Kirshnik Hari Ball and Thomas Lamar Harris are two people who never met, grew up in different eras and led different lives. But the tragic end to the stories of both hits a familiar bone.
Ball and Harris grew up nearly a thousand miles apart—Lawrenceville, GA and Romulus, MI, respectively. Bull grew up in a single-parent home (next to his uncle, Kawhi Keith Marshall, and her cousin Kyary Kendrell Capos) And started making beats and rhyming words in the 7th grade. Harris grew up in what would become a single-family home once his parents divorced when he was 11. In seventh grade, Harris chose football to express himself and soon began to show promise as a running back.
Ball eventually encouraged his uncle and cousin to start taking their craft more seriously—leading them to form a rap group together called Migos, with each member of the group given a nickname. Ball became known as “Takeoff”, Marshall as “Quobo” and Capus as “Offset”.
Although Harris had the makings of a leader, he always seemed to find himself in trouble: fights, selling weed, and bad grades. In his senior year, with less than six months to go until graduation, Harris was expelled from Romulus High School after starting a fight during a basketball game. Without a high school diploma, Harris delved into the drug trade and moved his operation to Grand Rapids, MI. That’s where Harris got the street name “Fair.”
Bull and his band mates would go on to leave an indelible mark on the music industry; Rap mostly about the kind of life my uncle lived in Grand Rapids. The life of a drug dealer.
It was the night of June 9, 2013—nine days before Ball turned 19—when my uncle, Harris, came home from picking up medicine for his daughter. He was ambushed by two teenagers, robbed, shot and left for dead in the driveway of his own home.
Last Tuesday morning – hours after my uncle would have celebrated his 56th birthday – Ball was killed by a stray bullet over an argument over a dice game.
These stories are unfamiliar to the black community and fit into a larger conversation going on in America about gun violence. The Second Amendment has led us down a rather dark path, only illuminated by multiple interpretations surrounding it, most of which protect an individual’s right to “keep and bear arms.”
The conversation around gun laws becomes more complex under the 14th Amendment, which, in layman’s terms, disqualifies states from enacting any law that might abridge the liberties or rights of citizens in the United States. Furthermore, this amendment protects individuals from being deprived of life, liberty, and especially – in this case – property, without due process of law.
Our constitution further grants each state the sovereignty to make its own laws, in addition to the federal laws; Which makes the conversation around uniformed gun laws across our country even more divisive. One thing that seems cogent among the gamut of statistics surrounding gun violence is the ratio of states with strong gun laws as opposed to weak gun laws.
For example, California, Hawaii, New York and Massachusetts are at the top of the list The strictest gun laws; Together they carry an average of 5.23 shooting deaths per 100,000 residents. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Arkansas, Wyoming, Idaho and Missouri were ranked as having the weakest gun control laws; A combined average of 19.25 Shooting deaths per 100,000 residents.
In Dodi and Ball’s cases, they only compound the disproportionate rate that African Americans are affected by gun violence. God Center for American Progress noted in 2020 that black Americans make up 12.5% of the US population, but were victims of 61% of all gun homicides, making black Americans more likely to die by gun homicide than white Americans.
Similarly, Hispanic and Latino people face this disproportionate impact. 60% of shooting deaths among the Hispanic and Latino population are the result of gun homicides. While representing only 4% of the population, Hispanic Americans between the ages of 15 and 29 accounted for 8% of all gun homicide victims in 2020.
These statistics, the stories of Takeoff and Dodi, and countless other lives lost to gun violence indicate that our country is sick. And yet, ironically, we refuse to take our vaccine.