Solving the issue of gang violence through community, not clueless political bureaucracy
A 13 year old teen was shot execution style (22 bullet holes). This was the fourth teen shot in the area in a week. In the neighboring community of Roseland, a 15-year-old was shot Tuesday, a 17-year-old was shot Monday and a 14-year-old was shot Sunday. In the midst of this mayhem, it appears that some people are actually growing indifferent to the violence in Chicago neighborhoods. There is much concern about the fact that the violence continues but the fact that another youth is murdered is sadly losing its awe and shame. It is no longer a catalyst for change within the community because no matter how many promises of additional support in the community… the violence continues.
Whereas societal issues seem insurmountable to address with limited resources, doing nothing to address the issues should never be plausible. What is done is often catapulted by media pressure to “do something.” However the people being pressured are rarely the most capable of producing sustained change.
“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” So goes the maxim. If we are to effectively design programs that address the lack of thinking, criminal actions, and habitual behavior that took the life of this 13 year old teen, we must not lose sight of our destiny. Our hope for these youth is that they would be shaped and molded into “Change agents.” Our destiny depends on them doing more than surviving the current violence but rather modeling the hope of a generation.
Additionally, I believe that many of the resources are misappropriated and poorly designed. I agree with many of the others that politicians are clueless about the solutions needed. Conversely, I don’t believe that societal solutions addressing the underlying symptoms are the jobs or goals of our politicians. I am of the belief that we as a people have to rise up and devise synergistic solutions that initiate in the home and target more than just the youth that are victims of this violence. Our politicians are to advocate and appropriate the much needed funding to under girth the program models that work. Conversely, the sustained impact that is needed must include more local stake holders and those closes to the problem.
Targeting the youth is the normal course of action and it has at best produced youth that make a quick exodus from the community at the earliest opportunity. Additionally, it has produced “double-agents” that perform well under the sanctuary of the program but recognize that the rest of the world is playing by a different set of rules. Even in the homes of many of these youth, we find young parents modeling all types of criminal behaviors. You cannot anchor principles of character into the mindsets of youth when their strongest influences are blitzing them with counter influences. It would not be surprising to find a young child that comes from a 2 parent home, where mom and dad are engaged with the life of their child’s education willing to conform to the suggested social models advocated by many youth programs. However, that typical picture of a home does not depict the everyday lives of many of these youth.
The social norms of many of these young people would make for an interesting movie ie: “Precious.” Conversely, they don’t fit the risk factors that most youth program models are intended to address.
Synergy is an interesting concept that is foreign even to the home of many of these young people. The combined efforts of family, community, church, and school should produce a greater impact but are impaired because of the lack of an effectively framed collaboration. Each of the parts of this collaboration must be empowered or the overlapping deficiencies will lead to an implosion. The empowered family produces a more teachable student. The socially relevant church targets moral ambiguity to help people navigate through conflicting influences. The community that is actively engaged with the needs of their neighbor and committed to the sanctuary of their neighborhood will resist predators that seek to steal and corrupt their lives. That interdependent design can never be accomplished through a politician that spends 70 percent of his/her time in office campaigning and 30% arguing with other politicians about failed programs and taxes.
So many of the social programs are derailed when funded community organizations or ministries are fighting for prestige and popularity rather than collaborating with schools and families to holistically address the needs of their children. Part of the requirement of many of these grants is to outreach to the community. However, the outreaches rarely result in more than meetings facilitating snacks, venting and complaints.
The needed impact within communities rely on collaborations that are 1) trained to communicate solution-oriented suggestions; 2) framed to realize the assets of the partners committed to addressing the solution, and 3) and most importantly, extending an empathic ear to the needs of the youth that we are desperately, intentionally directing toward becoming good people.
If the family is to address the complexities of single parent homes, unemployment, under-education, under-skilled and impotent levels of social intelligence, there must be a wider net of participants and contributors casted to address these problems.
Moreover, the lack of maturity may also be a contributing factor to many of the inappropriate models of parenting prevalent in the most affected areas. Parents lacking maturity are conflicted by their dependence. Conversely, on the maturity continuum, interdependence ranks highest. “Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.” (Steven Covey)
I have personally seen the frustration in the faces of parents that have been seeking jobs for years only to find that their past records of criminal activities or lack of degrees have labeled them as insignificant and without value to the success of their community. When they hear that their children are getting jobs as an alternative to the gang life and drugs, there are mixed emotions fostered. Parents are happy to see an opportunity for their children but frustrated that they still can’t. There may be accompanying issues of disrespect that occurs when the children become empowered through employment and their parents are not. The children believe they no longer need to obey or listen to their “loser parents.” The same disrespect is fostered when the children are employed by gangs that place them on corners selling drugs. The perception is that the money they make will give them choices. Choices that even their parents don’t have. The violence that inherently erupts usually short-circuits the choices they aimed for. Either they arrive at a funeral home or a prison. Both have life-long or life-ending sentences.
Solving the issue of violence cannot begin with the violence. It must be treated as symptomatic of a much larger social problem. The people closest to that problem are the family.