Made Of Shade

Violence Against the Elderly

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In America we’ve seen recent incidents of violence toward the most vulnerable of society: the elderly.

Most recently in Chicago, Willie Cooper, a 74-year-old church deacon and beloved community activist, was shot viciously while sitting inside of his vehicle. Cooper was known for his community work with Chicago’s youth. Read more of that sad story HERE.

It is jarring that a segment of society that was once so revered and immune from our fight club culture is no longer off limits.

It also sparks a strong sense of nostalgia.  America in the ’50s through the ’80s was a time, particularly in African American and Latino communities, where folks respected the elderly in the neighborhood.  You knew them.  You would never think of pounding your fist in the face of an old woman or man like a savage beast, let alone shooting them.

In fact, during that time it wouldn’t be unusual for you to look out for them, even inviting them to share their grocery list so you could pick up a few items on their behalf. In the event you did not see or hear from them, you might even place a phone call or pay a visit. Such was the case for me growing up in East Orange, New Jersey in the late ’70s, where my family often checked on an elderly woman whom lived alone and had virtually no visitors.

As a kid, I learned the sacredness of valuing and attending to the elderly by watching adults model the correct responsible behaviors as it relates to the treatment of a beloved older neighbor.

How did we get from caring about the well being of the old person in the neighborhood to, in an extreme case, shooting them dead? Perhaps it has something to do with media images.  We’ve witnessed less and less of the elderly presented in positive affirming ways. The media often portrays the elders as burdensome, begging vagabonds, or worse yet, useless liabilities who have lost all connection to youth and vitality.

Aren’t some of these elderly folks perhaps those who marched with Dr. King or stood with Fannie Lou Hammer? We have lost morals. Worse, a generation of folks with no boundaries has lost connection to those who’ve provided the life jackets so we could swim.

One thing I know for certain is that we need to remember our reverence for the elderly. We’ve increasingly lost respect for the most vulnerable of society. We need to get back to that place where we sat with elderly folks looking for wisdom and guidance.

We also need to get back to the place where we collectively got together to ensure that all persons who were vulnerable in the community would not fall prey to predatory hands. Your contribution to change can be something as simple as going to check on an elderly neighbor, especially in states where the weather becomes intensely frigid.

We will have failed when we do not respect all human life, especially that of our elders.  Let us move from regret to action.

Quassan Castro is a news and entertainment journalist. Follow him on Twitter @Quassan.