfort. But, and this was a huge but, they were there for each other. Their support and love was absent of sophistication and self-interest. It was open and honest and concrete, and the insight about the realities of life was astounding. They found this support in the context of school. That is something very right about schools.

I spent the day listening to these children, the victims of poverty and racism, and heard first hand what it feels like. They told me that because it happened in Inkster, the shooter will never be arrested because the police will give up within a week. The police don't care, and can't protect anyone. The students also know that they, themselves can find out who did it, and they want to get revenge. They explained that in their community, taking the law into your own hands is much more effective than waiting for police to prevail. The police will never find out who did it, even though everyone in the community knows. The code of silence is too strong. It is because of fear. If someone tells, then they, too will be shot. No one will protect the person who tells. "It is OK to go to jail if you get revenge because your future isn't worth shit anyway".

On my way home, I realized that I am probably naively fearless, because I have never known fear in my home or community. I have never been an innocent victim. Today, I crashed into a world I intellectually knew about, but never fully appreciated. I'm struggling tonight. I know I am richer for this experience, but needing a lot more.

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