News+Opinion » Barney Blakeney

Stopping the Violence

Black people must take the initiative to change our communities

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The recent shooting of a three-year-old child during a home invasion is about as reprehensible as any crime can be, but this isn't the first time an innocent kid has been caught in the middle of "crime gone wild" in the black community.

A few years ago a 13-year-old girl was gunned down after attending her first high school football game. Two years later a 12-year-old boy was shot to death looking out the window of his North Charleston residence. Last year a seven-year-old was shot while at the computer in her home.

Each time a child was hurt, black folks screamed with outrage, while the NAACP and what seemed like every black preacher in town used the tragedy to get their names in local newspapers and on television. But after a few days of stop-the-violence rallies and posturing, they all went back to their normal activities, leaving the criminals to get back to theirs.

A week ago some buddies and I passed through an East Side neighborhood after a late lunch. One block from the Charleston police precinct at Aiken and Shepherd streets, drug dealers lined a street corner within sight of police patrol cars.

On the other side of the peninsula — only three blocks from police headquarters — a woman complained that her home was invaded by two gunmen who stole a large amount of cash. She claimed that the incident was a repeat of two previous invasions by the same two people. And though both incidents were reported to the police, law enforcement has yet to make any arrests.

So why can't the violence be stopped?

Retired Charleston Police Capt. Ligure Ellington says the cops really have very little ability to prevent much of the violence we see in our community and almost no ability to prevent homicides. If someone wants to kill another person, that someone most likely will attempt that crime, Ellington says.

Cops can't stop that kind of thing, perhaps, but what cops can stop is the illegal drug dealing that breeds the violence we see.

But like many others, I'm convinced cops don't want to stop the selling of illegal drugs. How can they when so much of it goes on right under their noses? If black people want to see their young folks removed from a culture of violence, they will have to do it themselves. Nobody will save us except us.

Black people allow their young boys to be placed on mood-altering drugs like Ritalin instead of demanding that schools create innovative strategies to keep the busy minds of these boys occupied. Most of the young guys involved become frustrated in school early and never finish.

Meanwhile, black folks continue to support commercial industries that refuse to reinvest back into the community. These businesses, which black people gladly give their consumer dollars, could invest in programs that would give young people an introduction to the business world, but they don't. And without the benefit of a quality education, good paying jobs are inaccessible to most of those young people. As a result, illegal drug trafficking is one of only a few economic options available to them.

I'm thinking that one way to head off the crime and violence so pervasive in black communities is for black people to take the initiative to change their communities and stop waiting on other people to save us. We've got to be more demanding of our educational system and the economic system that fuels it. Haven't enough babies been shot?

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