Our Youth are “Headed for Self Destruction,” but We Can Stop It

Reggie Fullwood
Reggie Fullwood

by Reggie Fullwood

“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.

Jacksonville, FL has been in a state of emergency for some time now. Yes, a hurricane is headed for Florida’s panhandle as it comes up from the Gulf of Mexico, but that’s not the emergency that I am speaking of. 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 brutality and senseless deaths happening amongst the youth of this city.

The black on black crime epidemic that we saw in the 1980s is back and it’s alive and well. Teenagers killing teenagers at bus stops, shooting up buses and houses, gang violence – we have to do something different to get better results.

Generally, sociologists and those who work in law enforcement associate crime with socio-economic conditions. It is pretty easy to tie the recent rash of murders with Jacksonville’s struggling core city neighborhoods and gang-related violence. The unemployment rate for African Americans is much higher than whites and there are certainly other factors like poverty and the large number of single parent homes in low-income communities.

One could also point to the obvious connection between drugs and violence. And then there is the historical and institutional racism that has plagued blacks and stopped a lot of the upward mobility that other races have achieved. Regardless of the cause of this outbreak, the community must rally to stop this escalation of murders and gun violence.

There doesn’t seem to be much discrimination in age either; we have had youth of all ages murdered and involved in committing crimes. What’s even scarier is the disregard many of these young people have for human life.

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 at the end of the day – black folks are killing black folks.

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 social media sites. 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 post 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 citywide problem.
As I mentioned earlier, sociologists and professionals that study crime will tell you that is not simply a race issue, but an economic one. Throughout history there has been a strong correlation between violent crime and poverty. Many of the recent murders have involved black-on-black crime in core city neighborhoods, but the homicides have spilled over into predominately white communities as well.
Although I have said that this issue is not just an African American issue, the fact that many of the homicides spawn from black-on-black violence, hence the black community needs to take some ownership and come together to find solutions.

That’s where our black leaders come into to play. Now is the time to “rally the troops” and not only begin the discussion, but really take action and implement more community-based initiatives. The sheriff’s office and Mayor certainly can’t do it alone.

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.

Here’s the problem, as I get ready to step on some toes. Leadership in Jacksonville’s black community is fragmented and has been ineffective. Black leaders of the past are no longer in leadership positions and most African American elected officials either don’t get along or simply are not interested in working together.

The black church is in a similar position – many of the old school leaders are gone. Numerous African American churches are doing community outreach, but everyone is operating in their own silos. There is very little collaboration and there is certainly no overall strategy on how to reduce youth violence. It’s a sad state of affairs when there is a church on every other corner and those church leaders barely speak to each other.

There are some great nonprofit that are doing their part, but with limited funding and resources those organizations can only do so much.
If we are really going to help those young black males and females that suffer from a lack of guidance and leadership, we have to provide them with options other than violence and drugs. There has to be a real strategy put in place. Other cities have had some success with investing in a real community turn around strategic plan – Jacksonville can as well.

It’s time to put egos and titles aside. Our children and young adults need leaders to step up and lead – that includes parents, school and community leaders, pastors, elected officials and the Sheriff’s office.

Signing off from the Children’s Commission building out East,
Reggie Fullwood

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