When kids are dying in the streets of Chicago, why is Barack Obama in Denmark trying to win the 2016 Summer Olympics for the city? The president could do a lot more good if he stood at the very spot where Derrion Albert, a 16-year-old honor student was beaten to death and said, “ENOUGH.” Going to Denmark isn’t leadership; it’s salesmanship. If Obama really wants to help the city, he should speak out against the senseless and murderous acts of urban violence that are sending young Americans to cemeteries instead of universities.
34 students were killed in Chicago last year there were 290 shootings. That number could be eclipsed in 2009. Albert, was beaten with a wooden board, punched and kicked as he laid helpless on the ground.
Nothing the president says or does will stop Black-on-Black crime. He could mobilize the armed forces and all the agencies of the federal government and it would have little lasting effect. This is a problem far above his pay grade’s ability to solve. What Obama can do and should do is make it clear that ending youth violence is a national priority of his administration. Breaking up gangs and drug trafficking should be at least as important to Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department as investigating CIA officials.
Something can be done to staunch the flow of blood in the street. The responsibility to interrupt the endless cycle of dreams dying prematurely rests with every one and any one. There’s not much anyone can do if one kid gets it in his head that he’s been “disrespected,” and picks up a gun or other weapon in pursuit of some small and meaningless degree of payback.
But anyone who sees youths at risk can take a stand to not be a passive observer. There are mentoring and tutoring programs that need mentors and tutors. Kids need responsible role modes, community support and a commitment by elected officials to pursue not merely reactive police solutions, but proactive policies and best practices designed to aid at-risk children. And yes, some of this will cost money, but getting serious about crime, poverty, hopelessness and violence is not a cheap or easy fix.
It begins in home with families, but there is a role for elected leadership and on the issue of Black-on-Black crime, the president is missing in action. Admonishments to “turn off the TV and read to your kids” is cool in a feel good, positive reinforcement kind of way, but what good does that do when the teenagers arrested in Derrion Albert’s murder are too far gone for that?
Not all the powers of the bully pulpit can reach the acidic hatred that burns in the heart of young men who would beat and kick a defenseless teenage while he lies bleeding and broken on the ground. But it must start somewhere and the first Black President of the United States telling young Black people their lives matter and have value would be a powerful first step.
Some might say, “It’s not the job of the President to speak out about ever act of crime and violence,” and I would normally agree. It’s not his job to jet off across the pond to bring the Olympics to his home city either. Obama bringing the Olympics to Chicago will benefit the city in the long run. Taking a forceful stand against Black kids killing each other will benefit the city now.
It’s too late to save Derrion Albert. His life came to a premature end face down in a street as he was walking home from school. Stories like this are common ones in Chicago, Detroit, New York, Atlanta and everywhere else where anger rules over reason and hands clenched in rage are seen more than hands extended in brotherhood.
We can blame violent, misogynist rap music and thug “culture.” We can blame broken families and skewed value systems. We can blame the rank stupidity of the “stop snitching” philosophy where it’s better to protect the perpetrators of crime than those charged to fight crime. We can blame racism and poverty and lack of jobs, education and hopes for a better tomorrow. We can blame all of those factors and more and we’ll have the satisfaction of being right.
What we won’t have is the satisfaction of knowing we’ve done a damn thing to change the status quo where 16-year 0ld honor students never make it to become 17-year-old honor students.
President Obama will speak to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as part of the organized effort to bring the Summer Olympics to Chicago. If I were on the IOC, I’d ask the president, “Why are you here trying to bring a global event to your city when you have boys being beaten and kicked to death in the streets of that city?”
When Derrion Albert is laid to rest and his grieving family asks, “Where were our leaders when a child was killed?” how will they answer?
When our children are dying, where is our president? Where should he be?
What does it profit a city to gain the Olympics while it loses its future champions to senseless acts of violence? Where are your priorities, Mr. President?