Roy Exum: About ‘Speak No Evil’

Monday, December 16, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

“Snitches get stitches” is what we learned yesterday when the Chattanooga Times Free Press included an unprecedented 8-page section in its Sunday editions that peeled away one sordid layer after another on our city’s tragic black-on-black shooting epidemic. The marvelous work, entitled “Speak No Evil,” explains in a bold way why a staggering 58 percent of 300 shootings in Chattanooga since 2011 remain unsolved with no arrests made.

Even better, the epic coverage by writers Joan Garrett McClane and Todd South revealed how Mayor Andy Berke’s administration will utilize an initiative similar to what brought about a huge change in High Point, N.C., in a quest to find a common-sense solution in “a city where it’s not hard to shoot a person, even kill someone, and get away with it.”

In all the years I’ve read and studied Chattanooga newspapers, I have never seen anything to equal “Speak No Evil” and I believe it is a journalistic masterpiece. It took an exhaustive nine months to prepare, with more than 150 people interviewed, countless hours of study and research, and dogged determination by many other staffers, photographers, media experts and graphic designers.

Candidly, I have grown tired and callused of reading one story after another of gang members who seemingly ignore poverty and illiteracy while flagrantly shooting each other to pieces but I was so inspired by the newspaper’s achievement I believe it ought to be “required reading” in every junior high and high school in our region. It will become an invaluable tool for our city’s progress and its future.

The lead story centers around the desperation of Shondra Mason as she tries to find out who shot and killed her 18-year-old son, this just three years after he was shot in the stomach and steadfastly refused to assist any police investigation. There is an unwritten code in Chattanooga’s black community where any witnesses “don’t remember,” “don’t know,” or “didn’t see anything.”

The reason is harsh – the black community doesn’t trust the police. Instead the gangs dispense their own justice and the violence has become a top priority for Mayor Berke’s leadership team in its corporate-like approach to government. Now we know why the “worst of the worst” roundup just netted 32 criminals who definitely don’t need to be on the streets.

Now we can see what the next steps might be in building an aura of mutual respect, where churches and other groups can actually help those on the fringe to “join normal society like the rest of us. Get a job. Raise your kids.”

The newspaper, taking a hero’s step in the effort to confront the horror, will sponsor a “Forum on Race, Reconciliation and Truth Telling” this Thursday at the Bethlehem Community Center. Located at 200 West 38th St. near the Alton Park community, the meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and will address the divide between inner-city residents and the Chattanooga Police Department, as well as other law enforcement agencies.

“We expect the conversation to be honest and raw and perhaps uncomfortable,” the newspaper’s editor, Alison Gerber, wrote in her column yesterday. “It may not look pretty, but it is necessary.

“Shootings don’t happen in most Chattanooga neighborhoods. And it’s easy to look away, to say it’s not my problem and it doesn’t affect me. But when lives are being senselessly lost, when people are suffering,” she wrote, “it’s a newspaper’s responsibility to find out why.”

Pam Sohn, the Times Page Editor, pointed out in her Sunday editorial, “We really have two cities – the Chattanooga we aspire to be, and the Chattanooga so divided by race and poverty that the boundaries are even geographical” and she is right.

Part of her editorial read, “… Mayor Berke has put money and work on a problem that largely has just gotten lip-service from past administrations. Berke has even allocated money for the services of a special federal prosecutor.

“Berke says he knows the effort must be a sustained one. One or two roundups will make a dent, but replacement criminals will bloom and flourish if concentrated surveillance wanes … We have to do this and keep doing it, Berke says. And he’s right. Along the way,” wrote Sohn, “we’ll have the opportunity to knit our two Chattanoogas into one.”

royexum@aol.com


Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com; Include Your Full Name, Address, Phone Number For Verification

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to  news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. This includes your home address and phone number. We do not post the contact information, but need it for verification. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Deadly ‘Holy Trinity’

If you have grown tired and calloused to America’s horrifying opioid epidemic, please consider what the epidemic has become. A report last week found that, in the United States, emergency room cases including opioid abuse jumped a staggering 99 percent between 2009 and 2014. It is believed that last year over 60,000 Americans died from drug overdoses and – far worse – more than ... (click for more)

3 People Shot At Citgo On Glenwood Drive; 1 Dies

Three people were shot at a convenience store in Glenwood on Monday afternoon. One later died after being rushed to the hospital. A second person who was shot went to the hospital by personal vehicle. Police initially could not locate the third victim, but later confirmed another had been shot. The incident happened around 2:40 p.m. at the Citgo at 101 Glenwood Dr. (click for more)

Erlanger Pharmacies Sold To CVS For $10 Million; Units At East, North To Close

Retail pharmacies at Erlanger Health System are being sold to CVS for $10 million, officials said. The retail drug stores at Erlanger North in Red Bank and Erlanger East on Gunbarrel Road will close. Erlanger President Kevin Spiegel noted that CVS has its own pharmacies nearby those facilities. CVS will operate a pharmacy at the Medical Mall on the main Erlanger campus on ... (click for more)

Former UTC Assistant Football Coach Suspended At ETSU After Threatening To Hang Residence Inn Clerk

A former UTC assistant football coach has been suspended at ETSU after police said he threatened to "hang with a noose" a clerk at the Residence Inn on Chestnut Street. Jeffrey Brumett, 35, was charged with assault, disorderly conduct and public intoxication. In the incident on Friday night, police were told by the clerk and by witnesses that Brumett was angry because his ... (click for more)

Cleveland High School Selects Joey Knox As Head Wrestling Coach

Cleveland High School has selected Joey Knox as the next head coach for the Blue Raider Wrestling program.  Coach Knox has been with the wrestling program as an assistant since 2013.  During his assistant coaching tenure, the team has secured six Team State Championships, including five individual State Champions and 20 State Medalists.    Cleveland High ... (click for more)