The victim’s name and face is different, but the story’s the same: Violence in the Black community is so much a part of our culture that it hardly gains notice except for when it, literally, strikes close to home.
Derrion Albert’s “home” suffered a direct hit recently when the 16-year-old Chicagoan died of a gang beating. He was reported, even by one of his admitted attackers, to be innocent of any offense besides being near the explosion of hate that broke out near the school he attended.
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How’d it get so easy? What set the pendulum of fate into such motion that it keeps swinging back and forth through generations of Black lives that end suddenly and callously? Children of the young men who killed, or died, over gold chains and sneakers in the ’80s suffer from a lingering curse of violence. Only today’s brutality doesn’t seem to require a reason. It may not even elicit a response from the neighborhood where it takes place. Voices behind the camera that captured Albert’s beating are heard saying things like, “Get closer,” and chuckling after his limp body is dragged to safety. Not once does a voice suggest, “Call the police,” or “Dial 911” when the teen is fatally injured.
A similar scene left Detroit authorities dumbfounded in June when two unidentified boys were caught in surveillance footage shooting seven people at a bus stop. But unlike in the case of Albert’s beating, it wasn’t the lack of sympathy from bystanders that shocked cops; it was their total silence. Four months later, an absence of leads from the community has resulted in not a single charge.
Federal stimulus funding recently provided for $47 million in aid to crime victims, covering lost wages and medical costs. Imagine the depth of any problem for which the United States government prescribes such an amount. While we continue filling cemeteries and prisons with unrealized potential, crime-prevention specialists like Dale Brown, founder of the Threat Management Center, work toward remedies. Creating safety through education on how to avoid conflict is key, especially among youth, he says.
“Psychologists say that if a child does not feel safe in their formative years, that child will never reach their full potential as an adult,” adds Brown. “If youth feel protected, they won’t feel that they need gangs and weapons to protect themselves.”
By starting at its roots in insecurity, new coalitions of families, schools, churches, mentors and government can stop the urban bloodbath that could soon stain a new decade. Violence isn’t an issue that we can keep living with – or dying from.
What can we do about the spiking violence in our communities?
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