ColumnistsD Kevin McNeirEditor's ColumnOpinion

EDITOR’S COLUMN: Former Slaves Honored the Dead in Precursor to Memorial Day Observances — Why Do We Now Spit on Our Ancestors with Acts of Wanton Violence and Murder?

War kills people and devastates human creation when opposing sides, unable to reach a compromise, take up arms and shoot with reckless abandon. In time, however, the enemy no longer becomes a threat and the war ends. Both sides put down their weapons and as is the way of the world, nature has its way as flowers once trampled and destroyed eventually rise again from the dust and ruins to bloom once more.

That’s what thousands of Blacks in Charleston, most of them former slaves, believed as they participated in one of the first commemorations honoring those who had died during the Civil War on May 1, 1865, at the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club — a former horse track that Confederates had converted into an outdoor prison.

Black Charlestonians in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged an unforgettable parade of 10,000 people on the slaveholders’ race course. Afterwards, the crowd dispersed to do what we do today: enjoy picnics, listen to speeches and watch soldiers drill. For them, “Decoration Day,” founded by Blacks and what would become Memorial Day, soon included decorating the graves of the dead and remembering those who had made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of their community and the nation.

Perhaps if Blacks were more in tune with our history, we would not allow Memorial Day weekend today, also the unofficial beginning of summer, to serve as the start of an annual unleashing of senseless violence.

Perhaps the majority of the more than 20 men, women and youth who were either shot or stabbed — some dying as a result of their injuries — had been involved in “shady dealings” that made this weekend’s subsequent acts of retaliation easier to fathom. But it doesn’t matter why. What matters is the fact that we have allowed our own race to devolve to such a state that we scandalize our history, besmirch the sacrifices made by our ancestors who were once property and participate in the unthinkable: shooting, maiming and murdering with little regard for human life — particularly the lives of the innocent who were, as they say, “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Such is the case of Maurice Scott, 15, gunned down and killed in a shooting outside of a liquor store in Southeast on Sunday morning. Three others with him were wounded but are expected to recover from their injuries.

Maurice had barely begun to live his life. A freshman at Somerset Prep, we’re told he had been a good student, a good friend and a young man with an infectious smile, anxious to fulfill his dreams. But that was before a new-age Memorial Day “tradition” once again moved some of our own people to fire their weapons with no concern as to where the bullets would land.

And while shootings took place in every quadrant in the District most of the violence occurred East of the River in communities where far too many live out their short lives as if time were standing still and they have been transported back to the days of the wild, Wild West, welcoming their new identities as gunslinging outlaws.

Is this the kind of people we have become? Do young Blacks have no other means of making a name for themselves than by adding notches to their belts as a result of the number of bullets they’ve unleashed within their own community — regardless of whether their marks are either innocent or “guilty.”

In these instances, we cannot blame “the white man” for our actions. We have no excuses.

War kills people. But weapons, because they’re inanimate objects, need a human being to hold and aim them. And we seem to have become quite skilled at doing just that.

The ancestors are in mourning once again as they were on that day centuries ago on May 1, 1865. Some are even in mourning in the four quadrants of the District. Now what? Will there be more acts of revenge, violence or senseless attacks? Have we learned nothing at all?

Or is this just another day “in the ‘hood?”

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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