Roland Babb Sr. and Robin Green say people just assume that any time a black teenager is shot, he must be involved in criminal activity. “Just because we’re in this neighborhood and he’s black, people think he’s in a gang,” Babb said. “They always try to make you something you’re not."
Jamar T. Babb said he doesn’t know why he has a bullet in his back.
He said he never fought with or even spoke to the 18-year-old accused of shooting him Feb. 16.
His parents are furious, not only with the accused but also with suggestions by police that it might have been gang-related.
Roland Babb Sr. and Robin Green of Canton, Ohio, say people just assume that any time a black teenager is shot, he must be involved in criminal activity.
“Just because we’re in this neighborhood and he’s black, people think he’s in a gang,” Babb said. “They always try to make you something you’re not.
“The neighborhood don’t make the kid. He goes to school with gang members, but my son is a loner. When you see him, he’s with a bunch of girls. When he was in the hospital for seven days, didn’t no boys came to see him; it was all girls.”
Babb said surgeons removed Jamar’s spleen but left the bullet in his back in hopes it will come out on its own.
People concerned about endangered species might be interested to know that the one at greatest risk these days is not the snow leopard or baby seal. It is the black teenager. Black-on-black homicide is the leading cause of death for young men 10 to 24.
“These kids have no regard for life,” Babb said disgustedly. “I told my sons a long time ago that if you need backup, you’re not a man. If you can’t thump (fight), you can’t thump.”
Their bare-knuckle neighborhood has seen better days, but inside Jamar’s family’s duplex, the neat living room is festooned with “get well soon” balloons. The TV stand is decorated with sports trophies earned by Jamar and his older brother Roland, 18, shiny reminders of more innocent days.
For Jamar’s mother, Robin Green, the shooting is like a recurring nightmare. Her daughter Essence was shot and killed in 2007.
“It wasn’t gang-related; it wasn’t drug-related,” said a mother still angry about the lack of publicity Essence’s murder received in comparison to that for Jessie Marie Davis, who was killed around the same time.
Green does not pull punches. Jamar, she admits, has been in trouble due to his own behavior, not because he’s a gang-banger, and Roland Jr. is in jail for driving a stolen vehicle.
All you can do, she said, is teach your kids right from wrong. At some point, the rest is up to them.
“I’ve told them it’s all about listening and thinking, not following,” she said.
Green said Jamar simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“They assume it was gang-related because we stay in this area,” she said. “He’s a black male teenager. When they see him walking around, he has to be in some kind of gang. I don’t think it’s right.”
After some prodding from his mother, the slender boy who doesn’t yet shave said, “I’m not in a gang. Never will be.”
“This family is still hurting and grieving,” Green said. “I wish the violence would just stop.”
Contact Charita Goshay at firstname.lastname@example.org