This week people all over the world people have been responding to the acquittal of the man who killed Trayvon Martin. Though I too am outraged and disappointed by how the trial unfolded and the verdict, I would like to take this time to make a plea for greater focus on the plight of our youth in urban areas where violence and homicides are commonplace occurrences.
My hope is that this tragedy and travesty of justice will shake leaders, teachers and parents to be more vigilant and fight harder for the safety of our children. Though there is no possible justification for the shooting of young Trayvon Martin. But another sad fact is that hundreds of young people have been killed by the hands of other young people in our community since Trayvon’s life was taken.
Most major cities across the nation report high rates of homicides for African American youth, particularly black male youth. Most of these are at the hands of other black youth. A few sobering statistics:
- According to the 2001 Juvenile Justice Bulletin: In 1999, about 1,800 juveniles (a rate of 2.6 per 100,000) were victims of homicide in the United States. This rate is substantially higher than that of any other developed country. Minority children and youth are disproportionately affected. For example, 52 percent of juvenile victims of homicide are nonwhite (Snyder and Finnegan, 1998). Even after a recent decline, the overall rate of victimization for black juveniles (9.1 per 100,000) in 1997 dwarfed the rate for white Juveniles (1.8 per 100,000) (figure 2). The victimization rate for Hispanic juveniles in three States where data are available was also quite high in 1997 (5.0 per 100,000)
- · Among racial and ethnic groups, black youth experienced the highest rates of serious violent crime in 2010. From 2002 to 2010, rates of serious violent crime declined among white (down 26%) and Hispanic (down 65%) youth, but remained the same among black youth
- · According to the Center for Disease Control, from 2008 to 2010 homicide is the 2ndleading cause of death for young people under the age of 24 and Black males under 24 had the highest death rate due to homicides in New York State,
- · The Children’s Defense Fund reports that in 2009, gun homicide was the leading cause of death among black teens.
Parents, Schools, Churches, Youth Organizations must place high priority on helping to stem the tide of youth on youth crime in our communities. The conversation and resources need to be directed at dealing with what makes young people in our communities so prone to violence and why they place such little value on the lives of their peers and their own lives. It is not too late to begin to make a difference; we must harness the will to break the cycles of rage and violence that is destroying a vital part of our hope, our life, and our souls. It is not enough to say my kids in my home, church, school, neighborhood, and block are doing well when all around them so many young people are losing their lives.
It is not enough to shake our heads and talk about how bad the kids are today. Be a mentor, fight for gun control, financially support youth organizations, become active in your local school and do what you can to let an adolescent know that he/she is valued.
It is a horror that Trayvon’s killer’s fear and criminal/racial profiling of him led to Trayvon’s death. The fact of fear and race prejudice is a matter that must be dealt with if we are to survive; lest we return to the days of the Wild West, where gun violence rules the day (or maybe we are already there).
We should use every means available to call for justice for violation of Trayvon’s civil rights—sign petitions, organize boycotts, participate in elections, run for office, and write articles, tweet, and protest as loudly as possible. But let us remember Trayvon by the lives we lead and being ever mindful that there are hundreds of thousands of young people in our communities who need to know, who must learn from us that they have a reason to live and a contribution to make to society. Then and only then will we begin to, as my friend Rev. Dr. Alfonso Wyatt says,” starve the beast” that is destroying our youth.