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OPINION | BRET STEPHENS: These lives matter, too

by Bret Stephens The New York Times | September 17, 2021 at 2:52 a.m.

In New York last Sunday, a woman named Shanice Young was returning from her baby shower when she was shot in the head, allegedly by her ex-boyfriend. The ex was apparently looking to confront her current boyfriend when, instead, he shot her.

Young was eight months pregnant when she died. She leaves behind a 6-year-old daughter and a younger sister, whom she was raising after her mother's death last year from cancer.

In Chicago on Saturday, a boy named Kaden Ingram was confronted by his mother, Fallon Harris, because he didn't know where a digital memory card had been left, according to prosecutors. When he couldn't produce the card, she shot him, they say. Then she took a phone call.

Afterward, Harris returned to her wounded son and asked again for the card. He still didn't know where it was, so she allegedly shot him a second time. Kaden died at the University of Chicago Medical Center. He was 12. Chicago is on pace this year to have the most homicides in a quarter-century, with at least 60 people shot, seven fatally, last weekend alone.

In New York last Wednesday, Legacy Beauford, a 1-year-old boy, was sexually assaulted and killed. Prosecutors have charged the mother's boyfriend, Keishawn Gordon, with murder and manslaughter. According to police, he couldn't stand the baby's crying. "He was irking me," Gordon said.

Police responded to three previous 911 calls about possible child abuse but apparently saw nothing amiss. The New York Times reports that "Mr. Gordon had a criminal record that included at least five arrests, including on charges of robbery in 2019 and assault in 2018, according to the police."

In Minneapolis last Wednesday, a sixth grader named London Michael Bean was shot during a neighborhood altercation. London's grandmother, Darlisa Williams, told The Star Tribune that she took him to the Minnesota State Fair just two days earlier.

"He didn't want to eat anything," she recalled of her grandbaby. "He just drank a soda and rode the rides." He was the city's 64th homicide this year. For 2020, the statewide murder tally of 185 was up 58 percent over the year before, breaking a record last set in 1995.

In Los Angeles last Wednesday, a gang-intervention worker named Craig "Big" Batiste was shot multiple times near his family home and killed by an unidentified assailant.

Batiste, a former gang member, was the subject of a 2017 profile in The Wall Street Journal. "I've been a drug dealer, I've been a thug, a hustler," Batiste said. Around the time of his death, he'd been working in his community to prevent more gang violence. He was 54. Los Angeles suffered a 28 percent jump in murders from 2019 to 2020, according to The Marshall Project. This year is likely to be worse.

In Portland, Ore., a couple of weeks ago, there were nine separate shootings in the course of 16 hours. Nobody was killed, but two people were badly injured.

In New York last month, Wayne Washington, 25, was killed after being shot multiple times in the chest, and a 19-year-old woman suffered a bullet injury in her torso. Several hours later, a burst of gunfire in the same neighborhood resulted in the deaths of two more men and the injury of three others.

Brooklyn's 75th Precinct was once one of New York's most violent neighborhoods, registering more than 100 homicides in a year. By 2018, the rate had come down nearly to zero, a fact I celebrated in a column called "Joe Biden: Be Proud of Your Crime Bill." That was the 1994 bill that intended to fund 100,000 additional cops, built more prisons, demanded tougher sentences and imposed a federal ban on assault weapons.

For all of its shortcomings (and there were plenty), the bill, I wrote, moved America "in the right direction: of more policing and tougher enforcement and a powerful refusal to continue defining criminal deviancy down in the face of those who said we just had to take it."

Rereading that column feels like opening a time capsule from a bygone era, when American cities were generally safe. Today, you can drive down just about any street in a liberal neighborhood and see lawn signs or posters proclaiming that Black Lives Matter, sometimes alongside a picture of George Floyd.

But the lives of Shanice Young, Kaden Ingram, Legacy Beauford, London Michael Bean, Craig Batiste and Wayne Washington, among so many others, should also matter and be remembered. Where are the yard sign slogans for them?


Bret Stephens is a New York Times columnist.

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