“It’s already like we don’t have nowhere to go. I’m not even trying to make us, as black people, victims. But we are fuckin’ victimized and that, overall, makes me feel a certain type of way. I wake up knowing that nowhere is safe. They killed people in a church house. When shit is bad that’s all we know—all we know is to pray. And (in) the place we go to pray, and the place we go for hope… You kill us.”
August Alsina, Hot 97
The killer in the Charleston church shooting was identified as mentally ill, which seems to be a suitable explanation for the media. Blaming mental illness for this hate crime without acknowledging mental illness in other crimes is unacceptable. Mental illness is never discussed in gang violence, drive-by shootings, or urban school drop-out rates. The state of mental health in urban communities is openly ignored, and urban crime is hardly ever excused by mental illness. The black community has had a notoriously absent relationship with mental health practices. Practices like talk therapy, drug therapy, and rehabilitation centers are often taboo within the community. Instead, we look to the church, mosque, or community center to solve these problems. We pray in the face of all adversity, and now our churchgoers are getting killed. Meek Mill enforced this point in a recent interview with the Breakfast Club. He reminded his audience that mental illness is never blamed for crime within the black community, “A black kid’s not mentally ill in the eyes of the law, he’s a thug.” But when do the lines of deviance and mental illness cross and fade? A medical doctor would probably be able to diagnose the difference, but for the common man how do we define these boundaries? For example, where do we draw the line between cultural differences around the age of consent and pedophilia? Where do we draw the line between people who believe in active spirits who talk and walk among us and schizophrenics? Where do we draw the line between a 12 year old thug and a sociopath? Has our neglect and shame around mental illness bled into the way the judicial system processes our crimes? Does the judicial system ignore mental illness because we ignore mental illness? Do we play a part in the way urban crime is handled? Who decides if a drug dealer is suffering from PTSD or if he is just a product of his environment?