What happens when we're angrier inside than we realize?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Bowie State University killing.
Last week, an 18-year-old student was killed during a confrontation with her roommate. According to the police report, Dominique Frazier and some friends were listening to her iPod as they primped for a campus comedy show. Her roommate, Alexis Simpson, turned off the music and refused to turn it back on. An argument began between Frazier and Simpson, and ended when another woman (possibly two) separated them by pushing Simpson into her bedroom. She quickly emerged, swinging what appeared to be a knife, and stabbed Frazier in the neck. (This is the second time this month a female student has been killed on campus. FAMU student-athlete Shannon Washington was stabbed twice in her dorm by her girlfriend.)
“I didn’t mean to do it!” Simpson said just after the stabbing. “Y'all don’t know what I’ve been through. You all jumped me.”
This story hits close to home. Not only because I recall how tense it can be to not get along with a roommate (I had three my Freshman year), but also because I attended undergrad 20 minutes from Bowie State’s campus. I partied there (the pajama jams in the mid '90s are legendary), and have multiple friends who’ve graduated from the university. I also got a taste of the campus again earlier this year when I spoke to a class of sociology students. My prayers are with Frazier’s family, Simpson’s family, and yes, even Simpson.
What led to this tragedy -- and calling it such is both accurate and understated -- started long before Simpson pushed the “Off” button on the iPod. Even without Simpson’s telling words of what she had “been through,” it’s painfully obvious that her anger, and its mismanagement, goes further back than when Frazier moved in at the beginning of the semester. Hurt people hurt people, and the pain of who or whatever hurt Simpson, bubbled to the surface when Frazier and Simpson faced-off over that music.
“Black women are in unbearable and unspeakable pain and we are undiagnosed and untreated for most of our issues,” says Terrie Williams, author of “Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting.” She notes that our suffering is exacerbated by a cultural silence about discussing our “issues,” a distrust of therapy and/or a misinterpreting asking for help as a sign of weakness.
Williams adds, “When your spirit and/or body has been violated and you have no outlet, you suffer and you lash out. Someone might say something to you seemingly innocent, and then you go totally off, all because that person unknowingly triggered something that was said or done to you that you never got over. “
I’m not giving Simpson a pass for her actions. She’s justifiably being charged with first-degree murder, and undoubtedly she’ll be found guilty and serve time. But while she’s locked up, I also hope that she receives treatment to finally address what she’s “been through.”
She definitely needs the help, and perhaps we all do.
Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of "A Belle in Brooklyn: Your Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter at @abelleinbk