Monday, December 29, 2008

Murders by black teenagers rise - NY Times

The celebrated reduction in murder rates nationally has concealed a “worrisome divergence,” said James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University who wrote the report, to be released Monday, with Marc L. Swatt. And there are signs, they said, that the racial gap will grow without countermeasures like restoring police officers in the streets and creating social programs for poor youths.
The main racial difference involves juveniles ages 14 to 17. In 2000, 539 white and 851 black juveniles committed murder, according to an analysis of federal data by the authors. In 2007, the number for whites, 547, had barely changed, while that for blacks was 1,142, up 34 percent.
The increase coincided with a rise in the number of murders involving guns, Dr. Fox said. The number of young blacks who were victims of murder also rose in this period.
Murder rates around the country are far below the record highs of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when a crack epidemic spawned violent turf battles.
“Regrettably, as the nation celebrated the successful fight against violent crime in the 1990s, we grew complacent and eased up on our crime-fighting efforts,” the authors said.
The report primarily blames cutbacks in federal support for community policing and juvenile crime prevention, reduced support for after-school and other social programs, and a weakening of gun laws. Cuts in these areas have been felt most deeply in poor, black urban areas, helping to explain the growing racial disparity in violent crime, Dr. Fox said.

The preceding is a story I found in the NY Times this morning. The report will be released later today.

I am concerned by this report on many levels. I am the mother of 4 sons who are half black and half white. I don't anticipate that any of them will become a murderer, but am alarmed at the statistics cited in this report. We should all be. We are failing our children. Kids need after school programs - those in the age range of 14-17 are at the highest risk for this black-on-black crime of murders committed by these youth. The sad thing about this study (and there is much to be sad about - please read the entire article if you have time - here is the link: is that our youths have been consistently ignored, and black families continue to experience a disproportionate breakdown in already fractured families. Indeed, our President Elect Obama's community outreach work on Chicago's south side was primarily with African American youths in that demographic who would have been on the path to nowhere without his programs and intervention. I was most proud of him when he called on absent African American fathers to become more involved in the lives of their children. Absent this, we as a society need to fill the void that is created when African American males become separated from their fathers, for incarceration, divorce, lack of marriage or any other reasons.

We need a comprehensive program to address the unique needs of our African American males. They are growing up without fathers - fathers who are absent, in prison or both. This cannot stand and were the statistics the same amongst the Caucasian community, I dare assert that we would be convening special sessions all over the country in caucases, congress, neighborhood meetings and the like. They need to see African American teachers en masse in school districts, and not just at the upper levels, they need a teacher a day to see a positive male role model. Where are they going to learn how to be a man if they are never around one? My children are fortunate in that they have had a father by birth and many surrogate fathers who have helped them along their way so that for the most part, they have avoided the pitfalls that might have tripped them up in their respective life's journeys.

It truly takes a village to raise a child, and if these children are not going to attend after school programs or Boys and Girls' Clubs, then employment training opportunities need to be afforded them so that they can get off the streets and become positive, contributing members of society.

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