Tuesday, April 14, 2009

One Of TheThings We Can Control

It's weak to speak and blame somebody else
When you destroy yourself
Chuck D.

Monday morning was the first weekday after the latest tragedy involving violence with young people in the New Orleans metro area. I decided not to listen to talk radio or any urban stations this morning because I knew what was coming. People were going to be calling and raising hell about all the reasons that we can’t get a handle on this violence problem. Folks seem to have a good grasp on all the factors and circumstances that led up to this point.

We know it’s the lack of opportunity for well paying jobs that's caused by a dysfunctional education system. We are aware of the fact that there seems to be an over abundance of drugs and weapons floating around our community even though we don’t grow any drug crops or make any guns. We have acknowledged the fact that there is a problem with absentee fathers and a breakdown of the family structure. All of these things are true and if we fixed every one of them there would probably be hardly any crime at all in the black community. The problem is that those are some very big and complex problems. Even if we all got together tomorrow and marched on Capitol Hill to persuade the government to put the laws and money in place to correct these things it would be ten years at least before you could see tangible changes. If changing all of these issues is the only solution to solving the problem then we have to be willing to concede a certain level of violence and murder while we work out the details to bring that about. That’s not acceptable.

Could it be that we use these factors as a way to relieve ourselves from guilt and personal responsibility? If disenfranchisement was the validation for this level of self hate and violence then the murder rate during the Jim Crow years would have been over 80% and hardly any of us would be here now. I don’t know if I am where I am supposed to be at this stage of my life. Some of it is due to my own decisions. Part of it is being born without money and being a young black male growing up in a city where your obstacles increase as your financial status decreases. I am aware of that and I never minimize it’s impact because I know too many people that have struggled because of it. I was dealt a better hand than some because I had parents that were involved. It is a reality that some of these kids don't have many options or many people involved. At the same time that shouldn't give them free reign to be as destructive and ignorant as they want to in the name of the disenfranchised black man. We also shouldn't address their situation in a way to make them think it is okay to act that way.

Before we do anything else we have to calm down some of the madness and to me the only way to do that in the short term is tell these young boys that even though all the bad circumstances they were born into were not in their control, it’s not a free pass to ruin lives and families. It's time to zero tolerance within the community. I don’t think the fight for changing the environment is going to go as well as it could with babies dying all the time. You would think that would be a signal for urgency but to some people that’s validation for not doing anything at all. That’s the way the world works and we have to deal with it. Until the time comes when we have conquered these big problems the only thing we have control over is our own actions and that has to be the number one focus. We have to make these young men and women understand and accept the reality that at the end of the day the decision to commit murder or harm their community falls mainly on their shoulders. They have to start feeling personally responsible for this mess and want to change it. If the conditions of the world around us are going to excuse our bad decisions and lack of self control then trying to stop what is going on might be a hopeless cause.


Anonymous said...

When will the revolution start?

Howie Luvzus said...

Back when my brother was dealing drugs all kinds of bad stuff happened to him. All his crap got stolen (several times) his car was blown up.

When he told me about these things and shook his head and said, "Shit happens." My answer was, "Shit like that don't happen to me!"

Personal responsibility is a bitch. The answer to the problems we face in New Orleans is to deal with it systemically and individually. It can't stop until folks quit being stupid.

Good post.

vjm said...

Where can we start to work together to get our communities healthy? I'm painfully aware of paternalism - much of my work is in/about Latin America and so much U.S. policy and U.S. attitude towards every single Latin American country is paternalistic. Every summer I go to Guatemala to work on a project developing on-line multimedia materials to learn Kaqchikel Maya (one of the 24 indigenous languages of Guatemala) and the plane is full of missionaries who are going to "save" those poor Guatemalans. Earlier this week the Obama administration "opened" up travel for Cuban-Americans to go to Cuba but he also is allowing U.S. telecoms do business with and in Cuba - again smacks of paternalism, spying and all the things that have been bad about our relations with Cuba from the beginning of time. I was hoping for something more drastic and much different than the admins of the last 50 years.

And I see the same attitudes and worse in the U.S. and especially in New Orleans. WTF can we do? I know you don't have answers and you are looking for them too. I want you to know that there are more people than you know who are also looking, searching, working to make our lives better in New Orleans with everyone, not just some oldie-style vision of what it "should" be or "was" and it really wasn't, it was worse.

Ever onward!