“When a violent minority that crosses color lines comes to believe that killing those you know or do not know is a reasonable solution to problems, we are in need of another vision,” said Stanley Crouch.
The recent rash of youth shootings in Jacksonville make Crouch’s quote extremely relevant. The violence in our communities has to stop. And no I am not fool hardy enough to think that we can end all violence, but I do know that we can reduce the violence happening amongst the youth of this city.
Generally, most sociologist and those who work in law enforcement associate crime with socio-economic conditions. It is pretty easy to tie high rates of violence and murder with the city’s struggling core city neighborhoods. One could also point to the obvious connection between drugs and violence, but regardless of what the cause of the disease, a holistic long term solution needed.
Back in the 1980s when I was growing up, one of my favorite rap songs was, “Self Destruction.” Not only was the song a compilation of some of my favorite rappers, but also it was hard hitting and spoke about black on black crime directly and honestly.
Because at the end of the day, we can blame socio-economic conditions and we can even blame the legacy of discrimination and inequality that blacks have faced in this city, state and nation, but black folks are killing black folks. And that’s the bottom line.
One of my favorite lines in the song came from Kool Moe Dee, he said, “Back in the sixties our brothers and sisters were hanged, How could you gang-bang? I never ever ran from the Ku Klux Klan – And I shouldn’t have to run from a black man.”
Many of our youth are lost in a false culture of violence that is being perpetuated by Hip Hop music. And no I am not saying that rap music is the cause of the violence we are seeing. I am saying that the music is the vehicle used to express this negative behavior, and has almost become the instigator of violence in many ways.
Today, young people are starting fights or “beefs” over anything from a negative social media posts to someone stepping on “my clean white shoes in the club.”
But whose issue is it? It is certainly not just an African American issue – it’s a local, state and federal problem.
Again, most sociologist and criminal justice professionals will tell you that violent crime is not simply a race issue, but an economic one.
Although I have said that this issue is not just an African American issue, the fact that many of the homicides and violence spawn from black-on-black violence, hence the black community needs to take some ownership and come together to find solutions.
Editor and writer Susan Taylor may have said it best, “Self-hate is a form of mental slavery that results in poverty, ignorance and crime.”
Self-hate and ignorance maybe be root causes, but figuring out a way to change the mindset and the culture of violence is critical to any successful solution. Unfortunately, there is no short-term answer – we are dealing with an issue so vast that no one solution will ever work. There has to be multiple initiatives and strategies.
There is a sense of hopelessness that must be dealt with before our communities can change for the better. The great educator, Benjamin Mays, said, “The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.”
And that quotes gets to the heart of the matter. Not enough of our youth have goals because they are not being properly educated and not enough black men are taking responsibility for raising their children.
As I have said, this is not simply an African American, but there has to be strong black leadership if change will ever occur. And leadership has to be real – it has to be genuine. Clearly, the justice system is not fixing the problems in the black community, but in many cases adding to the crisis.
Someone once said, “One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.” And we are far past emergency status.
If we are really going to help those young black males and females that suffer from a lack of guidance, we have to provide them with option other than violence and drugs.
I’ll close with the “Self Destruction” lyrics from the late rapper Heavy D., who said,
“Let’s get together because we’re fallin apart
I heard a brother shot another. It broke my heart
I don’t understand the difficulty, people
Love your brother, treat him as an equal
They call us animals mmm mmm I don’t agree with them
I’ll prove them wrong, but right is what your proving them
Take heed before I lead to what I’m sayin
Or we’ll all be on our knees, prayin.”
Signing off from a Teen Leaders of America camp at EWC,