When the Village Fails the Child: The Death of Kuantrae Massey

When the Village Fails the Child: The Death of Kuantrae Massey

It’s not supposed to happen here. I mean, that is why we move away from the city. So our boys will be safe. So gunshots become distant notions of things past. So my children don’t have to know what it’s like to mourn someone your own age. This is not Chicago. The babies are supposed to be safe here. Yet here we are, a community minus one. A family left incomplete. School friends left hurt and confused. It does not matter if you knew Kuantrae Massey personally, he is your son/brother/nephew/cousin/friend/student because we were supposed to be his village.

My daughter reminds me that we saw Kauntrae (“Trae”) at the grocery store the night before he died. I remember looking up him and the others in his group in much the same way I now have to look up when speaking to my own 16 year-old son. They grow so fast. This town is small so before she mentioned this, I knew my children were friends of the young victim even before his name was released.

The media has simply reported that Kuantrae was shot around 2:45 p.m. on January 21, 2012. 16 years old. Early reports from the coroner’s office indicate that someone else shot him. As details unfold, people have already taken to social media to speculate as to whether drugs were involved. What does it say about the state of the United States of America that young Black men and boys are always assumed to be drug dealers? Despite the fact that their young white male cohorts are statistically more likely to be involved with drugs? What does it mean that young Black men will always been painted as criminals before the details emerge? Kuantrae, an A and B student is described by his school administrators as a nice young man.

Discussions of gun control are geared towards protecting children that don’t look like Kuantrae. The assumption is that our babies don’t need to be protected. The reality is that boys who look like Kuantrae are the ones who need protecting the most. The President talked about keeping our kids safe “from Detroit to Newtown.” I just hope someone knows to add Bloomington IL to that list.

I’m writing this post because I cannot find the words for my children. I cannot find the words for myself. More than anything, I know there are no words for the parents and sibling of Kuantrae Massey.



  • Tessa
    Posted at 19:44h, 25 January

    Loved your article. You hit the nail right on the head with this one. I was curious to see if I knew this young man by his face, as I am poor at recalling names. However, there is limited information out there and I wonder why that is. When you hear about a white kid getting shot, their picture is every where and you see Youtube videos playing with music and memories. Perhaps the family is private and want his death to remain that way as well. I can respect that. The contrast is shocking in how the media treat these incidents. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • Erica Thurman
      Posted at 00:41h, 27 January

      You are correct. When white children are victims of such tragedies, their faces are often plastered on every news station. In contrast, Black children’s faces are plastered when they are thought to be perpetrators of crimes. Ultimately, this leads to desensitization when Black children are killed. Kuantrae’s friends have shared photos and videos in his memory on various social media networks. I opted to not post images as I did not have his mother’s permission to do so.