Attitude, perseverance and collaboration should inform approach.
A teenage male was passing through the jurisdiction of another gang on his way home. He observed a group of four fellows following him. He sped up and they increased their speed. He moved to the other side of the street and they crossed the street. When he reached the intersection, he saw a police cruiser approaching and he turned to his right. The police cruiser turned in that direction. The youth darted into an alley and started running. The police saw him as a probable fleeing felon.
The youngster wondered which direction was the key to his survival and which was the greater threat to his life. The city was in the midwest but it could have been in the northeast. He could have been your son or brother. What advice do you think he received when he called home? If he had called you, what would you have advised?
Sometimes younger persons sense danger and the older persons have no ready words of wisdom to give. If a black teenage male’s dad were police chief, his advice might not help. If his brother were a gang leader, his wisdom might be ineffective. If his mom had said, “Pray,” he might have remembered that some have been killed in prayer meeting.
Recent studies at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government have presented some interesting light on emotions and violence. Harvard scholars and others also have found, in general, women are more likely to respond to threats of violence with fear and men are more likely to respond with anger. On one hand, anger reduces one’s sense of risk, so compared to the fearful, angry people are less likely to think that they themselves will become victims. But anger produces other biases. The research suggests that by lowering our sense of risk, anger simplifies our thinking and increases our willingness to take risks. It increases one’s willingness to act aggressively. Accordingly, when people are angry, they feel that whenever threats of danger occur, they will prevail or they will be the exception. This leads to more risk-taking. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that male policemen are not as fearful as some claim, when they shoot to kill. They are angry and tend to ignore the rules, thinking they can escape punishment by blaming their fears. This has worked in almost all cases in the past so the minimal risks are justifiable. (Refer to National Public Radio interview and discussion of December 21, 2015)
Each citizen of this country and of the world must come to the realization that this world and all its cities have reached the point where there are no easy, simple solutions to the problems that young males of color face more frequently than others. And worse than that, this is, to a much lesser extent, true for older males, sometimes females, and even persons of all races. The solution is not to stop worrying about young males of color because they are the primary victims. Enfolded in any proposed solution must be acceptance of the fact that this situation could possibly confront anyone as a potential victim or friend or relative of such victim in the near future. One does not automatically escape victimization because he is of a privileged race.
It is therefore time for public officials, police authorities, religious leaders, parents, community activists, educators, professional associations, business leaders, rocket scientists, neurosurgeons, and other thought leaders to assemble and give serious thought to the development of plans to address and minimize the threats facing black youth in particular and society in general. Police departments and families must convince our youth and individual policemen that they have no desirable future without each other. They need each other as partners and friends. Public safety officials and elected officials with national security responsibilities, must give time and resources to solve these problems. This is needed to help justify their public support and salaries.
High achievers are giving back too little to society, therefore, local and national initiatives have produced too little. There is no problem which cannot be solved if we first solve our personal problems of self interests, greed, and apathy toward those who enjoy less of our nation’s hope and prosperity. Elected officials, university presidents, clergy, and chamber of commerce leaders are ideal persons for pulling together some discussion and planning groups. But no one with any influence is excluded. Where there is compassion and public interest, there is power to start a process. One thing lacking is perserverance. It is time for all good people, individually and collectively, to persevere in the interest of the good of our youth, our communities, cities, the nation, and the world. Never give up. Persevere!