Note: The title is from Q.U.E.E.N. by Janelle Monáe featuring Erykah Badu.
Warning: this blog post contains subject matters such as murder and suicide.
One person was killed and at least a dozen injured when a car struck pedestrians in New York's Times Square this past week. What hasn’t been making the major headlines: Kingston Frazier, a six-year-old who was found dead in Madison County from a gunshot wound while sitting in the backseat of the vehicle. Three teenagers are accused of killing him. They’re 17 and 19-years-old.
When news of Times Square surfaced, I was thinking of all my friends in NYC and while I was glad to hear they were safe upon checking in, I couldn't help but think that the 26-year-old driver had to undergo a series of tests to get his license. What about those teenagers who used the gun on Kingston Frazier though? What kind of testing was involved allowing them to obtain a gun? Definitely not the same lengthy testing that goes into getting a drivers license. It just reminded me, we so need to enforce the same rules between getting your license and getting a gun. There needs to be better background checks for both instances and while we raise this up with our representatives, we also need to pay attention to what's going on around us. Kington was sleeping in the backseat of his mother’s car when it was stolen. Were any people around to see it happen? Maybe not. And the driver in NYC, it all happened so fast. But there were signs of him having mental health issues in the past. How did those go on for so long without anyone raising a flag? I understand it’s really hard for us to keep our eyes open for any behavior that might not seem normal to us (especially as we are growing more accustomed to a society where normal news is such a rarity). Most of us are caught up in our own worlds, and cell phones and technology don’t help much with that. But sometimes the signs are so apparent to us if we just took a moment and looked around.
I stopped watching the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why about halfway through the series. If you’re unfamiliar with the subject matter, it has to do with a young girl in high school ending her own life, but not before she leaves a series of tapes for people to know how they contributed to her death. Now, I don’t think that gives too much away regarding the plot, but if you’re still interested in watching it, maybe don’t read the rest of what I’m going to say about it. For me, the show glamorized certain aspects of suicide and summed up a lot of what teenagers go through by throwing it all on one girl. Yes, one person can go through all that, but it frustrated me to see certain stereotypical situations happen to one character over and over again. It would be interesting to see how other people dealt with similar events or done something differently with the plot to gain perspective. Outside of my critique of the show, The Mighty came out with this video regarding a few things to kick off a conversation about suicide revolving around ’13 Reasons Why.’ I suggest you watch it. Or even watch the episode of Friends (season 7: episode 13) when Phoebe gets involved with a suicidal worker. In my opinion, that episode does a better job of showing people how to pay attention and speak up when they see someone suffering from mental illness. It doesn’t glamorize it or make it any more dramatic than it needs to be. And I’m not trying to hate on anyone who loves 13 Reasons Why with all of this. It’s just the idea that we hold so much power in our hands that I’m focusing on. We have to power to grab a steering wheel, a gun, whatever it may be, and choose to do with it what we want. Sometimes, it’s not even a choice, but something outside our control. And while that’s scary to think about, a lot of us have the power to incite change.
We can choose to get more involved, raise the issues of mental illness and gun violence prevention up to our government, speak out at high schools, sign petitions, check in on our friends, share stories that might be going unheard like Kingston’s, and simply put down our phones and connect to one another. It’s worth staying informed, aware, and present. It’s worth making a fuss about it. Because, yeah, there are lots of shitty things that happen in the world that are outside our control, but we owe it to ourselves and to do what we can to make it a little bit better.