“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” ~ Nelson Mandela
At the time of my writing of this article I anxiously await the St. Louis County grand jury decision on whether or not to charge Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of 18 year old Michael Brown. In anticipation of the grand jury decision, rallies are being organized not just in Ferguson, MO but all around the country. Organizers met on Saturday in Ferguson to map out their protest plans and are encouraging group members to provide their names upon arrest as Darren Wilson or Michael Brown to make it difficult for the police to process them.
Lt. John Stanford of the Philadelphia police department said that he anticipated his city will see demonstrations, regardless of what the grand jury returns.
But as demonstrators prepare their slogans and the police departments prepare their riot gear it is we that stand guilty of ignoring the real crime of what is happening to young black men. In 2011, the last year for which the FBI has complete data, 1668 blacks under the age of 22 were killed in America. That is more than triple the 469 military men and women killed in Afghanistan that same year.
“I think there’s fear of intimidation, harassment being legitimized by the fact that there is a high rate of crime, especially among young black men. Number 1 cause of death, young black men 15 to 34 – murder. Who’s committing the murder? Not police, other black men,” said Juan Williams, Fox News pundit.
Accidents ranked second in causes of death and suicides claimed the third amount of black male lives between 15 and 24 years old. Per the CDC, compared to other ethnicities, the numbers really stand out. Forty percent of black males between the ages of 15 – 24 who died in 2011 were murdered, compared to just 3.8 percent of white males who died during that same time. The Children’s Defense Fund said the number of black children killed by gunfire since 1979 is nearly 13 times more than the number of blacks who were lynched in this country between 1882 and 1968.
So what do we do?
First, we must have the courage to face the reality of what is going on in the black community. We cannot correct a problem we refuse to acknowledge.
Second, we have to fall in love with these beautiful children and see the best in them and expect only the best from them. We have to raise the bar for them and encourage them to surpass our expectations.
Third, we must demand that these young men act as young men with a future and a purpose. We must remind them that the world is theirs for the taking and that they were born for success and that even if they fall they can get back up and start again because they are not victims. And we must cheer them on.
Frederick Douglass said “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” And lastly we must begin immediately.