Tag: The Killing Streets of Our Youth

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Voices of the Dropout Nation: Walter Dozier On Education and Violence

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One man’s call for using education to end violence.

Killing our seeds before they grow: Black America must stop this.

Killing our seeds before they grow: Black America must stop this.

As an applied anthropologist in the D.C. suburb of Prince George’s County, Walter Dozier has spent much of his time addressing the high levels of underachievement and crime that have plagued that community’s neighborhoods. But after watching the spate of teen-on-teeen murders that have bloodied Chicago’s streets, Dozier wonders whether black communities in that city — and elsewhere — are ready to embrace education as the solution to ending such carnage. Here are his thoughts (thanks to Phillip Jackson of the Black Star Project):

It has been two months since the murder and funeral of Chicago teenager Derrion Albert. His violent death sparked a national outrage and generated intense international media attention. Albert is one of thousands of young black males whose loss of life has gone largely unchecked within the black community. Yet black youth violence alarm bells have been sounding for decades.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, homicide is the leading cause of death for the majority of black Americans between the ages of 10 and 24 years old. Further, research by Northeastern University shows that the number of homicides involving black male youth as perpetrators increased 43 percent between 2002 and 2007. Just as important, the number of black male youth involved as homicide victims increased 31 percent.For gun killings, the increase was even greater with a 54 percent increase for young black male victims and 47 percent increase for young black male perpetrators.

In Chicago, almost 70 students have been murdered in black communities, since the beginning of the 2007 school year. But this is not just a Chicago problem Two weeks after Albert’s death, in the Washington D.C. area, where I live, seventeen year-old Kenyetta D. Nicholson-Stanley was killed during an exchange of gunfire at the Edgewood Terrace housing complex while she sat on a bench. A week later, 15-year-old Davonta Artis and 18-year-old Daquan Tibbs, were gunned down not far away from where Nicholson-Stanley was killed. Artis was on his way home from a local middle school where he was reportedly an A-student. Three other teens were also wounded in what community members called a war-like shootout between rival neighborhood gangs.

In all three incidents, law enforcement officials and family members publicly pleaded for community assistance in identifying the attackers so they apprehended and brought to justice. In all three incidents police struggled to get witness support as community members refused to take a stand against the epidemic violence – in their own communities. Had it not been for the technological advances in visual media – cell phone cameras — Albert’s killers might still be unidentified.

So, with a generation of black youths attending candlelight vigils as a cultural way of life and make shift memorials unexceptional landmarks throughout many black communities, there is a disquieting absence of community call-to-action, a disquieting lack of effort to address the killing of young black males – unless the assailant is white. Then the call to unify against racism is unyielding.

Some community watchers say the complacency is a problematical mix of family breakdown and an engrained sense of hopelessness fueling violent episodes of self hatred. Still others cite a concentrated and misdirected focus on materialism and consumerism rather than on educational excellence. Education advocates say the failure to provide black children with a 21st Century education will only increase the rate of terror within black communities. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates 90 percent of new high-growth, high-wage jobs will require some level of postsecondary education.

Children without a quality high school education are hopelessly destined to the lowest possible quality of life imaginable in the United States. According to a recent report by Columbia University’s Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Teachers College, reducing the high school dropout rate in half would yield $45 billion annually in new federal tax revenues or cost savings.

So we have now reached the “what now?” stage of the Derrion Albert tragedy. The media attention is fading, the family will be left to grieve alone and young black males continue to terrorize our communities while self-annihilating each other. The status quo approach to solving problems is not, and has not worked for years. Since the arrested development of thousands of young black males can no longer be singularly attributed to racism, new community survival strategies are critical to our survival. Blaming and complaining are not strategies; they are excuses. It is now time for a moratorium on excuses and a fundamental shift in thinking and action.

The problems of under-and unemployment are clearly related to educational deficits and too many black youths are turning to the criminal enterprise. In majority black communities across the nations the governance of school systems has rested in the hands of black leadership for years. Yet, the quality and direction of education remains in question as political, faith-based, business and community leaders are for the most part hopelessly uninvolved, uninformed and uncommitted to saving our children.

Our communities have gotten too comfortable with violence and underachievement.Without a committed and sustained effort to educate our children and rebuild our families, the permanent destruction of the black community is simply a matter of time.

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