Black Boys Lost and the Knockout Game

Editor’s Note: Pictured to your left is 17-year-old Marvell Weaver. He was shot twice in the leg and once  within an inch of his spine. Why? Because he was playing a very dangerous game called the “knockout Game”. Read the following to understand why this game allegedly sweeping the nation is problematic, in particular for black youth. Click here to listen to Weaver’s story in his own words as he serves a 1-year jail sentence.

Some African American boys and men are playing a violent game called the Knockout Game. As reported on ABC News,

In New York, a 78-year-old woman strolling in her neighborhood was punched in the head by a stranger and tumbled to the ground. In Washington, a 32-year-old woman was swarmed by teenagers on bikes, and one clocked her in the face. In Jersey City, a 46-year-old man died after someone sucker-punched him and he struck his head on an iron fence.

In each case, police are investigating whether the attacks are part of a violent game called “knockout,” where the object is to target unsuspecting pedestrians with the intention of knocking them out cold with one punch. Authorities and psychologists say the concept has been around for decades — or longer — and it’s played mostly by impulsive teenage boys looking to impress their friends.

“It’s hard to excuse this behavior, there’s no purpose to this,” said Jeffrey Butts, a psychologist specializing in juvenile delinquency at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “When someone runs into a store and demands money, you can sort of understand why they’re doing it, desperation, whatever. But just hitting someone for the sheer thrill of seeing if you can knock someone out is just childish.”

Unfortunately, some black boys are simply lost, drifting without guidance in the depths of darkness.  Too many fathers are missing from the home.  Too few productive, positive, strong male role models are there to fill the void.  For many, their families have failed them.  Their schools have failed them.  Their churches and mosques have failed them.  Their communities have failed them.  Without those essential safeguards, such lost black boys become vulnerable to the negative influences of society.

The Guardian Angels, an anti-crime group, posted warnings in Brooklyn this week about the Knockout Game, in which teenagers try to knock a stranger out with one punch. (Todd Heisler/The New York Times)
The Guardian Angels, an anti-crime group, posted warnings in Brooklyn this week about the Knockout Game, in which teenagers try to knock a stranger out with one punch. (Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

They become the product of a cold, callous, blood thirsty, sadistic world. Something is gravely wrong with a society that constantly celebrates violence in sports, film, music and games. As one of my Facebook friends pointed out, many of our youth spend hours playing violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto. That is a game that allows players to randomly beat and shoot prostitutes and innocent bystanders for kicks and giggles. Many of youth constantly listen to hypnotic rap music that glorifies violence and mayhem.  They constantly watch videos on World Star Hip Hop and elsewhere of people fighting and acting like savages.  Such programming desensitizes our youth to violence and promotes a depraved mentality.

Instead of being raised by a real family, they are raised by Lil Wayne and Grand Theft Auto. Without strong male role models, many of our black boys gravitate towards toward gangs and hooliganism. Grasping in the darkness, many lost black boys define a real man as being a thug, a hustler or a pimp.  In a desperate search for acceptance and belonging, they cling to the wrong crowd.

Our elders and ancestors did not march, protest, go to jail, bleed and die, so that our youth could run around knocking out innocent people for amusement. Our elders and ancestors did not suffer and struggle so that we could become a menace to society. Our ancestors are probably turning in their graves right now.

It is important to note that the overwhelming majority of black men and boys do not play that demented and cowardly game. Nonetheless, the collective will suffer because of the ignorance and stupidity of the few. Their actions only perpetuate the false stereotype that most black men are violent thugs. Due to those violent crimes and the constant media reports, people will be on edge whenever they see a young black man or a group of young black men approach. Out of fear, some people may resort to vigilantism and accidentally harm or kill innocent black people. Unfortunately, we may see more Trayvon Martins and Renisha McBrides due to this foolishness.

We must end this nonsense before more people are hurt or killed. Our religious institutions and civic organizations need to launch public education campaigns and more effective mentoring programs.  Such programs will to give our youth a true definition of manhood. Such programs will teach the youth about their history and their future.  With a true knowledge of self, our youth will not participate in those kind of senseless and barbaric crimes.

Moreover, this nation must invest in more summer jobs programs and recreational centers. That will eliminate idle time. It will eliminate the incentive to engage in such criminal activity.  Finally, we must support U.S. Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott’s (D-VA) Youth Promise Act.

Cross-posted on New Possibilities.