Is suicide not as common in urban areas, most specifically amongst black and brown people, or do we just not hear about it?
I watched Blackboard Wars on OWN, and happened to hear Don Lemon of CNN have discussions about mental illness and suicide on the same evening. In Blackboard Wars, the prevalence of mental illness among urban high school kids in New Orleans McDonough High School, was brought to light. I wasn’t surprised, as I have long believed that many children in urban areas suffer not only from mental and physical ailments that are not diagnosed, or, if diagnosed, not treated because of economic constraints. If one adds to the presence of mental illness the many pressures from home these kids have, the often deplorable conditions of their schools, and their fear of street violence, and the fact that many of these kids are labeled “behavior problems” by both their parents or guardians and their teachers, one has to come to the conclusion that many of these kids are depressed…yet we don’t hear of it. We know that many urban kids do not believe they will make it out of their 20s. We also know that urban kids, especially brown and black urban kids, are more often arrested by police even when they have done nothing wrong. They stand in courthouses and listen to police lie about what they have done, and they have nobody to advocate for them. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/opinion/sunday/why-police-officers-lie-under-oath.html)
We hear of urban kids being shot and killed (and nobody seems to care), but we rarely hear of them shooting themselves or hanging themselves. Is that because it doesn’t happen or is it because our society doesn’t think it’s newsworthy to report it?
Studies show that the rate of suicide among black males rose about eight points from 1980 to 1993, and the rate of suicide amongst black females did not change much at all during that same time period. (http://www.faqs.org/health/topics/44/Suicide.html) But why not? Surely the conditions under which urban kids live could inspire anyone to take his or her own life.
Could it be that the suffering for urban youth is so deep and so emotionally brutal that they have cut themselves off from their feelings? Viktor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, writes that the suffering of the Jews during the Holocaust was so extreme that they able to withstand the brutality of their surroundings only by become immune to their own capacity to feel. What they endured is mind-boggling, yet they called upon inner resources to keep them going. Could it be that urban kids have done the same? Could it be that the rash of gun violence in urban areas is indicative of suicide by another name? the shootings happen with regularity because, I believe, the kids no longer see other kids – or adults, for that matter – as human beings. The only way they can kill so indiscriminately is for them to think of their victims as targets for their bullets, not as people with feelings. Yet, at the end of the day, they must still think that what they have done is wrong …or can they feel that way? Maybe their not acknowledging their feelings keep them afloat. Maybe their form of suicide is in what they do – killing other people, and in so doing, they kill a little more of themselves. They have no hope, many of them, no dreams. They don’t care if they live or die. So they become dead kids walking. They don’t care anymore, what happens to them or to anyone else.
. Urban kids hurt like everyone else. Hurting kids in the suburbs often kill themselves by hanging, or shooting themselves…Yet black and brown kids carry around the burden of racism and poverty, which makes racism that much more rancid. . They see and feel all of the problems suburban kids do, only they see it through this dual prism of racism and poverty. They are bullied; they deal with issues of sexual orientation; they deal with parents who do not have time for them, but we don’t hear about them hanging or shooting themselves all the things that suburban kids do…
I don’t know what they do…but I know they do something. All living creatures do something when they are in pain because they want the pain to stop. What if this nation looked upon the problem of urban kids killing each other as the opportunity to see into the psyches of tormented souls, souls that stopped hoping, dreaming, and believing that things will ever get better? Would that kind of insight and intuition help us deal with the issue of suicide in general? What if we could look at suicide from the perspective of what we see in urban America? Would the suicide, or could the ongoing suicide, by way of senseless homicides, of urban kids be reduced? The kids are not hanging themselves. They are killing each other.
Now that I think about it, what do kids in Appalachia do? Native American kids? Kids who live with a steady stream of hopelessness? We hear sometimes about Native American kids being alcoholic. Is that their form of suicide- killing themselves bit by bit?
Feeling hopeless hurts.
And yes, I am saying that the homicide we seeing in urban America is a form of suicide.
A candid observation …