Where Have All The Good Black Men Gone?

March 8, 2012  |  

Last week the Detroit 300 announced that they had declared war on the city’s crime element. This declaration came as a response to the accidental shooting of a 9-month-old child in Detroit earlier in the week.  Donned in all black, with some of the 300 wearing ski masks, the group held a press conference, in which they said that they are planning to organize unafraid men all over this city to run the undesirables away.

Rapheal B. Johnson, president of the crime fighting organization said, “We don’t care what gang, crew or clique you claim. When you kill babies in this city, you are our enemy. There is nothing to talk about…We are not going to host prayer gatherings for you or hold a candlelight vigil for your transgressions against the community. We are going to hunt you down and bring you to justice.”

According to its website, the Detroit 300 was founded in 2010 by Angelo B. Henderson, Pulitzer Prize winner, and Minister Malik Shabazz, a 25 year community activist, as a response to the city’s frustration with perpetual neighborhood crimes. Working with a coalition of area businesses and community groups, members of the Detroit 300 will engage in neighborhood patrols, focusing their efforts on sectors identified as high crime areas by Detroit Police crime analysis reports.

I definitely love the spirit of these brothers.  As much as we hold symposiums and anti-violence marches and rallies, we can no longer have time for the hand wringing or apprehension about what to do about the dire straits of the Black community.  As a community, we are in crisis.  The reality is that Young Black males have the worst grades, the lowest test scores, and the highest dropout rates of all students in the country. Homicides among African American males ages 15-19 years of age represent one of the leading causes of death. In education, employment, economics, incarceration, health, housing, and parenting, we are falling behind and in the process, losing an entire generation of young Black folks, particularly young black men to poverty, despair and death. It is time for folks to intervene and take their rightful place as leaders and wise elders in our community.  But I’m not certain that this declaration of war on street crime by the Detroit 300 truly gets to the heart of what’s wrong in our community.

For one, guys who dress in all black and ski masks do nothing to inspire confidence that their aim is to be that different from the very street gangs and thugs they are fighting against.  And while, yes, we need mobilization in our community, action bereft of sincere analysis of the nature of our problem is just as ineffective and reactionary as the candlelight vigils, anti-violence marches and symposiums we say we are tired of.

As much as we hate the gangbangers and the street thugs, these gangbangers and street thugs did not materialize out of nowhere. Much of their presence is in response to the neglect created by the elder generation, particularly the elder men.  Sure they mobilize after a few murders and rapes and robberies have already occurred but where were they in their families’ marriage nuptials?  Why were they missing from high school graduations and on college campuses? And why hadn’t they made their presence felt prior to their communities falling into shambles?

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