06/19/12 — Look deeper: When do we start being honest about what's happening to our young people?

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Look deeper: When do we start being honest about what's happening to our young people?

What is the factor that puts some young people on the front page of the newspaper flashing diplomas and others in mugshots as they prepare to answer for murder charges?

Where is the crossroads where a young man chooses one path over the other?

Discover the answer to that question and you will have the solution to the problem that seems to be plaguing so many communities these days -- too many young black males are losing their lives on the streets.

The lure is obvious. Children who are not successful in school and who do not grow up in supportive, loving and encouraging environments are vulnerable to those who promise an easy street and a way out of poverty and hopelessness.

They offer these teenagers a chance to be someone -- and they are too naive to realize that "street cred" can come at a terrible price.

There are some who suggest that the system just does not care -- that a black-on-black death is just another sad story from the crime world.

It is not that we do not care. It is just that we know the solution goes deeper than an increased police presence or an NAACP rally.

If we want to stem the tide of senseless violence, we have to be willing to be brave, to discuss the real issues -- lack of education, poor parenting skills, welfare-dependent parents who teach the same to their children, poverty, drug use and neighborhoods where it is not safe to play on the swings. We have to start demanding that students get an education and to keep them in school until they do. We have to reach young women who use pregnancy as a way to be someone -- or a chance to find unconditional love they did not know as a child. We have to acknowledge the hard stuff -- if we want to make a difference.

And that is just the first, and most important, step -- facing reality. And it is a challenge that must be met by not only the community as a whole, but by those who might want to look the other way, or who have traditionally relied on accusations of racism to explain away what is a much deeper problem.

We need role models, tutors and church families. We need strict enforcement of child care and drug enforcement laws -- and we need to make it less appealing to remain on welfare for the rest of your life or to be a career criminal at 17. We need tough anti-gang laws and programs that give children somewhere to go while they are still young and impressionable. We need accountability and responsibility -- and we should not succumb to those who would interfere in our ability to demand either.

And we have to demand more of the good people who are truly trapped in these neighborhoods. We have to ask them to take back their neighborhoods, to let authorities know where to start the cleanup so that we do not have any more murderers out walking the streets because there were too many people afraid to testify against them. And when these people do stand up, they have to know that we are listening and that we will protect them.

The solutions to this problem are not easy -- and the recitation of the details of the concerns is not pleasant to hear.

But if we really want something done, this is where it starts.

Published in Editorials on June 19, 2012 10:30 AM