Elegy For a Gangbanger: The Times Remembers Shaalie

“At home, he loved eating pancakes and waffles with syrup, and could belt out the lyrics to ‘Bad Boys’ when he was young, his relatives said. He played basketball and video games. Neighbors remembered him as polite and respectful.” Translation: Shaaliver Douse was such a good boy. How could something like this happen to our little Shaalie? Young master Douse was terminated by New York’s finest earlier this month after shooting at another yoot and then failing to drop it when commanded to do so (instead, he fired at the cops). While friends and relatives have only the fondest memories of Shallie’s brief time on this Earth, others with knowledge of Douse and gang life in general tell a slightly different story . . .

Kevin O’Connor, an assistant commissioner at the New York Police Department who follows gang violence, said he had never seen “a kid with three gun scenarios in nine months in my 25 years of dealing with youth.”

That three-fer includes an attempted murder charge that was dropped when the victim refused to cooperate. And others outside the family who knew the departed paint a slightly less rose-tinged portrait.

“But to others, Shaaliver seemed cool and edgy. On Facebook, his friends called him Shaalie Blood. At night and on weekends, he could be found on Washington Avenue near East 169th street, which is a hub for teenagers, who call it the Nine. All around, large, often rowdy groups talk tough, smash bottles and chase one another over fences and through traffic in a game they call Manhunt.”

Sounds like the standard fare, no? Well, no. At least not they way the Grey Lady’s scribblers, Winnie Hu and J. David Goodman, relate it. They’ve taken the time to peer deeper and found beneath the surface a much more complex, nuanced story of a kid who somehow took the wrong path despite all the right influences in his life. In their telling, Douse was just a poor “troubled teenager” – as if he chose gangbanging and gunplay because of a bad case of acne and the shame of not making the football team.

Like many others, he was trying to find his place in a Bronx neighborhood scarred by poverty, drugs and crime, where guns were easy to come by and settling scores could become a way of life. He was surrounded by family and friends who tried to protect him, yet in the end he chose or was lured into the wrong crowd.

That “wrong crowd” includes the McBallers, a wholly owned subsidiary of a larger conglomerate known as the Bloods. But here’s the truly tragic part: the kid didn’t really want to be a banger.

(S)hortly before his death, Shaaliver had confided to a close friend that he wanted to go to college and to get serious about boxing, because that could lead to a career and a future. “He wanted to get out of the projects,” said the friend, Aileen Nunez, 19. “He wanted to move on with his life.”

It turns out Shaalie was a Michael Corleone figure; just when he thought he was out, they’d pull him back in. He’d done all the right things. He attended Head Start when he was little and made the honor roll at his high school.

The night that Shaaliver was killed, his father was going to cook him dinner but never came, Ms. Farrar said. So she fixed him Italian sausages with onions and peppers on a roll. A neighbor brought over a plate of homemade macaroni and cheese because she knew he liked it. After he finished, he left their apartment and texted his girlfriend that he was close by….

“He dressed well, always had the most expensive shoes on,” said Sabuwh Muhammad, 31, a close family friend. “He really didn’t need for nothing. That’s what I’m trying to tell you, he’s not a kid that went around having to rob people or sell drugs.”

Yep, The Times’ pulled an oldie but a goodie from the lefty media playbook for this one, a real fave – the good-kid-gone-wrong, collective guilt, why-didn’t-someone-do-more head shaker. Shaaliver Douse wasn’t just (another) thug who got his comeuppance early on in his budding life of crime before he did any serious damage. When you look deeper, as the Times scribes did, you find the victim of an uncaring system. Just a complicated young man looking for his place in a tough, cruel world. In fact, the way Hu and Goodman tell the tale, none of this was really Douse’s fault. He was one more in the long line of casualties of our society’s cold indifference and lack of opportunity.

That’s right, we all share some of the responsibility for this little tragedy. As everyone knows by now, it takes a village to raise a child, and the village comprised of Harlem, the city of New York and America as a whole failed this one, poor troubled young man. And now he’s dead. Think about that the next time you look at yourself in the mirror.

Of course, the Times has played this one out hundreds of times before. It’s like waving catnip in front of their like-minded, woolly-headed Upper West Side readership. But it doesn’t mean we have to swallow it. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to sit here while they bad mouth the United States of America. You?

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