Tuesday, July 31, 2007
And the beat goes on. One after another, day after tragic day the residents of Philadelphia endure yet another killing. Fifteen year old Raheem Grant (the young man pictured in the photo) was murdered just days ago in what police say was a retaliation killing. And with the ‘don’t snitch’ culture firmly entrenched in our ‘community’ it seems likely that that’s as close as they will get to solving this crime.
Many explanations have been offered and many solutions put forth to address this pandemic of slaughter. From what I hear and read at least in the Philly area the solutions seemed grouped into four categories. First there’s gun control. The vast majority of the city’s murder victims are slain by a firearm. A second aspect is lack of jobs and opportunity with a corresponding lack of hope in the community. A third is poor or absent leadership by politicians which includes money for recreation centers, after school programs, more and better policing etc. A fourth centers on quality education which supposedly would give inner city (code for poor black/Hispanic) residents the necessary tools to reach for a life outside of the hood.
I do believe in one way or another all of these solutions have some merit, but overall they are a pipe dream. Simply put, the city of Philadelphia will not be able to control the flood of guns into the city’s poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods. Good paying, blue collar jobs which could help forge the backbone of a sound health community have never been abundant in poor black neighborhoods. I grew up in West Philly and never remember a time when my father, his friends or my uncles went to a company or factory that paid a living wage suitable for stabilizing a family and lifting them from underclass to working class to middle class. Trust me, the hood has always had low paying subsistence jobs and apart from extraordinary efforts by those who populate the hood that will always be the case. This is especially true in an era when companies usually associated with providing these kinds of jobs are no longer offering them or have shipped them overseas. Our politicians may be well intentioned and have some good plans but most of what they wish to do relies on obtaining more money something the state of PA has little if any desire to allocate to KillAdelphia. Schools which have been put on the front lines of these particular killing fields are ill-equipped to both teach the three r’s and shepherd the souls of young people so that they grow into productive citizens instead of violent killers.
No these solutions are destined to fail. They will fail because they only scratch the surface of the real problem. They don’t answer the question of why there is so, so little value on human life. They don’t grapple with why a generation of black youth that is the most free and has the most opportunity than any previous one also suffers from the most despair. They don’t address the inability of politicians, police and social workers to bring about a change of heart and mind among those who live and die by the code of the streets. They wonder but have no solution concerning why those who strive to make the most of their education are mocked, while those who go to jail are celebrated.
They will also fail because they depend on others to solve a problem that mainly affects us directly and one that the black community must step to the plate to deal with ourselves. Unfortunately it seems that few within our community stop and ask ‘what happens if we can’t get gun control, what if the good jobs which were never here don’t materialize, what will our politicians do should they not be able to open more recreation centers and get more police on the streets and what if our schools just aren’t up to the task of raising children instead of just teaching them?
Let me put it bluntly. What if white America says ‘look, your children are killing each other in your neighborhoods and frankly that’s not our problem. You are on your own.’ What would we do? Where would we turn? To whom would we go? It’s here that I’m supposed to give the obligatory answer that ‘black folks need to get back to God’. And yes that’s true in a certain sense. It’s true only if we return to the God of Scripture and not the god of the black man and woman. It’s true if we’re ready to come to God on His terms, through His Son as He’s revealed in Scripture and to pursue His agenda, rather than prostitute Him to indulge ours. However, if our only desire is to have a god who eases our pain, increases our wealth and levels the playing field with white America, in other words if we want a divine mascot and not the self-existent, self-sufficient, all powerful and sovereign Creator and sustainer of the universe then let’s not bother folks. Let’s just do what we’ve always done when things began to go from bad to worse in our neighborhoods. In the words of one resident where Raheem Grant was murdered ‘"The neighborhood is pretty bad . . . ," she said. "Someone I know just got shot two weeks ago. I'm trying to move."