“Through the envy of the devil came death into the world: and they that do hold of his side do find it.”
The Wisdom of Solomon
He was a rapper trying to stop violence in Baltimore. Tyriece Travon Watson, better known as Lor Scoota, had just finished hosting a charity basketball game. The fliers advertising the event had said, “Pray for peace in these streets.” Music artists and important faces from around the city had come together to prove they could get along.
Lor Scoota got in his car and left the arena. Bringing peace to Baltimore was a message he had been trying to spread — on panels, in classrooms and in his music.
“How I’m supposed to live with all this death in my sight?” the 23-year-old had once sung.
Lor Scoota was about a mile away from the arena when he was shot and killed.
Baltimore police said the rapper was driving east at 6:56 p.m. Saturday when an unknown black male wearing a white bandanna stepped into the street and opened fire into Lor Scoota’s car. He was transported to an area hospital, but was pronounced dead shortly after. Homicide detectives are investigating the shooting as a targeted attack.
Why did someone kill Lor Scoota? A friend suspected why:
“In Baltimore city, once you’re doing good, you’re a target. Nobody wants to see you doing better than they are doing,” he said. “You try to make it to the top, they’re pulling you down so you still here. That’s why they say once you do your thing, leave.”
Much of the violence in Baltimore is fueled by a cult of honor. Young black men will not tolerate being dissed. Their reputation for violence is all that protects them. They follow this version of the psalm: “Yea, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for I am the meanest son-of-a-bitch in the valley.”
But apparently something else is at work too: envy. People do not want to see other people succeed. They are sad and resentful at another’s good. Peasant communities are afflicted with it, and so apparently is the ghetto.
Baltimore has been climbing back out of its decline. The Inner Harbor is being edged with luxury housing and some older neighborhoods are being spiffed up. All this provides new jobs and new revenue for the city to use in providing better education and social services. But several residents I spoke to thought that the contrast of prosperity with the decay and failure of poor neighborhoods had provoked envy and a desire to destroy the successful, and was one of the causes of the riot. Envy too may have been the motive for the murder of Lor Scoota.
Certain politicians try to appeal to envy by denouncing income inequality and cultivating a resentment against the successful. It is an unwise strategy, according to the Wisdom of Solomon.