Real Talk: A Young Black Male Life Is Worth More Than A Pair Of Air Jordans

April 1, 2014  |  

Welcome to our column, Reset. Written by Karen Taylor Bass, this column, published each Tuesday, is about life lessons learned and mastered mentally, spiritually, and physically and how they contribute to a successful life and career.

Do you think a black male’s life is worth more than a $149 pair of Air Jordan’s VI Infrared? Not certain these days.

I am a mom. My son is almost 6’0”, a freshman in high school and, on any given day, Sebastian is rocking his fave NBA player on his feet – Lebron James and Kevin Durant. He dresses like the typical Black male – hoodie, jeans, sneakers and baseball cap. Yep, that’s my boy. An honor student, who takes engineering classes on the weekend. However, on the streets he is an endangered Black male.

There needs to be a major reset on Black-on-Black crime because our boys and men are dying for silly things like coats, sneakers, phones and tablet. Are correctional facilities the remixed Historically Black Colleges, a place where our men over 18 go, learn a skill, get a degree, and press reset with an intervention? Lets hope not.

My heart was torn into pieces when I heard about my sister’s stepson, Kahron Lee, 20, who was murdered — left to die — right across the street from his dormitory at Virginia Union University. This happened almost two months ago and was covered by several news outlets. The news reported that Lee, a sophomore at Virginia Union University, was walking home from a study group when he was killed for his Air Jordans. Lee had been a well-liked track and field star at Alexandria’s T.C. Williams High School. He came to Virginia Union on an academic scholarship and was majoring in technology and had hopes to someday work for Google. An 18-year-old, Willie Lee (no relation) from Richmond, VA, was arrested and charged in connection with the shooting. Willie was trying to steal the victim’s shoes and a struggle broke out. When Kahron refused to give up the shoes, he was shot and killed.

I spoke with the grieving father, Garth Karon Lee, about how we can press reset as a community. Lee said, “At the end of the day, when we have children it is our responsibility to be in their lives all the time. No matter what you teach them in the house, they learn the real deal from the streets. Parents must know the comfortable and uncomfortable things about their kids. These kids want what they want now, regardless of the outcome. The young man that killed my son never had anyone talk, encourage and ask him to do better and make something out of his life. I made certain that my son knew how proud and important he was to me.”

As a parent, you give all you can to your children, but it doesn’t guarantee a great outcome. They can be attending college, coming home from a party or simply playing outside and a fracas breaks out. What I don’t understand is the self-hate and loathing that young people have for one another and the mentality of entitlement. “I want those sneakers now so how dare you not give them to me?”

Has life gotten so bleak for our young people that a reset and intervention might not be enough?

RESET: Garth Karon Lee says in order to save this generation and press reset, it starts with parenting. Parents must stop avoiding their children. Take the time to talk, listen, and learn from them. There are many life lessons to teach and, if you don’t, the streets are ready to teach and make them feel important and validated.

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