Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Philadelphia had the highest murder rate of among the nations top ten cities last year and is fourth among cities with populations that exceed 500,000. This is a distressing statistic especially since most of those murdered were young black men at the hands of other young black men.
While experts will cite a wide mix of sociological factors that contribute to this most grievous circumstance I believe that it is tied to one overall factor.
In simple terms our idols have failed us. Please understand me because I don’t want to engage in what is commonly called ‘blame the victim’ mentality that lays the total responsibility for our disintegrating communities solely at our feet. And for my part I do believe that if young African-Americans were born into a society that welcomed them at all levels and not just sports, that if they were truly viewed and valued as humans that could have and make a positive contribution to this country, that if the investment in their education at all levels matched the expenditure to keep many of them behind bars and that if the conditions of chronic poverty mixed with deep despair and rampant hopelessness were seen as a national crisis on par with the threat of international terror we might be able to see a reversal in these all too grim statistics.
But that is not going to happen. Like it or not my brothers and sisters I have some bad news. White folks are not going to ride to our rescue, change the conditions of our inner cities and pull us out of this nightmare. It’s time to wake up, grow up and realize that white people are not God! We must stop viewing them as all powerful to the extent that unless and until ‘they’ do something we are simply doomed to helplessly watch our children slaughter each other in increasing numbers and with intensifying viciousness. And though they might not say it publicly it is my suspicion that if you asked most white people about the growing murder rates in the inner cities of America that they would respond ‘that really is their problem’.
The first step in engaging this problem head on is to recognize that the cavalry isn’t coming. The time has come for us to shed the mindset that the dominant society is obligated to do something about this since America’s legacy of racism has helped to create it. While I don’t argue with the validity of that conclusion I do believe that in terms of addressing the problem it is just impractical. What if we spend the next five, ten or twenty years waiting for the dominant community to do what is right and they don’t!
No, these are our children, our communities and our problem. The task before us is monumental. Following the gains of the Civil Right Movement we’ve spent the last 35 years or so wandering in a cultural wilderness searching in vain for meaning, identity, worth, security, satisfaction and destiny among America’s idols. The problem is that we’ve discovered that outlawing legal segregation is not the same as being welcomed to integrate and participate. We’ve watched as America has moved from being a racist country to be a racialized society. One in which the economic, emotional, psychological and social benefits are weighted toward the dominant culture.
But that isn’t even the chief issue. It is merely the lying illusion that’s serves to hide the truth that the emperor has no clothes. The truth (one which most of us won’t accept) is that with all the goods this society can provide it still cannot deliver authentic and ultimate meaning, identity, worth, security, satisfaction, destiny, hope and joy. You see for us to double or even triple our efforts to get our young people to believe that they really can ‘make it’, that this society does hold genuine promise for those who work hard and that the light at the end of the tunnel offers true fulfillment is to lead them to the base of America’s idols.
The time has come to repent, turn from our ways of rebellion, abandon America’s idols and seek the Lord. And I’m not talking about some vague spirituality with a Christian veneer that’s put to use when our backs are really against the wall and we want God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth to act on our behalf as our petty tribal deity. We must seek the Lord as and end in and of itself. We must seek Him believing that He and He alone is God and that all that speaks of true life is in Him. We must seek Him as if our lives, our children and future depended on it. We must seek Him with the knowledge that behind each statistic a life has been cut short, a family forever mourns, and a community’s foundations shudder. We must seek Him because frankly we’re at a loss, our children are dying, our communities are disintegrating and in the end He is our only help and only hope.
To Him Who Loves Us…