How did it come to this? In Baltimore, a criminal trial involving a drug related murder erupts in a chaos when a defendant openly threatens a witness and intimidates the individual and jurors. In Chicago, a young teenager, only 15, is chased down in the streets by a gang, is hit by a car and his body is later found on the street beaten and burned. In a blink of an eye we have allowed gang culture to permeate the sanctity of community and neighborhood, and it has to stop.
These are not isolated incidents. They are becoming regular occurrences in cities across our nation. The Baltimore trial is only part of a larger problem; a “stop snitching,” culture that has made abiding by the law an offense punishable by death. Several years ago in that city, a place that I know well from my college days there, a family was killed when their house was burned to the ground by drug dealers who objected to the victims’ vocal criticism of illegal activity in their neighborhood. In Chicago, funerals are becoming an appointed activity for public school students, as murders have taken the lives of a record number of young adults. The young man who was recently murdered had been trying to evade gang members, to the point that his parents had transferred him out of one school.
We need to recognize that we let this toxic environment grow beneath our feet. We should have been warned when young men started to dress in a way that emulates prison garb, and began to see prison as a badge of honor rather than the failure it really represents. The same for young women who began to exploit their own sexuality for the sake of mirroring bit players in music videos, and carried stripper wear into schools and onto the streets. Every generation has its fashion sensibilities but never have we had a generation that invested in such a base and degrading level of self-expression. Even when I take into account social conditions I can’t help but express disappointment that a people that survived the trans-Atlantic slave trade, slavery and Jim Crow has bred a generation that is soulless.
We should be fed up with gang violence in our community. How many stories do we have to read of children being killed by gang crossfire or young people who are trying to live right, murdered for choosing dignity over degradation? If any other community was assaulted in this manner, the reaction would be swift and harsh. Why do we tolerate this? Some will say fear. If that is the case then we have to turn it over to law enforcement and let them do what needs to be done to clean the streets. We can’t sit by and knowingly let elements in our community sow fear and promote the death of our children, and not give police our support in taking these criminals off the street. Yes, I know what that means. Some of our grandchildren, nephews and nieces, cousins and siblings might have to be put away or, at worse, taken out. Sounds harsh? At this point, it’s either them or us.
I want the federal government to pursue gang related activity with the same zeal it did in going after organized crime. This problem is too big for law local enforcement, even in our major cities. The feds need to use every tool at its disposal to bring down gangs in this nation; including racketeering charges under RICCO, creating a SuperMax prison specifically for gang related offenses that involve bodily injury or murder, and deploying military trained Special Forces to extract known gang members from our community. People such as those who killed the young man in Chicago should never be allowed to see the light of day. Capital punishment is not justice. It’s a “buy your way out of prison” card. Those who have taken the lives of our children should be punished in a way that they will have to spend every second of their lives in the most minimal environment, hoping that the end is around the corner but knowing that tomorrow will present 24 more hours of feeling their lives rot away.
Am I mad? You bet. My community is being attacked and the thugs who are responsible are so brazen, they laugh in our faces and then spit on us to show their contempt for decency. If we can’t protect our children what good are we? We have to make it clear that they have a choice: come correct and get their lives in order or choose the dark side and suffer the consequences. Time is up.