Happy

7-year-old St. Louisan Xavier Usanga was shot to death on August 12 while playing in his backyard. He was the tenth African American child to die from a gunshot since April.

It is fairly easy to pick up a newspaper and read a gun violence story and cluck your tongue and go the refrigerator and get a snack and not think a second about your own white child or grandchild because this kind of death will not come for your kids. What other response might there be?

It is more than easy than to sit with a group of white friends, shake heads, proclaim black kids getting shot a tragedy—but. But what? I have heard it. Black on black—they don’t care. They are animals (I overheard this at a local café).

Dawn Usanga, Xavier’s mother, who should be an existentialist philosophy professor: “In a way I’m kind of happy he died at 7. These streets didn’t have a chance to ruin him. He could just as easily been swept up in this war, and the boy who shot him could have been my boy someday.”

Is this the new norm of evolution? Black kids have a life expectancy of 7-10, so forget dreams? Just be cute black puppies and wriggly black kittens, just play in the backyard until you’re shot?

Remember history class—the Emancipation Proclamation? The slaves were set free. What did they do with their freedom? You know, we all know—they squandered it. My people, free people, white people came from (insert country here), and they had nothing, and they made something of themselves. My people, free people, black people were forced out of Africa:

“Overnight, four million slaves now free people were freed by a speech. Four million freed blacks, without money or resources, without housing or clothing, without experience of life away from the plantations from which they came, without family or tradition, without anything, walked away, many to the nearest city or town about which they had heard. They descended on Atlanta, Birmingham, Montgomery, New Orleans, Memphis—with nothing. Ghettos the like of which makes today’s ghettos seem opulent, were born overnight. The residents had no sewage, no water, no food, no shelter. Most of them had long ago been separated from other family members via slave auctions.

“They did receive hate. An abundance of hate. Hate was, however, low-calorie, thin material for clothing, non-paying, identity light. Hate begat disease, poverty, disgust. Disgust expressed by a generation whose grandparents and parents were slave owners. Disgust expressed by working whites who now had to deal with a potential enemy who would work cheaper.” I wrote this, for my book.

That white disgust is current. That myth of whiteness is now. That story—of the superiority of Europeans—is a white wet dream. There is no race called Europeans. There is no “white.” Pale complexion is a function of climate and environment. There is a single human race. Eighteen African tribes, eighteen women… are the mothers of us all. If you don’t know this, that DNA evidence made this possible, you might want to read a science book. If your drunk uncle was your source for “whiteness,” you might want to look up some peer-reviewed studies. Your drunk uncle was… not a scientist.

Xavier Usanga didn’t know any of this. He was a kid.  His mother Dawn said, “He was born with a smile on his face and he died with a smile on his face.”

The street Xavier lived on is described as an environment where young black men with guns have all the power. All the power. We all want some power. There is rampant absurdity in the notion that young black men only want dominion over a street, a street which is a universal symbol for the greater history of humans on our planet: conquering, annihilation, blood. It’s somehow gorier (and blacker, don’t forget) on the street level.

But it’s the same goddamn thing. Lawless gunslingers, huddled masses, the marshal off on a wild goose chase, drunken men challenging each other, like the scene in Owen Wister’s “The Virginian,” where Trampas calls the Virginian a son of a bitch and the Virginian draws his pistol and says, “Smile when you say that.” The white myth, the founding myth. Leaving out the staggering number of girls in isolated cabins being raped by their own fathers, their mothers beaten.

But it’s the same goddamn thing.

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