At 7:15pm on Saturday night I was sitting on the outside deck at Tir Na Nog Irish pub in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
None of my friends were able to join me. I was attending Balticon, but everyone I asked to join me for dinner was either involved in the Masquerade, had already eaten, or both (except for the one who was filking). For once I didn’t care. It was a beautiful night, I was finishing up the best shepherd’s pie I’ve had on this continent and sipping at a glass of Magner’s cider. I texted my husband to tell him how great things were.
My next text to him was not printable here.
At just after 7:30pm, I heard running feet from the direction of the amphitheater.
A moment later four shots rang out.
17-year-old Neal Mack (I’ve also seen his name as Mack Neal, so I apologize if it is wrong) was dead. A girl of the same age was fighting for her life.
I didn’t see anything. I was too busy running for cover. I don’t even know what happened to the drink that was in my hand at the time.
The shooter is still at large.
I Know What People Will Say
Heck, I heard some of it.
“Kids are out of control.”
“Welcome to Baltimore.”
“These Black kids…” (Spoken by somebody who didn’t know the ethnicity of the victim, making it even more racist).
“We need to stop putting violence on television.” (But of course, not take any steps to keep guns out of the hands of teenagers).
And I know the other things that might pass people’s lips. “Black-on-black crime.” “Gang-related.” “What did the kid do?”
All of the usual things. Mack wasn’t shot by police. He was probably shot by…another kid.
There was an altercation. It escalated. Somebody got shot.
This should not be normal.
This should not be “Welcome to Baltimore.”
And it shouldn’t matter who Mack was. At some levels it does.
He was a youth intern for the Tendea Family, a non-profit with the goal of “advancing Baltimore’s Black community by operating transformative initiatives focused on identity, self improvement, community service and development.”
He was shot in the chest, not the back.
He was a boy. He was a man. Usually when you say a 17 year old Black kid is a man you are trying to justify things. But I would argue that a kid who is already devoting his life to his community has earned man in the true sense of the word.
He was also a boy who should have grown into a community leader.
But it doesn’t matter. He could have been a junkie and he still wouldn’t have deserved what happened to him.
I look at the picture of him on the news and I was so close to this.
I went back to the hotel.
I got quietly drunk.
This isn’t “mental illness.” This is cultural illness. This isn’t violent video games. It’s a nation that doesn’t practice gun safety. Not “gun control.” Gun safety. If the shooter was a juvenile it was already not legal for him to have the gun.
And it’s a nation which fears youth, which wants them not to even be seen or heard. Which makes cities hostile to anyone not, at that precise moment, spending money.
Which shuts down every place kids have to go. Which responds to something like this with “We need a curfew.”
These kids need purpose. These kids need things to do to keep them out of trouble.
These kids need hope. I have a feeling a lot of those Black kids in Baltimore are short on that.
I’m not paywalling this one. It’s too much. I refuse to make a red cent off of this.
I refuse to dehumanize the victims, as somebody advised me to do to protect myself from trauma.
Rest In Power, Neal Mack.
Say his name.
And instead of signing up on my referral link, consider making a donation to the Tendea Family. Their initiatives include community cleanups, helping people get food, and teaching Black History.
I’ll be back to my normal, scheduled blogging tomorrow. But this isn’t even a mass shooting. It’s a “regular shooting.”
We should not be having “regular shootings.”