What happened to Derrion Albert was a tragedy. A tragedy that often happens in inner city communities. Because it was recorded, his murder has gotten national attention, while most other murdered Black teenagers are regulated to local news.
Hopefully, Derrion’s death will become a tipping point for the Black community and the country as a whole. Maybe, he will become a martyr for Black on Black crime as Emmit Till was to white racism, and the video of his beating will provoke the same anger against Black on Black crime that the Rodney King video did against police brutality
It takes a village to raise a child and we must look at the village before we condemn the children who killed Derrion, we must take into consideration their environment.
We cannot simply blame Black culture or the white made environment for Black on Black crime. When everyone blames everyone else, all we have is people making accusations and being defensive, and no one solves the problem.
One could look at the students who beat and killed Derrion as cold blooded, savage killers. But were they born killers? What prompted them to have such little regard for human life? In Season 4 of the Wire, we see how a bright eyed innocent 8th grader(Michael) turns into a cold blooded killer by the end of the season. While that was fiction, it is a reality that happens all the time in urban neighborhoods.
In places like Chicago, where school systems are overcrowded, the drop out rate is over 50% and gangs run rabid, violence in schools is a grim reality. For many kids, joining a gang is both a way of protection and acceptance.
The school system’s overcrowded classrooms, apathetic teachers and outdated or missing supplies make it hard for students to have an opportunity at a decent education. Rather than turning to music, art, sports or education, students turn to gangs. Gangs terrorize the neighborhood and other children, so kids often join gangs for protection against other gangs.
But still, the school system can not shoulder all the blame. Many of these problems come from the community itself. Poverty has bred crime from the beginning of civilization. Drugs and guns combine to create a culture of violence. Single parent homes and overcrowded public housing helps to inflame the situation.
Many people have blamed Hip Hop culture on the beating. In recent years, Hip Hop has turned to a culture that exposed the crime and violence in the black community, to a culture that promotes it. Lil Wayne, The Game, and Snoop Dogg, some of the most popular rappers, have all promoted their gang membership.
Media companies like Viacom, Universal, and Clear Channel have all promoted these rappers directly to young Black children. For people in urban neighborhoods, who see nobody from their background achieve success outside of athletes and entertainers, rappers serve as role models. A great deal of rappers brag about their propensity to violence and illegal activities.
For too long, the government has seen Black of Black crime as a Black problem. It is an American problem that all Americans must come together to fight. Community activists, government officials, teachers, Hip Hop artists and athletes should come together and reach out to kids who are at risk of violence. Students must be given alternatives to gangs. Children who are involved in after school activities are much less likely to get caught up in violence.
There are no simple solutions to Black on Black crime. The problem has it roots in slavery, Jim Crow, housing segregation, poverty, guns, drugs and Black culture. There is no specific group of people or issue that can shoulder the blame for Derrion’s death.
I applaud Bow Wow and Nas for addressing the situation. Hopefully more athletes rappers and entertainers who young people look up to will do the same. Politicians and community activists should also address the issue. I am glad the the White House has addressed this issue and has sent Eric Holder to investigate the problem. Still the White House and entertainers alone cannot solve the problem.
Black on Black crime and failing urban schools are not a Black problem, they are an American problem. A problem that requires an American solution. No one issue should be blamed for the death of Derrion, but one united country can fight to deal with the causes.