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It is time for reckoning if we are to save black men

Barbara Armstrong | 8/26/2016, 6 a.m.
I don’t believe young African American men who are caught up in crime and violence necessarily know how they got ...

I don’t usually read articles on crime; however, I decided to read your Aug. 13 front page story "Six arrested in teen's death a day after vigil" in hopes of learning why so many such crimes are taking place in our community.

I have young grandsons, and I hurt each time I hear of a shooting, whether by the police or by another black person. It is just sad and senseless. I don’t claim to understand it; however, I do believe that it does stem from poverty, inadequate housing, joblessness, inferior education or no education. Yet, I believe all of those are just symptoms and not the problem or the root cause.

I don’t believe young African American men who are caught up in crime and violence necessarily know how they got there. I also do not believe black people are inherently violent.

In your story, when Mr. Rose asked two young men in Peachcrest Gardens their opinions on the prevalence of gun violence, they attributed it to wanting to be “the toughest” as if being the toughest is a thing to strive for, a goal.

It’s about bravado, bragging rights, street cred. If young men can strive to become the toughest on the street or in the ‘hood, then they can aim to be the smartest in the classroom or the best at a given sport or talent.

They can have college, vocational training, or the workforce as their goal. They can strive to be the kindest or the most helpful to others. They can strive to become an entrepreneur.

What expectations have been placed before them? Think of all the healthy, intelligent, and talented black men we are losing through gun violence.

I think parents are responsible for minor children and should be the ones to teach them moral values. However, there is so much in society that can pull children away from parents’ supervision and lead them astray.

Parents need the help of the community in raising children – extended family, friends, neighbors, schools, religious institutions, and youth organizations. In an ideal world that would work. In the real world those healthy and helpful relationships are often missing.

I believe the system has failed African Americans, especially black males. I believe it is by design. We cannot ignore our history in America. We must look to history for answers. Why should we think that we have gotten over the negative effects of slavery and Jim Crow?

All that transpired long ago is in our DNA and it is acted out in many negative behaviors. When the collective esteem of a people is negatively impacted for years it is bound to have unwanted consequences just as a sore that has been bandaged without first being cleaned and treated with antiseptic. It will erupt with all sorts of poison. That is what is happening with too many of our young men.

With all that black people have suffered historically, one might wonder why we all aren’t criminals or violent in some way?

We are a strong and resilient people in spite of our history. Most of us are decent law abiding citizens who want to raise healthy productive children, work and build a strong community, and live peaceably with our neighbors. It is just that some of us have been neglected, marginalized, and treated as if we have no value, no worth. What can we expect?

Why are we, black and white Americans, so afraid of looking at the past to help us in dealing with our current problems. If we don’t uncover the past and air it out, it will continue to fester and erupt in our community and in the country.

It is time for reckoning if we are to save black men.

There is much more that I could say, but I cannot fully explore this subject in a letter.

Barbara Armstrong lives in Stone Mountain