The latest news on the infamous Jena Six case is the story of Mychal Bell. According to EURweb, [Bell] "one of six black teens charged with beating a white classmate at Jena High School in December 2006 shot himself in the chest with a .22 caliber firearm and was taken to a hospital in Monroe, La., on Dec. 29." Apparently, Bell was upset over recent coverage of an arrest during Christmas. According to the article, "His [Bell's] arrest came less than one month after he completed a sentence for his role in the beating of a fellow classmate, Justin Barker, at Jena High School in 2006."
But is this, the story of a young man upset over an arrest and shooting himself, the real story? Or, is the real story that this young man, indeed, young black males in general, are out of control? Could it be that issues facing the black community: babies being born out of wedlock, single parenthood, poverty, drugs, and gangs, are the real story? I say no and I think we, the American public, have missed the real problem reflected in this incident. The REAL problem is the BIAS and fear that STILL governs what we HEAR and subsequently accept about ourselves and our children.
While there are countless news stories out there about the problems of black youth and the plight of the black male in general, I would have you know that ALL of our children are at risk. According to Newsmax, the federal Centers for Disease Control reports that "a white adolescent male is four times more likely than his African-American classmate to be a regular cocaine user. Whites are 66 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds, and yet they are 70 percent of drug users in that age group. Blacks are 13.5 percent of persons in that age group and only 13 percent of young adult drug users, while Hispanics are nearly 15 percent of that age group, but yet comprise only 12 percent of drug users 18-25. [And], approximately 9 out of 10 serial killers are white males between the ages of 20 and 35. Yet we never hear these statistics repeated over and over again in the mainstream press, making these crimes synonymous with one particular race as is the case with blacks." Thus, the real problem is not that young black men are out of control; the problem is that the American public has failed to realize that ALL of our youth are making life-threatening mistakes. Yes, young black males do have their problems, but so do white youth, or any other youth for that matter. You know, Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." In parallel I say that a for every child in trouble in an inner city, borough, or hood, there is another in trouble in a suburb, country, or Beverly Hills. The preference of the media to cover only the negative aspects of black societal behavior, and our (both black and white) willingness to buy into this distortion, is the REAL problem. The twisted view we Americans have of our children is preventing us from helping them. As long as African-Americans have these views, which are perpetuated by media, we as blacks cannot possibly understand our children, yet alone steer their behavior in a positive direction. Conversely, with the "all is well" media stories, whites will not even try to change the behavior of their children, yet alone try to understand the issues black youth face each day.
As a republic, we cannot continue to think that crime in one place simply reflects the norms and morays of "those people." We must see ourselves as one nation, one people, one planet. We must see the problem of our youth for what it is--an epidemic of national proportions.