By Edwin Crayton/Opinion
Although it took place in a tiny town of about 18,000 residents, the following community discussion is one that is probably taking place right now in one form or another in many towns and cities across the nation. So, don’t dismiss it as irrelevant if you live in a big city like Shreveport, Baton Rouge or New Orleans.
About a week ago, someone with a background in law enforcement—a man named Jackson Jones–invited me to a meeting at the Natchitoches Parish Library where citizens had gathered in a public meeting room to discuss a disturbing increase in shootings recently in Natchitoches. Many of these shootings involved black males young enough to be classified as teenagers—a sad new local trend. Unfortunately, news about blacks killing other blacks tends to fall on deaf ears. Indeed, it sometimes seems we in America have developed an insensitive immunity to the idea of black males shooting other black males. Fortunately, the group that met in the library public meeting room is not immune and it was clear from their conversation and ideas that they care quite a bit. They value the lives of these young men who are being caught up in a web of violence. They could be their sons or husbands. They care. God bless them for that. Here are excerpts from what I felt was an interesting and insightful conversation.
Gwendolyn Rachel: “I believe we need to come together as a community and have a meeting every three months. Why is it happening? Some children are raised by violent parents. Crime is high. We need to educate our community about crime reduction.”
Patricia Robinson: “We need more people on the street. More cops.”
Jackie Colbert: “There is no prayer in the family.”
Emma Lewis: “We need activities for children. We need men to mentor boys and we need women to show girls how to be ladies. If you have 10 men, each of them could take two boys and take them fishing. The men could tell them how to talk to people. Some boys have joined this “sagging club” — they need to belong. We need to give them something positive to belong to.”
Gwendolyn Rachel: “We need kingdom men to help raise the family. The reason these children are acting out is that the men are not under the submission and authority of God. So, children are not covered. Neither is the rest of the family.”
Pearly Ellis: “I agree with her. But I can’t say it’s all the man’s fault. Most of the jails are filled with men—not just black men. It’s not just the blacks, but also involves whites. In general, the family is broken down. We can change laws, but I feel we need to start with the men. Teach them how to respect themselves. Just to be spiritual would be a good place to start.”
To illustrate how serious this issue is, as I was writing this article, I was given an unconfirmed report from two different people about two local boys of about 11 and 12 years of age who were arrested that day, while carrying a gun.
We usually refer to the killing of African Americans by African Americans as “black on black crime.” Maybe that phrase should be retired after what I learned from reports from the FBI. According to the FBI, it’s common for victims to be killed by someone of the victim’s racial heritage. In other words, the idea of “black on black crime” is as ridiculous as the idea of “white on white crime”. However, it is undeniable that recent reports from the FBI do indicate fairly consistently that a majority of the shooters of black males are other young black males. Yet, turning this into a debate about whether blacks kill each other more may be pointless and can even descend into useless stereotyping. The real goal should be to confront what is happening in each unique community and then tailor a solution to prevent it.
Perhaps the participants in that meeting were right when they communicated that it will go a long way if we can inspire families to begin training children in living godly, spiritual lives and help them resist resorting to violence to solve problems. It’s better than where we are now: Teens lying dead on the streets and even younger ones following in their footsteps, packing real guns instead of toy ones.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”-Proverbs 22:6
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